“I make this all the time” is a blogging claim that narrows my eyes in skeptism — I mean, I myself have blogged about literally hundreds of recipes that I’ve made once and never again, not because I didn’t love them but simply because I kept moving forward onto new things — but I acknowledge that there are few comforts more supreme than finding another recipe that nestles into your subconscious, repeated and revisited to the point where the ingredients spring into your hands from muscle memory requiring only the barest glance at the source, and every time you return to that recipe it’s like greeting an old (and very delicious) friend. For me, this includes Nigella Lawson’s sandwich loaf, my mocha cake; my spaghetti with caramelised tomato sauce; my instant gnocchi; this vegan panna cotta and its variants; of course, the fried carrot noodles; my Thai yellow curry Mac’n’cheese, and Bryant Terry’s ginger-molasses cake, and it’s the latter which inspired, directly, today’s Dark Chocolate Molasses Fruit Loaf.
I mean, it’s near-on exactly the same recipe with a few extra bits and pieces added — as I’ve noted in previous blog posts this year, that’s where I’m at currently — but it is nonetheless an idea that’s been percolating in my mind for a while now. Let us return to my initial blog post from 2020, where Bryant Terry’s recipe from his book The Inspired Vegan introduced me properly to molasses, and I described it thus: “That heady, thick magnesium richness, like sweetened road tar, like a puréed cedar hope chest, like a photo negative of Marmite.” You can see how the pointed intensity of molasses, and making this cake over and over again, might then lead me to consider adding chocolate to it, both in the form of cocoa and splintered pieces of dark chocolate, to echo the almost charred bitterness of the molasses and to make the loaf even more inkily dark and dense. It’s then not a stretch to consider adding sultanas, themselves made more intense by dehydration, to be welcomed by the sticky open arms of the molasses.
Each thick slab of this cake offers a fudgy, moist crumb with the satisfying soft bite of chocolate chunks and squashily sweet fruit. It’s not exactly like a Christmas-type cake — it would require significantly more fruit for that — but it’s definitely very grown-up and chic despite the functionality of the loaf shape and its unadorned plainness (to that end, the scattering of icing sugar in the photos is extremely unnecessary! I just wanted to make it look a bit cuter for you guys.) At this point, you might wonder why I left out the ginger: it’s because I realised halfway through making this that I’d forgotten to buy some. I’m sure it would be excellent with it left in, but something in that mystical vantablack depth of flavour of the molasses almost makes it seem like the ginger was there all along anyway.
I’ve made the original cake so many times that I think I might, somewhat blasphemously, now prefer it with treacle, but I believe this chocolate-tinted recipe requires the molasses more strictly — it’s all about that fine line between savoury and sweetness which you can only get from the La Brea Tar Pits quality of that particular sugar by-product. It also occurs to me, speaking of blasphemy, that this might be an Easter-friendly baking opportunity, should you be the kind of person who likes to generate baked goods during this holiday. This cake keeps wonderfully — if anything it tastes better and better the longer you leave it; if you make it now it’ll probably still be hitting its stride, flavour-wise, by Easter. And if you want further baking ideas for the long weekend you might also consider the Roasted Carrot Cake with ACV Buttercream; these chocolate rosemary cookies; this very easy chocolate pistachio fudge; these cupcakes, this lemon poppyseed loaf, or the recent marble heart cookies, all of which are varying degrees more child-friendly than this loaf cake, should that be something you’re taking into account. Not that children have the monopoly on chocolate, nor lack the palates for this loaf cake, but it personally took a long time for the switch to flick over in my head where I finally accepted dried fruit and its place in baking, and you might as well make life easier on yourself here — plus, more than one baked good on the go is never a bad thing.
Dark Chocolate Molasses Fruit Loaf
A modest adaptation of one of my favourite and most-returned-to recipes, Bryant Terry’s ginger molasses cake, adding cocoa, chocolate, and dried fruit to emphasise the intense flavours of the syrup. It’s dense, dark, delicious — and only uses one bowl to mix it all up.
- 1 and 1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 80g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup sultanas
- 1/2 cup refined coconut oil, melted
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons milk (I used soy)
- 1 tablespoon malt vinegar
1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a loaf tin (mine is 23x13cm, a little either side of this measurement is fine) with a sheet of baking paper.
2: Sieve the 1 and 1/2 cups flour, the teaspoon of baking soda, the two tablespoons of cocoa, and the half teaspoon of table salt together in a mixing bowl, then stir in the 3/4 cup of sugar, the roughly-chopped chocolate, and the 3/4 cup of sultanas.
3: Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients with your spoon, and pour in the 1/2 cup of melted coconut oil, and the 1/2 cup and two tablespoons of molasses — easier to do it in this order, so the residual oil in the cup measure helps the molasses to slide out. Stir the tablespoon of malt vinegar into your cup and two tablespoons of milk in a measuring jug and pour about half of it into the mixing bowl. Stir everything together gently, starting by jostling the liquids then folding in the dry ingredients, adding the rest of the milk and vinegar mixture as you go. Don’t mix it too hard, and stop once there are no traces of flour left.
4: Spatula this batter into your prepared loaf tin, and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the surface is springy. While you can eat it fairly soon after it’s been in the oven, it will be much easier to slice cleanly once it’s cooled, and I prefer the bite of the chocolate pieces once they’ve re-solidified. Store in an airtight container.
Note: you can use apple cider vinegar or whatever you have instead of the malt vinegar — I like the notion of its flavour aligning with the molasses but it’s not really going to make a notable difference, and the original recipe uses ACV anyway.
Hold On by En Vogue, to so casually give us two incredible songs in one with that a capella part at the start? Glorious!
Touched by VAST, do you know how difficult it is to locate a song when you can only remember the wordless chorus part and no other detail? Somehow I stumbled on this recently after having that howling refrain in my head for literal decades and only a vague recollection that the title and artist were single-syllable words. There must be a word for this specific achievement!
Falling Down by Chapterhouse, it sounds kind of like eleven different blue jeans commercials put into a blender, by which I obviously mean I love it a whole lot!
The opening, title song from the Broadway musical Ragtime — the recent 25th anniversary reunion concert has me revisiting this cast recording, it’s stunningly beautiful throughout but this opening sequence always sends shivers up my spine.
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