The Humble Chocolate Cake

There are lots of recipes out there for chocolate cake, including any number of variations – combined with beet or squash purée; made with Guiness stout or Coca-Cola; studded with nuts, dried fruit, crushed candies; flavored with cinnamon, orange, mint. Etc. There are also what appears to be an infinite number of frosting and filling options on offer.

Some of these confections – though undoubtedly delicious – are quite elaborate and almost require a degree in pastry making to produce perfect results. Yet, there are times when you just want plain chocolate cake – quickly, without too much bother. Short of going out and buying one (not quite the same as home made), this recipe is the answer.

The recipe also has the distinction of being the oldest one in my collection. It is handwritten in my childish hand – big loopy letters, roughly (but not always) following the lines on the paper. It is beginning to yellow with age and is spotted with butter and chocolate smears. It is still readable and highly nostalgic. I doubt that I will ever replace it with a clean copy. Obviously, an easy cake for kids to make.


The Humble Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups plain flour (American = all-purpose flour)
  • 2 cups caster sugar (American = plain white granulated sugar)
  • 3/4 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (American = baking soda)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup hot water (I sometimes substitute hot coffee)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 lb (1 stick) melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 13 inch x 9 inch baking pan by greasing it lightly with butter and dusting all over with additional cocoa.

Put all the ingredients into a mixing bowl, and mix on medium-high speed (be careful of splattering) until the batter is smooth. Pour the runny batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes. Determine if the cake is done by lightly pressing the center and if it bounces back, it is done. Or do the tried and true test by inserting a knife in the center and if it comes out clean, it is done.

Place on a rack and when completely cool, dust with icing sugar (American = powdered sugar). The resulting cake is dark and moist.

You can also bake these as cupcakes (good with butter cream icing). Bake in lined cupcake tins for about 15 minutes. Yields about 2 dozen.