One Bowl, No Measurements: Chocolate Cake, As Easy As Can Be

July 23, 2018
No measuring cups in sight. Photo by Bobbi Lin

At first glance, this bare bones recipe may look like something from a technical challenge on Great British Bake Off, but the absence of measurements is intentional. This is what I like to call a “no-measure cake” (as in, no measuring spoons or cups needed), and the recipe is so foolproof it’ll turn even the most challenged cooks into a star baker.

Over the years I’ve tried a lot of tricks, techniques and ingredients to make my cakes as moist as possible. Adding mayo works well. Strictly buttermilk is great too. But yogurt is my go-to cake moistening agent. Since I don’t typically keep large containers of yogurt on hand, I wanted to create a recipe that used all seven ounces of an individual yogurt container at once. One day, while scraping the yogurt into a mixing bowl, I suddenly had an epiphany: If this yogurt container is just shy of a cup, could I use this to measure the rest of my ingredients?

“Get it, girl,” I thought while simultaneously air high-fiving myself. (Don’t judge, I just prefer to test my recipes alone.)

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But, as it turns out, I wasn’t the first person to think of this idea. The OG Domestic Goddess of baking, Nigella Lawson, beat me to the punch…obviously. And she’s not the only one. Yogurt Pot Cakes are quite popular (and have been for some time) in Italy. But studying her brilliant recipe gave me the assurance I needed that creating a yogurt cake of my own was a good idea. Thanks for the boost of confidence, girl! (Yeah, I said that to myself, too.)

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Top Comment:
“container of yogurt in their food stores. Where I am, a standard size container of yogurt is 100grams, ( approx. 3.5 oz. ) with many being even smaller for the little ones to eat. Although this recipe sounds lovely, it would have been better to include both volume and metric as well as instructions on how much leavening to use if AP flour/plain flour is the cooks only choice. Cheers Joycelyn ”
— Joycelyn

I decided to take my cake in a more chocolatey direction. But with the addition of cocoa powder also came an addition of some warm water (coffee would work well, too). And, to achieve a bit of a lighter textured cake, I chose to use self-rising flour. This truly is baking at its laziest, and the result couldn’t be more delightful.

This article was originally published in September 2017, but we're running it again because it rocks our socks.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Grant Melton is an Emmy Award-Winning producer, recipe developer and food writer. His favorite food is chocolate chip cookies (with salt.)


