‘In a way, baking stands both as a useful metaphor for the familial warmth of the kitchen we fondly imagine used to exist, and as a way of reclaiming our lost Eden. This is hardly a culinary matter, of course; but cooking, we know, has a way of cutting through things, and to things, which have nothing to do with the kitchen. This is why it matters. The trouble with much modern cooking is not that the food it produces isn’t good, but that the mood it induces in the cook is one of skin-of-the-teeth efficiency, all briskness and little pleasure. Sometimes that’s the best we can manage, but at other times we don’t want to feel like a postmodern, post-feminist, overstretched woman but, rather, a domestic goddess, trailing nutmeggy fumes of baking pie in our languorous wake.’ – Nigella Lawson

When I first starting baking I didn’t actually own Nigella’s How To Become A Domestic Goddess, but checked it out of the library a crazy amount of times, baking so many things from it’s pages. It finally made it’s way to my cookbook shelf at home, and it’s still a favorite. I’ve always loved the above quote by her; I’ve connected so much with her words: cooking cutting through things, and to things, which have nothing to do with the kitchen. There have been many moments stirring, or kneading, or dicing, that have brought me to my knees. My kitchen floor may be coated in flour, but some days I’m okay finding myself there.

Also this chocolate bread. I’ve baked this hundreds (and hundreds) of times at a little coffeehouse I worked at, but it has been years since I made it at home, just because. I was feeling rather celebratory today, and it seemed to fit the occasion perfectly. I wish I could share some with you; to say thanks, and cheers (see below).
the vanilla bean blog
And in other news: I don’t know how it happened, but somehow all you nice readers and friends nominated me for the Saveur Blog Awards, and I actually am a finalist in the Best Baking Blog category. I’m still a bit in shock, feeling stunned and terribly excited at the same time. So first of all, thank you so much. Thank you for coming to this space, and being so kind. I appreciate you all. That of course leads into secondly, which is in order to win the category, I need your votes. So if you wouldn’t mind, you can just click on this huge picture above, and it will take you to Saveur’s webpage, where you can vote. You do have to register to vote, but it just takes a login name and password to complete. Thank you so much!

Chocolate Loaf Cake
From The Vanilla Bean Baking Book by Sarah Kieffer

I made a version of this cake for years ago at Bordertown Coffee; customers begged for it, but my baking staff always found it so troublesome because the batter tended to leak over the sides and all over the oven floor. After years of fiddling with elaborate parchment paper tents, it dawned on me that a Pullman pan would solve the problem – its tall sides would prevent the batter from overflowing. It indeed works like a charm.

The famous version of this sunken loaf is in Nigella Lawson’s How To Be a Domestic Goddess. I’ve tinkered with the recipe here and there, adding a few more ounces of bittersweet chocolate, hot coffee, and salt for some complexity. The flavor of the chocolate is deeper and darker a day or two after the bread has been made, but a slice of this warm is quite a treat. Do what you have to do.

6 ounces (170g) good bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups (213g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks | 227g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (297g) packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh brewed coffee
1/2 cup boiling water

Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position. Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a 9 by 4-inch Pullman pan and line with a parchment paper sling, by leaving an overhang on both sides (if you do not have a Pullman pan, see below).

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of boiling water, being careful not to let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir constantly until just melted and set aside to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, combine the flour and baking soda.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium until smooth. Add the sugar and salt and mix on medium until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat on medium until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the chocolate and mix on low until incorporated, being careful not to overbeat. With the mixer on low add the flour, a tablespoon at a time, alternately with the boiling water and coffee (you can mix the water and coffee together for simplicity), mixing until smooth and liquidy.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 30 minutes. Reduce the oven to 325F and bake 15 minutes. The loaf will still be moist inside, so a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the center won’t come out clean. But this is a good thing.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool before taking the bread out of the pan, using the parchment sling, and serving. The bread will sink a little in the middle as it cools.

