Chocolate Biscuit Cake

by Kristin on June 21, 2012

In 1998, I took a trip out to Boston with some college friends on spring break and stopped at my friend’s parents’ house in Michigan on the way. When we got back to Wisconsin a week later, I still vividly remember going to the café where I worked before class with my friend. “My parents really like you,” he said as I topped up my coffee with milk. “They want to set you up with my brother.”

“The one in Ireland? Fat lot of good that does me!” I laughed. But when that brother came to town a few months later for my friend’s graduation, I remembered what he’d said … and I wore my prettiest skirt on the afternoon he was due to stop by my apartment to pick up some notes, just in case his brother was with him.

Well, turned out his parents were on to something. I was smitten, and after a few days of flirting, the brother finally got the hint and we hit it off. He went back to Ireland and I got a passport so I could see him again at the end of the summer. After nine months of racking up huge long-distance phone bills and Visa bills from the plane tickets we bought to visit each other while I finished my last year of college, I moved over with two suitcases and a wide-open heart.

And on this day 10 years ago, I married him.

We had a small wedding here in Ireland, with an equal mix of old American friends and family who travelled over and new Irish friends. We got married in a pretty little country church with a robin’s egg blue ceiling, by a priest who quoted Robert Frost in his sermon as a nod to our American roots, then had our reception in a hotel right on the Irish Sea with views of the Cooley and Mourne Mountains to the north. And we had chocolate biscuit cake as our wedding cake.

While I now know that chocolate biscuit cake is popular in Ireland — you’ll often find it at cafés and coffeeshops, where it might also be called tiffin — I’d never had it before I sampled it at the Dublin bakery where we got our cake from, and I thought it was fantastic. Prince William famously chose a chocolate biscuit cake as his groom’s cake for his wedding last year, but we were way ahead of him nine years previously.

But here’s the rub about that chocolate biscuit cake. We had a three-tier cake, covered in plain white royal icing, and we duly froze the top tier and ate it on our first anniversary. But when we were checking out of the hotel the day after the wedding, we found out that for some reason they’d only cut up and served the bottom tier — leaving us with the entire middle tier to take home and eat ourselves. Despite giving some away to anyone who came to visit us in the weeks after the wedding, we were eating that cake every day for a month solid — which may explain why in the past 10 years, I never once made chocolate biscuit cake at home. Much as I loved it, I didn’t want to have it for a long, long time after that. But after a decade-long break, we’ll be having it again today — and more often now in the next 10 years.

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

Makes 1 x 450g (1 lb) loaf cake

There are lots of variations on this basic recipe — you can add nuts, raisins, glace cherries or even marshmallows; you can leave out the espresso powder (but I love the combination of chocolate and coffee); or you could make this in a round cake tin and cut it into thin wedges or a square tin and cut it into cubes. Most chocolate biscuit cake recipes call for golden syrup, but the condensed milk gives the cake a creamy, fudgy texture. It also means it slices easily, even straight out of the fridge. In the US you can find digestive biscuits in the international section of some supermarkets (I use McVitie’s brand), otherwise try a butter biscuit like Le Petit Beurre. Or if you’re feeling particularly industrious, you could even try making your own with this Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe.

200 g (7 oz) milk chocolate, roughly chopped
100 g (4 oz) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
100 g (1/2 cup) butter, diced
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 x 400 g (14 oz) tin condensed milk
250 g (9 oz) plain digestive biscuits, each biscuit broken into thirds

Line a 450 g (1 lb) loaf tin with cling film and set aside.

Set a heatproof bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Add in the chocolate and butter and allow to melt, stirring now and then until it’s smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and mix in the espresso powder and salt, then pour in the condensed milk, stirring well to combine. Add in the biscuits and stir until they’re evenly distributed in the chocolate. Pour the chocolate biscuit mixture into the lined loaf tin, pressing it down evenly and firmly with a spatula. Smooth the top with the spatula, then place in the fridge for about 3 hours, or overnight, until set. Cut into thin slices or small cubes (it’s very rich) to serve. Wrapped tightly in clingfilm, this will keep for a couple weeks in the fridge.

