Confession. You know the whole cupcake trend? I am SO over it. Not because I don’t like cake. I love cake. But because I don’t love buckets of icing, and I like my cakes to be relatively light (both in terms of sugar, fat and texture). I’ve never had a cupcake shop cupcake where the icing did not outweigh the cake, and the cake, in order to hold all of that icing, was as dense as pound cake. They always put me into a sugar coma and leave me regretting the purchase (I know, I’m weird that way). I had a coworker who was an icing lover. Whenever we had cake in the office, I would scrape off about 3/4 of my icing and drop it onto her plate, much to her delight.
When I was first learning to cook, I often made the recipes found on the back of the box or bag of an ingredient I had purchased. And often, these recipes have served me well, and are still in my repertoire, even though I’ve since upgraded the ingredients. My go-to pumpkin pie recipe is the one on the back of the Libby’s can (but made with low-fat evaporated milk, farm fresh eggs and homemade pumpkin). And my quick and dirty but oh so satisfying chocolate cake recipe? A slightly modified Hershey’s Deep Dark Chocolate Cake recipe that used to come on the side of their of cocoa powder container. I’ve been making this cake for over 20 years. It’s pretty much bomb proof, and great when you’ve had enough of thanksgiving pies and need a chocolate fix.
There are a couple of things I like about this cake. First, you can make it in one bowl. One. Seriously. Second, it’s not fussy. No “add a third of the flour mixture, 1/2 of the liquid, a second third of the flour mixture blah blah blah”. Third, it’s not excessively full of fat and sugar – don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is low calorie. It IS cake after all. But it’s healthier than what you might get in a cupcake shop, or a restaurant, or in the freezer case at the grocery store. I’ve decreased the sugar by 1/4 cup from the original recipe and I use 1% milk. I’ve even been known to make it with whole wheat pastry flour. Because it uses vegetable oil instead of butter, it is lower in saturated fat. Not guilt free, but something you can justify on occasion. And since I’m not an icing girl, I never use a butter cream frosting. Just a drizzle of melted chocolate chips or an orange juice glaze suits me just fine. Lastly, and most importantly, it is quick, rich and darned tasty, yet didn’t come out of a box containing a lot of ingredients I can’t pronounce.
This recipe adds a cup of boiling water at the end of mixing. The batter will be very thin. I don’t know how it goes from looking like a mug of hot chocolate to a cake in 35 minutes, but it does. It’s magic. I DO know that the hot water “blooms” the cocoa, which deepens its flavor. This recipe CAN be cut in half. I’ve done it, when I didn’t want a huge cake sitting around the house. Just bake it in an 8 x 8 pan. It also freezes well. No doubt you could also use this recipe to make…gasp…cupcakes.
One Bowl Simple Chocolate Cake
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (whole wheat pastry flour will change the texture but can be substituted for half or all of the AP flour)
- 3/4 cup cocoa (dutch processed cocoa is better, according to Cooks Illustrated, if you can find/afford it)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use non-GMO canola)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water (or substitute 1 cup hot coffee instead)
- Optional: 1 tsp other extract – orange, cinnamon, peppermint…whatever you think would go well with chocolate
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bunt pan or a 9 x 13 pan with baking spray. (Then coat with cocoa powder – optional. I can’t remember the last time I actually “greased and floured” a pan. That said, sometimes it does leave a chunk in the bunt pan. I just eat that part first).
In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil, vanilla and optional additional extract. Stir to incorporate, then beat with hand or stand mixer on medium for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (or coffee). Your batter will be very thin. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake 35 – 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely (if making in 9 x 13 pan, you can just leave it in the pan). Frost if desired – or glaze with an orange juice/sugar mixture, or a rum/sugar mixture, or just dust with powdered sugar. Try not to eat more than one slice per night!
Need a chocolate cake recipe that is smaller, more traditional in its mixing method, and uses butter instead? I’ve never tried this one, but it looks great, and the story about having a “chocolate emergency” that leads into the recipe is a great read.
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2012, where we’re miles away from ever having enough chocolate in the house, but think that milk chocolate is not worth eating, even during a chocolate emergency.