kim August 16, 2019
Why do you imply they don’t measure on the Great British Baking Show? They do! They are using a scale (as you really should for baking) and they “tare” as they add the ingredients so that each ingredient added to the bowl is measured. In grams. Perfectly.
louise B. February 26, 2019
I can't find any full fat yogurt at all in my stores. Do you have a brand that I can look for?
Neither do I find 7 oz containers. Please help as I am looking forward to making this cake!
Cynthia C. December 6, 2018
This is also quite similar to The Pioneer Woman’s “11-Carton Cake” although she used a 6 oz container.
Lisa September 13, 2018
Hi! I was SO excited to make this cake and have it in my personal arsenal of recipes, but I’m stumped as to why it didn’t come out as good as others have suggested. I followed the recipe, but my batter was noticeably thick. I thought maybe that’s how yogurt cakes are? In the oven she went and what came out was very heavy and dense. I’m not a fan of super sweet chocolate, but this one was not sweet enough. Is that typical of this type of cake? By the following morning the oil raised to the top of the surface looking high gloss in need of a paper towel dab. I’m stumped. Seriously curious what went wrong. Would love your input Grant. Thanks!
Lisa September 13, 2018
That being said it’s my kind of “non measuring.” Super easy to make!
Sherry E. September 14, 2018
anything wrong with the yogurt or oil did you say? check freshness dates, just a guess on my part
Lisa September 14, 2018
It was new oil and yogurt. I didn’t check the dates. Some have thought that 7oz of oil was a lot. Was your cake light and fluffy Sherry?
Lori February 22, 2019
Did you use self rising flour?
Sherry E. September 2, 2019
whoops just saw this, never did make was just responding to your question. not a fan of so much oil in a cake or self rising flour
Smaug July 23, 2018
Not in any way a "no measure" recipe- every ingredient except the salt and dusting sugar is measured, same as with any cake recipe.
Jody January 15, 2018
Made this yesterday and it was lovely! Kind of like a fudgy brownie. Next time I might add a bit of orange zest or almond extract.
Annie Z. October 14, 2017
This looks delicious. Any thoughts on making this a yellow cake or an almond cake?? I have a great recipe using almond paste - any suggestions, comments??
ibbeachnana September 28, 2017
I would live to make this for a small dinner party, can I make it a day ahead and how will it hold up?
ibbeachnana September 28, 2017
Sorry, that is to say, that I would love to make it a day ahead...
Cassia C. September 24, 2017
How is this no measure when you are using the yogurt container for measuring?
Bee September 21, 2017
My husband despises the use of oil in baked items. Can I use soft butter or melted butter in this recipe? (and "Yes!", he's busted me on the use of oil each time I've tried to sneak it in! ) LOL
Grant M. September 21, 2017
Yes. You can use any kind of fat you'd like, really. One reader below used coconut oil and the cake came out wonderfully. -Grant
FrugalCat September 21, 2017
Baking is the ONLY time I measure stuff when I am cooking. A soup will not come out "wrong" if you use a chopped onion instead of measuring out a 1/2 cup. But a cake might not rise if the ratio of leavening is off.
Bee September 21, 2017
Thank you, Grant. I really wanted to try this cake but the use of oil would have made it a "No Go." I can't wait for the temps to dip below 90+ degrees in MICHIGAN and go back to good ol' Fall Bakin' temps! :D
Wendy W. September 19, 2017
I bake all the time... usually at work. I never ever measure ingredients and yet 99% of the time they work out great...
sharon K. September 18, 2017
Has anyone tried this with Gluten Free baking mix, i.e., King Arthur's, which I assume is the gf equivalent of self rising flour?
Chris September 18, 2017
Janine, Grant, anyone?...can you tell me if a one cup measurement can be used for all the ingredients instead of a 7 oz. container? I only buy my yogurt in very large tubs. Thanks!
Grant M. September 18, 2017
Yes, you can totally do that! Just use a one cup measurement for each ingredient. Let me know how you like the cake! -Grant
Phishstyx September 18, 2017
hi Chris - theoretically yes, but since the eggs are going to be the same size regardless of your base measuring container, better to use 1/2 cup measure (that's closer to a 7 oz container.) HTH
Meh C. September 18, 2017
It would have been great to knos the comtainer sizes of each ingredient. It was done so for the yogurt, and something tells me I shouldnt be using half a gallon of canola oil for this recipe.
Janine D. September 18, 2017
The container the recipe uses IS the 7oz yogurt container. The article specifies that the cake uses the same container for all the ingredients.
Meh C. September 18, 2017
Thank you. That is what I get for skimming.
Lisa S. September 17, 2017
This is just the recipe I've been waiting for. I have a devils food cookie recipe that is similar but this seems much easier. Look forward to putting some yogurt to good use.
Chris September 17, 2017
Can a one cup measurement be used instead of a 7 oz. container? I only buy yogurt in large containers. Someone else also asked this question but I don't see an answer anywhere.
Phishstyx September 17, 2017
also, top right corner has icon of stylized silhouette of a person inside a circle. click, click on Account, scroll down for Mailing Preferences
Susan S. September 17, 2017
With only 3.5 oz of yogurt sold in your area just buy 2 containers to equal 7 oz. and then use the container to equal about 7 oz of each ingredient except the flour which is 2, 7 oz. containers or 14 oz. Also if you only have plain flour and not self rising then add 1/2 tsp. Salt and 1/2 tsp. Baking soda and it will be the same as self rising.
Joycelyn September 17, 2017
This recipe has been around forever (popular with the French ) but using regular flour and the needed leavening.

Hint. Food 52 might want to add the amount of leavening and salt needed for those who do not have, nor are able to purchase self-rising flour and need to know these things.

As for 7 oz. containers of yogurt. With the exception of the US that still sells and uses old fashioned volume for measuring, most cooks world wide would be hard pressed to find 7oz. container of yogurt in their food stores. Where I am, a standard size container of yogurt is 100grams, ( approx. 3.5 oz. ) with many being even smaller for the little ones to eat.

Although this recipe sounds lovely, it would have been better to include both volume and metric as well as instructions on how much leavening to use if AP flour/plain flour is the cooks only choice.
lapierrefine September 18, 2017
It doesn't matter what you use, the measures are relative to the one measuring unit, whether you use a yogurt container or a coffee cup.
FrugalCat September 17, 2017
This came out great. I used coconut oil (my house is so warm that it was liquid at room temperature) and it lent a slight tropical flavor. Not overly coconutty. I always said it was not more effort to make a cake from scratch than using a mix. Either way you are still using a mixing bowl and a baking pan. I poured the batter into muffin tins and made cupcakes, which were great unfrosted.
Grant M. September 21, 2017
So glad you liked the recipe! I've never baked the batter in a muffin tin before. Brilliant idea! Did it make a whole tray's worth? -Grant