Nigella Lawson's Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

By • December 11, 2012 • 68 Comments

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Author Notes: On creating this cake, Nigella Lawson explains, "I remember very strongly wanting to create what we call a loaf cake -- and what is generally called a pound cake Stateside -- that had a richness and squidginess of texture that this form of cake normally doesn't major in." And she did. Recipe adapted very slightly from How to Be A Domestic Goddess (Hyperion, 2005)Genius Recipes

Makes 8-10 slices

  • 1 cup soft unsalted butter
  • 1 2/3 cups dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces best bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
  1. Heat the oven to 375°F, put in a baking sheet in case of sticky drips later, and grease and line a 9x5-inch loaf pan. The lining is important as this is a very damp cake: use parchment or one of those loaf-pan-shaped paper liners.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar, either with a wooden spoon or with an electric hand-held mixer, then add the eggs and vanilla, beating in well. Next, fold in the melted and now slightly cooled chocolate, taking care to blend well but being careful not to overbeat. You want the ingredients combined: You don't want a light, airy mass.
  3. Then gently add the flour, to which you've added the baking soda, alternately spoon by spoon, with the boiling water until you have a smooth and fairly liquid batter. Pour into the lined loaf pan, and bake for 30 minutes. (Note: Don't let this batter come closer than 1 inch from the rim of the cake pan or it risks overflowing. Pour any excess into a smaller cake or muffin pan.)
  4. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. The cake will still be a bit squidgy inside, so an inserted cake tester or skewer won't come out completely clean.
  5. Place the loaf pan on a rack, and leave to get completely cold before turning it out. (I often leave it for a day or so: like gingerbread, it improves.) Don't worry if it sinks in the middle: indeed, it will do so because it's such a dense and damp cake.

Topics: Cake

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Comments (68) Questions (2)

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27 days ago freesumpin

Question :: Is bittersweet chocolate the same as dark chocolate and, if so, what percentage of cocoa? :)

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about 1 month ago Anna

I followed the wise suggestion from the commentary section and substituted water for coffee (also added more chocolate - did not substitute the flour for cocoa, though. Also: used demerara sugar instead of dark brown sugar because that's what I had at home at the moment). It's probably one of the most decadent cakes I've ever tasted, and I mean that in the best possible way :)

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about 1 month ago Gladys Lee

do you use the same baking time for mini loaves?

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2 months ago Haley Sonneland

Haley handles PR and marketing for Food52

I subbed coffee for water and used 6 oz of chocolate. AMAZING! We had enough for a full loaf a mini loaf to give our guests to walk away with...

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3 months ago mary

It is in the oven now....without reading the comments, I too subbed 1/3 cup cocoa (Droste). I used 2 teaspoons of espresso powder, added a pinch of salt, and used olive oil for half the butter. It is gorgeous. I poured the left over batter into a mug and microwaved it into a lava cake. (About 1/2 cup leftover for 1 minute in a strong microwave). My husband and I devoured it.

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4 months ago Tarta

I am not sure if my original comment went through. I made this cake tonight and loved it! I used the adjustments that others suggested in the comments (substituted 1/3 cup of cocoa powder for flour , 1/2 cup of hot coffee- I used strong decaf and used 6 0z of chocolate). I also used a 10x6" loaf pan. I am not sure why the recipe doesn't suggest a larger pan. It strangely says, "Don't let this batter come closer than 1 inch from the rim of the cake pan or it risks overflowing. Pour any excess into a smaller cake or muffin pan." I first tried the 9x5" pan and it definitely would have overflowed. It came out great in the 10x6" pan and did not sink at all (I'm sure any loaf pan that is larger than a 9x5" pan will work). I will definitely make this again. It was fantastic!

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4 months ago emliza

Did you pack the brown sugar?

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4 months ago Tarta

Yup. I packed the brown sugar. Unlike others, I used all of the sugar suggested, and I thought it tasted great (not too sweet for me!).

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4 months ago emliza

Thanks. Going to try it this weekend.

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4 months ago Tarta

I also used 1/4 tsp. of salt...

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4 months ago Tarta

I just made this cake tonight for the first time. It was amazing! I also used 6 oz of chocolate and substituted 1/3 cup of cocoa for the flour. I also used a 10x6" loaf pan. I highly recommend a larger loaf pan because I tried the smaller one and I was sure it would overflow (the directions strangely say that you may have more batter than fits in the pan. I'm not sure why a larger pan wasn't suggested). Thank you all for the recipe and for the excellent comments and adjustments.It was fantastic and I will definitely make it again.

