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Mexican Chocolate Loaf Cake

Loaf cakes are not generally considered to be the most elegant cakes, but I love them. I think that having tall, rich-looking slices fall away from the loaf as you cut into it is beautiful. Come to think of it, I actually like all loafy baked goods, from savory yeast breads to sweet quick breads for breakfast. I think that loaf cakes are elegant and versatile.

Appearances aside, they do have other strong points. First, is portion size. It is extremely easy to slice a loaf into the perfect size for any appetitie. You can get 8 slices out of the loaf, or 16 for a group of light eaters. It’s less intimidating than a whole round cake. It is also much easier to transport. If you wrap up a loaf cake with plastic wrap, you can carry it around like a football without worring about the cake cracking and breaking. This is a huge bonus if you want to take the cake to a friend’s for dinner or to a party at the office.

I first saw this recipe on Who Want’s Seconds?, a beautifully photographed blog, and I’ve been meaning to make it for quite some time. I felt that the Mexican Chocolate Cake would do well as a loaf, developing a slightly crisp exterior and slicing into even, rich slices – and I was right. The only problem I had was with the amount of batter. Though a 9 x 5 x 3.5-inch loaf pan has the same capacity as the 9-inch round cake pan, I failed to realise that the “9-inch cake pan” mentioned in the original recipe was a square one and larger than the capacity of my loaf pan. I simply measured out four cupcakes worth of batter into a lined muffin tin and baked those off separately. The loaf, minus the cupcakes, had the perfect amount of batter.

The spicing in this cake was spot-on. The cinnamon flavor was present but not overwhelming in the least and there were subtle hints of coffee and orange that made it seem very exotic. The flavors blended well enough that when you took a bit of the cake you only thought of how tasty it was, not the individual spices. It was very chocolaty and I loved the fact that it is made with cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate. Not only does this help keep the cake from getting dense, but it has a lovely, bittersweet quality from the cocoa. I like it plain, like a pound cake, but feel free to serve it with whipped cream, if desired.

Mexican Chocolate Loaf Cake

1 cup butter, soft

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 tbsp instant coffee*

3/4 cup water*

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

zest of one orange

Preheat over to 350F. Butter or grease a 9x5x3.5-inch loaf pan and dust with cocoa powder, knocking out the excess. Line 4 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Whisk in cocoa powder until smooth, then add in instant coffee and water, whisking until dissolved. Stir in sugar, followed by the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla extract, mixing well after each addition.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Gradually add to cocoa mixture, stirring until just combined.
Using a 1/4 cup measure, fill the four cupcake liners about 3/4 full with batter. Pour the remaining batter into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake the cupcakes for 18-22 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.
Bake the cake for 55-65 minutes, until a tester comes out clean or with only a few crumbs.
Cool in the pans for about 15 minutes, then turn out cupcakes and loaf cake onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 1 loaf cake and 4 cupcakes.
Serves 10-12, plus cupcakes for the cook.

*Note: You can omit the instant coffee and use 1/2 cup water with 1/4 cup coffee instead, as the original recipe calls for, if you don’t have instant.

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  • CameraDawktor
    March 30, 2006

    This looks simply yummy, and would be marvellous w/ my Grandmother’s Raspberry Liqour sauce drizzled over the top. I’ll have to see if I can find that!

  • Ivonne
    March 30, 2006

    I completely agree with you about loafs … they may not be the prettiest but they’re so comforting. They’re perfect with a cup of coffee and a good book!

    Great chocolate loaf. I can never have too many chocolate recipes. Thanks for sharing.

  • Huffy
    March 30, 2006

    Sounds divine, Nic, not to mention timely for me. I’ve been jonesing for a “little chocolate something” after dinner lately (no, not PMS!), and had thought to make a batch of brownies as a result; this loaf cake, however, appears to be the perfect antidote to my craving.

    And you *do* mean a dry tablespoon of instant coffee crystals/powder, do you not (as opposed to a T. of liquid instant)?? I’m brain dead these days . . .

