The Only Thing Standing Between You and Chocolate Cake Is One Pot and 40 Minutes

Baking is a very soothing activity for me. I like standing in my kitchen quietly, cracking eggs, measuring flour, swirling butter on a stovetop pan as it browns and starts to smell nutty and fragrant. I like the feeling of making something with my hands, and I love bearing witness to the alchemy of cooking as a few simple pantry ingredients turn into decadent desserts.

Photo by Posie Harwood

While I know I'm not alone, I also realize that not everyone has the luxury of hours to spend in the kitchen. Baking can be stressful if you don't naturally gravitate towards cooking, or if you aren't very confident. And even if you love it the way I do, sometimes we can all use a simple and straightforward recipe that will turn out reliably, even if you're scatterbrained and tired after a long day.

Enter this very neat chocolate cake recipe. I've adapted it from a very old recipe that was created by the Parkay margarine test kitchen; they called it Swiss Chocolate Squares and billed it as an easy one-bowl cake. You do away with the traditional method of creaming together butter and sugar before adding wet ingredients and then dry ones. Instead, you just basically throw everything into a pot on the stove!

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First you melt together butter, water, and chocolate. You add your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and so on) directly to that pot on the stove. You stir to combine, then add your eggs and sour cream to the pot, and stir again.

Photo by Posie Harwood

That's it! One bowl! Scrape the batter into a cake pan and bake. It's very foolproof; just make sure not to overmix or your cake won't be as airy and tender-crumbed.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Thank you very much because I really can't wait to do this cake! Also if I can tell you that is better to post this kind of recipes not just before to go to the beach in our bikini!!!! Thank you again! Sveva”
— Sveva

While the cake bakes, make your frosting. I've included a recipe for a deliciously fudgy chocolate frosting here, but you can easily pick any frosting or icing you like, from vanilla buttercream to peanut butter to salted caramel. Chocolate cake is a very happy partner for nearly every frosting flavor. You could even leave it plain and serve it with a slightly sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.

With a technique this easy, there's nothing standing between you and chocolate cake tonight.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Geraldine Toltschin
    Geraldine Toltschin
  • Elle Tee
    Elle Tee
  • Jane Young
    Jane Young
  • John Crosby
    John Crosby
  • Sandi
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


