Nigella Lawson’s Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake
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Nigella Lawson’s recipe for dense chocolate loaf cafe, well traversed in the blogosphere, needs no tinkering. Moist, rich, tender, chocolatey — what’s to improve?
Well, when my box of Fair Trade treats arrived, and I saw the bag of coffee and chocolate nestled together, I couldn’t help think that coffee, known to heighten the flavor of chocolate without imparting much coffee flavor at all, might make a subtle difference.
And because a splash of booze is often a nice addition to quick breads/loaf cakes, what would be the harm in replacing the final two tablespoons of water with brandy? And because every cake needs a pinch of salt, a pinch of salt would be added, too.
The result? Intense chocolate, subtle coffee and booze, perfect sweetness, complete deliciousness. This cake gets better by the day and is as impossible to resist with morning coffee as with postprandial cordials. Coffee, booze, salt — somehow I think you (and Nigella) would approve.
So, Friends, as you know it is October, when we celebrate all things Fair Trade, from chocolate to coffee to quinoa. Let’s review what Fair Trade means:
What is Fair Trade?
- Products that bear the Fair Trade logo come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated.
- Fair Trade helps farmers (more than 1.2 million worldwide) in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities.
- Fair Trade ensures that farmers follow internationally monitored environmental standards and also provides financial incentives and resources for organic conversion, reforestation, water conservation and environmental education.
- Fair Trade empowers women to play an active role in their families and in their co-ops by starting businesses with guaranteed access to health care, certain job rights and freedom from harassment.
- Fair Trade supports education with revenues set aside to build schools and maintain enrollment.
In Nigella’s cake I used Guittard semi-sweet chocolate, though bittersweet works well, too, and Equator Mocha Java coffee:
Don’t be tempted to pour the whole batter into one 8.5×4.5-inch loaf pan — it will overflow. That said, if you have a 9×5-inch or 10×5-inch loaf pan, you can fit the entire batter in it.
If you can resist, let it rest for a full day before cutting:Print
Nigella Lawson’s Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake
- Total Time: 60 minutes
- Yield: 1 loaf
Source: Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess
Changes I’ve made include:
- Reducing the brown sugar from 1 2/3 cups to 1 1/2 cups. I find dark or light works just fine.
- Replacing the water with coffee and booze. I use my Nespresso machine to make espresso, which I add water to to make 1 cup. If you don’t feel like adding booze or coffee, simply use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water instead.
- Upped the vanilla.
- Added salt.
- 1 cup (228 g) soft unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups (300 g) brown sugar
- 1 1/3 cups (170 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) baking soda
- 1 teaspoon (4 g) kosher salt
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 4 ounces (113 g) best bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted
- 2 tablespoons (28 g) Brandy or Bourbon or Grand Marnier, see notes above
- 1 cup (227 g) brewed coffee, see notes above
- Heat the oven to 375°F. Line a 9×5-inch or 10×5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper. Grease the inside ends of the pan if they are exposed. If you only have an 8.5×4.5-inch loaf pan, prepare it along with another small vessel with parchment paper — do not be tempted to bake the entire batter in it as it will overflow.
- Cream the butter and sugar, either with a wooden spoon or with an electric hand-held mixer, being sure not to overbeat it.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- Add the eggs and vanilla to the butter-sugar mixture and beat until combined.
- 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. Add the brandy and coffee mix to combine.
- Finally, add the flour mixture and mix only until the flour is absorbed. The batter should be smooth and fairly liquidy.
- Pour into the lined loaf pan, being sure the batter does not come closer than 1 inch from the rim of the cake pan or it risks overflowing. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325ºF and continue to cook for another 15 to 20 minutes more. (If baking some of the batter in a small pan, remove after the first 30 minutes.) Remove the pan from the oven. 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 it to get completely cold before turning it out. (Leave it for a whole day if you can resist.) Don’t worry if it sinks in the middle — it will do so because it’s such a dense and damp cake.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Quick Bread
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: boozy, chocolate, cake, dense, moist, coffee, Nigella, Lawson
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
197 Comments on “Nigella Lawson’s Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake”
I made this in a bundt pan, and it was delightful! I found it didn’t need the additional 15 minutes at the end, similar to your smaller loaf pan.
Just made this for dessert tonight and it was deliciously chocolately absolute goodness.
Followed the directions to a tee. SO glad I found this!
I made this last Friday to serve to friends over the weekend. I used 2 4-inch x 8-inch loaf pans which the batter filled to the same level you show in your picture Ali. I was surprised and a bit disappointed when I pulled them out of the oven and they hadn’t risen much – I ended up with 2 pretty skimpy cakes. BUT – the one we devoured was incredibly moist and totally delicious. I substituted Cointreau (orange liqueur) for the brandy which left a nice subtle orange taste and only buttered both pans (no parchment paper) and they came out of the pans just fine. Are they supposed to rise a lot? Other than the brandy substitution, I followed the recipe exactly as you have it. Any thoughts?? Thanks for yet another outstanding recipe Ali!!
