Monday, July 16, 2012

Chocolate Loaf Cake

I really enjoy baking things in loaf form.  A loaf is compact, sliceable, unpretentious.  It can be given free of any dish or serving platter and does not need anything more than two hands to consume it.  Almost any delicious batter can be put in a loaf pan and baked off.  A humble presentation that can still be full of divine flavor...    It's the perfect package.   

I made this chocolate loaf recipe for the first time this past weekend to give to a dear friend for her birthday.  The preparation of the batter is simple and the end result is a moist, chocolatey bread (...cake) that is fantastically pleasing.  There are no bells and whistles, no frostings or decoration.  You can slice away and enjoy it with a cup of tea, or dress it up with whipped cream or ice cream and take it to the elegant level that it can still stand up to.

It's like that perfect dress (or, I guess suit or shirt if you're a guy?) that you can dress up or down, and that always seems appropriate for any occasion that comes your way.  But in this case you can eat it instead of wear it.  Your taste buds will like that part.  And so will your friends.

Happy Simple Baking!

Chocolate Loaf Cake
from one of my favorites; Smitten Kitchen

An important note from SK: Although I was thrilled with the result when I used Dutch cocoa and 1 teaspoon baking soda (in the original published recipe, 8/4/10), the cake rose and sank slightly in the baking process, a sign that the leavener was off. I retested this the next day with different levels of leavener and two different types of cocoa, in hopes to keep the cake aloft. I’ve updated the recipe below with the suggestion of Dutch cocoa, a reduced amount baking soda and the addition of baking powder. I found that the version with Dutch cocoa was darker with a more appealing chocolate flavor. But fear not: If you only have a natural or non-Dutched cocoa, you can still use it, but you’ll want to use 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and no baking powder. Here’s a photo of both versions side-by-side. Both were gleefully received.


1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (6 7/8 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (2 5/8 ounces) Dutch cocoa powder (see above for a natural cocoa adjustment)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and lightly flour a 9×5x3-inch loaf pan, or spray it with a butter-flour spray. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat well, then the buttermilk and vanilla. Don’t worry if the batter looks a little uneven. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt together right into your wet ingredients. Stir together with a spoon until well-blended but do not overmix. Scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 to 15 minutes, at which point you can cool it the rest of the way out of the pan. Serve with whipped cream and fresh berries, if you’re feeling fancy.


  1. Yum! I had my first taste yesterday as a post nap snack :)

  2. I love that you mentioned baking in loaf form. I almost always make muffin recipes into bread loaves!