Sticky Chocolate Cake Recipe

Last time I was in London, my primary objective may have been to snuggle up with my nephew, but I still brought a list of food places I wanted to check out, for, you know, research purposes. One of them was Ottolenghi, a deli that offers a daily selection of colorful dishes — with an emphasis on fresh produce — and dazzling pastries.

I had received a review copy of their seductive cookbook a couple of months before, and had quickly stopped tagging the recipes that appealed to me when I realized I was placing a sticker on every page. This was my kind of food, and I was eager to taste it at the source.

After baking, the cake is further stickified by a generous brushing of brandy syrup, and left to cool. This produces a voluptuous cake that is moist-crumbed and deeply aromatic (but not at all boozy).

I visited the Kensington location (now closed), which happens to be around the block from the large Whole Foods store that was also on my list. I ogled the spectacular lineup of cakes, but decided instead on an assortment of salads to eat on the Eurostar that evening.

They were delicious, though it dawned on me halfway through that the reason why these salads seemed so pleasing was that most of them were pretty sweet, incorporating dried fruits or candied nuts or a sweetish dressing. Is it always so, or was it just an oddity on that particular day? A repeat visit is in order to find out, but I thought I’d keep that penchant in mind for when I tried savory recipes from the book.

As it turns out, the recipe I tried first was for a cake — and now that I think about it, I reduced the amount of sugar in that one, too. The recipe in question is the sticky chocolate loaf on page 219: it tugged at the strings of my heart because of the happy qualifier “sticky” — always a good omen when attached to a cake name — and because it was a chocolate cake that involved prunes, which I am fond of, and always keen to rehabilitate.

I made a few further modifications to the recipe, baking it in a cake pan rather than two mini loaf pans, substituting yogurt for the oil (the original called for yogurt and oil; I used yogurt only), and using maple syrup rather than treacle.

I hope the apparent length of the recipe below won’t scare you off; this is not a complicated cake to assemble at all. Half of the prunes are blended into the batter, in which they act as a sweetener and moisture booster, while the other half is soaked in brandy and pressed into the batter. After baking, the cake is further stickified by a generous brushing of brandy syrup, and left to cool. This produces a voluptuous cake that is moist-crumbed and deeply aromatic (but not at all boozy), and one I plan to make again soon, possibly in cupcake form.


If you’d like to read more about Ottolenghi, check their blog, which features some recipes, and read Yotam Ottolenghi’s weekly column in the Guardian, The New Vegetarian.

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Sticky Chocolate Cake Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Serves 6 to 8.

Sticky Chocolate Cake Recipe


    For the cake:
  • 220 grams (8 ounces) plump dried prunes (about 16 medium), pitted
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) brandy* such as Cognac, Armagnac, or other brandy (see note)
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) plain yogurt or buttermilk (the original recipe calls for half buttermilk, half sunflower oil)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 75 grams (6 tablespoons) unrefined light brown cane sugar
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup or treacle
  • 120 grams (1 cup) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 150 grams (5 1/3 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • For the syrup:
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) unrefined light brown cane sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 180° C (360° F), grease the sides of a small cake pan (about 1 liter or 4 cups in capacity) and line the bottom with parchment paper. (The original recipe calls for two 500g/2-cup loaf pans; muffin tins would work well, too.)
  2. Place half of the prunes and the brandy in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until just slightly warm. Set aside to plump up.
  3. Put the remaining prunes and the buttermilk in a blender or mini-chopper, and process until smooth. (If the lid of your mini-chopper is not 100% watertight, blend the prunes with just enough buttermilk to moisten, otherwise the excess liquids will leak out, and this is v. annoying.)
  4. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the egg, sugar, and maple syrup, beating well between each addition.
  5. In a medium mixing bowl, place the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Stir with a whisk to combine and break any lump.
  6. Fish the prunes from the brandy (reserve the brandy) and cut in halves with kitchen shears. Set aside.
  7. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined; don't overmix. Fold in the chopped chocolate. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, level the surface, and top with the prune halves, pressing them down gently so they're half engulfed in the batter.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes (40 minutes for loaves, 15-20 for muffins), until set. A cake tester inserted in the center should come out clean (but don't mistake a melted chocolate chunk for raw batter).
  9. While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup: add the 50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar and 80 ml (1/3 cup) water to the brandy in the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and remove from heat immediately.
  10. When the cake comes out of the oven, pierce a few holes through it with a skewer and brush with the warm syrup with a pastry brush, until saturated. Let cool completely before unmolding.


  • Adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.
  • If you can't or won't have liquor in your cake, you can replace the brandy with good black tea.
  • Joan

    Prunes and Armagnac ~ two ingredients made for each other…this is a cake to be made! From the photo it seems you’ve used a heart-shaped tin Clotilde ~ or maybe an illusion…On Sunday we are having a picnic by a river ~ this looks to be THE cake!

  • I’ve made a similar recipe and it’s one of my favorites: So moist! I cannot for the life of me figure out how prunes got such a bad reputation on this side of the Atlantic.

    (I also had no idea that WF had set up shop on that side of the Atlantic. Did you visit?)

  • I think this is one of your most delicious cakes ever! I love the prunes & brandy addtion!

  • Jenna

    I’m having a hard time seeing this in my head. Do you have any photos of what it looks like when sliced?

  • Oh, wow! This cake looks so rich and, well, sticky! :) I must say, even though it is May, that this cake would make the perfect Christmas treat, and for me, it just would have to be made with some Grand Marnier!

  • Faints!

    C’est un beau gâteau.

  • sudu

    This seems a fabulous cake! I too love love love prunes- what abt figs- I think that will work well with the ingredients.
    Did you mean dried prunes or fresh?

  • This cake looks divine and I agree with you that anything with “sticky” in the title just has to be good.

  • This would be great with a little milk right now. It sounds really sweet and rich.

  • Rachel

    I’ve been lusting after that cookbook for close to a year now and now you’ve made me want it even more…! I used to live within walking distance of their Islington branch, though, and as to your question about the savoury dishes – not all of them are on the sweet side. I can’t urge you strongly enough to try the recipe for broad bean and radish salad with green tahini dressing, which has become one of my fave spring dishes ever.

  • I love a cake with the nuances of a liquor, but without the overwhelming flavor and nose of raw booze. Great looking recipe and I love Ottolenghi. As a matter of fact you’d make a great team.

  • Ursula

    What an odd coincidence! Literally just before I loaded this page I was reading another great food blogger from South Africa: – her recipe for cranberry & pear upside down cake – and she mentioned Ottolenghi. So now I have to go check that out….

  • Wow, prunes and brandy sound like such unlikely ingredients for a chocolate cake. I’ve made cakes with prunes that have turned out so wonderfully though they add a lot of moisture and you can’t really taste their flavor.

  • Oh, goodness. How can I resist sticky, chocolate, and prunes? I’m longing for it!

    PS. I love that your “sweet” recipes are different, atypical, and delicious. Thanks a million!


  • Alice

    Oooo,that sounds wonderfully yummy,Clotilde!

  • Mmmmm…this looks DELICIOUS. Must try!

  • Lex

    Fabulous looking cake. I too love Ottolenghi and have spent hours lusting after the recipes in their book. My personal favourites are the toffee brownies made without the jam… They have a brilliant texture and extra gooey pieces inside. To die for darling…

  • Linzi Wilson

    mmmmmm sticky and chocolate…. those 2 words go hand in hand…. i’m in Australia at the moment and am seriously missing good chocolate…. someone please transport me back to France for a fondant or moelleux au chocolat ! miam miam

  • I am a huge fan of Ottolenghi as I live around the corner from their original store in London and have the cookbook. The sweet salads may have been a bit of an anomaly (although they do but pomengrate in A LOT of things). Every recipe I have tried from the book has been brilliant and looks just as good as your sticky chocolate cake.

  • Sticky cake and some sort of chocolate sauce over it would be heaven!

  • Barbra – Yes, I visit that Whole Foods every time I’m in London, and always bring back a few quirky things I can’t find in Paris.

    Sudu – This calls for dried prunes. To me, the term “prune” necessarily means dried, but the dictionary tells me it can also be used for the variety of fresh plums that are turned into prunes, so I’ve specified “dried” in the ingredients list.

