Margaret Fox's Amazon Chocolate Cake

By • October 15, 2013 • 95 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 cup 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 teaspoon 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.
Jump to Comments (95)

Tags: parve

Comments (95) Questions (3)


12 days ago Kris

Can I make this cake with whole wheat flour? What changes should I make for that? I understand I cannot replace the AP flour completely. But can I add 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour? Should I increase the liquid?


12 days ago catalinalacruz

I use all whole wheat flour, which I first sift to remove the bran (for a
Iighter cake). I don't make any other changes to the recipe.


2 months ago Jessica Rae Thomas

i'm expanding slowly into the world of baking from scratch so i got understandably excited when i saw your recipe. chocolate is my kryptonite, so when i felt the itch for it tonight (and knowing i wasn't about to find actual clothes to make any store runs) i pulled up your recipe. i didn't have any neutral oils (i use primarily avocado and olive), but when i read up on substituting one of the comments struck me: be careful when substituting for neutral oils, as oils such as olive will lend a slight flavor.

i have a nice little bottle of lemon infused olive oil from my time in italy and i said "what the hell". i knew it was going to be something special when i pulled it out the oven. i whipped up some dark chocolate ganache and after it was all said and done, i took the first bite. and it was fabulous. rich, slightly chewy, and a hint of bright citrus with the dark cocoa.

thank you so much for helping me feel like a real chef! ;)


4 months ago Sylvia9000

I love this one so much. It's my new go-to chocolate cake. The only change I make is to sub cane sugar for refined sugar and dust with cocoa to make it vegan. Thanks for a great recipe!


5 months ago Briana

I just made this for my family and it was such a success! I have been looking for a dairy free dessert that I could make on weeknights as my daughter has both a sweet tooth and a milk allergy. This was just perfect - super moist, not too sweet and very satisfying. Thank you!!


5 months ago JohnL

I had to laugh when I read one of the reviews posted on your link to the Moosewood recipe "reminds me of a Hostess cupcake".


5 months ago Paula Zevin

Sorry, but the original, from which this adapted ever so slightly is much, much better and has deeper chocolate taste! It is a recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook and is called "Deep Chocolate Vegan Cake." I've been making this to rave reviews and eating for years, it is truly decadent! In the end, no matter which recipe you make, ensure that your mise-en-place is complete before you start, the oven is at temperature and the pan ready to go. Once you've added the vinegar, give it a light stir, then dump it in the pan, tap it on the counter once or twice and quickly put it in the oven. The longer you wait, the less the cake will rise and keep its height once done. Some sinking will happen, don't panic. Enjoy it! Here's the link to the original:http://www.vegetariantimes...


5 months ago emcsull

and again, this recipe is to be found in "The I-hate-to-Cook-Book by Peg Bracken, published in 1960. Probably Moosewood found it there and "tweaked" it a bit, frosting and all


4 months ago DBAKES

This cake is much older than Moosewood or Peg Bracken! This is actually a depression era cake...I grew up with it called Wacky Cake. It is something my Great Grandmother and Grandmother would make. Wacky Cake may have been created as the result of rationing during World War II, when milk and eggs were scarce. You usually don't mix in a separate bowl but blend all the ingredients in the baking pan.


6 months ago daisy326

Can you make this flourless by just leaving out the tbsp of flour?


6 months ago MelissaMaria

This has 1 1/2 cups of flour. You should probable just use gluten-free flour and xantham gum if you are looking to make this GF.


6 months ago cyndilurks

I love all the creative suggestions in the comments. I remember this recipe which I made many times in my childhood. I first learned of it studying history (in Oklahoma elementary school)-that it was developed by pioneers who had no access to milk or eggs at times.


6 months ago theresa94010

Can I substitute almond flour for half of the all purpose flour called for in the recipe and get the same result ?


4 months ago Joy

I just did this very thing. The batter is heavier and you need to add a touch more water to get a decent batter. It turned out fine. I've had this very same recipe for years, 47 to be exact, from my boss at my first job. I named it after her because she gave me the recipe with no name. Now years later I have substituted 1/2 almond flour into the recipe. You really can't tell the difference. This cake has a very mild chocolate flavor. If you're a dark chocolate lover it may not be to your liking. I always give it a chocolate frosting to get more chocolate flavor.


7 months ago Donna C.

Made this cake a few times, have substituted coffee for the water and added up to a half cup of cocoa, even thrown in a hand full of chocolate chips. Have frosted it with a dusting of icing sugar and even made a small batch of chocolate glaze, always satisfies the chocolate craving!


