Recipe: Frances Bissell’s Chocolate Loaf Cake

Frances Bissell's Chocolate Loaf Cake

Frances Bissell's Chocolate Loaf Cake - Credit: Archant

When the going gets tough the tough get chocolate says the Ham&High’s cookery writer

We have a couple of sayings in our house justifying bouts of indulgence during difficult times; ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get baking’ or ‘when the going gets tough the tough get chocolate’.

Extra difficult times call for even greater indulgences, so what better way to spend an afternoon than baking a chocolate cake?

I was inspired to bake this after neighbours presented my husband, Tom, with a Gail’s chocolate loaf on his birthday. Mine doesn’t quite emulate the rich, dense, moist and tender cake, but I decided to bake the cake in a loaf tin for easier slicing. And it somehow seems to go further. The shape lends it versatility, too. A warm slice, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of crème fraiche makes an instant pudding. After a few days try a little spirit on it. I splashed on some sloe gin and wrapped it in cling film. This revived the cake very nicely.

Usually loaf cakes are plain, and with icing or frosting.

When I took the cake out of the oven, I simply placed a bar of dark chocolate on top and let it melt over the surface. This suggests various options, such as dotting the top with squares of milk, white and dark chocolate on top and letting them run together as they melt. And next time, I plan to use a bar of chilli chocolate for the topping.

Over the years I have experimented with different iterations of chocolate in the cake itself, such as melted 85 percent chocolate bars, chocolate chips, chocolate liqueur, but in the end, a good quality cocoa is as good as anything. I would advise against using drinking chocolate as this is about 50 percent sugar, so the recipe would be too sweet.

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Chocolate Loaf Cake


225 g self-raising flour

40 g cocoa

1 teaspoon ground mixed spice -optional

half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

125 g unsalted butter, softened

200 g light muscovado or caster sugar

50 g golden syrup, warmed

4 eggs, separated

About 100 ml plain yoghurt, sour cream or soured milk

100 g chocolate bar or icing sugar


Grease and flour or line with baking parchment or silicone a 1 kilo loaf tin.

Sift the dry ingredients. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the golden syrup. Fold in a tablespoon or so of sifted flour. Then stir in a lightly beaten egg. Continue, alternating flour and egg until you have folded in all the flour and mixed in all four eggs. Stir in the yoghurt or soured cream, until you have a soft cake batter.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the surface, running the back of the spoon down the centre to create a shallow depression. This prevents the cake rising too much and cracking on top; not that it matters too much if this happens, as you can see from the photo. Bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 180 C, gas mark 4 for about 45 to 50 minutes. When fully baked, a skewer, or piece of spaghetti pierced in the middle of the cake will emerge clean. If using chocolate to melt on top of the cake – see introduction- add it now. Allow the cake to cool in the tin before turning it out of the tin to store. If not using a chocolate topping, sift icing sugar over it before slicing.

©Frances Bissell 2020. All rights reserved