May 4, 2016

Simple Chocolate Loaf Cake

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DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH THAT CAKE IT’S FOR COMPANY I MEAN IT.

Does that remind anyone else of childhood?

Whether it was made from scratch, a boxed Entemann’s, or something more stepped-up, like say a coffee cake from the local bakery, I think most of us knew to approach a cake on the countertop with caution. Because clearly it was something special, right? And like getting one of those flouride treatments as a kid and being told you couldn’t eat for 30 minutes, nothing makes you want to eat something more than being told you can’t. Counter cakes are magical that way. The pull of a counter cake on a kid is vortex-like.

I still love a good counter cake, although these days, I’m usually the one making them around here and so I will have a slice whenever I damn well please, even though I might swat (gently PAT, I mean, of course) my kids’ hands away when it’s too close to dinner time. But! There is something great about having a simple cake on hand, just at the ready, in case you get the chance to invite someone over for coffee and a chat on a random Tuesday. That’s the good stuff, right there.

Looking back through my archives on this site and recipes I’ve developed, it’s clear I have a deep love for the simplest, most satisfying cakes (see here, here, and here, just for starters). I’m talking about the kind of cakes that can be dressed up or down, eaten out of hand with a paper napkin standing in for a plate, or with a fork and an actual plate, if you’re not an animal like me. You can have these cakes for dessert after a proper, healthy meal or at midnight while standing over the counter, just because. The fewer the dishes dirtied and machinery required in the preparation of said cakes, the better. The batter needs to go all into one generous, crowd-serving pan, and when baked, there’s no frosting required. Maaayyybe a dusting of confectioners’ sugar if you’re feeling jazzy. But that’s a strong maybe.

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After a winter full of banana bread and a few great Bundt cakes, I wanted to get a good chocolate loaf cake locked down before the summer, something that could be used in a dozen different ways. And of course, as is so often the case, I found the perfect recipe from the good folks at King Arthur Flour. It’s a great recipe for doubling, and then freezing one–I’m feeling it straight up, sliced thin and used for ice cream sandwiches, or cubed and layered with summer fruit, cream, and crushed meringues OHMAHGAH.

The resulting cake here is deeply chocolaty without being overwhelming (even more so thanks to a couple spoonfuls of my beloved black cocoa, which, coincidentally, is also from KAF #notsponsorediswear), and is one of those awesome cakes that manages to get a little more list and crave-worthy as it sits for a few days tightly wrapped. If it actually lasts that long.

Simple Chocolate Loaf Cake
Adapted ever-so-slightly from King Arthur Flour

I use this awesome black cocoa every chance I get–it super intense (and spendy), so you don’t want to replace all the cocoa powder in a recipe like this with black cocoa. Instead, think of black cocoa like a regular cocoa powder booster; the original recipe calls for 2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, so I used 1/2 cup Dutch-process and just two tablespoons black cocoa powder to add that SHAZAM. Of course, the black cocoa is optional here. If you do go with all Dutch-process, it’s a great idea to add 2 teaspoons of instant espresso powder to boost the chocolate flavor.

Makes 1 9×5-inch cake, serves 10

1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 5/8 ounces/48 grams) Dutch-process cocoa
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons black cocoa (or use 2/3 cup Dutch-process; see note)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (5 5/8 ounces/160 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk (6 ounces/170 grams) (low fat is fine)

Position a rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-by-5-inch metal loaf pan and line it with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium speed beat together the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, baking powder and cocoa powders to make a sandy, somewhat clumpy mixture.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape the bowl often.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually beat in half the flour. Add the milk and mix to combine. Stir in the remaining flour. Fold the batter by hand with a flexible spatula to make sure the batter is even mixed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake until a toothpick just comes out clean, with maybe a fudgy crumb or two, 60 to 70 minutes (top may look a bit damp, but that’s good!). Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before using the parchment sleeve to remove the cake to a wire rack to cool completely. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature for up to four days.

  • I’ve always wondered when a baking recipe such as this one calls for milk, can you substitute buttermilk? Buttermilk always seems to make cakes so moist… And if I can add buttermilk, would it be the same amount as the regular milk?

    • It may effect the rise slightly, but give it a shot!

  • Is there a recommended way to make this cake dairy-free? We have a case of milk allergy at home, and I would love to make an awesome, simple chocolate cake like this one for the kids… Thanks!

    • Hi Naama! I would try a vegan butter substitute and almond or coconut milk. 🙂

  • I really love this blog, Its great to find not absolutely everyone is just posting a ton of rubbish these days!

    • Thank you!

  • Weird but true, black cocoa tastes to me of the cookie in an Oreo. I picked up a bag when I visited KAF several years with a friend and it was one of my big souvenir scores. This cake looks good and perfect to serve with a cup of chai.

    • Yes! Exactly that flavor. xo

  • How could I make this sugar free

    • You could use honey which is naturally sweet and very healthy for you. Although it might change the consistency of the batter.

  • Your chocolate cake is wonderful. A cup of coffee and a chocolate cake make me feel great.

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