Heirloom Recipes

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

By • June 30, 2014 • 18 Comments

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Every week, we’re unearthing Heirloom Recipes -- dishes that have made their way from one generation's kitchen to the next.

Today: Heidi Sze of Apples Under My Bed shows us how to make a simple, tasty treat from her childhood that stands the test of time. 

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. ?

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

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
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 1/4 cups whole milk 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here. 

Jump to Comments (18)

Tags: heirloom recipes, classic recipes, one-pot wonders, chocolate cake

Comments (18)

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24 days ago foodyjudy

And the cake was delicious anyway!! I would say it is a VERY forgiving recipe.

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25 days ago foodyjudy

Aha! The baking soda was the culprit. Out it goes. Thank you so much for your prompt and perfect response!

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24 days ago Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

Ah brilliant!! x

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25 days ago foodyjudy

I think I followed the directions very carefully. It puffed up in the middle. I stuck the tester in at 50 min. and it wasn't quite ready. At 60, it was. Now it's sitting on the counter cooling and it has sunken, I mean really sunken, in the middle. No way to hide it, could put a big fat candle in the middle (it's a little birthday cake), or stuff it with frosting, but it would take a LOT. Any hints as to what went wrong?
Oh, we'll eat it, no matter what..

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25 days ago Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

Hi Judy, oh what a shame it sunk when it's a special birthday cake! My thoughts go to oven temperature, ensuring it was preheating properly before putting the cake it. You didn't open it too early so doubt that'd be the issue....Is your baking soda within the expiry date? I mean, overbeating CAN cause a cake to sink, & while this recipe beats the hell out of the ingredients it has never really sunken for me, only fallen a little. & I don't believe others have had a drastic sinking issue either. I should like to try this recipe mixing less vigorously & see if that changes the result but as this was the way I was taught it's felt a little sacrilegious to veer off in another direction. I should try it & see the difference, though, & perhaps if you're keen to try it again you might find that helps. Happy birthday to the cake recipient! x

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4 months ago Assonta Wagner

Made this for Sunday dinner dessert...the kids Fell. In. Love. It was just so good! So much easier than the usual one I make. I used a boiled chocolate icing which was like eating a milk/dark chocolate truffle cake! We plan on making this again and again.

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4 months ago Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

That's great, Assonta, I'm so thrilled you & the kids loved it so much! x

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4 months ago Regine

Wow. So good. U were right. Wonderful texture. Soft, moist, not crumbly. Wonderful flavor. Nice icing and not too sweet. Thanks for sharing. A great recipe indeed.

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4 months ago Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

This makes me super happy, Regine! Chuffed you like it, you're so welcome x

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4 months ago Regine

Thanks Heidi. It is now in oven with 2 eggs. It is for tomorrow. I will let u know how I like it and whether I would prefer it with one more egg as I usually do with all the 2 egg chocolate cakes. Can't wait to try it. I used an 8 inch springform pan. I did not think the usual 8 inch pan (2 inch height) used for layer cakes would be big enough. Your picture seems to show a springform pan or a deeper 8 inch pan (3 inch height). Right?

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4 months ago Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

Oh rad!! Hope it turns out well. I think it tastes great the next day. Indeed, thanks for that, I updated the recipe to note springform cake tin & yes mine was the deeper kind x

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4 months ago Regine

Correction to prior post!
Heidi, I can't wait to try it. But I have one question. I see that many many chocolate cakes have less eggs than other recipes, and many of such recipes that I have tried, while really good, I find the cake a bit "crumbly" (meaning that that the cake tends to break when I hold a piece with a fork). Your recipe only has 2 eggs. Do you have this problem? Probably not, but I am tempted to increase it to 3 eggs, which I have done with other similar recipes. When I do that, cake texture does not change except for it being less "crumbly." Thanks!

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4 months ago Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

Hi Regine. I totally know what you mean! I don't have this problem with this cake, though. It yields a lovely moist and light crumb which doesn't break easily. Let me know if you do try it & increase the eggs to 3, though! x

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4 months ago Regine

Heidi, I can't wait to try it. But I have one question. I see that many many chocolate eggs have less eggs than other recipes, and many of such recipes that I have tried, while really good, I find the cake a bit "crumbly" (meaning that that the cake tends to break when I hold a piece with a fork). Your recipe only has 2 eggs. Do you have this problem? Probably not, but I am tempted to increase it to 3 eggs, which I have done with other similar recipes. When I do that, cake texture does not change except for it being less "crumbly." Thanks!

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4 months ago Gibson2011

I want to be eating that frosting right now.

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4 months ago Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

It seems like the right thing to do x

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4 months ago rebecca

One bowl - only one bowl to wash up - the perfect cake recipe!
www.dancingthroughsunday...

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4 months ago Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

high five! x