If you don’t have a pullman pan, you can use a standard 9-inch loaf pan. Be warned, however, that the batter has a tendency to leak over the sides as it’s baking, and a parchment sling is essential for keeping the bread in the pan, as well as removing the bread from the pan. I put a baking sheet under the loaf pan before baking to catch any spills, just in case. Below is how to do the parchment sling if you don’t have a Pullman pan:

chocolate bread | the vanilla bean blog
Line the 9 x 5 loaf pan with two strips of parchment paper that fit the pan (both vertically and horizontally), leaving a large overhang over the sides. If your parchment paper is curled around a tube (like above), let the curls face in, so they will eventually curl over the top. Make sure the paper lays flush in the pan, and use pan spray (or butter) as you need it to keep the paper clinging to the pan.
chocolate bread | the vanilla bean blog
Cut two additional strips of parchment paper (about 3-4 inches wide and 8-9 inches long) and fold them into small squares. Tuck the squares behind the strip of parchment paper (so the square is touching the pan) on the ends of each pan. This helps to keep the short sides from leaking cake batter.
chocolate bread | the vanilla bean blog
Pour the batter into the pan. On the left side of the pan, trim the parchment paper overhang down, so only 2 or 3 inches are sticking up. Spray a small amount of pan spray in a line on the outside, near the edge, on this shorter side of parchment.
chocolate bread | the vanilla bean blog
Wrap the longer side of parchment paper (the right side) over the top, and gently press it onto the shorter piece of parchment (it should stick where the pan spray is). It will form a small canopy over the bread, and protect it from spilling out. Put the bread in the oven.
chocolate bread | the vanilla bean blog
When the bread has finished baking, the parchment may have fallen a bit in the oven, but the bread will be just fine. You can ‘unlock’ or unwrap the top of the bread, but keep the bread in the pan and in the parchment until it is cool.
chocolate bread | the vanilla bean blog
The bread will slowly sink as it cools. Fill the middle with crème fraîche and berries, or eat it plain. Mmm.

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59 Responses to chocolate bread

  1. Pure Ella says:

    Simply Stunning! 😉
    I’m a long time fan and just wanted to say Congrats on being in the finals for Saveur’s Best Blog!! 😉 You have my vote!

    I’m happy to be in the running also for Best Family Cooking Blog – so I’m enjoying the ride so far 😉 xoxo Ella

  2. Sarah says:

    I’ve been sick all week and this is exactly the kind of cake that will cheer me up!

  3. Immediately hungry. Thank you.
    Heaven is for Real review (release date April 16) http://bit.ly/1h0O6Rd

  4. CONGRATULATIONS! Also, I love that book so so much.

  5. so many things. YAY YOU!!!!!!!! Big yay!!!!! So well deserved. now, let’s talk Nigella. Love that you said ‘squidgy’, that totally is a Nigella word! I do own that book, and gasp, I have not used it hardly at all. Bad me. I will be making this pronto! Long ago, I made a choc loaf cake from a Maida Heatter cookbook that was wonderful, but I lost the cookbook. How does one lose a cookbook? Don’t know, but I did. 🙂

  6. Kathryn says:

    Yeah Sarah! I was absolutely over the moon to see your nomination. I’ve been so glad to get to know you through your blog over the last couple of years and you’re such a huge inspiration.

  7. Congratulations Sarah! So happy to see your nomination! And this chocolate cake…! Oy vey! I would have zeeeeero self control around it. Especially if there was a coffee chaser near by.

  8. 1. That cake looks luscious and deeply chocolatey. I can practically taste it. 2. congrats on your nomination!!!! SO FREAKIN EXCITING! 3. i love the addition of coffee to deepen the flavor. 4. any cake recipe that’s better 2 days later is a keeper in my book.

  9. Tieghan says:

    Congrats Sarah!! That is so excited and well earned!! 🙂

    Loving this cake. Chocolate is my favorite!

