Every week, we’re unearthing Heirloom Recipes -- dishes that have made their way from one generation's kitchen to the next.
The pages that comprise my mother’s scrapbook cooking journal are worn and splattered -- they tell the story of a keen, self-taught cook. Skipping into the kitchen as children and seeing mum’s book open on the bench, we knew we were in for a treat. This book is filled with recipes from friends -- Mrs. Beashel’s banana cake, Aunty Sue’s Cornish yeast buns, and a local chef’s porcini risotto -- and clippings from magazines. Then there are those well-leafed-through pages and bookmarked family favorites, which mum revisited again and again to feed us. The page with the recipe for One Bowl Chocolate Cake opens with familiar ease.
This cake sparked my childhood baking initiatives. It is a simple, efficient, and terribly forgiving recipe; it's perfect for a hungry little girl fighting her brothers and father for the chance to lick the bowl and beaters. I was never quite capable of getting every drop into the cake pan, so I always left a rather generous amount of rich mixture in the mixing bowl. (My love of baking may very well have arisen out of a desire to have the leftover batter all to myself.)
Regardless, this is a favorite recipe that has been passed down in our family. Because of its simplicity (one bowl, one mixer, one cake pan, voilà), I could make it all by myself from a young age. And it would always work fabulously, no matter how soft the butter was or how much mixture I ate along the way. On reflection, this surely instilled an inflated sense of skill, but perhaps that’s the key to kitchen success -- fearless passion and an eagerness to taste as you go.
I would bake this cake whenever I got the chance. For school snacks, we’d serve it plain and without icing. For my brother’s birthday, however, it was coated with icing and jelly snakes and chocolate buttons -- just to make sure he knew how much I loved him. (Not enough to let him lick the beaters, though. That’s the cook’s privilege, right?)
I hold this recipe, the chocolate cake from my childhood days, dear to my heart. It was a real treat to make it again for a tasty trip down memory lane. These days I quite fancy an elegant icing, a rosemary-infused or crème fraîche mixture, perhaps. I’m not sure my younger self would agree, but surely she’d be up for tasting the mixture. ?
Makes one cake, approximately 10 slices
1 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup quality Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 1/4 cups whole milk