This is why IKEA's chocolate cake is so delicious

We're not sure how or why it happens, but something about the sight of an IKEA inspires hunger. It shouldn't be that way; it's not like you've arrived at a fancy restaurant or a foodie destination. Catching a glimpse of that iconic blue-and-yellow sign should make you dream of stylish spaces (or maybe give you nightmarish flashbacks of the last time you tried to put together a coffee table). And yet, as soon as you pull into that massive parking lot, your tummy inexplicably starts rumbling. Even if you don't walk in hungry, wandering around the maze of a store is enough to work up an appetite for the food court

We're all about IKEA's more filling food offerings, especially those astonishingly delicious Swedish meatballs. But, recently, we've fallen in love with IKEA's fika offerings: sweet snacks served alongside coffee. The Swedish coffee break tradition is serious business, and IKEA is doing it right with their KAFFEREP pastries. You'll find everything from light cookies and buttery pastries in the case, but their ooey, gooey chocolate cake... well, it takes the cake. What exactly is it that makes IKEA's chocolate cake so delicious? Let's find out!

IKEA's recipe is based on a popular Swedish cake, kladdkaka

If anyone knows how to make a cake, it's the Swedes. Every day, they take a break from work to sit down with family and friends, drink coffee, and eat cake during a ritual called fika. While there are several sweet treats enjoyed during this break, kladdkaka — the inspiration for IKEA's KAFFEREP gooey chocolate cake — is one of the most popular fika treats in Sweden. You'll find this Swedish cake in almost every cafe in Sweden.

After taking a bite, we totally understand why IKEA based their chocolate cake on this well-loved recipe: It's light in texture but rich in flavor. Unlike most cakes, kladdkaka doesn't contain any baking powder, a leavening agent that creates air bubbles to help baked goods rise in the oven. Instead of staying tall and spongy like a cake, it collapses as soon as it leaves the oven, finishing with a crunchy exterior but a thin, brownie-like appearance. It's also deliberately undercooked, so the insides stay gooey and almost runny when you cut into it. The result is rich and delicious, whether you pair it with coffee or eat it after dinner for dessert. 

IKEA's cake is all about that super fudgy, brownie-like texture

The thing that sets IKEA's gooey chocolate cake apart from other desserts is its melty, chocolate-oozing center. It's more like a round brownie than a cake, which made us wonder if it's technically a cake at all. Most cake recipes use twice as much flour as brownies, and they also contain a leavening agent (like baking powder or baking soda) to create a spongy texture. Cake batter is also filled with air to make it fluffy and light, achieved by beating softened butter or shortening with sugar before adding the eggs.  

When we compared a kladdkaka cake recipe with a classic chocolate cake recipe, we noticed a few differences. Kladdkaka uses less flour than a regular cake, and it doesn't have a leavening agent, either. And unlike most cakes, kladdkaka is made by gently whisking melted butter with sugar to incorporate as little air as possible into the batter, keeping it gooey and moist as it cooks. That might mean that IKEA's chocolate cake is technically a brownie recipe. Chef Magnus Nilsson suggests it's possible that a home cook accidentally omitted baking powder when making a Swedish chocolate cake one day, and the mistake turned into a new favorite recipe. 

IKEA bakes it for the perfect amount of time so it stays gooey inside

Electric Blue Food says a proper kladdkaka cake, like IKEA's gooey chocolate cake, is also known as "Swedish messy cake." Before it's cut, it looks like a regular chocolate cake. But, as soon as you cut into it, the middle oozes out, so gooey it's almost a liquid. The first time you eat IKEA's chocolate cake, you may be a little freaked out by this messy effect. It's normal to wonder if they accidentally messed your cake up... maybe they forgot to cook it all the way through? 

In fact, the opposite is true. The secret to a good gooey chocolate cake is getting the texture inside just right. If you over-bake the cake, it still tastes great, but it will be dense all the way through. Undercook it too much and, well, there is such a thing as too gooey. It's a fine line to get the cake to the perfect consistency, and IKEA nails it every time. 

IKEA's cake doesn't contain complicated ingredients

Recipes that have a dozen ingredients can be complex and wonderful, but we love that you can really taste the chocolate in IKEA's chocolate cake. That's because kladdkaka recipes only have a handful of ingredients, allowing you to taste everything that goes into it. 

The cake is basically just a thick batter made by lightly whisking together melted butter, sugar, and cocoa powder in a large bowl. A few eggs are added, one at a time to really allow them to incorporate, and the flour is whisked in at the end until the mixture is lump free. All in all, this process only takes about five minutes — quick and easy! The batter bakes up in a springform pan for about 20 minutes until the top is crispy but the center is still soft. You won't get to see it by thawing out an IKEA chocolate cake, but the center of a freshly baked cake is still pretty jiggly when it comes out of the oven (that's how you know it'll be gooey inside). The hardest part is letting the cake cool completely so it sets up correctly. If you sliced into it while it was piping hot out of the oven, it would be a pretty messy ordeal.