  10. Congrats, congrats, congrats! I am super excited and happy for you. Now about that cake, I love adding coffee to chocolate, the intensity of flavor is heightened and your cake is beautiful!

  11. Congrats and looks beautiful. Well deserved. And I couldn’t agree more with the quote!

  12. cara says:

    Congrats, Sarah! You deserve this big time. Can’t wait to try the chocolate loaf, also big time.

  13. Oh, Sarah. You probably, or should I say hopefully, already know how much I adore your work. But I’ll say it again, just to be sure: I love to visit this space of yours, to read your words & thoughtful quotes (it’s funny, the moment I saw today’s quote being from Nigella, I could hear her voice reading them to me), to stare at your beautiful pictures, and to drool over your inspiring recipes. Your nomination is so well deserved, friend, and I was beyong excited to see you being nominated.

    This chocolate bread looks absolutely divine. If I hadn’t had cake yesterday, I would ran into the kitchen in an instant, gather all the ingredients on the countertop and coat the floor in flour. And in the end, I would be rewarded with this beauty of a loaf.

  14. Erika says:

    Congrats Sarah! That’s wonderful! A few slices of this cake would be a great way to celebrate..:)

  15. Ashley says:

    These photos are killing me!!! I love the sunken in shape of this cake. I bet it is absolutely TO DIE FOR. Also….CONGRATS!!! Again! Best of luck! xo

  16. Anna says:

    I have no words for how amazing this looks. I love nothing more than a dense, moist, sunken bread-cake… and top that with creme fraiche, I’m sold.

  17. Congrats! Your cake looks beautiful, the first picture makes me want to go to my kitchen and bake chocolate cake!

  18. Thrilled for you and so well deserved. xo

  19. This looks fantastic! And a huge congrats on the nomination!

  20. Melody says:

    Oh so many mornings wrestling with that parchment paper, but the end result? Divinity in a loaf pan. On my way over to Saveur to cast my vote! xoxo

  21. Kezia says:

    I love Nigella Lawson and in particularly How to be A Domestic Goddess. I borrowed it off a friend once and never gave it back! This chocolate loaf cake recipe is the best – thank you for reminding me to make it again!

  22. Yaaaaaaay this is such exciting news!! So freaking happy for you! And this loaf?! Yes, please!

  23. Laura says:

    Congrats on the nomination! I actually own Nigella’s book, but I haven’t baked this loaf cake before–perhaps I’ll have to give it a try 🙂 Your photos & writing have made me crave it.

  24. Congratulations to you! Well deserved. And this cake is just my kind of cake. It looks heavenly.

  25. […] Bernard biscuits from Green Kitchen Stories, this god-sent creation from Dolly and Oatmeal or this dreamy decadent loaf cake from The Vanilla Bean […]

  26. Tiffany says:

    Oh this looks divine. I don’t have a coffee maker in my apartment, but I kind of want to get one just for the sake of this cake. Ha.

  27. So happy for you and your nod! Well deserved. And I’ll take a squidgy bread anytime over a light bread. I need to get baking a bit more from my copy of Nigella’s Domestic Goddesss.

  28. I just wanted to *publically* declare, as you well know, how happy I am to see you nominated. It weirds me out when anyone says I “deserve” something, but you really do deserve it. Your space is unique, intimate, and beautiful. Nothing derivative about you. xo

  29. Congratulations on the nomination!!! Such exciting news–and clearly deserved. I mean, look at this cake!!!

  30. Kait says:

    Oh. My. Gosh. My mouth is watering!!! This looks SO AMAZING

  31. Krys says:

    I love the parchment paper ‘tent’ idea and that chocolate bread looks absolutely delicious! I find your blog so delightful and inspiring, fingers crossed you take the crown!