  • Cathy
    March 30, 2006

    Don’t know why, but I think of loaf cakes as being moister too – this one sounds so good!

  • Nic
    March 30, 2006

    Huffy – Yes, I do mean the freeze-dried instant coffee. Is there liquid instant coffee? Wouldn’t that simple be “coffee”?

  • Anonymous
    March 31, 2006

    Hi–I must say first I’ve become a big fan of your blog and check it daily. The recipes and the photos look so great.

    One question: Dutch-processed cocoa or the other kind?

    Tom R.

  • Huffy
    April 1, 2006

    No, Nic, of *course* there’s no such thing as “liquid instant coffee”! See what I mean when I say that I’m brain dead??!? These days, I call myself Mrs. Magoo . . .

    Now, off to bake both this cake and the flourless peanut butter cookies.

  • Emma B.
    April 3, 2006

    In case anyone’s interested, I made a low-sugar version with 1 1/2 c Splenda and 1/2 c brown sugar, and it was delicious. I used brown rather than white sugar to compensate for any potential moisture loss from the Splenda substitution, and it was wonderful — moist and tender, and the flavor was great.

  • Anonymous
    April 5, 2006

    MMhhhh what’s beautiful chocolate’s cake!!! I like the chocolate cakes particularly. I go tried to do it.

  • Heidi
    May 5, 2007

    Hello….if I wanted to bake this in an 8×8 Pyrex glass pan, do you think it would turn out OK? I’d rather have it in there than have the extra cupcakes.


  • Heidi
    May 5, 2007

    Also, I don’t see where you add the orange zest to the batter. Does it matter?


  • Nicole
    May 6, 2007

    Heidi – Sorry about that! Add in the zest as you are mixing the final batter. And you should be able to bake this in a square pan, but I would use a 9-inch square, not an 8-inch one, as it might be too small. Just keep an eye on it during baking, since it will probably take less time to bake. I would check it after 30 minutes or so (better to check too early than too late!) with a toothpick and add time as needed.

  • Heidi
    May 6, 2007

    I didn’t hear back so I went ahead with the 8 inch–you were right. It was too small. I think I am making this as cupcakes next time. At 48 minutes, it was ready in the Pyrex.

    The recipe is absolutely lovely–thank you for posting it. I put the orange zest in with the coffee at the beginning and I used leftover AM coffee. I used a juice orange and wow, it put in a lot of orange flavor. Was that due to my adding it early, you think? (Not complaining–we love oranges in this house but I’d like balance.) Anyway, thanks again.

  • Nicole
    May 7, 2007

    The increased orange flavor could be because it was added in early. The zest would have had more time to “cook” in the batter and get its flavor in there – not that there’s anything wrong with that!
    Good luck with the cupcakes next time, and I’m glad you liked the cake!

  • Steve H.
    November 6, 2007

    We have an espresso machine, so we just brew a 2 ounce shot of espresso, and dilute with water to make 3/4 cup.

    I really, really love this recipe. The various ingredients make a wonderful blend of flavors. It’s great, and if you whip some cream and top it, it’s fabulous.

    P.S. There is actually such a thing as liquid instant coffee! It’s just very very strong coffee in a bottle, and you add hot water to dilute to normal drinking strength. It’s not super common but it’s around. You can also make your own, for example with a cold brew coffee maker. It doesn’t keep forever the way instant coffee powder does, but I’m sure it tastes better!

  • Lisa C
    March 23, 2009

    I made this yesterday, as the cook I only got to try one of the cupcakes but it was out of this world – so light!

  • LynnJ
    August 6, 2012

    Perfect! And even more perfect because I have found a new recipe for my 10x5x3 loaf pan:) …it’s holds all of the batter.
    I use instant espresso powder. I like the variations with orange zest or without, with cinnamon or without. Dense and moist and it’s chocolate! Thank you so much from Dacula, Georgia

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