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Mary Berry vs Nigella Chocolate Cake Recipes

Celebrity Recipes
Mary Berry chocolate cake covered with thick chocolate icing on a multicoloured cake stand

First thoughts on the bakes:

Both of these recipes are very simple, and very easy to do - they’re ideal for relatively-inexperienced bakers who might be new to making cakes. A lot of the cake recipes I tend to bake are fairly complex, so it was really lovely to follow such easy recipes. There are so few steps for both recipes; put everything in a bowl, mix the ingredients, and pop them in the oven.

I made these two recipes with some friends on a weekend, and I reckon both recipes would also be good for family baking. They’re suitable for kids, as long as they’re supervised while using a mixer or the oven.

I’ll admit that I was a little bit apprehensive about just mixing all of the ingredients together in a bowl - I was concerned about overmixing some ingredients and causing the cakes to come out dense, but this wasn’t the case. They both turned out really well.

Mary Berry’s chocolate cake recipe - a top-level look:

  • Ease of baking: 10/10
  • Enjoyment to bake: 6/10 - Making the icing and icing the cake is the most fun bit!
  • Time to bake: Up to 2 hours
  • Appearance of bake: 7/10 - The icing was much runnier than I thought it would be
  • Taste test: 8/10 - I liked the apricot jam layer in between the ganache and sponge
  • End result: 7/10 - The icing could have been thicker, which would have improved the overall finish

Want to bake this cake for yourself? Here’s Mary Berry’s chocolate cake recipe.

Nigella’s chocolate cake recipe - a top-level look:

  • Ease of baking: 9/10 - I’m only giving this a 9 because the icing is a bit more complicated
  • Enjoyment to bake: 7/10 - Like with Mary’s recipe, doing the icing is the best bit!
  • Time to bake: 1 hr 30 mins
  • Appearance of bake: 10/10 - I liked how this cake looked - the icing looked far more professional 
  • Taste test: 9/10 - This was my favourite, for sure!
  • End result: 9/10 

Fancy making Nigella’s deliciously-decadent bake? Here’s the recipe for Nigella’s chocolate cake

Smoothing chocolate cake batter for Nigella's chocolate cake into a baking tin lined with parchment

Mary Berry vs Nigella chocolate cake:

I thought Mary Berry’s chocolate cake was going to be better, as the icing seemed more simple and this bake has the apricot jam layers in between the sponges, which is a nice touch. The difference between the recipes was Nigella’s has more depth and flavour - Nigella used sour cream in her cake batter, whereas Mary’s batter didn’t.

Nigella’s sponges had a better ‘crumb’, and I also felt they tasted nicer. Mary Berry’s sponge came across as lovely - predictable but a little bland, even though the overall result was very good. However, I can’t be sure if this was down to me missing an ingredient like sour cream in Mary’s sponges, or if I overmixed the batter.

The flavour of Nigella’s icing was also better - the sour cream cut through the sweetness of the chocolate, but still gave a glossy, rich finish. Nigella also uses golden syrup in her icing, which works really well - I felt it ‘held’ the icing together and allowed it to stick better to the top and sides of the sponge.

Mary Berry chocolate cake verdict:

How did it taste?

This cake tasted rich - but it was also more dense than Nigella’s. I felt like the thinner icing had an impact - it didn’t cling to the layers of cake as well, so the overall taste wasn’t as moreish and impactful as Nigella’s.

Mouthfeel and texture:

Overall, I liked the mouthfeel. This cake wasn’t as dense as a brownie, but not as spongy as Nigella’s chocolate cake.

What would Mary Berry’s chocolate cake pair well with?

I reckon the ideal companion for this cake is a cup of tea! As it’s so quick to make, it’s perfect for people coming around unexpectedly as you can whip it up with just a few hours’ notice. Mary Berry’s cake was, for me, an afternoon tea sort of snack that would be a brilliant treat at 3pm.

Close-up of Mary Berry's chocolate cake, topped with chocolate icing

Nigella’s chocolate cake verdict

How did it taste?

This cake tasted more intensely-chocolatey than Mary Berry’s, and had a lighter, fluffier sponge. I also felt that this cake was richer - but I’m not sure if that’s because the icing had the golden syrup, which added an extra layer of depth and sweetness. I love using golden syrup in baking, so maybe I’m biased, but I felt the overall taste was everything I expect from a chocolate cake.

Mouthfeel and texture:

The sponge was delicious, and as much as I loved the rich, thick icing, you have to be careful not to have too much - the icing can be quite cloying. This won’t be an issue if you’re a chocoholic, though!

What would Nigella’s chocolate cake pair well with?

As it’s such a rich bake, this cake would go well with an equally-sweet after dinner liqueur - or a dessert wine. I’d say that Nigella’s chocolate cake is more of a birthday party showstopper or a dinner party dessert.

Slice of freshly-baked chocolate cake made using Nigella Lawson's recipe

Overall verdict:

Overall winner: Nigella

I feel like Mary Berry’s recipes may cater for an older, more traditional audience - she uses classic ingredients which may appeal to some bakers, but Nigella likes to push the boundaries a bit more and use ‘new’, exciting ingredients to improve a traditional recipe, which I really like.

She wants her recipes to be a bit of a breakaway, adding her own spin, which is why I think her chocolate cake has the edge.

What went well?

The ease of making both recipes. I don’t often make cakes where everything’s mixed in a bowl and then baked, and both cakes turned out incredibly well, which was a really nice surprise.

I also really loved how Mary Berry uses apricot jam in between her sponge layers - that’s a tip I’ll be remembering for the future.

What was a challenge:

Trying not to overmix the ingredients when they’re being folded in together to create a batter.

To be fair, both recipes mention overmixing and warn against it, but I think Mary and Nigella could provide bit more elaboration on what that actually means - for example, providing timing guidance on how long to mix.

I knew that waiting for the cakes to cool could take a while, so after baking, I covered them and popped them in the fridge for 10 minutes just to reduce as much heat as possible. The sponges come out quite thin, but even so, I wanted a nice cool base to ice.

How would you improve these recipes?

Mary Berry’s cake definitely has more of an afternoon tea vibe, so maybe you could serve it with thick cream or berry coulis to take it up a notch. I’d also rework Mary’s chocolate icing, as I found it too runny to work with. It needs some icing sugar, or another dry ingredient to help the icing thicken up.

Nigella’s cake looks and tastes far more indulgent - it’s a dinner party pudding - so maybe I’d experiment with some edible decorations, or work on the icing a little bit longer for a smoother, more polished finish. 

Spreading apricot jam over the middle layer of Mary Berry's chocolate cake