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The Easiest Chocolate Cake Ever

When you think of baking a cake from scratch what comes to mind? Do you think of a long list of ingredients, several bowls and cups and measuring spoons you will need to use and, once they are used, will then pile up beside the kitchen sink waiting to be cleaned and put away?

I used to. I love to make cakes and to decorate them but it does take time. If I wanted to make a cake for any occasion I would weigh the time available and make sure I could fit it in comfortably. I would think of collecting ingredients and the mess I would have to clean up. What’s more I would think of how there would be so many leftovers if I made a cake for my small family.

Then, when my daughter was in her early teens, she discovered a wonderful recipe that she wanted to try. It was called Less-Mess Cake and was featured in an American Girl Library cookbook she had been given. She showed it to me and asked if she could make it.

I looked it over. The recipe called for nine simple ingredients most people have stocked in their pantries. The recipe used only one round cake pan, a fork and a few measuring cups and spoons. It sounded easy and relatively mess free. Still, though I was a little skeptical, I wanted to encourage her to explore and to practice her kitchen skills. I told her to go ahead and give it a try. Before long she had made a gorgeous chocolate cake that was full of flavor and just the right size for our family of five. What’s more, clean up was a breeze.

I was thrilled with my daughter’s discovery. This wonderful recipe is definitely a keeper and not only is it great for those who are just learning to cook but it makes a delicious cake anyone could be proud to serve. Give it a try and see if you don’t agree!

Less-Mess Chocolate Cake
From "Great Girl Food"

1 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 heaping Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cold water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt with a fork until thoroughly combined.

3. Make three wells in the dry mixture. Pour the oil into one, the vinegar into another and the vanilla into the third.

4. Pour the cold water over all and carefully mix with the fork until thoroughly combined being extra careful to mix at the bottom and around the edges.

5. Place the cake pan in middle of the oven, on the center rack. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

6. Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool.

7. After 35 minutes run a knife between the outer edge of the cake and the pan. Turn the pan upside down on a serving plate and tap on the bottom of the pan to remove the cake. (This can take a bit of effort but with patience it does come out intact with some yummy chocolate crumbs stuck to the bottom of the pan for tasting.)

Let the cake rest until it has cooled completely.

8. Ice the cake with Mexican Hot Chocolate Frosting, and/or mix this easy frosting suggested in the same cookbook:

Squish and Squeeze Frosting

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
4 ½ teaspoons milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla

Place ingredients in a quart sized Ziploc bag and seal it.

Squeeze the bag until the ingredients are well mixed, about 2 minutes.

Trim ¼ inch from a lower corner of the bag and pipe the icing onto the cake in whatever pattern you desire.


Anonymous said...

That's some gorgeous frosting! (Well, the decorating with it, that is!) :)

the southern hostess said...

So fun! And the decorating is gorgeous.

Paula said...

Whoa! The frosting design on that cake is gorgeous! And I love how that cake is made all in one pan! Your daughter found a great recipe! My daughters loved American Girl when they were younger.

grace said...

i'm all for less mess and more ease--this is great! i'm also terribly impressed with your icing work. lovely. :)

Sally T. said...

Wow...I just surfed a bit on the Web and found your blog. Lovely :)

I am just back from 2 weeks in Paris and my culinary fire has been rekindled. Looking forward to browsing your recipes for part of my morning.

Those ghosts are particularly tempting...

Ari L. said...

Thank you SO MUCH!

I had the same cookbook when I was younger and this cake was one of my first recipes that I tried and perfected. I lost the book a long time ago and thought that I had lost the recipe for the cake, as well.

Not anymore!

This is possibly one of the best chocolate cake recipes I've had - and I've done a few!

Thanks so much for posting this recipe! I can't wait to make this again. I hope your daughter enjoys that book as much as I did!

, Ari L.

Anonymous said...

Ha! This is the cake that we made when I was a kid in Minnesota and our version was called "Crazy Cake". Very much the same cake.

This is an excellent dark chocolate cake, dairy & egg free, but you'll never miss them. Amazing cake, great for birthday cakes. I make it often and people always ask for the recipe.

Lisa said...

Anonymous - Thanks for sharing your memories and experience! By any name this recipe is both wonderfully simple and extremely versatile.

Unknown said...

I've been looking for this recipe for some time now. I'm so glad I finally found it. I used to make it for my dad the summer before he passed when I was 12. I loved reading my American Girl magazine almost as much as I loved baking. Thank you!

Lisa said...

I just found a cake very similar to this one in an old Amish cookbook titled “Wonderful Good Cooking” from Amish Country Kitchens, printed in 1974. The book was given to Aunt Hen by my cousin, Phyllis, and her family. In this book the recipe is called Wacky Chocolate Cake. The dry ingredients are the same except for using 2 (instead of 3) heaping Tablespoons of cocoa. For the wet ingredients the Amish recipe calls for 1/2 cup of oil (2 Tablespoons more) no vinegar and warm (rather than cold) water, poured into one hole in the center of the dry ingredients.
Once again I find that Amish cooking is an excellent source of inspiration!

Penelope Sanchez said...

All I can say is YUM!!! These look truly amazing, my friend!

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Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this recipe! We used to make it, but lost our copy of "Great Girl Food". So happy to find it here!

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