7 months ago Alice Gardner

I made this cake last night exactly as written, and I feel like if I closed my eyes, I wouldn't know that this was chocolate. I like this concept though, creating a cake out of thin air in less than an hour. It's nice to have an emergency cake in the repetoire. Also, I didn't let it cool completely in the pan because It goes against the grain, and I'm glad I trusted my instincts. :)


7 months ago AnnaChris

I made this cake with coconut oil, substituting coffee for the water. I loved how simple it was to throw together and that it used ingredients you'll almost always have on hand. However, the flavor underwhelmed me. This recipe is good in a pinch and I appreciated that it wasn't so rich, but if you're craving something very chocolaty, I'd say to look elsewhere.


7 months ago kaysenyah

Wow! This cake is a gift. It was one the fastest and easiest things I've ever baked. Plus, almost all the ingredients are usually in the house and the lack of butter and eggs ensures you can have a taste before it hits the oven. What a treat! I used PAM Baking spray and parchment paper for the pan and had absolutely no problems removing the cake. I used canola oil, which was okay, but I felt it left a not so fresh taste. I think next time I will definitely go with coconut oil. It's bonus is that I usually find it makes things even more oily and easier to remove from pans.


7 months ago catalinalacruz

I love it with coconut oil plus I find that using coconut oil makes cakes more tender. This cake is sooo moist and chocolate-y. The moistness brings out the chocolate flavor which pleases my chocoholic friends. They ask for the recipe.


7 months ago K N

I grew up making Peg Bracken's "wacky cake" and have used it to make a layer cake. I've never had a problem with it sticking but I would imagine greasing and dusting the pan with flour or cocoa would help if parchment paper isn't handy.


8 months ago NoBatteries

Has anyone tried this in a sheet pan? Was thinking of trying this as a thin sheet cake with vegan "cream" filling to make HoHos like the ones at Sticky Fingers in DC.


8 months ago Susan Maria

Must use wax paper or parchment circle for bottom only. Cake is perfect as is BUT I did use coffee for water and 1/2 cup Truvia Blend as sugar sub for a 'sugar free' version that was also perfect.


9 months ago SusanR

After reading this article on Best Recipes of 2013, I was intrigued. Reading the comments I used coffee instead of water and I used a bit extra cocoa. This was so easy. It took no time to put it together. And, it is and SO GOOD! After it cooled I tried to get it out of the pan, and that was my only hang up. It would not come out. Since it was just for us, I just cut slices. I gave it to my husband and daughter and they both said it was really good. Then, I told them it was vegan. They were pretty surprised. I will definitely make this again. I just need to figure out how to get it out of the pan. I used a really good nonstick pan that is nearly new and totally unscratched and I sprayed it with Pam.


9 months ago emcsull

As I have previously written, I have made this cake for decades, and never tried to get it out of the pan, just cut it like brownies. Was anybody else able to tip it out of the pan ?


9 months ago Jennywren

I had the same sticking problem also with a new non-stick pan after spraying well. The next time I'm going to line the bottom of my greased pan with greased parchment paper- that should do it!


9 months ago marietta brill

I agree I think it would be great with walnut oil. Along the walnut lines, perhaps substitute a quarter cup flour for walnut flour, which would give it a more stand alone girth.


9 months ago Jennywren

Just made this simple little cake as a "thank-you note" for my husband who is working on home improvement projects. A nice treat, indeed. It's good to have recipes using basic pantry staples and not having to run to the store. I always make a recipe as written the first time 'round- and then tweak. Next time I'm going to try the coffee and I'm thinking of substituting roasted walnut oil for some of the neutral oil listed. Has anyone tried walnut oil in baking?


9 months ago catalinalacruz

I haven't tried walnut oil, but I have made it with coconut oil, which made a very nice cake. I think it would be great with walnut oi.


9 months ago JohnL

I haven't but tried that, but if I wanted to glam up this cake, I might try a touch of almond extract for some nut flavor (start with a half tsp and go from there), and to take it a step further I might buy a 24-oz jar of pitted sour or morello cherries and arrange them in concentric circles on top of the batter, from the outside of the pan in, pressing them down as you go so only a little bit of the tops of the cherries show. Or forget the cherries and just spread a simple chocolate ganache and over the cooled cake and amp up the chocolate flavor. Its nothing more than semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate melted together with heavy cream. It will give the cake a professional-looking mirror-like finish.


9 months ago JohnL

This cake is a dead ringer for Peg Bracken's Cockeye Cake (I Hate to Cook book, 1960). Would be ideal for donating something anonymously at a bake sale. Would also be excellent for a young child's party where a cake is required. Not very sweet and just a hint of chocolate flavor.


9 months ago emcsull

mentioned that a bit further down in the commentary, loved to make that cake as a kid. It suddenly occurred to me a few years ago it was, indeed vegan.
But why anonymous ?


9 months ago JohnL

Sort of like a random act of kindness. This cake recipe makes it easy.


9 months ago emcsull



7 months ago JCduck

I agree, using this since 1980. Known as Cock-eye or Wacky cake. Friend found me a dairy and egg free cake for a cousin that had allergies.