Nicola Lamb’s secret chocolate cake

by | May 7, 2024

Nicola Lamb is a master of her craft. She’s baked at all your favourite bakeries from Ottolenghi to Little Bread Pedler and has brought her expertise to her first cookbook ‘SIFT: The Elements of Great Baking’, sharing the theories and principles of great baking and how to put this knowledge into practice.

From Nicola – ‘This ultra-rich, two-textured cake has a secret. What is it? Well, let me tell you: the fudgy cake and mousse layer is made out of the same mix. One half of the mixture is baked, whilst the other is simply poured on top and left to set into a mousse. This recipe is based on a Gateau Marcel and is a bit of ‘2-for-1’ magic. Nestled in between the layers are Sauternes-soaked raisins, though you could swap these for brandied cherries or whatever might take your fancy. Finish it off with a thick dusting of bitter cocoa powder and you have, in my opinion, the ultimate chocolate dessert.’



  • 75g raisins (golden or black)
  • 100g Sauternes sweet wine
  • 6 whole eggs, separated (about 185g egg whites and 120g egg yolks)
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 225g butter
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp Halen Môn Pure Sea Salt
  • Cocoa powder, to dust


  1. To soak the raisins, place them in a bowl, pour over the Sauternes and cover. Leave for at least 2 hours or overnight, but they will keep (covered) for up to 1 month in the fridge.
  2. Preheat the oven to 195°C/175°C fan. Line the tin with baking paper.
  3. Whisk your egg yolks with a quarter of the sugar until pale, thick and custardy-looking – this takes about 5–6 minutes on a high speed. Set aside.
  4. Melt your chocolate and butter over a bain-marie. Once melted, take off the heat and stir in the salt. Fold it into your whisked egg yolks in three additions.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk your egg whites and the rest of the sugar to a French meringue. Mix a little of the meringue in with your whisk to loosen the egg yolk/chocolate batter and then change to a spatula, folding the meringue into the chocolate mix in thirds, trying to keep as much air in as possible.
  6. Pour half of the mix into a lined 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin and smooth the top. Bake for 20–22 minutes. The cake will rise up and be dry on top. Keep the other half of the batter to one side and cover with a tea towel or clingfilm to prevent it drying out. If possible, keep it near the oven so it stays warmish.
  7. Remove the cake from the oven and leave it to fall and cool in the tin for approximately 20 minutes. It can still be warm, but you want to be able to handle the tin.
  8. Sprinkle on the Sauternes-soaked raisins. Pour the second half of the batter on top and smooth with a warmed palette knife. Leave to cool to room temperature, then move into the fridge and leave overnight or up to 3 days.
  9. To remove cleanly from the tin, freeze the cake for 30 minutes before demoulding. To finish, carefully remove from the tin and dust thickly with cocoa powder. If you froze the cake, let it defrost for 20–30 minutes before enjoying it. This keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also store it in the freezer, wrapped, for 30 days.

RECIPE from Nicola Lamb’s SIFT for Penguin Random House. IMAGE by Sam A Harris.

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