{ 69 comments… read them below or add one }

Nessa Robins June 21, 2012 at 10:14 am

I never realised that you got married in Ireland! I love your wedding photo, whoever took it captured a beautiful moment. We also had one tier of chocolate biscuit cake at our wedding, in 2000, and I didn’t actually get to taste any of it. It was the smallest tier and seemingly was all given to guests at the wedding. So my love of biscuit cake was never tested :)
I love the addition of the espresso powder and I also much prefer condensed milk in a biscuit cake.

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:15 am

Yep, we got married here – we figured that after all our trips back and forth, we’d make everyone come visit us! Sounds like we had the exact opposite chocolate biscuit cake experience – you didn’t get to have any and I had too much!

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Clare June 21, 2012 at 10:55 am

I love this post! I know I’ve heard the story of Matt & Kristin before but never the details – so sweet and romantic. :) And I adore the photo, what a stunning couple!

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:14 am

Aw, thanks Clare. Can’t wait to see the photos of your own big day! x

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Móna Wise June 21, 2012 at 1:19 pm

How adorable. Looks like you are all set for the next ten Kristen.
I love the details about the church and the priest quoting Robert Frost.
Best wishes and love to you both on your anniversary,
Móna

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:13 am

Thanks, Móna! x

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Kat June 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Such a romantic post I’m a sucker for stories like that!! Happy anniversary may the next ten be just as wonderful and filled with chocolate biscuit cake :)

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:13 am

Thanks, Kat! There will definitely be more chocolate biscuit cake after my 10-year break from it. :)

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Alan Bourke June 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm

I still have the scars from that wedding!

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:12 am

What? Scars? What did I miss?!

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Elizabeth holder June 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Happy happy anniversary – isn’t it amazing where life leads? So very excited to try the chocolate biscuit cake when I move over – here’s to a wonderful day or week for that matter!

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:12 am

Thanks, Elizabeth! You’ll be sure to find chocolate biscuit cake in plenty of cafes and coffeeshops when you move over if you don’t get around to making it yourself.

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mum of all trades June 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm

This is such a lovely post, I firmly believe fate plays a hand in things like this. Would you believ I’ve never tasted chocolate biscuit cake, which is strange because I’ve such a sweet tooth. I will definitley be trying this recipe.

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:28 am

Wow, you’ve never tried chocolate biscuit cake? The pressure’s on now if you try this recipe – hope you enjoy it!

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stasty June 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm

What a beautiful photo, it looks like haven’t changed a bit. I loved reading about how you met. Wishing you many more happy years together.

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:26 am

You’re too kind, Vicky – let’s just say that I don’t exactly fit into my wedding dress these days and an updo reveals grey hair now! x

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Aoife Mc June 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Dawwwwwwwwww *sobs*

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:11 am

Aw, thanks Aoife. You still win the best engagement story contest!

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Leah June 21, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Ahh yes. It was a beautiful event and I consider myself fortunate for having attended not to mention sharing a role in it. Unfortunately, I don’t have any memories of your cake (though I’m sure the Irish whiskey had NOTHING to do with that) so I am really looking forward to making this. You know how much I love my cake! Happy Anniversary to you and Matt. Hopefully we can get together again soon. xoxo

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:11 am

I was looking at the wedding photos as I was writing the post – we all look so young! I guess having babies will do that to you. Hello, gray hair!

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Liza in Ann Arbor June 21, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Although I’ve never met you or Matt in person, I’ve met those in-laws (as you know)! It’s always fun to hear how people meet, especially when there’s a transatlantic crossing involved–congrats!

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:09 am

Thanks, Liza! Isn’t it funny how the world of blogging has created connections that couldn’t have existed before?

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TheGlutton June 21, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Happy anniversary to you both! Such a beautiful picture Kristin and sounds like such happy memories, wish you many many more.

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:09 am

Thank you! x

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Edna June 21, 2012 at 7:30 pm

What a sweet story, and what a beautiful photo and wedding! Congratulations on your anniversary and enjoy that cake :)

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:08 am

Thanks so much, Edna!

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Babaduck June 21, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Aww Kristin… your story is so romantic compared to mine which involved alcohol and forgetting what The Hubs looked like! We also had chocolate biscuit cake and it was delicious. Happy Anniversary to you both xxx

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:08 am

I’d love to hear the full details of that story one day, Aoife!

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Amee June 21, 2012 at 8:39 pm

I remember you telling me your story on our unexpected ‘romantic weekend’ away – HA! Happy anniversary to you and your architect. I have a fondness for biscuit cake as it was something my mother made often although I was an overachiever and made my own cake on my wedding day – maybe I will tell you that story on my own anniversary.

