The Story of Carlos Braz Lopes: From Humble Beginnings to Creating “The World’s Best Chocolate Cake”

Carlos Braz Lopes, a 68-year-old Portuguese chef, shares more than a few similarities with American author Frances Mayes. Both found success through a combination of chance and determination, seeking new spaces to live or create. While Mayes purchased Villa Bramasole in Cortona, Italy, where she wrote memoirs that became a global sensation and inspired the film “Under the Tuscan Sun” (2003), Braz acquired a house in Alentejo to offer cooking courses after gaining fame for creating “O melhor bolo de chocolate do mundo” (The Best Chocolate Cake in the World), a pastry business specialized in a single product. Their paths would intersect in Lisbon, where Braz would cook for Mayes in his restaurant, forging a friendship over shared interests.

Born in Lisbon, Braz Lopes studied Business Management, a choice driven more by circumstance than passion. With a stronger inclination towards cooking, he opened the Mercado de Santa Clara restaurant in 1987, where he offered a chocolate cake lighter than traditional ones due to the absence of flour, quickly becoming popular among customers.

Inspired by the French pastry shop Fauchon, Braz Lopes developed his recipe for a chocolate cake, which consisted of layers of meringue, mousse, and chocolate coating. The cake, made with chocolate, eggs, and sugar, comes in two variants, with 53% or 70% cocoa content, and is gluten-free due to the lack of flour. Despite initially focusing on cooking courses, Braz decided to concentrate on producing his star dessert after realizing its growing demand.

When customers praised the cake’s taste, Braz humorously responded, “Not good, but the best chocolate cake in the world.” This playful remark led to the name of his bakery and small shop, which became renowned for its signature dessert. Despite the success and expansion of his business, Braz’s original shop in Campo de Ourique remains the only one under his ownership. Alongside the chocolate cake, the shop also offers apple gratin and cheesecake, both reminiscent of the restaurant days at Feira da Ladra.

With franchises across several Portuguese and international cities, “O melhor bolo de chocolate do mundo” has become a household name. In addition to physical stores, the cake is also sold through various channels, including select locations at El Corte Ingl├ęs in Spain. The next destination for Braz’s chocolate cake is Kuwait, adding to its global presence in Panama, Angola, Australia, the United States, and Brazil.

While production has shifted to a factory in Lisbon, Braz’s original shop in Campo de Ourique continues to serve as a testament to his culinary journey. Although he no longer reveals the secrets of his recipe, opting to share them only with his team of pastry chefs, Braz occasionally cooks for friends at home or treats them to his famous chocolate cake. In 2012, he published “O melhor livro de chocolate do mundo” (The Best Chocolate Book in the World) in Portugal, which includes a foreword by Frances Mayes, further affirming the cake’s acclaim.

Despite the allure of his famous dessert, Braz Lopes remains modest, offering a tongue-in-cheek alternative recipe titled “Quase o melhor bolo de chocolate do mundo” (Almost the Best Chocolate Cake in the World) to his readers. As Braz’s culinary journey continues, his dedication to quality and innovation ensures that his chocolate cake remains a beloved indulgence for dessert enthusiasts worldwide.