Chocolate nemesis: The River Cafe

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Chocolate Nemesis recipe from the River Cafe in London

This is the recipe for the famous chocolate Nemesis cake from The River Cafe in London. It is a legend in its own right and one of the best cakes you will ever make. This cake is perfect as a dessert to end a meal and everyone will love it. With only four ingredients, this showstopper of a dessert can be served simply with whipped cream or creme fraiche.

I think chocolate nemesis is the best possible name they could have given to this cake. I’m not really sure what it is. It’s part cake, part mousse but without a doubt, it’s 100% decadent, dark, delicious and totally irresistible.

I stumbled on this recipe a while ago when I got an email from a friend of mine who lives in London.  It was more or less a one-liner and said something like ‘ Chocolate nemesis from the River cafe – Google it and make it, it’s spectacular’.

As it turns out I had one of the River Cafe pockets books: Puddings, cakes & Ice Creams, by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, and therein lay the recipe: ‘Easy Chocolate Nemesis’. I’m not sure if there is a more difficult version, but I was fascinated by this recipe that only contains 4 ingredients and a bit of water.

The texture of this cake is silky and smooth and feels like baked chocolate mousse. I didn’t think it required any icing, so I finished it off with a dusting of cocoa powder and a few light shavings of white chocolate.

You could top it with fresh strawberries or raspberries and serve it with cream which would break the intensity slightly. The River Cafe recommends a dollop of creme fraiche to break the sweetness. 

What is a chocolate nemesis cake?

A chocolate nemesis cake is a rich and decadent chocolate cake that is characterized by its dense, fudgy texture and intense chocolate flavour. It is typically made with high-quality dark chocolate, sugar, butter, eggs, and a small amount of flour (or not). Some recipes may also include ground almonds or other nuts to add texture and flavour.

The cake is often served with a dollop of whipped cream or a sprinkle of powdered sugar, and it pairs well with coffee or a glass of red wine.

Why is it called chocolate nemesis?

The name “nemesis” is said to refer to the cake’s ability to be both irresistible and challenging to make perfectly, as it can be difficult to get the texture just right. The chocolate nemesis cake is a popular dessert in many high-end restaurants (made famous by The River Café in London) and is also a favourite among chocolate lovers.

Back in the day, there was controversy around the original chocolate nemesis recipe which was apparently printed in error in The River Café’s first cookbook ‘The River Café Cook Book’. I have 3 of their books so have researched this.

The original recipe has slightly different ratios and is double the volume (less chocolate and a lot more caster sugar). The method remains consistent though so one must assume there was something wrong with the quantities. 

Here I have used the easy chocolate nemesis recipe from the ‘River Café Pocket Books – puddings, cakes and ice creams’ by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.

A few of my other chocolate recipes you might like:

The best chocolate malva pudding

A baking dish with the best chocolate malva pudding and a portion scooped out

The Best Chocolate Cake by Ina Garten

Maybe the best chocolate cake recipe in the world by Ina Garten

The best chocolate Nutella brownies

Chocolate brownies with Nutella

Chocolate espresso cheesecake

Chocolate cake with hazelnut ganache and Swiss meringue buttercream

Rum & raisin chocolate truffles (the best ever)

Double chocolate chip skillet cookie

This is what you need to make this outstanding cake:

Chocolate nemesis: The River Cafe

The famous Chocolate nemesis recipe from The River Cafe in London.
Print Recipe
Chocolate Nemesis recipe from the River Cafe in London
Prep Time:20 minutes
Cook Time:50 minutes


  • 350 gms chocolate broken into chunks- 70% dark couverture
  • 225 gm salted butter the original recipe calls for unsalted but I like salted
  • 5 large free-range eggs
  • 210 gm caster sugar divided into 1 cup and 1/2 cup


  • Preheat the oven to 120 C / 248F.
  • Butter and line a 23 - 25 cm cake tin with baking paper. If you are using a springform cake tin, wrap some foil around the cake tin so as to prevent any water from leaking in. It is better not to use a springform tin here.
  • Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or a bowl which is set over some boiling water. Do not allow the bowl to touch the hot water and remove it from heat as soon as the chocolate is almost all melted. Then stir off the heat until it is all melted. Good quality chocolate will melt easily and quickly.
  • Beat the eggs and 70 grams of the sugar with an electric mixer until the volume expands to roughly 4 times.
  • Heat the remaining 140 gms of sugar with 100 ml of water until dissolved and allow it to boil for about 1 -2 minutes (it will be a light syrup).
  • Pour this syrup into the chocolate and butter mixture and allow it to cool a little.
  • Pour the chocolate into the egg mixture and mix through until all combined and then pour into the baking tin. 
  • Put a folded tea towel into the bottom of a deep-sided oven dish and place the cake on this (this will prevent the cake from slipping).
  • Pour hot water into the pan so that it comes 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pan (I used mainly boiling water but also added tap water to bring the temp down from boiling too hot).
  • Bake for 50-60 minutes until set. The cake will be ready when it just starts pulling away from the sides of the tin.  Allow the cake to cool in the pan of water before removing and turning it out.