Hi Lindsay! Sorry about the skimpy loaves! So, I must have not made the pan dimensions clear in my post. I used one 9×5-inch pan (a standard loaf pan), and then filled up one mini loaf pan. So next time, I would suggest filling up your 8×4-inch pan 2/3, then bake off the remainder in a smaller vessel — mini loaf pans or muffin cups or ramekins. The loaves rise a bit but not too much — it sounds as though you did everything right, just that each pan was on the large size. The loaves probably cooked faster, too, right? Hope that makes sense! LOVE the idea of Cointreau — orange and chocolate is one of my favorite combos. THanks for writing in!
Planning to make this for thanksgiving in a bunt pan- but I also want to use my bunt pan for a bread pudding… how far in advance do you think I could bake it? Would today (Monday) be too early? Thanks!
Oh my goodness, Chocolate Loaf Cake looks delicious! I’m definitely making this! thanks for sharing!
That cake sounds and looks divine! Making it first thing tomorrow morning so I can devour it in the evening. <3
Could the recipe maybe be doubled to fill three normal-sized loaf pans?
Yay! I think so. I would just be sure to not fill the loaf pans too high. Refer to the pictures as a guide. No matter the size of vessel, as long as it is not over 3/4 filled, you shouldn’t have any spillage issues. Best to be cautious — you can always bake off extra batter in ramekins or mini pans — whatever you’ve got!
Just want to say that I made this cake, and that it was RIDICULOUSLY delicious. Like probably the best cake i’ve ever made. Thank you for this beauty!
Yay! So happy to hear this!
This chocolate cake does look pretty good. Can it be baked in a decorative bundt-shaped cake pan, I wonder? Would I have problems getting the baked cake out of the pan?
I think a bundt pan is a great idea! I find bundt pans bake everything much more easily, and I bet you could use all of the batter in the bundt pan (as opposed to what I do, which is make one standard loaf pan and one mini loaf pan).
Be sure to butter the pan very well! And I would let it cool probably for 45 minutes in the pan before turning it out onto a rack. Good luck!
Oh, I would like to get confirmation on baking this cake in decorative bundt-shaped cake pans. Thank you!!
I have made it in a bundt- was a huge hit and came out easy. I buttered the pan first.
Great to hear this!
OH my gosh! I’ve been making Nigella’s dense chocolate loaf cake for years but – you are a genius! Adding coffee & booze? I always have a 4 oz bar of chocolate in my pantry for her recipe and now I am rushing to make this tonight!
Here’s a question I’ve had about all recipes w/coffee or black tea in them — does the caffeine remain? I’m very sensitive to it and avoid these recipes so I’m not up all night from dessert. Ali, do you know? thanks!
Hi Allison! I just did a quick google search, and it does appear that caffeine stays in baked goods. Darn! I think you could use water here and have great results.
You could use decaf coffee if you can tolerate a very small amount of caffeine. Best of luck.
This looks wonderful! I want to make it this weekend. How many days would it stay ok wrapped at room temperature? I would like to ship one in a care package- would it be ok to do that do you think? Thanks! I’ll come back and review it after I have made it 🙂
Hi Connie! I think it will keep well for at least 5 days wrapped at room temperature. It is so moist! I think it will ship well, too.
I’ve made this twice this week using my Bundt pan – once for my family and once for a teacher friend who (really) deserved a sweet treat. Got raves all around. So good.
So nice to hear this, Kate! Thanks for writing and sharing your notes. And thanks for treating that very deserving teacher friend to a sweet treat. So nice 💕💕💕💕
can you please add the info that 4 ounces are 113gr. all other ingredients ære also in gr. only this one is missing.
think you. greetings from Italy
Added! Hello 🙂
Make this cake! So good and so easy.
Delicious!!! Really simple & truly divine. Perfectly moist with a great crumb. Will be making this over and over!
Great to hear, Ann! Thanks for writing 🙂 🙂 🙂
I’d like to make this in a Bundt pan but unsure of temperature and time. Thank you
I used the prescribed sized loaf pan and the batter all just overflowed its banks. Smoke and a huge mess in the bottom of my oven!
I’ve been watching your instagram for awhile, and everything looks delicious, but this is the first thing I tried.
The really lovely thing about this recipe is how there is too much batter to fit into a loaf pan. I was able to make a loaf plus three cupcakes, which my husband and I enjoyed still slightly warm the evening I baked, while we waited for the loaf to cool completely overnight. They were almost like pudding with delightful crispy, sweet edges.
