- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 45 minutes
- Makes 8-10 slices
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
Test Kitchen Notes
This recipe fills a niche author Nigella Lawson found was missing in the world of chocolate cakes: a loaf cake with all the density and intensity of rich chocolate cake. Not a chocolate pound cake per se; more fudgy, moist, and “squidgy” as Lawson calls it. Loaf cakes in the U.S. generally take the form of pound cake or quick bread (like the banana and zucchini bread).
This cake gets its signature “squidge” from a few clever techniques. Typically, cakes start by creaming fat and sugar and whipping air into them, ultimately creating a lighter cake with evenly distributed air bubbles. By limiting the amount of time the ingredients are mixed, Lawson creates a denser cake than most. Additionally, by utilizing melted chocolate rather than cocoa powder, you’re left with a batter more akin to brownies than a typically layer cake.
Reviewer Jenn C. says. “This is the moistest, most flavorful chocolate cake I have never made. It’s like one of the chocolate cakes at chain restaurants that are super moist but ruined by layers of frosting. This will be on rotation at our house.” Another tip from reviewers: swap the boiling water with the same amount of hot coffee for a more intense cake that recalls Ina Garten’s infamous Beatty’s Chocolate Cake recipe. Note: as written, the recipe yields enough for a very full loaf pan, and likely a bit of overflow. Lawson suggests baking off a mini loaf or filling a few cups of a muffin tin with the excess. Whatever you do, don’t try to force all that batter into the tin; leave at least an inch of space at the top and place a baking sheet on the lower rack of your oven while it bakes (a great practice for juicy fruit pies, too!) An overfilled cake will ruin the cake (and your day), as you’ll have to spend it cleaning burnt batter off the bottom of your oven. —The Editors
soft unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups
dark brown sugar
large eggs, beaten
best bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 1/3 cups
plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.