  • I love the sound of this cake. Can’t wait to try it

  • The name and the picture caught my eye right away. YUM! I might try it with black tea.

  • Wow this looks utterly lush! I made Ottolenghi’s macadamia nut cheesecake for my mother-in-law’s birthday last summer.

    It was time-consuming but totally worth it!

  • Constancia

    I also love prunes and find it a hoot that more and more recipes in the US are referring to them as “dried plums.” One of my favorites is for a quick bread with prunes, from James Beard’s cookbook Beard on Bread. We make it in a souffle dish. It’s got a lovely pruney flavor and is not too sweet.

  • I’ve been longing to get my hands on that book for some time now. Amazon couldn’t fulfill my order and went and canceled it! I think it’s time I try again. (At least I have a Whole Foods nearby. What did you think? I go for a lot of things, but especially the 9-grain pitas and spicy marinated olives my location offers.)

  • I love the use of figs to sweeten up cakes and I was pleased to hear that the substitution of yogurt for oil worked so well. I’m going to have to try that when I make my next cake.

  • This recipe is so inventive with at the unusual ingredients and the dried fruit adding that fibrous sticky sweet. I would definitely eat this too fast.

  • Hah, you’re the second blog I’ve visited today that’s featured prunes! I do enjoy prunes, but I’m more a sticky lover and i totally agree, there’s nothing like sticky attached to a cake name… or chocolate :)

  • What a fantastic cake – can’t wait to try it!

  • I love the interesting combination of ingredients. Thank you for sharing your version of this recipe.

  • Sounds wonderful. Prune and chocolate always go so well together

  • This is one of those posts that should have a *enter at your own risk* sign on it – cake looks absolutely delicious :)

  • I loooove prunes and with Brandy… this is a real temptation ! May I have a piece ?

  • Judy

    Clothilde, you’re right about the sweetness of the salads, but they’re delicious (you’re right about that, too!). Try the wheatberry and mushroom one if you haven’t already. Lovely, and it keeps for a few days in the fridge.

  • Love the idea of using yogurt…I’ve seen that in so many cakes lately! This sounds fabulous!

  • A very nice Recipe. I will test it, semms to be nice. :)

    Greets from Cologne…

  • Delicious!
    I made this cake for my husband and he thought it was so tasteful!
    Thanks for sharing:)

  • Is that a heart-shaped cake pan? I own these small heart-shaped tins and I absolutely love making mini chocolate cakes in them. I think they were made for each other. Thanks for the post!

  • I just had a sticky toffee pudding last night and although it was delicious I thought it could have done with something extra which after reading this turns out to be chocolate! Must try this shop next time I am in London. Also anybody in the area should try out Jack Osheas butchers which is just around the corner, great quality grass fed beef that appears in Heston Blumenthals shows. A little foodie mecca around there!

  • Sticky and chocolate go hand in hand. Yum. I love this and certainly would love to make it soon since I’ve been craving chocolate more and more lately.

  • Pip

    Made this yummy cake over the weekend. Maybe because it is winter here in Australia, but we devoured it while still warm with vanilla bean ice cream and it was scrumptious -sticky, chocolatey goodness.

    I also snuck a piece a few hours later when it had cooled down and didn’t enjoy it quite so much -still delicious but the prunes had lost the warm gooiness and the cake was a bit denser and not so sticky.

    I will definitely be making this one again. Thanks Clothilde.

  • Lorraine

    Thank you for the recipe for the sticky chocolate cake with prunes. I made it with black tea and goat milk yoghurt (one pregnant guest and one “no cow milk please” guest) and it was very good. An Ottolenghi deli will be on my list the next time I visit London, I enjoyed their website too.

  • Dear Clothilde,

    I just wanted to say thanks! A regular reader of your blog, I’ve catch the neam ottolenghi the other day, and quickly checked out there website. Looks so fabulous that I decided to check them out this weekend when I was in London.
    It was an instant it (and earned my high points with my dad!). Tha pastries are to die for, especially the meringue passion fruit tart.
    So thanks to you for this very nice address. I was sure I couldn’t go wrong knowing your style, but still, it was a wonderful suprise.

