Nigella Lawson's Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

December 11, 2012

Test Kitchen-Approved

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
Prep time: 40 min
Cook time: 20 min


  • 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
In This Recipe


  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. This recipe is likely to leave you with a bit of excess batter, so if you'd like to bake it off, have an additional mini loaf pan or muffin tin ready as well.
  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. (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 greased mini loaf pan or muffin pan and start testing for doneness at 20 minutes.)
  4. Bake the cake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325° F 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.

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Reviews (86) Questions (3)

86 Reviews

SLFisher February 10, 2019
This was amazing! The recipe worked perfectly for me, with even the cook time spot on. This cake is moist and fudgy and delicious with nothing but a dusting of powdered sugar (and even that is unnecessary).
Amy March 6, 2018
I putthe extra batter in a separate pan, and it came out dry. Not fudgy, like I'd hoped. Next time I'll use one pan for sure!
Rebecca January 14, 2018
Lily, do you have a link to the recipe? This is KAREN Mordechai, correct? Would love to have the recipe!<br />
Lauren S. November 11, 2017
The dense loaf recipe asks for only four ounces of chocolate, but looks like a "cup-&-a 1/2-but make it the whole bag of chocolate" recipe. What if this isn't found? It is great with ice cream warmed up. Thanks.
Andrea D. May 15, 2017
What a great, dense chocolate loaf cake. This recipe was my foundation for many tweaks (I know, so irritating to read a review from someone who didn't follow the recipe, isn't it?) in an effort to give my husband a low-carb treat, and it turned out better than I (and he) hoped. Subbed equal parts coconut flour and almond flour for the regular flour, used 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup stevia baking sweetener for the 1 and 1/3 cup brown sugar brown sugar and used coffee instead of water. I also added a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of vinegar (to boost baking soda leavening effect). A big, delicious hit! Even the carb-welcoming members of my family love it! Thanks, Food 52 and Nigella! ❤️
Rebecca October 18, 2017
Personally, I appreciate your gluten-free changes! To know what was done and if it worked is a gift! Now, to make it dairy-free...
Lily January 14, 2018
Check out Sunday Suppers — Rebecca Mordechai makes a dense chocolate loaf (she calls it a breakfast cake) and there’s no dairy! Just coconut oil, but I subbed MCT oil—it was delicious
vbak December 23, 2016
A definite favorite with me topped with syrupy chocolate mint ganache. Like gravy on mashed potatoes. YUM! Such a transformation from a light creamy chocolate color to a deep dark chocolate.<br /> <br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Jusika December 3, 2016
fwiw, I put the entire batter in a regular loaf pan, and didn't have any troubles!
Sue J. December 3, 2016
Has anyone ever made this in an 8x8 or 13x9 pan? reading the comments about all the extra batter makes me want to put it in a bigger pan. Or should I definitely use a loaf pan for this? thanks!
Jusika November 26, 2016
I feel like I've been waiting for this cake-brownie my entire life! I LOVE, LOVE LOVE its fudge center! It's glorious!
vbak November 26, 2016
I love this cake! For Christmas, I make a chocolate mint ganache to pour over the cake. Delicious!
karen K. August 29, 2016
I LOVE this cake. I've made it several times and its always a hit. I love how it's almost a cross between cake and pudding. Delightful!
Ali W. May 9, 2016
I made this recipe exactly as written down, the only change I made is to omit a bit of the boiling water because I felt like the batter was extremely liquid before I poured it on the loaf pan. I have to say, extraordinary moist cake! The edges were a little dryer, probably due to the lack of water, but very flavorful and simple, it really is like a chocolate pound cake but better! Next time I will definitely add all of the water, and will experiment with coffee and tea
Noelle February 9, 2016
I love the moistness of this cake! But I reduce the sugar considerably. I use unsweetened chocolate instead of bittersweet and reduce the sugar to 1 cup. I just made one with coffee substituted for half the water.
Mayra January 25, 2016
I expected the cake to be richer, but nevertheless it was a good cake. <br />Followed the recipe except for substituting water for coffee (as seen in the comments) and had a lot of left over batter too.<br />The cake tastes better the next day.<br />Thank you for sharing this recipe!
WoooPigSooie January 9, 2016
Wow. I had a TON of batter left over -- enough for 9 muffins. Any tips on how long/how hot to cook those?
Hema S. November 3, 2015
If I don't have baking chocolate on hand but do have cocoa what replacement measurements should I use?
freesumpin April 29, 2015
Question :: Is bittersweet chocolate the same as dark chocolate and, if so, what percentage of cocoa? :)
Anna April 7, 2015
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 :)
Gladys L. March 29, 2015
do you use the same baking time for mini loaves?
Haley S. March 18, 2015
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...