Allow the cake to cool in the cake tin in the water before removing it and placing it on a serving plate. This cake can be made in advance and refrigerated until required.
Servings: 1 cake
Author: Sam Linsell


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  1. That looks sinful! Can I have it for my next birthday? But don’t tell anyone, because I think I’m going to need to devour the entire thing all by myself.

  2. Bitter, dark and mysterious…just how I like a chocolate cake! Yum!

  3. Looks absolutely gorgeous! Your recipe seems to be some kind of a halfed recipe. The original recipe in the first River Café Cookbook calls for 675 gms of chocolate, an equal amount of castor sugar and 10 eggs.
    The recipe was always said to be a desaster. When people tried it after the book was published it was a huge failure for most people. Even professional cooks – hired by newspapers – couldn’t make it work. Maybe too much sugar in the original recipe?

  4. have made this many times and it always is AWESOME and knocks the socks off everyone!

  5. This cake looks gorgeous and with only 4 ingredients, there’s really no excuse not to make it…

  6. I’m an absolute FAn of chocolate and this looks like a good recipe

  7. This is definitely something i can see myself eating. The whole thing on my own. It looks so decadent and rich. I am going to make this for my 1 year anniversary in a couple of weeks. My huband will love it.

  8. Hi

    I cooked the original reciepe for the original book and it was tara a complete flop. Arogant at cooking as I am I automatically figured out the recipe was wrong or missing a bit, so I went into a borders book shop and thumbed through the River Cafe made easy which has the full cooking instructions.

    What was missing from the original was half the cooking instructions, once the baking tins had been placed in the oven in a ban marie and cooked for an hour, turn the oven off, and leave until the water is totally cold…. which takes another 3 hours or so. Vola, perfect nemisis. I can’t eat it myself, too rich and too chocolaty, but everyone else raves about it. 🙂

  9. drizzleanddip says:

    Hi Lisa
    Yes interesting re the missing instructions, you are not the first person to mention that it flopped on them too. I cooled in the water out the oven – and it turned out perfectly and firm.
    I also found it very intense and certainly could only handle the smallest slice (at a time)

  10. Hi Sam, I was looking for something else entirely when I found this recipe on your blog. I had saved the recipe years ago with the intention of baking it and then read so many reports of it failing that I decided not to do it. But my desire to bake it has once again reared its head. So I’ve been doing some investigating. I have found 2 conflicting recipes online. The one goes like this:
    675g dark chocolate 70%, broken into small pieces
    450g unsalted butter, softened
    10 whole eggs
    675g caster sugar
    Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. Line a 30 x 5 cm cake tin with greaseproof paper, then grease and flour it.

    Beat together the eggs with a third of the sugar with an electric mixer for 5-10 minutes until they’ve quadrupled in volume.

    Heat the remaining sugar in a small pan with 250ml water until the sugar completely dissolves into a syrup. Place the chocolate and butter in the hot syrup and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

    Add the warm syrup to the eggs and continue to beat, gently, for around 20 secs until combined. Pour into the cake tin and place in a roasting tin. It is essential, if the cake is to cook evenly, that the water comes to the rim of the tin.

    Cook in the preheated oven for 55 minutes or until set. Test by placing the flat of your hand gently on the surface. Serve with crème fraiche and raspberries

    And then there is the one that has your ingredients above with the sugar syrup method. Fascinating that both are supposed to be the river cafe recipe. Now Im wondering which one to use hehe…decisions decisions. BUT I do know that the chocolate gremlin inside must be placated so best I get to baking it 🙂

  11. Colleen, I to uncovered the whole debate around the failed recipe and if you read the comments thread to my post you will see the feedback. The recipe I used is the ‘easy’ chocolate nemesis from the river cafe dessert pocket book and if you follw the instructions exactly as I did it turned out beautifully. There was a print error in one of the books. Personally I am all for slightly easier methods. So do as I did and you should be ok. good luck and let me know how it goes. Its possibly one of the most spectacular cakes I have ever eaten
    s xx

  12. Hi Sam, just read your comment above as I popped in for your easy nemesis recipe. The time has come….the chocolate gremlin is screaming. It’s my birthday tomorrow, I’ve got all the ingredients to hand and I’ve put my apron on and am heading off to the kitchen. Wish me luck 🙂 xx

  13. Hi… Is there a good site for metric conversions? In the states we need the change to try this. Sounds really good but not sure how to change. Thanks for the help.

  14. Eerke Boiten says:

    Did one today, recipe book said “spring tin” but failed to include the tin foil instruction. I foolishly assumed that a new spring tin would be OK by not a lot of water leaking in. A chocolate swamp indeed. Let’s see if it tastes OK tomorrow …

  15. Thanks for the recipe! I tried it for the first time yesterday and it was pretty successful! delicious – definitely!

    The only problem was that when I turned it out of the cake tin, it sank a little and the sides cracked a bit, but the cake still held up and was v decadent! I’ll be making it again! The cake actually rose quite a lot when it was in the oven, then it sank whilst it was cooling in the bain.