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:07 am

If I could do my wedding all over again, I think I’d try to make my own cake too – or was that just madness? I’d love to hear your story!

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PatriciaCK @ The Answer is Cake June 22, 2012 at 9:56 am

A lovely story and a lovely cake to match. And very romantic making the cake for your anniversary especially after not having had it for so long. Congratulations!

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:08 am

Thanks! But after waiting 10 years, I’m kicking myself for not making it sooner – it’s delicious and so easy!

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Thue June 25, 2012 at 7:16 am

Is condensed milk like evaporated milk or like eagle brand sweetened condensed milk in USA?

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:05 am

Evaporated milk and condensed milk are two different things – it looks like the Eagle brand condensed milk is the thing to use in the US.

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simple sustenance June 25, 2012 at 8:54 am

Lovely post and beautiful picture. Can’t wait to try the cake. Looks delicious!

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:03 am

Thanks so much!

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Geraldine @Go Ger Go! June 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Yum! I just recently had my first taste of choc biscuit cake and am eager to bake some of my own. Unfortunately my oven hates to bake anything in a loaf tin and I have no idea why!

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:03 am

Sounds like you have a very particular oven! You could also try making it in a square brownie pan or a round cake tin.

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Barbara Tedrow June 29, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Dear Kristin

Thank you, thank you for reminding us that romance continues to flourish. Your story was beautiful
and we will try this cake.

Happy Anniversary to you and Matt.

Fond regards,
Barbara Tedrow & Bill Boley

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:02 am

Thanks so much for visiting the blog, Barb! What a lovely surprise it was to see your comment here. Etta just arrived this week, we’re looking forward to our time together this summer. Hope you and Bill are both doing well. x

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Adrienne July 27, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Such a beautiful story! Belated happy anniversary. I made my own wedding cake, no layers of chocolate biscuit cake though sadly. Maybe for when we renew our vows! ;)

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Kristin August 1, 2012 at 9:20 am

If I had the day to do over again, I’d make my own cake too. What kind did you make?

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Usha August 18, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Hey…just wanted to say thanks for posting this cake recipe. I just made it for the bday of my 14-year-old (who hates regular cake) and she loved it! So did her dad…a hit all around. I wanted to make this cake as it had echoes of my childhood chocolate-biscuit-pudding days (in India)…but the much-publicized recent royal recipe didn’t ring right for me. I imagine it would be too hard…maybe I’m wrong..but it wouldn’t be the first time a chef left out a key ingredient! Also I didn’t feel like obsessing over a raw egg’s safety risk. I thought this one would be a surer bet (basing it on the viability of your other recipes actually)…I think you are right about the condensed milk giving it a fudgy texture. The only change I made was to swap the dark and milk chocolate measurements because I thought the condensed milk would lighten the chocolate already. I used Lindt Dark (70%) and Cadbury Milk and it’s such a yummy and decadent cake. Should take care of chocolate cravings for a while…I see why you took 10 years off :-) Thanks for the post!
PS: Since I buttered the loaf pan and then lined with cling film, I did immerse the pan quickly in hot water to loosen the cake for inverting. Worked like a charm.

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Kristin August 22, 2012 at 10:22 am

I’m touched that you made this cake for your daughter’s birthday, that’s high praise indeed! And thank you for sharing your tip about how to loosen the cake for inverting. I’m so glad to hear you all enjoyed it so much. The only problem is that it’s give me a chocolate craving now!

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Niamh October 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm

How gorgeous! Really heart warming post and a lovely recipe too x

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Kristin October 19, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Thanks so much, Niamh! x

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Margaret October 21, 2012 at 11:38 pm

Did not know a visa was needed to visit Ireland.

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Aishling Browne October 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm

That looks so delicious! Pretty cool idea for a wedding cake =)

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Kristin November 2, 2012 at 8:17 am

Thanks! We certainly loved it as our wedding cake, even if we did overdo it with having to eat the middle layer ourselves. ;)

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Y November 10, 2012 at 10:51 am

Happy belated Anniversary! How wonderful to have biscuit cake as a wedding cake. I can’t wait to try your recipe. :)

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Kristin November 17, 2012 at 8:12 am

Thanks very much! Hope you enjoy the cake.

