Quarantine Bake Along: Chocolate Cake

Oil-based cakes are the next thing I think of when it comes to easy at-home baking. All you need is one bowl, a whisk, and a measuring cup to get your wet ingredients together. Comes together in about 5 minutes and then you can eat warm cake within an hour. What could be better?

This cake is light, not super sweet, and is perfect by itself with some powdered sugar and fresh fruit. You’re welcome to frost it if you’d like, but we’re in quarantine times and I’d prefer to save my butter and heavy cream for other baking projects. Feel free to use your favorite frosting if you so desire!

A Brief History of Chocolate Cake

Once cacao processing made chocolate much more readily available and less expensive, American cooks began adding chocolate to cake batter to make the first chocolate cakes around 1886. The first chocolate cake was called Mahogany Cake, and it was very pale compared to the chocolate cakes of today. The Duff Company of Pittsburgh, a molasses manufacturer, introduced Devil’s food chocolate cake mixes in the mid-1930s, which are still popular to this date.

Easy Quarantine Chocolate Cake Recipe

Adapted from Serious Eats

  • 4 ounces brown sugar or regular sugar (1/2 cup, firmly packed)
  • 1 1/2 ounces cocoa powder (1/2 cup), Dutch process if you have it
  • 1 teaspoon ground coffee or espresso powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 1/2 ounces oil (2/3 cup)
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) all purpose flour

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350°F. Line an 8″ cake pan with parchment and grease, or line a cupcake tin with 12 liners.

2. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, coffee, and baking soda. Whisk until homogeneous, with no visible clumps of cocoa or baking soda (although a few lumps of brown sugar may remain), about 1 minute. Under-mixing will give the cake an uneven texture and rise, so don’t rush this step.

3. Whisk together olive oil, water, eggs, and vanilla then pour into the dry ingredients. Mix only until combined. Scrape into prepared pan. Bake until cake is firm but your finger can still leave an impression in the puffy crust, about 20-25 minutes. (A toothpick inserted into the center should come away with a few crumbs still attached.) Check cupcakes at 15 minutes.

4. Cool cake directly in pan until cool enough to handle, then run a butter knife around the edges to loosen. Invert onto a wire rack and place cake right side up on a serving platter. Serve plain, with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, or with fresh fruit. Or frost once totally cooled to room temperature.

GF Variation: Substitute flour with teff flour or your favorite GF flour blend.

Vegan Variation: Same process, but some different ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coffee/espresso powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract