Margaret Fox's Amazon Chocolate Cake

By • October 15, 2013 • 121 Comments

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Author Notes: Meet your new go-to birthday cake, bake sale cake, dinner party cake, late night snack cake -- for when the fridge is at its barest and you need chocolate cake now. (It's also vegan and parve and dirt cheap, but you wouldn't know unless we told you.) This isn't not the richest, most chocolatey cake -- if you like, you can amp up the chocolate by swapping in coffee for the water, or adding more cocoa. But you don't need to. It's a different animal: light, delicately strung together with cocoa, and not terribly sweet. Adapted slightly from Cafe Beaujolais (Ten Speed Press, 1984).Genius Recipes

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons neutral oil (like corn, canola, or vegetable)
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon cider or white vinegar
  • Confectioners' sugar (optional, for dusting)
  1. Heat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Sift. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vanilla, and vinegar.
  3. Whisk together the wet and dry mixtures. If lumpy, whisk until smooth, or pour through strainer in to a bowl and break up lumps, pressing them through.
  4. Mix again, and pour into a greased 9-inch round cake pan. Tap the edge of the pan against the edge of the counter, or drop from 6 inches to the floor several times to pop air bubbles. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed gently.
  5. Cool before removing from the pan and dusting with confectioners' sugar, or frosting if desired.

Topics: Cake

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Comments (121) Questions (6)


11 days ago Giustina

I loved this recipe because it's just so simple and straightforward to make. I used a whisk to combine the ingredients and didn't even have to take the extra step of using a strainer to get any lumps out. The texture was perfect.
If I had to describe this cake, it reminds me of Asian style chocolate cake - light texture, not dense, slightly sweet. You don't feel guilty eating it.
I added coffee instead of water and a little extra cocoa powder. The sweetness was to my taste but I would definitely prefer a denser chocolate component to the cake. I may consider adding chocolate pieces or some light frosting.
Very easy, simple nice cake. Bonus points for being vegan friendly. Thanks for sharing!


about 1 month ago kitkat

Saw this yesterday and had to try it, with a twist! I had some beautiful dried cherries in the pantry, so I soaked those in brandy (a few seconds in microwave helped to plump them up). I subbed coffee+cherry soaking liquid for the water and coconut oil for the oil, and finally added the boozy cherries to the batter. Also reduced the sugar to scant 3/4 c (personal preference thing). Springform pan lined with parchment round on the bottom, greased sides with coconut oil and dusted with cocoa. Excellent. Moist, tender crumb, pleasantly chewy around the edges, and the boozy cherries add a wonderful jammy pop.


2 months ago Kris

Loved this cake. Was looking for an eggless chocolate cake recipe for a long time. Would this recipe also work as a basic vanilla eggless(vegan) cake recipe? If I subbed the cocoa powder for flour , should I make any other additions? Can I also add orange or lemon juice instead of the cold water?


about 1 month ago Ashley Cradduck

I tried it as a white cake this weekend and it was pretty successful as a clean-out-the-cupboards-use-what-you-have-on-hand kind of effort. Subbed in grapeseed oil, replaced the cocoa with flour (added to the flour the recipe already calls for - I was using cake flour this go around) and added the zest and juice of 1 1/2 Meyer lemons. The batter seemed a little too cloying at that point so added the zest and juice of half a lime as well since it was my only remaining citrus. The lemon (lime) was definitely there in the finished product. I liked it and my taster liked it better than the original chocolate. I wouldn't go that far, but in a pinch... a workable way to get lemon cake.


2 months ago A Lee

I was interested in something fast for breakfast. After reading through all the comments, I noticed that one talked about it dropping a lot in the middle. Although this is often due to too much beating, too much leavener, and too hot an often, this may also be because there wasn't enough gluten - which is often provided by eggs. I reduced the amount of sugar, water, and oil and added more cocoa and a hint of cinnamon. I also adjusted the baking soda to be half baking powder/half baking soda. This worked very well (even though I might reduce the leavening just a little more). It's more like a snack cake, though. For me, most chocolate cakes have a bit more of a bump up in chocolate flavor (probably why coffee works well). As a light snack cake, I think it does work. Definitely works for just grabbing stuff from the pantry, no eggs, no dairy....


2 months ago Barbara Stroud

This was FABULOUS! Quick and easy. I used organic canola oil, maybe a tablespoon or two extra cocoa powder and topped it with whipped cream. To. Die. For. Thanks for the recipe! 2 bowls and a cake pan. Woohoo, no mixer!


2 months ago Linda Matarasso

I just tried this recipe and loved it. so easy.. surprising.. I added cinnamon to bring out cocoa flavour.


2 months ago LauriL

Nice writing...sounds like the cake is too!


3 months ago Stela Silva

No eggs?


3 months ago smonfor

No eggs :) That's one of the beauties of the recipe. Cupboard is bare but there is cake to share. :) We made this once using grape juice after our town flooded and there was no water to be had - - but still we had cake :)


4 months ago Nicole

I made this cake for a casual dinner with my in-laws, and it turned out great! Since they were just coming over to watch the game and we weren't celebrating a birthday or anything formal, I didn't want a fancy iced cake. With a pretty dusting of cocoa powder on top, this was perfect. It was quick to assemble, it rose into a beautiful glossy, domed top, and was just sweet enough (I used a scant cup of sugar) that some unsweetened soft whipped cream with about 1/2 t vanilla really brought out the surprisingly rich feel of the cake. I also made a quick strawberry coulis (3 c thawed frozen strawberries, 1-2 t sugar, juices of an orange and 1/2 lemon) in the blender in case the cake baked up dry, but I didn't have to worry. Plus, since that coulis recipe made waaaay more than I needed, I mixed it with sprite and some raspberry vodka for a killer cocktail!


4 months ago jedi

I make this cake a bunch! Tonight, baked it in muffin tins and got 10 nice size cakes. Baked for 20 min with muffin liners.


4 months ago Mara Toombs

I make this make as a gluten free birthday cake for my kids all the time. Just substitute a gluten free flour mix for the all purpose flour and make sure to cool all the way - even better ice it and leave over night in the fridge then serve cold - so good the next day!


4 months ago BR95510

I didn't have any luck with this cake. It rose and then fell in the middle. I had to bake it far longer than the 30 minutes because the middle was still quite jiggly. The flavor is good, but I was hoping to use it as gifts, and that won't happen. Not sure what I did wrong. :(


4 months ago catalinalacruz

Perhaps your oven needs the temperature calibrated. With time, oven temperature can be off and need adjustment.


4 months ago BR95510

My oven isn't 6 months old and I do some pretty fussy stuff in it, so I'm quite sure it's calibrated correctly. I think it had to be something else. Not blaming the recipe, just sayin'


7 months ago hookmountaingrowers

Made this last night - used coconut oil and it came out fabulous! Put in more cocoa powder and used Alton Brown's chocolate ganache frosting to top it off. My current favorite easy cake to make. Thanks for this!


7 months ago pattyrat

I'm not sure why so many people are so averse to using olive oil in baking. I have made this cake several times and have always used olive oil - good, high quality, certified extra virgin olive oil. Maybe that's the problem - too many people use cheap stuff that definitely has an off-putting flavor. The cake is always delicious! I love how simple it is and while it certainly is not a decadent "death by chocolate" type cake - I love the delicate chocolate and not too sweet flavor. Tonight I am using coconut oil and look forward to trying the results!


7 months ago whmcdevitt

I never use an electric mixer.....just a whisk!


7 months ago hookmountaingrowers

This may be a stupid question but do you need an electric mixer for this or can it be done by hand. Thanks!


7 months ago Oraporn Boonpituruk

Thanks a lot smonfor . I ' try .


7 months ago LaTonya Ferguson

Sorry should say, my daughter can only use wheat flour


7 months ago LaTonya Ferguson

My daughter can only have use wheat flour, so can I substitute King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour? And if so, would I have to add anything or take out something? Please help, she loves chocolate cake, and I would like for this to be a part of her forever recipes that she can have. Thanks much.


7 months ago smonfor

I grew up with this cake being called a whacky cake - because of the no eggs. When I was older, I realized I could take out the coco powder and add back in flour and cinnamon and other spices to make it a spice cake. Turns out great and I think has a nicer flavor than the chocolate - which can be a bit bland in my opinion.