  32. […] This chocolate loaf cake from Sarah looks so insane and it has a BUILT IN SECTION WHERE YOU CAN PUT THE ICE CREAM. (via The Vanilla Bean Blog) […]

  33. Jenna says:

    I just made this and I about died. It’s gooey, delicious perfection. Totally swoon-worthy! Thank you for the incredible recipe. Next time I’ll actually heed your warning about it overflowing. However, I can’t say I minded too much scrubbing the burnt cake remains off the bottom of the oven because the result was so worth it!

  34. I made this recently and had mixed fillings about it (the squigy factor, which Nigella warns about) but it still ended up gone–and fast. And seeing it here, with your lovely spin and beautiful image (plus whipped cream–how could I have forgotten whipped cream) makes me want to do it all over again. 🙂 Glad to have found your lovely site!

  35. Linda says:

    Congratulations on the nomination! What a great idea – to bake a chocolate cake in a loaf pan. Sometimes the simplest things escape me! I’ve made a chocolate cake with butter cream frosting for my children’s birthdays since they were old enough to eat it. Then I went vegan. After some tweaking I was able to make an even more delicious vegan version! I’m going to try converting your recipe for an “everyday” cake. Here is my new recipe http://www.veganosity.com/food/vegan-chocolate-cake-to-die-for/
    Linda @ http://www.veganosity.com

  36. Jacquelyn says:

    Congratulations on reader’s choice for baking blogs! This recipe looks amazing, but coffee is listed as an ingredient and the directions never mention it. I would appreciate clarification on that point. Thanks!

  37. I too adore Nigella’s Domestic Goddess cookbook. Mine has plenty of chocolate smudges and a light coating of flour on it. This loaf recipe in particular is a favorite and I like to eat it like she suggests with cold cream cheese on it. Weird but amazing.

  38. Miri says:

    Just got to know your blog through the Saveur nomination and immediately made this recipe. WONDERFUL, boy this is a good chocolate cake. As I still haven’t got a baking tin because of a big move I made it in a muffin tin, instead. Incredible good, only took one cup of sugar though – it’s enough for my taste – and lowered the first baking time to 15 minutes. Topped with some freshly bought berry sauce…yum….Can’t wait for breakfast 😉

  39. Made the cake for a May Day Eve party yesterday. The only adaption I made, was that I substituted all-purpose flour with gluten-free flour. The cake worked like a dream! Topped it with crème fraîche and dried rose petals. Everyone loved it. Today, I enjoyed some leftover with blackberries and a strong coffee. The cake tastes even better on the second day as the flavors have deepened. Thank you for this wonderful recipe, Sarah! xo

  40. […] first saw this here and it looked positively decadent. And delicious. […]

  41. Michelle says:

    I made this two days ago, we ate it yesterday, SO GOOD!!!! All five kids, hubby and I love it, it’s a keeper!!

  42. louise says:

    Hi, is there a way to stop it sinking in the middle?

  43. oh my cake says:

    Very inspiring. I really like this.You tried something new.it is fantastic to see a useful blog.

  44. Jordan Baker says:

    Great Article, I am going to make this beautiful Loaf the second i walk in the door !

  45. Stephanie says:

    Looks delish! I like the use of the dark brown sugar adding a deep molasses taste. Will have to try this one.

  46. Vihan says:

    Nice Recipe.

  47. Sonali says:

    Looks amazing.

  48. Anu says:

    Thanks for the recipe. Will try to give it a shot…

  49. i’m looking for great chocolate recipes today and stumbled across this. wow! looks delicious. i’ll be making this tomorrow night

  50. Chocolate loaf cake really looking yummy and we need more cake preparations.

  51. […] first saw this here and it looked positively decadent. And delicious. […]

  52. Erin Loveridge says:

    I’ve made this two weeks in a row. It’s the best chocolate bread/cake I’ve EVER had!!

  53. I can’t wait to make chocolate loaf cake, I will try this today in my kitchen, Thanks for providing all the details instructions.

  54. Yummycake says:

    Looks delicious and mouth watering. I am definitely gonna try this today.

  55. Nice cake, looks good and delicious.Something different cake with new ideas!
    All the best

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