Growing up my mother made the best chocolate cake. The recipe came from the Settlement Cookbook where the cover says “The way to a man’s heart” and is dated 1951. The cookbook is filled with recipes and if you can believe it no pictures! There are so many chocolate cake recipes in this book and after all the years that have passed, it is hard to remember which one she made. I believe it is the one with vinegar because to make a good chocolate cake my mother would tell me the milk had to be sour. The cake was always made in a Bundt pan and was never frosted. My mother’s chocolate cake with a glass of cold milk was all a kid could ask for!
Don’t ask me why sour milk or buttermilk makes such a difference in a chocolate cake but it truly makes a special chocolate cake. Maybe one day Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences will have the answers for me!
I got lucky when I came across a recipe called “every day chocolate cake” on Smitten Kitchen! The pictures reminded me of my mother’s chocolate cake so I had to make it! When I tasted it sliver after sliver until most of the cake was gone I was reliving some very special childhood memories. The cake was moist and flavorful and so very good.
One thing I liked about this recipe was that it included a way to make the cake without the Dutch cocoa that was called for because I could not find it in the supermarket. The recipe that accounts for everything is a good recipe!
I would never consider making a frosting for this chocolate cake, but for my daughter, who is a lover of frosting, I might have to give her a shot of frosting on the side! A dollop of whipped cream on the slice of cake would not be what she is looking for!
I failed her because I did not show her while she was growing up a good cake does not need frosting to compliment the cake. A good cake which to some without frosting can seem naked can stand and shine on its own and this one truly does.
I am happy to share this recipe with you and hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Everyday Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Magnolia Bakery At Home
My changes were to streamline the recipe (and shirk some recipe-writing conventions) to make this a one bowl cake, because anything called “everyday” really oughta be in one bowl. I added weights (because then your bowl becomes your measuring cups and look how few dishes you have to do!). And I completely messed up on a key ingredient, cocoa.
[Updated 8/5/10] Although I was thrilled with the result when I used Dutch cocoa and 1 teaspoon baking soda (in the original published recipe, 8/4/10), the cake rose and sank slightly in the baking process, a sign that the leavener was off. I retested this the next day with different levels of leavener and two different types of cocoa, in hopes to keep the cake aloft. I’ve updated the recipe below with the suggestion of Dutch cocoa, a reduced amount baking soda and the addition of baking powder. I found that the version with Dutch cocoa was darker with a more appealing chocolate flavor. But fear not: If you only have a natural or non-Dutched cocoa, you can still use it, but you’ll want to use 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and no baking powder Both were gleefully received. Happy baking!
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (6 7/8 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (2 5/8 ounces) Dutch cocoa powder (see above for a natural cocoa adjustment)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and lightly flour a 9×5×3-inch loaf pan, or spray it with a butter-flour spray. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat well, then the buttermilk and vanilla. Don’t worry if the batter looks a little uneven. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt together right into your wet ingredients. Stir together with a spoon until well-blended but do not overmix. Scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 to 15 minutes, at which point you can cool it the rest of the way out of the pan. Serve with whipped cream and fresh berries, if you’re feeling fancy.