Kladdkaka—or Swedish Gooey Chocolate Cake—is a home cook's dream. It's five ingredients, plus a pinch of salt and some breadcrumbs to line the pan (which, in a bind, you could skip in lieu of just butter). The cake batter comes together in just one pot in roughly five minutes, or as long as it takes you to melt chocolate and butter, then stir in some dry ingredients. It cooks for about 15 minutes meaning, all-in, you're never more than a half-an-hour out from a warm, fudgy slice of it.
And according to Michelin star-winning chef Magnus Nilsson, who estimates that he eats kladdkaka roughly once a month, it always turns out way better at home than it would in a professional kitchen.
"It only works well in the home," he says. "It doesn’t function well in bakeries, because they want to do it too well—that’s not the point. This whole cake is like the polar opposite of a cake in the traditional meaning. It’s unleavened, and under-baked—all the things that are problematic with a normal cake."
Nilsson is a Swedish chef whose restaurant Fäviken has received abundant praise for its innovative Nordic cuisine, which uses locally sourced ingredients. He's been profiled on The Mind of a Chef and Chef's Table. In his newly published The Nordic Baking Book, a compendium of regional baking recipes, Nilsson speculates as to the origin-story of kladdkaka, which started to appear in Swedish cookbooks and magazines in the mid-1970s.
"Kladdkaka is a relatively recent addition to Swedish cake culture. Its origins are a bit unclear and the accounts on where it came from are as colorful as they are conflicting," he writes. "One can also assume without going out too much on a limb that the unleavened, very gooey and soft cake of today is the result of naturally occurring cake evolution. Someone had a really good recipe for chocolate cake, perhaps a brownie one, or why not something more central European in style? The same person, in the heat of the moment, forgets to add baking powder only to realize his or her mistake halfway through the cooking process. They then remove the undercooked cake from the oven and they are astounded by its deliciousness."
Astounded sounds about right. It's just about the chocolate-iest dessert I've ever tasted, like a flavor and texture hybrid between dense, flourless chocolate cake, and gooey brownies. It's no wonder that, according to Nilsson, it's the most common recipe search from Swedish websites, with more than 650,000 search engine results.
"There are as many conflicting ideas on how to eat this cake as there are recipes for it," he writes. "Some like it warm with ice cream, some like it at room temperature with nothing, and I like it as my wife will tell you to eat it: cold from the refrigerator with whipped cream on the side."
The variation you see on our site is one of several kladdkaka recipes he's published in The Nordic Baking Book—others that made the cut include Nilsson's wife's iteration (with cocoa powder and vanilla sugar), and a version with white chocolate. Nilsson's exhaustive research, including hundreds of visits to homes for cooking demonstrations, for his compilation of Nordic baking recipes and for those in its younger, savory sibling, The Nordic Cookbook, took about six years.
Which, if you do the math, is roughly 155,000 kladdkakas. —Ella Quittner
Test Kitchen Notes
Feel free to swap in all-purpose or cake flour, if it's what you have on-hand. —The Editors
- Prep time 5 minutes
- Cook time 20 minutes
- Makes 8 pieces
(7-ounces or 1 3/4 sticks) butter, plus extra to grease
Breadcrumbs, to coat
(7-ounces) dark (semisweet) chocolate, broken into small pieces
(9-ounces or 1 1/4 cups) sugar
(1 1/2-ounces or 1/3 cup) weak (soft) wheat flour
Good pinch of sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 175ºC/345ºF/Gas Mark 4. Butter a 24-cm/9 1/2-inch springform cake pan and coat with breadcrumbs.
- Melt the butter in a medium pan over a low heat. Add the chocolate and keep melting everything together while stirring. Remove the pan from the heat and add the rest of the ingredients while you keep stirring until well combined.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan, smooth the surface and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. It should be sticky on the inside. If the cake gets too dark, cover it with aluminum foil for the last 5 minutes.