Friday, July 15, 2016

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

You’d think that by now I’d know everything there was to know about food, or at least about desserts. After all, I’ve been seeking them out and tasting them for decades now.

But I found a new dessert in Ireland, in the very popular café that’s attached to the Field’s SuperValu market in the heart of Skibbereen. The café faces the main street, and it’s a great place to sit and watch people go by, over a nice cup of tea and a pastry. The food is good and it’s also inexpensive. Did I mention I now have a frequent shopper card for Field’s? I’m there a lot.

This recipe takes a little explaining. I first saw it in the display case at the café when I stopped in for that cup of tea and something sweet. It called out my name, so of course I tried it. It’s a cake only because it’s cake-shaped (or more accurately, loaf-shaped). In fact, it’s made up of nice gooey chocolate and biscuits, er, cookies. Yes, commercial packaged cookies. Put them all together and chill them (no baking!), and you have a very sweet, multi-textured dessert that quickly becomes addictive (you didn’t think I’d stop at one, did you?).

I went looking for recipes, but I quickly found there are two schools of thought about this: the golden syrup faction and the condensed milk faction. I can’t swear to it, but I’m guessing what I sampled came from the golden syrup side of the fence, given the slightly gooey texture (which contrasts nicely to the crunchy cookies).

The basic recipe is simple, but some people add things along the way, like candied cherries (never one of my favorites) or other dried fruits, mini-marshmallows, or nuts. One thing all the recipes agree upon is that you must use a good quality chocolate (the recipes actually say that in caps: “Good Quality Chocolate.” No, it’s not a brand name.) And real butter.

And Maltesers. Which I had to go hunting for. I guess they’re basically malted milk balls dipped in chocolate. It’s an English thing. You would not believe the variety of candies available there—and the absurdity of some of their names. (My quick survey indicates that the Irish have a serious sweet tooth, and that Irish dentists much be very happy.)

And this is only some of them!

The recommended biscuits (cookies) are: Digestive Biscuits and Rich Tea Biscuits. These are different, one from the other. Don’t ask me how. The first one is supposed to be good for you, or that’s what the maker thought when they named it. Google them if you’re really curious. But you need to include both kinds.

Yes, I brought all the ingredients home with me. Oh, except for the Golden Syrup, which I have used in the past. But even the small tin is heavy, and my suitcase was pushing the limits already. However, there are substitutes, so I used one here.

I will apologize in advance: many foreign recipes call for ingredients by weight. Usually I translate those to terms most American cooks will recognize, but it’s a little hard to measure the volume of a bunch of crumbled cookies. If you look at the picture of the cookie packages, I used about 2/3 of a package of each kind. The chocolate bar weighed seven ounces. But don’t worry too much—it’s a forgiving recipe and exact measurements don’t matter.

Chocolate Biscuit Cake


275 g good quality chocolate, broken into chunks
200 g Digestive Biscuits, roughly broken (do not make the pieces too small)
200 g Rich Tea Biscuits (ditto)
1 packet Maltesers
150 ml Golden Syrup (if you don’t have any, you can combine 2 parts light corn syrup with one part molasses—I used treacle, which is more authentic. The mixture should be thick.)
110 g butter (about one stick)

One package Maltesers


Generously line a loaf tin with cling film (for us, that’s plastic wrap). Two layers are good, and leave plenty hanging over the edges (to cover the top of the cake later).

Place the butter, chocolate and golden syrup (or substitute) in the top of a double boiler whose bottom is filled with simmering water and stir until melted.

Biscuits, whole (no, I can't tell them apart)

Same biscuits, crumbled
Crumble your biscuits. When the chocolate mixture has melted, place it in a large bowl and add the biscuits and Maltesers and mix well (without mashing the biscuits any more than necessary).

Pour the mixture into the lined tin and press it gently into place. Cover the top with the excess cling film. Place the tin in the refrigerator and let it set (at least three hours, but you can keep it for a couple of weeks if you want)—it should be firm enough so that you can cut it.

To serve: lift it out of the tin (that’s when all that cling film comes in handy!) and peel off the cling film. With a long sharp knife, make slices about one-half to three-quarters of an inch thick. 

And enjoy it, with a nice cup of tea!

By the way, I'm editing the next County Cork mystery now. It may be called Winters Past, and it doesn't have a cover yet. But it takes place in a blizzard, and Rose is cooking comfort food on an antique stove and toasting bread over the fire in the pub, for a bunch of hungry people who are stranded at Sullivan's.


  1. BREAKING NEWS! The next Irish book has a name: Winters Past (it's about a cold case), and a pub date: March 14, 2017! Just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

    1. The only thing better than Digestive biscuits and chocolate, is one of your Cork Mysteries! I'm almost finished with "A Turn For The Bad" and looking forward to " Winters Past"! Guess I'll have to start rereading the series to get my Irish fix! Thanks for the recipe and a great read!

  2. Yum and thanks for the head's up about your breaking news!! Can't wait!!

  3. What fun!

    As to the biscuits:
    Digestives contain the following (from King Arthur Flour)
    1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
    1 1/2 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour or Premium Whole Wheat Flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
    1/4 cup cold milk
    Rich Tea biscuits contain (from Food52)
    280 grams all-purpose white flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3 heaping teaspoons cane sugar
    4 1/12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
    2/3 cup cold, full-fat milk

    So, one main difference is the whole wheat. In your picture I would guess that the biscuits on the right are the digestives. They appear a little darker.
    Terribly important, don't you think? ;o)

    1. Big difference in the butter, too!

    2. In the interests of science (ha), I tried each. The English style of cookie is rather dry, no matter what the label says. Maybe that's where the stiff upper lip comes from.

  4. Sheila, this is a fascinating recipe. I have never heard of anything like it. I gather the cookies become cake-like in texture? Kind of like the Lady's Fingers in Tiramisu?

    1. Not really (not that I've had the patience to wait and find out). The cookies stay crunchy, and the chocolate stuff stays gooey. There's not a lot of liquid in there to change the texture. I was drawn to the sample first because it looked like a mosaic from a distance.

  5. There is a store called World Market that has LOTS of locations and they sell some of these kinds of treats. Like the special cookies (biscuits). Maybe we can Do the Maltesers taste like Whoppers malted milk balls that we have here in the States? I think I am going to attempt to pull off this recipe soon! I love how you don't have to use the oven! It's so very hot here!

    1. *Maybe we can find something similar to the biscuits.