Cake

A Chocolate Snacking Cake for Any & Every Occasion

Baker Jessie Sheehan on the versatility and unbridled joy of snacking cakes.

July 12, 2019
Photo by Julia Gartland. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

A snacking cake is, for the unfamiliar, a one-layer cake, typically baked in an 8-inch round or square cake pan (I’m partial to square). It's the sheet cake’s little sister. But where a sheet cake can be a big production, often baked for a special occasion (be it a birthday party, a potluck, or the school bake sale), a snacking cake is for any day and everyday.

I have been loving on snacking cakes for as far back as I can remember (not just since Melissa Clark memorialized them in The New York Times earlier this year). In fact—and yes, I am dating myself here—my earliest snacking cake memory is Betty Crocker’s now defunct Stir 'n' Frost boxed cake mix (RIP), the one that came with its own 5x7-inch disposable pan and squeeze packet of frosting. My favorite was the chocolate cake with vanilla frosting—what all of my snacking cake dreams are made of, and the inspiration for this one:

The snacking cake’s attributes are many, beginning with its name: Who doesn’t want to eat a cake with the word “snack” in its title? But it's also the ultimate user-friendly baked good: Snacking cakes are easy to make, even for the novice baker, as they call for only one pan, a handful of ingredients, and are often not even frosted.

Moreover, the fact that you can decide you want a slice of cake, and within an hour or two find that you’re eating one, is nothing short of remarkable. This is particularly true if your snacking cake is oil-based (my favorite kind—sorry, haters), as assembling it does not require bringing butter to room temperature or pulling out the stand mixer.

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Top Comment:
“My current favorite is Betty Crocker's Chocolate/Banana snack cake which has a scattering of chocolate chips across the top instead of frosting. You can even mix it in the baking dish.”
— Pam W.
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Such cakes are as good on Saturday nights when you're feeling all festive as they are on Wednesday nights when you're binge-watching Dead to Me solo. They're consumed as quickly as they are assembled—except when they're not! (Then, they're the perfect breakfast with a cup of coffee.)

Finally, though frosting can elevate a simple snacking cake—as the billowy, tangy cream cheese icing does for the chocolate-carrot number featured here—no cake travels as well as a naked snacking cake. A mere unfrosted slice, usually square-shaped and tall with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, wrapped in wax paper and brought to the office, transforms even the saddest desk lunch into something special.

Cake for lunch? I mean, come on.

Why You Should Add Carrots to Your Snacking Cake

If there ever were a good snacking cake for breaking up the workday, chocolate-carrot with cream cheese frosting might top the list, and for a variety of reasons:

Adding finely grated carrots to chocolate cake makes for the moistest of cakes, with the softest of crumbs. (The texture is best if the carrots are grated with a Microplane, as they easily incorporate into the batter when processed so fine and practically disappear once baked.) The carrots impart no true flavor of their own, but combined with the Dutch-process cocoa powder (for its deep color and taste, I’m fond of the brand Valrhona) and a smidge of espresso, make for a deliciously dense and fudgy cake, one that tastes intensely of chocolate.

I use cream cheese here as a tribute to a carrot cake’s traditional frosting, and because I love it combined with chocolate. Its tanginess cuts the sweetness of the cake nicely. And although I am a big fan of sweet, I know many who feel differently—and anyway, the beauty of the snacking cake lies in its versatility, both in flavor and in occasion. To each snacking cake their own.

What's your favorite time of day to eat cake? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Carol
    Carol
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    Sue
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    susan carson
  • Pam Whitlock
    Pam Whitlock
  • Jessie Sheehan
    Jessie Sheehan
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Jessie Sheehan is a cookbook author, food writer, recipe developer, and baker. She is the author of The Vintage Baker and the co-author of Icebox Cakes (both published by Chronicle Books). She has developed recipes for many cookbooks, besides her own, and has contributed recipes/and or written for Epicurious, Food52, Fine Cooking, TASTE, Little Sous, and Main Street Magazine, among others. She blogs at jessie sheehan bakes and can be found on Instagram at @jessiesheehanbakes. She likes layer cakes with lots of frosting and cookies that are thick and chewy. Oh, and she has a soft spot for chocolate pudding. She lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn, with her husband and two boys, not far from her beloved Baked, the bakery where she got her start.

12 Comments

Carol July 14, 2019
Oh my! I made this today and it’s fabulous! I did use EVOO because that is all I had on hand, and I used kefir low-fat smoothie milk as I did not have buttermilk. My husband loves it and I’ll definitely be making again! Thank you. And I do remember “Snackin’ Cakes” from back in the day!
 
Author Comment
Jessie S. July 14, 2019
Yay!! So happy to hear this. XOXO
 
Sue July 14, 2019
can this be made gluten free?
 
Author Comment
Jessie S. July 14, 2019
if u use a gluten-free flour, absolutely!
 
susan C. July 14, 2019
Thanks! Will give it a try
 
susan C. July 13, 2019
Looks fabulous! But I need to make it dairy free so could I substitute soy milk for buttermilk?
 
Author Comment
Jessie S. July 13, 2019
I don’t see why not!
 
Eileen F. July 14, 2019
Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar to the milk, Sind let it sit for a few minutes first. This will help the cake rise.
 
Eileen F. July 14, 2019
And, not Sind.
 
Author Comment
Jessie S. July 14, 2019
Thanks for the suggestion!
 
Pam W. July 12, 2019
Will have to try this. My current favorite is Betty Crocker's Chocolate/Banana snack cake which has a scattering of chocolate chips across the top instead of frosting. You can
even mix it in the baking dish.
 
Author Comment
Jessie S. July 12, 2019
Yum. That sounds delicious and I love Betty Crocker . . . Hope you try mine and let me know what you think, if you do.