This easy chocolate loaf cake recipe is made with sour cream and cocoa powder for a deeply chocolate flavour with a tender crumb. This is a great cake to slice for snacks or to serve with ice cream and berries for a more elegant, yet simple dessert!
The best chocolate loaf cake
The perfect chocolate loaf cake should be moist, with a bouncy, tender crumb inside, but should be sturdy and dense enough to hold together when sliced so that you can wrap slices as snacks for later.
Sometimes chocolate cakes can have a very open, fluffy crumb that makes them quite delicate. This is not that.
This cake is sturdy yet still tender and moist.
Making a chocolate loaf cake with a strong chocolate flavour
In this recipe, you will notice that the chocolate loaf cake is made with cocoa powder instead of melted dark chocolate. There are a few reasons why you would use cocoa powder instead of dark chocolate to make a chocolate cake:
- cocoa powder is 100 % cocoa solids, whereas dark chocolate usually is around 75% cocoa (less for semisweet chocolate). This means when you bake with dark chocolate, you would be adding less cocoa solids overall.
- dark chocolate has sugar added and sometimes dairy and other ingredients for flavour. This means when you bake with dark chocolate, you are adding more sugar to the recipe and less cocoa solids, actually.
Another variation on a 1-2-3-4 cake recipe
For this chocolate loaf cake, I stuck to the classic 1-2-3-4 recipe which I love for bundt cakes. This is a baking ratio that is by volume, not by weight, so for 1 cup butter, you add 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 eggs (note: 4 eggs is not a volume but still, makes it easier to remember 1-2-3-4).
The full 1-2-3-4 recipe is too much to fit a standard 9x5" loaf pan, so this loaf cake is half of that, meaning ½ cup butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 ½ cups flour and 2 eggs.
For 1-2-3-4 cakes, I tend to add sour cream, which provides more fat, moisture, and acidity which leads to a tender crumb. I really love the texture and flavour that sour cream brings to cakes.
I actually tried adding up to double the sour cream to no avail. The ½ cup sour cream in the recipe cannot be increased, even a little, or else the resulting ratio of dry to wet ingredients will be off. The cake will not bake properly and collapse, leaving a gummy, dense interior.
Blooming cocoa powder in boiling water
When baking with cocoa powder, one of the tricks many professional bakers recommend is to combine it with boiling water. The resulted "melted cocoa" looks a lot like melted dark chocolate, but without the sweet taste. The hot water helps to bring out the flavour in the dry powder, which many bakers claim results in a cake with a stronger chocolate flavour.
Since I wanted to add cocoa powder dissolved in hot water, I added a little less sour cream in the final recipe to balance out the extra liquid.
Frequently asked questions
Make sure to check if your cake is done with a cake tester and a thermometer (internal temperature around 212 ºF or 100 ºC when baked).
If your chocolate loaf cake didn't spend enough time in the oven, the inside will not be fully baked, which will lead to some collapsing. The collapsed area will be more dense and possibly even gummy. Make sure to use a thermometer and a cake tester to know the middle is baked completely before pulling it out of the oven.
If your cake collapsed, it's probably under-baked. There are many more reasons for why cakes sink, but this is usually the culprit.
If your chocolate loaf cake is dry and you are sure that you measured your ingredients properly, it may be over-baked. One reason could be that you are baking the cake in a darker metal pan that is absorbing more heat. If you are baking in a dark pan, drop the oven temperature by 25 ºF.
If your loaf cake stuck to the pan and you couldn't get it out, is it possible that you let it cool too long in the pan? I recommend letting loaf cakes cool about 10 minutes, just enough to allow the cake to firm up, but not so much that the edges become stuck to the pan.
If this happens, you can pop the pan back into a warm oven for 10 minutes, not long enough to bake it, but enough to warm the metal of the pan enough so that the butter melts and the cake should slide out.
Also review this on how to prepare cake pans for baking. I recommend buttering and flouring the pan and lining the bottom with parchment. For chocolate cakes, replace the flour on the pan with sifted cocoa powder.
How to serve it
This chocolate loaf cake makes a great lunchbox dessert or snack, but you can also dress it up. Serve it with vanilla bean ice cream, dark chocolate ice cream, cookie ice cream, cardamom ice cream or spiced chai ice cream and summer berries, and you can also drizzle it with salted caramel sauce if you prefer!
Chocolate loaf cake
- 190 grams (1½ cups) bleached all-purpose flour
- 2.5 mL (½ teaspoon) baking powder
- 2.5 mL (½ teaspoon) Diamond Crystal fine kosher salt
- 1.25 mL (¼ teaspoon) baking soda
- 50 grams (½ cups) Cacao Barry extra brute cocoa powder
- 80 mL (⅓ cup) boiling water
- 115 grams (½ cup) unsalted butter
- 100 grams (½ cup) granulated sugar
- 100 grams (½ cup) light brown sugar
- 2 large egg(s)
- 125 mL (½ cup) sour cream
- 5 mL (1 teaspoon) pure vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Butter and flour a 8½" x 4½" loaf pan OR a 9"x5" loaf pan, then line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. If the flour seems lumpy, you can sift it through a metal sieve to get out all the lumps!
- In a medium bowl, using a whisk, combine the cocoa powder and the boiling water until it is smooth. The consistency will be like thick melted chocolate. Set aside to cool down slightly before using.
- In a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars for at least 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl often to make sure the mixture is evenly whipped.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing in between each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed.
- Add the vanilla, sour cream, and warm melted cocoa mixture. Mix it in until all the ingredients are evenly mixed.
- Add the sifted flour mixture and stir it in on low. You may want to finish mixing with a spatula to make sure the ingredients are all combined.
- Transfer the chocolate loaf cake batter to the prepared loaf pan. Bake the cake on the middle rack until baked through. You'll know it's done because it will have cracked a little in the middle, it will pull away from the edges of the pan, a cake tester will come out clean, and the internal temperature will register around 100 °C (212 °F). It takes about 65 to 75 minutes to bake this cake in my experience.
- Let the cool cake in the pan on a wire rack, then unmould it to cool completely before slicing (at least 2 to 3 hours).
- Serve plain as a snack, or top with vanilla bean ice cream and fresh berries.