Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake


It was my brother’s birthday last week. My mother is in New York on her annual vacation from us, so we decided to have a quiet dinner out on Sunday evening. Just me, my bro A, his girlfriend B, and C.

I know what you’re thinking. It was fine when it was just C, but A, B, and C? No, I’m not making it up.

So, back to the birthday dinner and my awesome brother who celebrated it. He and I are quite close, as far as siblings of opposite gender with five years between them go. In the beginning, I (and he) admit, it may have been for lack of choice. You see, it’s just the two of us. But after much hair-pulling and face-smacking and blood-drawing (ok, that was only once, and he bit me!), we realized that in a family of four, neither of us would get anywhere with only 25% of the vote. Together, with a 50% share, we had more power. We could watch each other’s back and, even as the junior generation, lobby enough to sometimes change the unwavering tides of parental decree.

It may have seemed strange at times – my Barbies and his Transformers*** co-existing in the same city built of Styrofoam (he used the Styrofoam from old toy boxes). Obviously these games were pretty much silent because Barbie and the Autobots did not have much to say to each other...although they did eat the same birdseed/hamster food.

From these incongruent beginnings though, we discovered strong and fundamental similarities that bound us: the love of books and reading; intense discussions about everything from government, to God, to utopia, to, um, gas; a passion for food and eating; valour in the face of grossness; fondness for things weird and unexplained; an obsession with the way we smell; a predisposition to be unskinny; the conviction that sleep is indeed an important “activity”. And a love for chocolate cake.

As I mentioned here, my brother is one of my favourite people to cook/bake for. His appetite, coupled with his eloquence, make him the perfect envoy of food-related compliments. His favourite baked-by-me chocolate cake, so far, is this one from Chocolate & Zucchini. I have to say it’s my favourite as well – I love this pretty much flourless approach to chocolate cake. This cake by Nigella, though quite different, quickly won our palates.

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake
(from How To Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson )
  • 225 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 375 grams dark muscovado sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100 grams dark chocolate (the best you can get), melted
  • 200 grams plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 250 ml boiling water

- Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until color lightens (it’ll go from dark to light brown). Add eggs and vanilla, beating in until incorporated.
- Fold in the melted (and slightly cooled) chocolate. Blend well until just combined but do not overbeat.
- 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 a 23x13x7 cm loaf tin that has been greased and lined. The lining is important because this is a very damp cake. I used a slightly smaller loaf tin and got two cupcakes extra :)
- Place filled loaf tin on a baking tray into a 190C oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 170C and bake for 15-20 minutes more. An inserted cake tester won’t come out completely clean as the cake will still be a tad “squidgy” inside.
- Place the loaf tin on a rack and wait until it gets completely cool before turning out.

As the name suggests, this cake was moist and dense with a very tight crumb. It also had a surprisingly intense chocolate flavour. That being said, the cake was incredibly soft and light. Puzzling but delicious. On the whole, a cake better eaten than explained.

I used the darkest muscovado sugar I had. As I only have experience with our local muscovado (which is different from our local brown sugar), I have no idea if it’s any different from the muscovado Nigella uses across the pond. Ours is more like powder than crystals, deeply brown, with an earthy molasses-like taste. Is it the same for you? I now realize that in different editions of her book it actually says dark brown sugar. So which should actually be used I wonder? In any case, it worked brilliantly on this cake so I’ll continue to use our local muscovado when I make this in the future.

The loaf pan I used was a bit smaller than what was indicated in the recipe so I got the two extra cupcakes out of it. Not a bad thing that ;)

On a personal note, this must be the softest cake I have ever made. And that is saying something as I am sadly heavy-handed with cake batter (no matter how much I envision myself to have elegance and finesse). Really, I was so amazed at how soft the tight-knit crumb was that I kept poking it gently with my finger, as one would a new feather pillow. No matter what, for now, I will be in Nigella’s debt for that.

And to my brother: I wish you all the happiness you deserve...which is to say an awfully indecent amount! And more chocolate cake of course :)

***Although my brother never developed any sympathies for Barbie, I did kinda fall in love with the Transformers. Yes, I watched the movie. And I’m not ashamed to admit I cried the first time Optimus spoke.


Manggy said...

Belated happy birthday to your brother! Wow, Joey, you sure know how to draw attention with the title! Yumburgers! The cake looks gorgeous-- well done. Actually I've not been very satisfied with the depth of the chocolate cakes I've made recently but that may be the fault of the chocolate. Sa totoo lang duda ako na totoong Callebaut yung "Callebaut" sa Cook's Exchange. Neither the package nor the chocolate has any markings!

I didn't have very many toys growing up :( I so wanted those Legos and Play-Dohs!

Fearless Kitchen said...

This looks great. I'm glad to know that it comes out as a really soft cake, too.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Both the cupcakes and the cake look yummy! Fantastically dense!



Patsyk said...

That cake looks like heaven to me! Yum!

cecile said...

i am definitely trying this...need to convert the measurements first though.

Anh said...

This cake is absolutely to die for. I want some chocolate cake badly!!