  16. Hi Steph, it really is an odd cake, mine also dipped a bit at the end. It is essentially a baked chocolate mousse of sorts.

  17. Annememde Waard says:

    Planning to make this as a Christmas dessert. What flavour ice-cream would you recommend to serve it with? Something like a thyme-vanilla ice-cream? Goats cheese and thyme ice-cream?

  18. Gosh those ice cream flavors sound incredible. The cake is very decadent so I would go with something a little plainer like vanilla.

  19. Hi.. Are the 160 degrees for two-sided heat or circulating air? in my oven this makes a big difference

  20. HI Frannie it is 160 degrees conventional heat, nont fan forced.

  21. Thank you. It turned out phantastic I baked it for 80 minutes. This cake seems to be not very time sensitive. After reading all the coments and other posts about the cake, everybody bakes it in a different way and most of them succeed. Even better 🙂

  22. Im so glad to hear FRannie. I havent made this cake in ages but one of the local restaurants I go to have it on their menu so I sometimes indulge. It is pure heaven.

  23. Fantastic recipe, worked perfectly.I put Clingfilm and tinfoil around the tin and some greaseproof inside, about 2 inches higher than the rim.Took it out of the oven when there was a slight wobble in the middle.I also took it out of the bain marie immediately and left it overnight.Was perfect.Definitely will make again.Thank you.

  24. Im so glad it worked out for you Carl. It is a keeper.

  25. Hi! I’ve made this cake several times and loved it. However, I can’t remember whether I made it with upper/lower heat or convection… and now I’m somewhere where I only have access to a convection oven. I read earlier in the comments that it shouldn’t be convection. Has anyone made experiences with this, did it still turn out?

  26. HI Maxi – I cant see why it won’t work in a convection oven. All cakes work in one and its baked in a water bath anyway. good luck!

  27. Hi, I made this cake in a spring form pan and it turned out perfect, I just had a problem with turning out the cake as it was too soft to handle. It stuck to anything surface it touched and couldn’t serve the cake with the bottom attachment because of the parchment paper I lined it with. Any suggestions would be helpful.


  28. Hi Nahla, Its difficult to know exactly what happened with your cake but I suspect it was under baked slightly. You also need to let it cool and set completely in the tin before taking it out. Putting it in the fridge should help with firming it up to remove it from the tin. It should be firm enough that you can remove the paper and place it on a plate as per my pictures on the post.

  29. says:

    Can you use a sugar substitute as I am prediabetic?

  30. Hi — I have not tested this recipe using a sugar substitute so I cant help you there. I would suggest searching for a sugar free recipe online. Thanks

  31. Hi sam
    In the recepi you wrote above 10 years ago
    You clearly wrote 120 degree and even apologized that it seems to low
    But 4 years ago in one of the comments you said to someone to bake in 160 degree!
    I really want to try your recepi
    Please answer clearly what degrade to bake 120 or 160 and for how long? ?

  32. Hi Elad. Sadly I cannot seem to find the book it came from but int eh first River Cafe cookbook the nemesis gets baked at 160C. That particular recipe is double the volume. I looked inline and Fod52 do a similar one at 130C. I’m convinced I baked it at 120C 10 years ago and that is what the recipe ha said for 10 years until now – but I would suggest going for 160C as per their first cookbook and that is what I would do now. Enjoy!

  33. Hi sam and thank you very much for your quickest reply!
    i just wanted to update you that i baked your recepie in 160 degree as you suggest
    (i even so that you change it in your original recepie )
    and i got aperfect nemesis chocolate cake!!!
    i didnt have a 23 size tin so i baked in 26 and the cake was much smaller hight then yours
    can you please convert me your recepie to 26 size ?
    eggs = ?
    butter =?
    suggar =?
    water = ?
    chcolate = ?
    thanks 🙂

  34. Hi Elad, I’m glad the recipe worked out for you. I’m not sure what you are asking me here because my recipe has all the quantities?

  35. hi sam
    your recepie is for 23 size round tin
    and i have 26 size round tin so i need bigger mass so i need to know how to change the quantities to match the biger size tin

  36. HI Elad, Shew and wow, you want me to calculate this for you? Im araid you are going to have to work this out yourself. Just bake it in the bigger tin and have a thinner cake. Otherwise, extrapolate it out yourself.

  37. Used dark lindt lindor chocolate with the runny centre (the normal 70% was sold out) and it didnt set :-/ more like a flobby mousse now…
    i don’t suppose I can put it back in the oven?

  38. Hi Marissa, The Lindor chocolate would definitely not be the right chocolate to use here. The recipe calls for 70% chocolate. The Lindor chocolate is a different and much softer formulation.

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