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Natty bakes Mocha Five-Spice Loaf

November 18, 2009

Warning: So deliciously dense that centre may sink

The food network has often been referred to as the porn channel for fat & food-obsessed people. I wholeheartedly agree. Though I don’t really watch TV anymore, when I do watch it, the food network functions as one of my default channels to flip to if nothing else is on or if I just want to have a delicious relaxation & zone out session. Through the years some of my favourite shows to watch are (not including the obvious ones like Nigella and Jaimie Oliver which of course I love…oooh and speaking of foodie Brits, does anyone remember “Two Fat Ladies” ?):

  • The Surreal GourmetIt lasted for 5 seasons but this show doesn’t exist anymore (though now the kinda quirky Montreal Jew host Bob Blumer apparently has another show named “Glutton for Punishment”). On the SG Bob would would try wacky experiments like trying to cook salmon in a dishwasher for example, or make cauliflower popcorn for an episode entitled: “Here’s cooking for you, kid”.
  • Iron Chef- When I was in high school I discovered this show one night after I had gone out. If I didn’t sleep over at a friend’s place after a party or a downtown outing, my ritual was to come back home, make a snack & watch random things on late, late, late night TV. Sometimes I would watch obscure programs on TLC or the Discovery channel, other times I would watch movies on TMN which were already halfway done (this is why sometimes someone will mention a movie & I’ll be like  “I’ve kind of seen it” or “I think I remember that!”) and as I have already mentioned I would always use the food network as an old standby for some enjoyable zone-out entertainment. Well late one night at around 2 or 3 am when I was probably 17 or 18 I found the Iron Chef. It had the tone of a sporting event but it was a cooking competition in “Kitchen Stadium”! Hahaha, I loved it. Besides watching world-renowned chefs making elaborate feasts out of the featured ingredient of the show I think the best part was the english dubbing. The commentary was so elaborate & fast-paced and the translations from Japanese to English were pretty hilarious sounding (and sometimes sexist!)
  • Good Eats- My friend from McGill & I loved this show. I especially enjoy Alton Brown’s very fun & dorky science-oriented Bill Nye vibe. This show has been running for ten years now and he has built up quite the impressive archive of shows which are very helpful to introduce beginners to the fundamentals of cooking or baking vis-a-vis the history and science behind the particular dish or ingredient of focus.
  • Unwrapped- This is a painfully corny and annoying trivia-type show that I would also watch late at night. It is mostly about American junk food.
  • Sugar- Quite a dull show to be honest, but it’s about baking (features Canadian pastry chef Anna Olson, who I noticed a few weeks ago was at The Market kitchen teaching a class) & features some very delicious recipes.

The recipe I have featured today is something I once saw on Sugar. It is really divine and I have baked it a few times in the last year. I’ve also made some straight-up chocolate loaves (including an amazing one by Nigella which can be found in  “How to Be A Domestic Goddess: Baking & The Art of Comfort Cooking”, a previous nattybakes cookbook recommendation) but this one has a couple of twists. First of all, it features instant coffee granules which is always nice for a coffee lover like myself. Secondly, it calls for an interesting spice blend named “Chinese Five Spice” or “Five-spice powder”. This is basically a blend of star anise, fennel seeds, cassia or cinnamon, szechwan pepper and cloves, though there are some variations depending on where you get it from (my particular blend has fennel, anise, ginger, licorice root, cinnamon and cloves). According to a random-looking online encyclopedia of spices:

This spice blend is a staple in Chinese cooking, and is often used in a technique called ‘flavour potting’, where meat is steeped in a rich sauce and cooked for long hours. The spices included here are the most commonly used in five-spice powder, with the sweet tones of star anise, cloves and cinnamon with the bite of Szechwan pepper, all married together wtih ground fennel seeds. Some recipes use them in equal proportions, others use more of one to heighten a specific flavor. Generally though, Chinese five spice is dominated by the aroma and flavour of star anise. It is used in many Asian recipes, its sweet tangy flavour goes well with greasy meats like pork and duck. Stir-fried vegetables are enhanced by sprinkling about a teaspoon of Chinese five-spice over them when cooking. Add a little salt and it makes an excellent spice rub for chicken, duck, pork and seafood.

Wiki also tells me that: “The formulae are based on the Chinese philosophy of balancing the yin and yang in food” which makes sense because I read elsewhere that five-spice powder encompasses all five flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. Anyways, this recipe is a treat, very rich and I like the creative idea of using this aromatic spice blend to bake with.

mmm great smells

mmm...great smells

Mocha Five Spice Loaf


  • 4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tsp instant coffee granules (can use a bit more)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (can use slightly less but nahh)
  • 1 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 x large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder (can use a bit more)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup boiling hot water

Mocha Chocolate Cream (OPTIONAL! I do not make this)


  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 oz milk chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee crystal


Mocha five-spice Loaf

  • Preheat oven to 375°F and grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Use a seriously large loaf pan or else bake two smaller loaves (and keep an eye on them because baking times may vary)
  • Melt chocolate over a pot of gently simmering water, stirring constantly (or melt in microwave on medium heat stiriing frequently so it doesn’t burn) Stir in coffee granules and set aside to cool.
  • Cream butter and sugar with electric beaters or by hand until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and stir in vanilla. Stir in chocolate and blend well.
  • In a separate bowl, sift flour with baking soda, five-spice powder and salt.
  • Add flour alternately with boiling water, mixing gently after each addition and starting and ending with the flour. The batter will be very wet.
  • Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes at 375. Reduce oven temperature to 325 °F and cook another 20 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from pan.
Mocha Chocolate Cream (I enjoy the loaf by itself but this seems decadently delicious if you’re in the mood or making the loaf for a more special occasion)

  • Heat cream to just below a simmer. Pour hot cream over chopped chocolate and instant coffee and whisk until chocolate is melted and evenly blended. Chill completely.
  • Whip chocolate cream with electric beaters until cream holds a peak when whisk is lifted. Serve a dollop of cream on the side of a slice of loaf cake.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Alannah permalink
    January 26, 2013 11:03 pm

    Hi Natty,

    I too love this cake and the way my house smells while it is baking is divine. Unfortunately I never get the bake time right. Mine always seems to be liquid till in the centre when the timer goes off. Have you had this issue? I usually need a good 25 mins extra to get the cake to be done. Still extremely moist and delicious but the side are high and the canter is sunk in. Let me know if u have had any of the same issues. Thanks so much!

  2. nattybakes permalink*
    January 30, 2013 10:49 pm

    Hi Alannah,
    Thanks for your comment! I have also had the same problem in the past! Luckily, this cake tastes so good that I haven’t minded the occasional shoddy, sunken-in appearance. I think in order to prevent this problem you could experiment with baking times, oven temperature and baking dishes (i.e. perhaps the dish is too deep- batters that are very liquidy do better in shallow baking dishes). I have also seen that over-beating, letting batter sit out for a while, as well as old baking powder could all be contributing to sinking cakes. Hope this helps!
    Let me know if you make it again with better luck!

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