Socky said...

Siblings who share a love for chocolate cakes can't help but be close. Love this post, joey.

Shalimar said...

Hey Joey have a great trip tom down south...
looks like i have a recipe to test on this weekend.

great pics as usual

Shaheen (Coco) said...

The cake looks lovely. I've never had good regard for Nigella but I think that is going to change soon thanks to this.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Manggy! Thank you from him :) As for the title, thanks go to Nigella as that is what she named this cake :) Chocolate quality matters to buy the best you can afford...I have bought Callebaut in cook’s exchange that did have the Callebaut stamp on the chocolate block itself, so only get those (with the marking)! They also have Valrhona :) I don’t get the ones with the stripey markings. I love Lego!

Hello Fearless Kitchen! It did! At least for me...and I am not a good cake maker by nature ;)

Hi Rosa! Thanks! They were :)

Hi Patsyk! It looked that way to me too! This recipe is permanently bookmarked for me :)

Hi Cecile! I have the British edition, which I suppose is why everything is in grams...but I have to say this, give the metric system a try! I grew up using measuring cups but now I love weighing ingredients! Aside from it being more precise, it leaves me with a lot less to wash at the end of the day! ;)

Hi Anh! Wish I could send you a slice!

Hi Socky! Wise true!

Hi Sha! Thanks! I’m so excited!!!

Hi Shaheen! I have heard many things about Nigella, both good and bad, but so far I have tried 3 of her recipes and all 3 have been delicious! Although I do admit that her instructions could stand to be a bit more specific for spazzy bakers like myself! ;)

rsh said...

Have made this several times already and it's a hit at home

Nigella's recipes work pretty well and are really easy to follow. Great photos as usual ;)

Suzana said...

Joey, I was reading your post, and picturing me and my brother! I'm four years older than he is: our relationship is pretty much as you described. Although I wasn't a big Barbie fan, I had my (only) Barbie having dinner with his Action Man quite often!

Will have to give it a try at this cake... Perhaps for my bro's birthday! :)

Susan said...

Sounds like you and your brother have a very special relationship. You're very fortunate... I was just thinking about chocolate cake with creme anglaise. It's that time of year! This one sounds wonderful.

Sophia said...

It sounds like you and your brother have a wonderful relationship! What a sweet post, both the content and that delicious chocolate cake! :)

Jescel said...

i love your post! sounds like you and your bro are pretty close (and a naughty too???) And the cake.. hmnnn.. Nigella does have wonderful recipes. I've tried a few of them and they come out wonderful!

mikky said...

lovely... both the loaf and the cupcakes look so inviting... belated bday greeting to your brother... :)

Patricia Scarpin said...

Happy birthday to your brother - he's a Scorpio, like me. We're great people, that's why you got along so well. ;)

Jokes aside, this is an insane cake, Joey! I have that book and have been meaning to make this recipe forever. Now I'm even more curious!

Bordeaux said...

I never cared much for Transformers, but Barbie, now there was a toy I really wanted! Fabulous cake- you have a very lucky brother.

Midge said...

Hi, Joey. Your story about your brother and the biting incident made me laugh - something similar happened to me and my brother when we were kids!

I've always loved Nigella's dense chocolate loaf and, yes, it's a cake better eaten than explained.

(Just so you know, you may want to try my new cookie recipe [] - it's just the thing for major chocolate cravings.) ;)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I love the dark, rich color of this cake, Joey. And any chocolate cake that is described as "dense" gets my vote. :)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I got myself some of those little paper cup thingies to do something just like this. This looks like rich rich chocolate.
Really a warm story about growing up with barbies and transformers!

Jude said...

Looks so nice and rich... I like using muscovado, too.

mtan said...

My older brother than I are five years apart too. And we've only had one physical fight, I have to admit trying to choke him! Perhaps it was more gigil than anything, but it was bad enough that he never tried scaring me late at night again heeheehee. Siblings, what to do with them??
I love that cake you made with the Choc/Zucchini recipe too, but this one looks very tasty!

Peabody said...

Mmm, looks sinful.

Buon viaggio. said...

The cupcakes look adorable. I've never tried any of Nigella's recipes, I think this is going to be my first.

veron said...

My kind of cake exactly! No wimpy chocolate cake for me I want it dense and chocolatey!

Stepford Mum said...

yum! my mouth watered just looking at the photos, even though i'd just had lunch and fro yo for dessert (got the bags yesterday, thank you!) will you make this cake in the moomin loaf tin for garbo's future baby shower?

ChichaJo said...

Hi RSH/GT! Yay! Ok, glad to know I’m in great company :)

Hi Suzana! Aw! It’s so nice to hear that we have even more in common :) And such a great thing to have in common at that :) If only humans where like our toys, with Action Man and Optimus Prime making friends with Barbie and her gang, despite their obvious differences, wouldn’t the world be so much more interesting and peaceful? :)

Hi Susan! Creme anglaise with this cake sounds divine! Nigella also has a recipe of white chocolate rum custard that she sometimes has with this cake...sounds yummy too :)

Hi Sophia! Yes, we do have a quirky bond :) We can talk for hours!

