I’m sorry for the hiatus in recipe-provisioning – but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped baking! no, no – there is butter in the fridge, and so there must be cake.
but this one, well. I’m a little undecided about it – it’s a much-lauded nigella recipe, and I’m a huge fan, but the very quality she designed to be in the cake is precisely what I don’t really like about it: squidginess. and to call it a chocolate loaf feels a little like a stretch, because it seems rather incidental that that dark gold resides in this cake – it’s more a dense molassesy loaf. nothing wrong with that though – it could be well up your alley.
nigella is the queen: her recipes are easy to follow, usually failproof, and very frequently delicious. but it’s her eloquence in foodscription that really awes me – there’s a way to how she speaks about food that tells you she loves both language and knows how to eat very well.
but fan-girl foolishness aside, let’s talk this cake. it’s full of dark brown sugar (which might be the problem (or the antonym of a problem, depending on how you see it)) and a smidgen of chocolate, and bakes up into a dense heft of a loaf that sinks rather impressively in the middle. designed for maximum squidginess – a certain dampness – this certainly is a homely cake.
I’ve seen lots of blogs loving this recipe – and it makes me wonder why I can’t find it in myself to like it. the squidge might be it – but it’s likely also because I don’t seem to get much chocolate flavor from it too. it’s almost entirely dominated by the flavor of molasses, with a deep, dark sweetness but without any richness of chocolate or interesting hint-of-bitter that well-cooked caramel would bring, and felt rather mundanely insipid to me.
actually, it could be because I’m asian – and this reminds me of a too-sweet not-very-successful version of fatt gao, which has a muted flavor and too wet denseness when improperly steamed. if you give this a try, let me know – I could well have done something wrong, and you might end up loving this recipe!
p.s. this was even more disappointing because I had brought it to tea at a friend’s place – and the first time I’ve felt the need to bring the remainder of the cake back home. that’s a sign of an unloved cake!
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
325g dark brown sugar* (the original recipe indicates 375g)
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vinegar
100g dark chocolate (I used 65g + 35g milk chocolate), melted and cooled
200g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
250ml boiling water**
- preheat your oven to 190C, and line a 23x13x7cm tin, or use loaf liners.
- cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, and then add eggs and vinegar. mix till smooth.
- fold in the cooled melted chocolate, and blend but make sure it doesn’t become too airy.
- fold in the flour and baking soda, alternating spoonfuls with the boiling water. I started with spoonfuls – but there’s quite a lot of liquid, so I confess to resulting to ladleful alternating after the first few spoons!
- pour into your lined pan, and bake for 30 minutes; then turn the heat down to 170C and bake for another 15 minutes, until the cake is still a little squidgy. leave to cool in the pan.
* a perusal on blogs baking this recipe shows that sugar amounts vary widely – with one blog using only 275g of sugar. I would recommend trying this amount (I had used 325g instead of the recipe’s 375g, and it was still too sweet for me)
** as with the sugar, that same blog used only 200ml of boiling water – which might explain why her photos show a cake that’s a little fluffier than mine. might be worth a try!