IKEA uses high-quality ingredients

Because the cake has so few components, there is nowhere for the ingredients to hide. If you skimp on the ingredient quality, you'll be able to taste it. According to The Inspired Home, the best kladdkaka cakes are made with good quality, dark unsweetened cocoa powder. IKEA's version of kladdkaka goes one step further by using UTZ certified cacao. UTZ is a certification that helps farmers generate more income while helping them learn better farming methods, ensuring the sustainability of cocoa farming for the future. 

Five of the top ten chocolate manufacturers (including Nestlé, Ferrero, Hershey, and Mars) use 100 percent UTZ certified cocoa, so IKEA is in good company with their choice. When you eat their cake, you can feel good that you're supporting sustainable farming practices and eating cocoa that's good for the environment. The program also provides better conditions for cocoa workers and gives farmers a better opportunity to support their families. It tastes better when you know it's for a good cause.

IKEA's gooey chocolate cake is tasty hot or cold

The best feature about IKEA's chocolate cake is how versatile it is. IKEA recommends defrosting the frozen cake at room temperature, but from there it's up to you to decide how to serve it. One reviewer shared how popping it in the microwave for 15 seconds made it ultra ooey and gooey, almost like brownie batter. Serving this cake hot is the perfect way to enjoy an after-dinner treat, especially when it's topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (and maybe a drizzle of caramel, just saying). 

Another way to enjoy kladdkaka is the way Chef Magnus Nilsson's wife likes it: chilled and served straight out of the refrigerator. When the cake is cold, the cake becomes fudge-like and the brownie quality is accentuated. You'll get a real taste for the chocolatey goodness. When serving the cake cold, we'd recommend topping it with fresh fruit, jam or preserves, and a light dollop of whipped cream.

A little of IKEA's gooey chocolate cake goes a long way

IKEA says it best right there on the front of the box: "Thin and gooey to please any chocolate lover." If you're looking for a dessert that will satisfy your chocolate cravings, this is the one, and you won't need much of it to get there. While IKEA doesn't list the ingredients for their KAFFEREP boxed dessert online, we know that the cake is loaded with cocoa powder based on the copycat recipes available online.

This type of recipe also has a decent amount of sugar, so you don't really need more than a bite or two to satisfy your sweet tooth. As one product reviewers put it, "It is so decadent...[and] very rich so a small slice is plenty." That means you can really make this 14-ounce cake go a long way if you want to. You could cut it into eight slices, and each slice would contain just shy of a 2-ounce serving. That should be plenty for a rich-tasting cake like this. Considering that the whole cake only costs $3.99, that's a lot of bang out of your buck!

IKEA's cake doesn't need any toppings (although fruit or whipped cream pairs well)

The cake itself is topped with a layer of powdered sugar, really accentuating the sweetness of the gooey, rich chocolate in the middle of the cake. You could absolutely serve it as-is because it's plenty sweet on its own. But, if you really want to take things to the next level, get fancy with your toppings. It's the perfect way to take a $4 dessert and elevate it a dinner-party-worthy dish.

The classic accompaniment for this cake is ice cream or fresh fruit. While those are good choices, you could also add texture by adding chopped nuts like peanuts or hazelnuts. If you want to get fancy with your pairings, try serving each slice of the gooey cake with some pieces of candied ginger, lavender or mint-infused whipped cream, candied lemon or orange peel, or drizzle it with a sauce made out of tart black currants, or (another IKEA favorite) lingonberry jam.

Pair IKEA's chocolate cake with coffee, wine, or beer

Who doesn't love a good dessert pairing? After all, who says you have to eat chocolate cake with coffee or milk? A surprising number of adult beverages go well with chocolate, but we have a few recommendations considering the rich, fudgy nature of IKEA's cake. To bring out the mocha flavors, look for an oaky red wine with dark-berry fruit flavors, like a Cabernet Sauvignon. Pick up a wine under $10 to keep things budget-friendly, or go all out and splurge on a wine you've been wanting to try for a while. After all, you only paid $4 for the dessert; why not treat yourself?

If you want to think outside the wine, look to beer or spirits. A stout beer like an Irish stout does a great job of contrasting the sweet flavors of the chocolate with a touch of bitterness. 

When it comes to cocktails, Wine Enthusiast doesn't recommend serving chocolate with a mixed drink. There are too many competing flavors, so they suggest finding a high-quality spirit (like bourbon or mezcal) and drinking it straight up. 

Storing IKEA's cake in the freezer keeps it high quality

You can enjoy a slice of this heavenly cake right there in the food court, but you don't have to stop there. IKEA's gooey chocolate cake is available to-go in the freezer section, so pick up a few to take home with you. Before you start worrying about the quality of the frozen cake, don't; it turns out that freezing cakes doesn't negatively affect the flavor. 

In fact, according to Cake Boss, freezing cakes can actually make them taste better than fresh cakes. So long as you keep the cake in the package to properly protect it from absorbing freezer odors, cakes can be frozen for weeks (or even months) without degrading the cake's quality. IKEA's cake is pretty easy to thaw, too; simply remove it from the packaging and defrost it at room temperature for 30 minutes. If you have any leftovers, you can store them in the refrigerator, but IKEA recommends you eat it within a day. That shouldn't be problem!