Hi Jescel! Yup, very close and both of us have had our naughty days too I guess...good thing we were there to look out for one another (and to cover up when one would made takas, hehe)! I love the way the cake turned out :)

Hi Mikky! Thanks! They did come out very good – which is saying a lot because I’m not the best baker on the block by a long shot!

Hi Patricia! Hehe, my dad’s a Scorpio too! I’m a Libra and I think we get along fabulously! Go try it! Would love to see your’s! If I’ve made it that means it can’t be too complicated :)

Hi Bordeaux! Haha! I was quite the Barbie freak when I was younger...I had her clothes, her horse, her little dune buggy, and even a pool! I could go for hours playing!

Hi Midge! He was much smaller than me then (which isn’t true anymore now!) so he bit my stomach! I still remember the horror with which I saw his little teeth marks on my tummy! Arck! I was very upset, hehe ;) I will check out the cookie recipe...thanks!

Hi Susan! I love how dark it is too! I’m with you on the “dense” :)

Hi Tanna! I got those paper cup thingies in Hong Kong (I have never been able to find them here yet!) just for cupcakes...heehee, the things we do!!!

Hi Jude! Muscovado rocks! :)

Hi M! Oh my! If I could have a dollar for every time my brother scared me! This cake has a different crumb and taste altogether from the C&Z one but both our good :) My bro’s fave is still the C&Z cake...gotta love that (almost) flourless gateau ;)

Hi Peabody! It is! Well, maybe not really ;)

Hi Buon Viaggio! Thanks! So far I have only tried 3 of her recipes...and all 3 turned out yummy :)

Hi Veron! Hehe...hear hear!!! :)

Hi Stepfor Mum! Got the moolahs thanks! What a great idea to make it in the Moomin tin for Garbo...we must plan that! :)

Ipshita said...

this is why i love ur blog posts... its not just about the food but the story behind the food. I love how uv described ur relationship with ur brother... iv nearly been an only child (my sis is 11 years older than me) so iv always hankered for a brother somewhere... Of course my heart always hankers for chocolate cake too... damn i love ur post :)

Marvin said...

A girl that likes Transformers? Very cool joey! Like the theme song says, I guess there really is more than meets the eye!

creampuff said...


I was laughing so hard I was crying when I read this! Seriously ... I too am a Transformers fanatic and yes ... when I Optimus Prime said, "My name is Optimus Prime.", I wanted to stand up and applaud. Love the loaf!

Tartelette said...

I was smiling the whole time I was reading this post Joey!! My brother and I only bonded years after we became "adults" but he did bit me when I was 4 and I still have the mark and we would actually put my Barbies together with his GIJoes!!

The cake looks and soubnds fantastic!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Ipshi! Thank you for such a sweet and heartfelt comment! I’d like to think all food has stories to tell :) Glad you enjoyed this one :)

Hi Marvin! My favourites were the Constructicons...I am hoping they get some airtime too :)

Hi Ivonne! Aaah! So nice to find someone like-minded! I know!!! I was really his voice...arf, my hair is standing!

Hi Helene! Ooh...I remember those GI Joes (American heroes...oh no, I’ll be singing that all week)! He had those too! Ah siblings...the drama! Heehee ;) This cake is really lovely...simple but excellent!

Belinda said...

Your chocolate cake is gorgeous, Joey! But, you know what I loved most about this post? Reading about your obvious love and affection for your brother. I lost my beloved little brother 13 years ago, when he was just 19. Oh, what a life changing thing to go through. And I loved to cook and bake for him too...he was an appreciative audience for any and everything I could come up with, and the sweetest, most fun brother I could have ever hoped for. I miss him every day, and it warmed my heart to read about you and your bro. My brother's name started with an A, and mine with a B, so I thought your A, B and C reference was cute as can be too. :-)

Caviar and Codfish said...

Oh, thank you!! I've been itching for a chocolate loaf. And happy birthday to your brother! Hope you guys had fun smelling yourselves! ;)

ChichaJo said...

Thanks Belinda! Oh I’m so sorry to hear about your brother! He sounded like a wonderful person, as I am sure you are too! I wish I could go over there and share some cake and a big hug with you now...I’m sending warm thoughts your way!

Hi Robin! Thanks! :) Hope you like this one :) Hahahaha! We are obsessed with our own smells!

voltaire john said...

hiyee! i've been searching for those cupcake molds for centuries. where, o where, did you get them? hopefully not in the US. oh, and thanks for bringing nigella in the spotlight. i've been hearing not-so-positive things about her as well, and you pulling something beautiful off made me look at her again. =)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Voltaire John! I got them in HK! I had been wanting this type of cupcake paper so I grabbed it when I saw it there :) Haven't found any here yet...So far Nigella has done good by me so I'm not complaining :)

lisa from dandysugar said...

My sister's b-day is this weekend and I've been looking around for an excellent chocolate cake. This is it! It looks gorgeous! What a beautiful blog you have.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Lisa! Thank you for your nice comment :) Hope your sister likes it! :)