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Ronell December 7, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Such a sweet story! I love it. I have a similiar story too. I finally married my husband after 5 years of a long distance relationship. We are both South African met on the internet while I lived in America and he was in Ireland. Only God knew what would come out of us we now share a gorgeous little boy. We now live here in Ireland and I keep hearing about biscuit cake so I am on the prowl for a good biscuit cake receipe as I have never eaten it yet.

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Kristin December 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I tip my hat to you for doing the long-distance thing for 5 years – I did it for just 1 year and it was more than enough for me! My credit card couldn’t handle the phone bills and all those plane tickets. Hope you enjoy the cake when you finally try it!

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Sara December 8, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Thanks for posting the recipe!! I grew up on chocolate buiscuit cake and have asked my mum so often for the recipe and she always tells me the same thing “you don’t need a recipe, it is the easiest thing in the world to make, just throw some chocolate butter and syrup together with buiscuits and cool” well… Never worked for me!! Now I have a recipe to try and will be able to continue the tradition :-) thanks a million!!

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Kristin December 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm

It really is the easiest recipe in the world – once you have a recipe to follow! I hope it turns out to be just as good as your mum’s version.

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Anne Marie December 9, 2012 at 7:14 am

I was wondering what kind of biscuit you would consider a “digestive biscuit” in the USA? Do you have any Irish brands or something to compare them to? Thanks! I can’t wait to try it!

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Kristin December 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm

The brand I always use is called McVitie’s Digestive Biscuits. They’re available on Amazon.com, but you might also be able to find them in an import section of a bigger grocery store. For an American cookie, you could try Nilla Wafers, or maybe even a Danish butter cookie? Basically, you want a sturdy, plain cookie. I’d love to hear how it turns out if you try an alternative.

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sinead ledwidge February 8, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I wanted to say thanks for your recipe as I’ve just finished making your choc biscuit cake .I was tempted to leave out the coffee and salt but I’m so glad I didn’t as they really give an extra depth to the cake.It’s rich but not too sweet.I added some dried cranberries for a little ‘sourness’.Thanks again for a great recipe

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Kristin February 10, 2013 at 10:39 am

Adding a bit of coffee to chocolate is a great way to oomph up up the chocolate flavour (but I also love the taste of coffee too). So glad you liked it!

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Sonia Kelly October 10, 2013 at 7:07 pm

This is a gorgeous biscuit cake. Not hard like others ive tasted. Pity it takes so long to set. Makin it this evening for girls at work tomorrow. Yum yum. Friday treat :)

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Kristin October 10, 2013 at 7:35 pm

What lucky girls! I hope you all enjoy the treat.

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Maria Kelly December 20, 2013 at 10:39 pm

I’m inspired to try your recipe after reading your story. I’ll be making mine into mini Christmas puds for pressies and substituting one with gluten free cookies for my sons girlfriend.

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Kristin January 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm

What a great idea for Christmas presents! Hope they went down well.

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Tricia March 30, 2014 at 11:15 pm

So happy to find this recipe. I just came home from 10 days in Ireland (my first trip) and saw these biscuit cakes everywhere…but never had a chance to try it! I’m making a tradition Irish dinner for my family (even brought home some Mi Wady to serve with it) while I share about my experiences and wanted to make this for dessert. This recipe sounds delicious!

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Kristin April 2, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Hope the chocolate biscuit cake was worth the wait!

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Irene Graham April 4, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Hi. I hope you will be able to help me ,I have made Tiffin twice now with condensed milk it looks alright when I put it in the tray pop it in freezer for 3hours when I bring it out and defrost it goes very sticky and stays sticky ,over and above that it tastes good hope you can help Thank you.

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Kristin April 4, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Maybe it’s because you’re freezing it? I’ve only ever refrigerated it and haven’t had a problem with it being sticky. This calls for another batch – for research, of course. ;)

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Nicola Collier April 12, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Hi,
Thanks for sharing your recipe. I’m a big fan of chocolate biscuit cake and I very excited to try this recipe. I am hoping to make my daughters christening cake next month and was wondering do I just double the ingredients to make a larger cake? Was going to use a standard springform tin. TIA

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Kristin April 13, 2014 at 5:53 pm

I don’t see why that wouldn’t work – but having said that, I’ve only ever made a single batch myself. Sounds like a good excuse for a test run to me! ;)

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