26 May 2012

Nigella's dense chocolate loaf cake

I hope this was worth waiting for.

Woman cannot live by apple cake alone. While I adore baking and eating apple cakes, and no doubt I will return to them (when dad delivers the next boxful), I need a respite.

I’ve also decided that as we head into the cooler, darker days of the year, I need the comfort of something familiar, of a tried and true recipe, rather than the thrill of a new one.

So I pulled out my big folder of the recipes I have successfully cooked (as most come torn from magazines, photocopied from library books or downloaded from the internet, I use a folder system to keep all the successful ones separate from the ones yet to try. I’m sure I was a librarian or an archivist in a past life).

I settled in with a cup of tea and some post it notes for tagging, ready to re-acquaint myself with an old friend and step outside the current apple zone. As I flipped thru, I realised I could remember making and enjoying most of the recipes in this time capsule. Ask me to remember something I did last week and I flounder, goggle-eyed, but food — ah, now that’s quite a different matter!

In the end I actually went to one of the few cookbooks I own: Nigella’s ‘How to be a domestic goddess’ (a present, years ago, from my friend, the gorgeous M). I am a big fan of early Nigella and I think ‘Domestic goddess’ is wonderful. It is imbued with her personality but it’s not rampantly flamboyant. I much prefer Nigella on the page than the TV screen (I also think her earlier book ‘How to eat’ is even better, if you love reading about food and eating. Her writing is glorious).

Anyway, I immediately found a cake that ticks both boxes for my original search: something far away from apple cake as you could get, and something familiar, as you can see from my page notes:

It's a very easy recipe, and very economical too, with only two eggs. It seems strange to cream the butter and sugar (and more on the sugar below) and then add boiled water - it seems contradictory to whip something up then sog it down with hot water. But it works in the end.

With admirable constraint, I made this last night and did not cut it until my parents visited this morning. Nigella advises leaving it a day or two, to let it 'improve'. It's fudgy like a good brownie, and perfect with a strong cup of fragrant earl grey.
Update, Wed 30: this cake is getting better everyday - squidgier, deeper, darker.
Should you decide to make this yourself - and you really should - here are some notes (which I need to add to my above scrawl).
Don't be alarmed at the quantity of sugar specified. Well, do be alarmed, but feel the fear and do it anyway. It all works in the end, and the cake is not (surprisingly) cloyingly sacharine. And it's the brown sugar gives that lovely brownie-like crackle on the top.

Also, instead of a cup of boiling water, use two thirds water and one third Tia Maria. Or Frangelico. Or whatever floats your fancy. I have these in the cupboard, they need using!

Nigella's dense chocolate loaf cake
Adapted from the Domestic Goddess. But please read the recipe in her book - it's as enjoyable as the actual cake is.
  • Preheat your oven to 190 and line a tin (I've used loaf, round and this time, a brownie tin) and have some muffins tins prepped too, just in case. This makes a lot and and never fits into any of my tins without needing to go to the cupcake option.
  • Melt 100 grams of dark cooking chocolate and allow to cool while you get on with creaming 225 grams butter and 375 grams of the darkest brown sugar you can find. Then add two eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Then beat in the chocolate. Lots of finger and spoon licking required at this stage.
  • Next add 200 grams of plain flour, 1 teaspoon of bicarb soda, and one cup of boiling water (or water and boozy stuff) - alternate dry ingredients and liquid. This will be a fairly liquid batter; you can easily pour it into your prepared tins.
  • Bake for 30 mins at 190 then reduce to 170 and bake another 10-15 minutes (remember to watch your cupcakes if you have those). As Nigella advises, this is a sticky cake, so your skewer might not be completely clean when you test.
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack, then transfer to an airtight container, shut the door on the kitchen, and patiently await the next day. If I can, you can. 


  1. Anonymous11 June, 2012

    I ADORE this cake. It is the best. Once, though, I put in too much bicarb soda and the thing exploded in the oven. So, from there on in, I listened to Nigella on the bicarb point. I love the idea of Frangelico. And it does get better with age, but it's so hard to test this theory. :-) Thank you for sharing your wonderful take on Nigella! M xx

    1. xx it's also a very sad moment when you eat the last of this one, too.


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