dense chocolate cake

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!

dense chocolate loaf (adapted from nigella lawson, from a recipe posted on the divine chocolate blog)

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**

    1. preheat your oven to 190C, and line a 23x13x7cm tin, or use loaf liners.
    2. cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, and then add eggs and vinegar. mix till smooth.
    3. fold in the cooled melted chocolate, and blend but make sure it doesn’t become too airy.
    4. 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!
    5. 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!

7 thoughts on “dense chocolate cake

  1. I’m no baker so I appreciate any cake that’s been baked for me. Could you transform it by steaming it and adding a salted butterscotch sauce to it and calling it molasses pudding? I had a really good store bought sticky date pudding the other day with a salted caramel sauce. The texture looked a little like this cake.

    • I like the way you think! maybe why the cake seemed so boring to me – all the texture of a date pud without any of the salt and caramelly goodness.

      now I have a craving!

  2. could the lack of chocolate flavour be due to your swapping some of the dark chocolate in the recipe for 35 g of milk chocolate?

    • hi! I did wonder that – but it was good valrhona milk, and it wasn’t a distinction of how chocolatey it was – more that you wouldn’t really think it a chocolate cake upon eating. next time, I might try it with all dark (I actually ran out, which explains the sub) and sub cocoa for some of the flour!

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