  • michael

    best sticky chocolate cake i have made is one that goes in my family.

    Simply melt 15gr of butter
    add 2 eggs
    2 spoons of chocolate powder
    3dl sugar
    and 1,5dl flour

    Make a form with butter and crushed bread to fill it all with the mix.

    mix everything and owen it for 30-40 minutes

  • milli

    I was bad, I had neither prunes nor brandy, but had dates and scotch.

    Still turned out reasonably well (people ate it) but next time I will stock up with prunes and brandy!

  • Ali

    Was just wondering about that – I’m not a fan of prunes, so was wondering about substituting dates. How did the dates version work out, Milli?

  • Miss Rose

    You mentioned that you approximately halved the sugar in this recipe. What was the original amount of sugar? Lovely blog by the way x

  • Miss Rose – Note that I didn’t write that I’d halved the amount of sugar — I simply reduced it, from 90 to 75 grams.

  • I adore the concept of prunes and chocolate. Delia Smith got me onto that kick a good few years ago. I tried out this recipe with a few changes today and loved it very much. Thanks and check out my changes. I love your blog!

    • I’m glad this turned out well for you, Kat, thanks for reporting back!

  • Beatrice

    I made this cake a few month ago and it was a huge hit. I used a flavoured tequila to moist the prunes and boy was it boozy :) But nobody complained.
    Now I’m planning to make it for Passover and also kosher, so I’ll replace the buttermilk with half black tea (cofee I guess would be too strong and would overpower the prunes) half sunflower oil and I’ll use almond meal instead of flour. I hope it’ll turn out as amazingly as the first time.

  • Beatrice

    OK, I guess I have to report back about making this cake for Passover. It was delicious! As planned, I replaced the buttermilk with tea and vegetable oil (half-half) and used matza cake flour instead of regular flour. So, readers of Jewish faith, you can put this recipe on your list for next year’s Passover and you’ll sure impress your guests. Just make sure you don’t use whiskey or other cereal-based spirit :) Thanks, Clotilde, for a great recipe.

    • I am very happy to hear it, Beatrice, thank you for your report!

  • Clotilde, I made this last week and took it into work…People loved it…thank you so much for a beautiful recipe…I am posting it on my blog tomorrow…please let me know what you think of my variation…

  • Stella

    Hi! Love this recipe but I was wandering, could it be made with dates and would the method of preparation be the same? Hope you reply soon (it’s for sunday :) ), thanks!

    • That’s an excellent idea — I’m sure you can make this with dates, especially Medjool dates, which have more moisture content than the smaller, drier dates. I believe dates are a bit sweeter than prunes, so I would probably decrease the amount of sugar by half. Let me know how it turns out!

      • Stella

        Hi, reporting back :) I changed a few things, didn’t want date chunks so I blended them all and because the batter was so thick and dense I added an extra egg and a tablespoon of milk. I didn’t have maple syrup or treacle so I omitted it. Everyone loved it but I expected more, I love the taste but the texture not so much. Maybe if it were more moist and/or sticky. :) but will definitely do it again, with oil and prunes, to try that out. Thanks, I really love your recipes! :)

        • Thanks so much for reporting back, Stella. What kind of dates did you use? The big medjool ones, or the smaller, drier ones?

          • Stella

            The smaller ones. I soaked them for quite a while in brandy though. I think that the fact that I blended the whole amount of the fruit was what changed it, the ratio of the fruit and liquid was not the same. I will try it again soon because the taste was wonderful, we all loved it but it was just not quite there :) thanks for your interest and commitment!

          • My pleasure! I suspect you’d like the results better using the big medjool dates, which are closer to prunes in texture and moisture content. They are generally more expensive, though.

  • Stella

    Probably, but I wouldn’t know where to find them here so I went with the plain ones. The taste was wonderful though so I think that with the prunes I’ll get what I think should be a sticky cake :) thanks for everything, love your work! :)

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  • Stickified…. TAKES THE CAKE! ;-) I might have to borrow this expression, it is too too good! ;-)

    Happy New Year! (jealous of your visit to London, it’s bee too many years since I visited, although I must say I almost went bankrupt.. expensive city!)

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