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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Better Than a Box: Easy Chocolate Cake

I remember my mom, Betty, (an excellent pie baker) baked only three types of cake while I lived at home. This is the chocolate cake recipe she used and that I used when I first started cooking. For some reason, I haven't baked it for decades, but I made it for company this past week and am puzzled that I abandoned the recipe for so long. Maybe its simplicity belied its good flavor. Since this cake isn't cloyingly sweet combining it with raspberry coulis, fresh (or frozen) raspberries, and bittersweet chocolate sauce (and a little vanilla ice cream, optional) made a scrumptious dessert.

Easy Chocolate Cake is superior in every way to a cake mix, and nearly as little work. With some cake mixes costing almost $15, it is also a money-saver. In college I remember seeing people mix it entirely in the cake pan so even the clean up was easy. (I know I tried it back then but can't remember how easily it came out of the pan. I'll let you know sometime when I test it.)

I know this recipe works well for high altitudes (and have baked it at 4300-5600 ft). I've been trying to remember when I cooked this cake at sea-level and although I don't trust my hazy memories, I believe it works at low altitudes, largely because a nearly identical recipe was recently featured on Food52. That recipe adds 1 T vanilla (which would probably be great) and suggests ramping up the chocolate flavor by substituting coffee for the water, which would make it less easy for some cooks, although an instant coffee powder would work here.


Better Than a Box: Easy Chocolate Cake

Source: This was my mom's go-to recipe. I'm not certain of its origin.
Yield: one 9X13 cake or two 8X8 cakes or two 9-in round cakes

3 c flour
2 c sugar
1 teas salt
1/2 c cocoa
2 teas baking soda
2/3 c oil
2 T vinegar
2 c cold water

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir wet ingredients together and add to dry ingredients. Mix until no streaks of dry ingredients remain. This can be done by hand or in a mixer, but if you use a mixer stop while there are still some dry streaks and stir by hand until everything is incorporated. If you stir your cake batter too much you'll encourage the formation of gluten which will make it rather tough.

Bake in a 9X13 pan for 35-45 minutes or until poking it with a toothpick shows no batter or crumbs.

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