I am gluten free and had to use a1 for 1 GF flour blend instead of real flour. I think this resulted in the loaf being extra flat. I used 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp strong, hot coffee (no booze), but might scale it back to just 1cup of liquid in future. I might also sub 2 Tbsp of the GF flour blend with 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed to help with structure. Or one or the other. In any case, I am definitely planning a next time! Thank you for a really nice, and quick and easy, recipe!
So nice to read all of this, Ruth! Thanks so much for writing and sharing your notes, especially the tips about the ground flaxseed and gluten-free flour — so helpful for others wanting to do the same. What a treat to have a warm cupcake right out of the oven?! Love it 🙂
This cake is SO delicious. The coffee and bourbon make it that much better. I can’t believe it. It’s like one of those moist rum cakes if you have ever had one of those. Mine didn’t sink or get small. It actually grew. I wonder if it’s all in the technique of how you mix it (not over mixing). Absolutely delicious. Will be a go to.
Thanks so much for writing, Laura! I love those moist rum cakes — there is a guy that sells them at our local farmers market, and I have such a hard time resisting them. So glad yours didn’t sink, and so glad you like this one 🙂 🙂 🙂
This is the best recipe!!! So dense and chocolatey. Yum!!
So great to hear this, Lisa 🙂 🙂 🙂 Thanks for writing.
Do you think a gluten free flour (bobs red mill or King Arthur) would work? Any additions to the baking soda or eggs? Thanks!
Hi Katy! Sorry for the delay here. Because it is kind of a dense cake as it is, I think it would work well with a gluten-free flour mix like Bob Red Mill’s, KAF’s or Cup4Cup. I don’t think you should have to add anything else.
Could you replace the all purpose flour with a gluten free blend of flour?
Hi Rosemary! Sorry for the delay here. Because it is kind of a dense cake as it is, I think it would work well with a gluten-free flour mix like Bob Red Mill’s, KAF’s or Cup4Cup.
For a special occasion I sliced the cake in 1/2, from end to end & layered chocolate buttercream for the center. It was to die, and so pretty !
That sounds amazing, Rebecca!!
I laughed out loud at the screen over your story of your daughter’s “No offence Mom.” That’s my highest accolade for funny things on the internet. If you grew up being prohibited to use ‘whatever’, then you’re revealing how young you are. I have several decades over yours grousing students for using phrases like ‘get a life.’ and others that go further back still.
Thank you for this latest offering from your Blog, and I rather think I will be making the ‘squidgy’ chocolate cake very soon.
We’re getting up there, Raymond, but that’s OK 🙂 🙂 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the story, and I hope you love the squidgy chocolate cake!! Thanks for writing.
Squidgy Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake is a Winner!
I followed the recipe, lined my 9×5 loaf pan with waxed paper because I was out of parchment, and a bit of extra salt fell in upon mixing. The result, left on the counter in the pan for close to 24 hours with a sign ‘This needs to rest until Sunday,’ looks just like your photos and tastes fantastic! I used decaf coffee, no brandy, and had no difficulty with too much batter or lack of rising. I wish we could post photos here! Then again, they’d look just like yours. Thanks for this keeper recipe for a perfectly moist, easy bread pan chocolate cake!
So nice to read this, Catherine! I love that you left a sign 🙂 🙂 🙂 That would be required in my house as well for anything left on the counter needing time to rest. Too funny. So glad this one turned out well. Thank you for writing!
My husband made this tonight and it really didn’t get done in the middle. He was anxious about over baking. I want to do it as a Bundt this week. What works best for temp and timing? Thank you!
Oh bummer! Sorry to hear this, Lisa. For a bundt, I would try 350ºF for 45 minutes, but for maybe as long as 1 hour.
Delicious! Loved the coffee and bourbon substitutions. I poured the batter into 3 mini loaf pans. I wanted to give 2 to some elderly neighbors and keep one for my family. My husband and I ate the whole thing right out of the oven.
Yay! So great to read this, Jamie 🙂 🙂 🙂 I bet the mini loaves baked more evenly. My daughter is baking another loaf of this today — her second within a week, and our fourth as a family within two weeks! Thanks for writing.
I made this recipe exactly as written except I substituted Pyrat Rum for the brandy, and it was delicious served with Jeni’s Sweet Cream Ice Cream, which I make substituting Lyle’s Golden Syrup for corn syrup. It’s definitely a keeper.
It’s almost as easy to make as it is to eat!
YUM! That all sounds delicious Victoria!! Thanks for writing and sharing 🙂
This recipe is so delicious and so easy, perfect for me!!! I made it gluten free for a friend and it works as well.
I also love your focaccia. Super easy and delicious.
Thank you so much!
Amazing! Great to hear it turned out well with gf flour, Maira 🙂 🙂 🙂 Thanks so much for writing.