Geraldine T. May 27, 2017
Hi there everyone, I am in Barcelona, YES - lucky me! This recipe looks great. Love all the comments. For all of you using a computer/ipad/iphone or the internet, anytime you have a question about weights and or measures, simply go to GOOGLE and write it in, you will get an immediate answer. I often ask for alternative uses of things as I do not eat meat and would like to use less dairy. AND. YES METRIC is so much better.
Elle T. May 26, 2017
This sounds great! Thanks for adding in the weights, Posie, but if I could just add my voice to the choir calling for grams in food52 recipes. My scale does have an ounce option but grams are so much easier and more precise. (For me, of course, because I grew up metric--but this is also a universal standard for serious bakers). When recipes include only cup measures, I know we can google for equivalents, as one commenter suggested, but what I don't know is what weight the author intended, because I don't know how they measured the flour etc. I see a lot of people asking for weights, and particularly grams, in the recipe comments and am wondering if/when you guys are going to implement this. Would love to see a toggle between volume/ounces/grams like on the King Arthur Flour site (where I am also a fan of your blogs and recipes, Posie!).
Jane Y. May 26, 2017
Can you please add grams to all your recipes some of us live in Europe! Many thanks
John C. May 25, 2017
Hi Posie, Your recipe looks great but does it call for 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda or is it 1 teaspoon of Baking Powder?
Sandi May 25, 2017
Rose, thanks but Greek yogurt is still dairy. Posie- I was wondering what the sour cream does? is it the acid or the fat or the volume that's needed?
Rose May 25, 2017
Sandi, use plain Greek Yogurt instead of sour cream
Rose May 25, 2017
Posie's oven temperature in the recipe is 375 for 20-25 minutes. I use 350 but I use a sheet pan and it takes the same amount of time 20-25.
Sandi May 25, 2017
Can you please suggest a non-dairy sour cream replacement? Thanks
Mary May 25, 2017
You might try vegan (almond or soy milk) yogurt. Cut back on the sugar if the yogurt is sweetened.
Maggie May 25, 2017
I've had provisional success with plain almond yogurt, but it's quite a bit sweeter than dairy yogurt, and thinner, so I find that recipes require a splash of acid and some extra leavening. Soy yogurt would work even better, if you can eat soy (which I try to avoid) - Silk soy yogurt is the closest approximation for what I remember dairy yogurt (which I miss dearly) tasting like.
Phylis M. May 25, 2017
What temperature is the oven? How long does the cake need to bake?
Jane Y. May 26, 2017
Press recipe and the full instructions come up!
Susan S. May 25, 2017
Anyone try halving this recipe? There's only two of us and I don't need the temptation of too much leftover cake seducing me every time I go near the kitchen.
Geraldine T. May 30, 2017
Freezer :-). Hope this idea works. I used to have a bakery, made many cakes like this one, they freeze beautifully.
modenadreaming May 25, 2017
My mother made this and I've been making it for years. Always called them Texas Bars. Only difference is chopped walnuts sprinkled on the icing. So good and so, so easy. Always have some frozen for a impromptu dessert.
Leslie V. May 30, 2017
We call it Texas Sheet Cake. and My recipe used Buttermilk in the cake and frosting, too.
Sveva May 25, 2017
Hi Posie, I read Food52 from Italy and for mr too it's difficult to understand the quantities, specially for butter. Please can you tell me how much is 1 cup of butter in grams? Thank you very much because I really can't wait to do this cake! Also if I can tell you that is better to post this kind of recipes not just before to go to the beach in our bikini!!!! Thank you again! Sveva
Posie (. May 25, 2017
Sure! 1 cup of butter equals 226 grams. Enjoy!
Sveva May 25, 2017
Thank you, I'll do it tomorrow!
marcella F. May 26, 2017
Sveva, you can find lots of websites doing the conversion for you. I always use this one and never had a problem with American recipes:
I'd also suggest you invest in a set of measuring spoons, they are very handy for small quantities (eg baking powder, salt, etc) and, with cake design being all the rage now, you should not have trouble finding them in Italy too. Ciao!
btglenn May 25, 2017
Looking over the ingredients - too much suga! Plus not enough chocolate for a REAL chocolate cake.
Posie (. May 25, 2017
Hmm yes lots of sugar because of the frosting -- though you can totally use any frosting you like or none at all! (Or simply whipped cream) If chocolate is what you're after I'd go with a flourless cake :)
Rose May 24, 2017
I agree with Kiki. This is a Texas Sheet Cake. There are so many variations to this recipe. I've been making it for years. Lovely cake.
Kim May 23, 2017
Frosting calls for 2cps butter, but shows 16T in parentheses. 16T is 1cp butter.
Alix May 23, 2017
Please Food 52 include weights in your recipes - 2 cups of butter means very little to anyone outside the US - our cups are different and we measure butter by weight. You talk about inclusiveness - recognition of your non-US audience would be good. I feel like some of your recipes do include weights (A New Way to Dinner certainly does) - why the inconsistency?
Posie (. May 23, 2017
Thanks for the note Alix! I apologize for the oversight -- no fault of Food52's, I merely forgot to include weights on my recipe and I've updated it to include them! Totally with you -- as a baker who relies heavily on my scale for consistency and precision, weights are key! Enjoy the cake if you try it.
jennifer May 25, 2017
It's so easy to get measurement/weight conversions.....simply google them! I, too, prefer recipes w/ weights, but I won't pester someone to do a bit of research for me, and I certainly won't scold them for neglecting it. Try it! Google: how many grams is 1 cup of milk? Thanks to the magic of the internet, it takes just a second to get the answer (spoiler: 230 grams.)
Alix May 25, 2017
Thanks Jennifer! I'm actually a food editor myself and I know that readers are much happier when you include measurements in there. I know how the Google machine works, but I can't be bothered converting an entire recipe. I'll just move on - which would be a shame for Food 52. As a professional website (this is not a personal blog), I think it's important that they're consistent with their recipes. But that's just me.
Posie (. May 25, 2017
I totally hear you Alix and will bear that in mind in future recipes. And Jennifer thanks for pointing out that people can convert recipes themselves always with a little research! It's great for people to know that's an option -- but I also like having the volume since some chefs/bakers rely on different conversions and it's nice to know for sure. Glad for the discussion and thanks for the feedback from everyone!
Alexandra S. May 22, 2017
I really really want to make this now. Must get the kids to bed. Looks so, so good.
Posie (. May 22, 2017
Yes, do it!!
Kiki K. May 22, 2017
This is a Texas sheet cake. It's delicious!