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4 months ago joyousilla

I LOVED this recipe!!!! I will be honest, I was a bit hesitant because of all the brown sugar and a little bit of chocolate, but I was wrong and I'm glad I was! It was so moist, decadant, and delicious! I will say it was forgiving for the actual baking time because my oven isn't calibrated so I used my best judgement and only left it in for 30 minutes. The only change I made was half water and half leftover coffee from the morning and made sure it was boiling hot. Thank you, for this tons!

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5 months ago Artpulse

Hands down, the best chocolate cake. I love butter and prefer the softness of the chocolate flavor over a heavy hitting sharp taste of many chocolate cake recipes.I prefer it cold but usually no one can wait that long. I cut down on the sugar and subbed with some raw cocoa. I also added a bit of salt. Thank for posting this recipe!

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about 1 year ago Gotowanie Girl

I made this cake taking into account previous comments. I subbed 1/3c cocoa powder for part of the flour and made with coffee instead of water. It came out wonderful! I served the cake with berries and fresh whippped cream. It was a huge hit. Thank you!

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about 1 year ago carolyn.carney1

I just made (and ate) this cake, like some others I subbed 1/3flour with cocoa and added 2 to 3 oz more chocolate, I am not a cake maker but I have to say this is one of the richest, moist and at the same time most extremely light chocolate cakes I have ever had, it is half way between a mousse and a cake, absolutely delicious, we served it with a raspberry purée sauce and vanilla ice cream, only because I didn't have any heavy cream.

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over 1 year ago Rachel Marie

I've made this twice now, but I've adapted it so much I'm not sure it even counts as the same recipe. I reduced the brown sugar to 1 cup, increased the chocolate to 5 oz., replaced 1/3 cup of the flour with natural cocoa powder, added a pinch of kosher salt, and replaced the water with stout (this one which is brewed with molasses: http://www.beeradvocate...).
I took it to a dinner party, and it went over very well with Philadelphia style vanilla ice cream topped with raw cocoa nibs and blackberries.

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12 months ago Ami

Very interesting that you used stout. Did you warm it up before you added it, or did you added it cold?

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over 1 year ago Elizabeth

AWESOME!!! I too made a few changes…used 1/3 c. less sugar, substituted 1/4 cocoa for flour, added 1/2 tsp. salt and used 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate. Perfection!

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over 1 year ago Annerieke Willemze

i only have salted butter - did anyone give that a try? i'm thinking it will go well with the chocolate!

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over 1 year ago Sugar n Spice by Radhika

Salted butter goes really well with chocolate.. I always put salted bitter in my chocolate ganache and it turns out great! I'm sure it'll taste great in cakes too. If you'd like more recipes, you can visit my blog.. http://www.sugarnspicebyradhika...

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about 1 year ago Paula Zevin

Slated butter tends to have more water than unsalted one. You may want to add another scant tablespoon of flour to the recipe. The taste will be good.

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over 1 year ago alamesa

I've made this a few times now and it always turns out well. I always use less sugar, (1 cup) and a little less butter 200g instead of 226g and 6oz instead of 4oz dark chocolate. Served with a dollop of creme fraiche. I also add a little powdered ginger to the dry ingredients. Delicious!

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over 1 year ago Rachel Marie

Oh, I love the idea of adding a little ginger!

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over 1 year ago enthous

I was a little reticent about this but gave it a try. I don't like very sweet things, cannot tolerate light, sweet chocolate, so I made a few changes as suggested by previous reviewers. I cut 1/3c of sugar (used 1 1/3c) and replaced 1/3C flour with raw cacao powder. I didn't want to go overboard and I think I succeeded. I was not too sweet, and not such a chocolate wallop that the other favors didn't come through. The texture is really unique: moister than a poundcake, cakier than a brownie. The crunchy top is wonderful. Also, since I didn't see any acid in the cake other than the acidity of the chocolate itself, I questioned the use of b soda so I used baking powder rather than soda. It worked fine, but I have no idea how that affected the texture. It sank, but not that much. Next time, and yes, there will be a next time, I'll probably brave the soda. I served it with sweetened whipped cream, definitely a nice addition.

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over 1 year ago enthous

Also added 1/4 tsp salt, which I liked.

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almost 2 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

Fingers crossed. Made it this afternoon, and going to cut into it tomorrow for my husband's birthday. It looks like a big brownie :-)

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about 2 years ago Penelope_B

Made it this afternoon and it was divine. Loaf was moist, yet dense, with crisp edges. Very very yummy and went down well with the family.

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about 2 years ago ELLA

THIS IS THE BEST CAKE EVER!!!!! I Make it a few times a month, as a matter of fact, my butter is softening now, it is so moist and spongy you can hear it when you eat it. I love the fact that you can taste all the ingredients, this cake is the real deal.