Sunday, July 13, 2008

Grandma's Chocolate Cake: Surprisingly Quick and Easy

This is the cake my 'kids' (they're quite grown now) have always considered the standard by which to compare chocolate cakes. They would have it when visiting my mother. Mum was of the old school in two ways: 1) you always had to have dessert, usually a cake, available for after meals and for nibbles anytime, and 2) anything requiring more than one bowl or a couple of steps was too fussy. The best -- and most astounding -- thing is that this cake is made with cocoa, not baking chocolate. Hershey's cocoa was what she used, but there are some more elegant ones now available.

This cake remains one of the best chocolate cakes going, and we have used it for some commercial baking at our restaurant and deli in Athens. Birthday cakes in the family are this one. The recipe will make a layer cake -- which my mother favored -- or a sheet cake, or even cupcakes. Covered with a freshly made chocolate ganache or a cream cheese white frosting, the cake is amazing. Even just dusted with a little powdered sugar, the cake is outstanding.

The recipe makes two 9-inch layers, a 9 by 13-inch sheet pan, or 24 cupcakes.

Quick Cocoa Cake Mum

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter or grease two 9-inch round layer cake pans or a 9x13-inch rectangular pan. Put a little flour or cocoa in the pans and tap them to coat the butter with the flour or cocoa. Alternately place 24 paper cupcake papers in a cupcake pan (and spray the insides of the papers with non-stick spray for easier peeling).

In the mixing bowl of an electric beater, stir and fluff together with a fork:
9 tablespoons cocoa
2-5/8 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Add but do not mix until all ingredients are in:
3 eggs
1-1/8 cups canola or corn oil
1-1/2 cup cold water

Beat the ingredients together well, scraping down the bowl several times. Transfer to the prepared pans, scraping out the bowl with the spatula. Bake about 22 minutes for the cakes or about 20 minutes for cupcakes. Test by inserting a toothpick near the center of a cake. The toothpick should come out dry, with no liquid attached.

Cool the cakes in their pans on a cake rack for 10 minutes. Then for the cakes, run a knife along the edges and set the cake rack over the pan and turn them over together so the cake drops onto the rack. Remove the pan and let the cake cool completely.

Frost or dust with powdered sugar as desired.


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