Margaret Fox's Amazon Chocolate Cake

October 15, 2013

Test Kitchen-Approved

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
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 30 min


  • 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)
In This Recipe


  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.

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Reviews (177) Questions (9)

177 Reviews

Stacy January 1, 2019
Truly awful. Shakes my confidence in Food 52's test kitchen and Genius rating system.
Kristen M. January 2, 2019
Hi Stacy, I'm sorry to hear it—can you describe what was awful about it? As you can see below, many other commenters have been happy with their results, and it's a pretty common style of Depression-era cake (sometimes called wacky or crazy cakes). I hope your confidence will give us another chance!
suzanne January 5, 2019
I have to agree with Kristen - I am about to make this cake for probably the 20th time. I always use coffee instead of water, which may help, and it's important to get the oil and vinegar frothy. I use grapeseed oil. Old oil could also make it tase bad. I hope you will give it another try, Stacy, as it really is delicious.
Koshin December 25, 2018
Delicious. The only cake I've made multiple times. Consistent crowd pleaser! Love that it's not too sweet.
Grace M. November 15, 2018
My cake turned out exactly like the one in the picture. So impressed. I think next time I'll add some more chocolate or another flavor element. Texture was perfecto.
mkup October 31, 2018
This cake was my first vegan bake. It was very simple to make. I added more cocoa, espresso powder and cinnamon and was very happy with the flavour. The colleague for whom I'd made it said it was better than any of the vegan cakes he and his girlfriend had tried to make at home. Succes!
Jusika August 21, 2018
I want to make this for a friend who doesn't eat eggs but is fine with dairy. My question is 1) can I use butter instead of oil? and if so, would that be a direct substitution? 2) out of curiosity--what role does vinegar play here?<br /><br />thanks!
Kristen M. August 21, 2018
Adding this here, too, so others can see: Sure, go ahead and use the same amount of (melted) butter—I'm sure it will be even more delicious. The vinegar reacts with the baking soda to create the leavening (since there are no eggs or creamed butter to give it lift), just like those homemade volcanoes at the science fair!
neonkitty January 28, 2018
This cake was so easy to make and tasted amazing. I used 1/4 cup of chilled coffee (inspired by Liam in the comments) and that really made it super special. Thank you for this recipe, it's truly delicious and perfect for that chocolate/coffee craving. <br /><br />I baked two 6" pans and used this recipe for icing. A-mazing!!! <br />
dietjessg October 3, 2017
I’m thinking of making this cake with GF flour, any thoughts?
L October 3, 2017
...and before this recipe was claimed by others, it was in Peg Bracken's, "I Hate to Cook"'s an absolutely splendid cake. In Bracken's recipe, she even had us mix it in the baking pan. Now, that was cool...and it worked!
Liam October 2, 2017
Subbed 1/4 cup of cold brew coffee concentrate for 1/4 cup of the water <br />Made a fast mocha glaze<br />2 tbsp cold brew concentrate<br />2 tbsp cocoa<br />1/4 tsp salt <br />2 cups confectioners sugar .<br />No one knew or cared that it is a vegan cake ; just a great tasting chocolate cake <br />( got suckered into a Costco demo of the concentrate and ended up with a quart of the stuff to use up )
laura September 17, 2017
Yum! Super easy
Emily D. July 1, 2017
Can I double this and turn this into a sheet cake birthday cake?
Betty J. June 28, 2017
I realized I said I would follow up about the convection oven--it worked. I followed the advice ab out he coffee and used spectrum walnut oil, which does not have that strong walnuty taste. I will be making it again Oh I took a tablespoon out of the sugar.
tamater S. July 20, 2017
Thank you so much for the update. It would be great to get the word out there for those who have kitchen limitations; the ingredients could be stocked even if one didn't have a fridge. I have to remember to give this recipe to the inevitable requests I get in September.
catalinalacruz June 28, 2017
Chiara, use a good quality cocoa powder and make sure it's fresh. Old and/or poor quality cocoa tastes bitter, causing your cake to not taste sweet enough. This recipe has plenty of sugar. Also damp baking soda may not rise enough.<br />Followed exactly with fresh ingredients, this cake is fail-proof.
Chiara June 28, 2017
Followed the recipe exactly!<br />Unfortunately, it's not sweet at all. <br />Texture is great even though the cake did not rise much. <br />
Betty J. May 28, 2017
I just searched for this recipe as I am in the mood both to bake and for chocolate. As a vegan, I appreciate this recipe. I love all the creative twists! I am going to bake it in a toaster convention oven--since I do not have a real oven. I will post if it works!
B May 10, 2017
Give credit where it is due.<br />This recipe comes from Peg Bracken "I Hate to Cook Book" published in 1962.
tamater S. July 20, 2017
When I read your comment, I remembered seeing that book in my mom's kitchen. Mom didn't hate cooking as much as she hated trying to come up with new and inspired menus. She didn't have a computer with access to Food 52!
robinanne September 3, 2017
This recipe goes back further than 1962, it is a World War II ration cake.
cld December 2, 2016
Just made this using Einkorn flour, coconut oil, coffee instead of the water and upped the cocoa a bit. It's very moist and delicious. Baked it for 30 minutes.
alex October 4, 2016
As one or two others have said, the first thing that hit me when I tasted this cake was baking soda. Not what you want in a cake. But, it was very quick to make, had good texture, and when served with ice cream you don't really notice the baking soda flavor. Maybe if you made with coffee instead of water that would cover up the flavor too, next time I'll try a mix of baking soda and baking powder as one commenter did.
Betsy W. September 15, 2016
This is almost identical to the 6 minute chocolate cake in the Moosewood cookbook. Their recipe instructs that you make it IN the pan (less bowls!) and has a beautiful chocolate glaze recipe with it. Also, they suggest using strongly brewed coffee rather than water. I find that this brings an additional level of richness.
Georgia L. August 31, 2016
Can anyone tell me how long this cake stays fresh for? Like if I bake it the day before a party will it be ok?
Stef_art August 31, 2016
yes, in my experience.
Gilian R. April 19, 2018
How about two days?
Lunadalutti December 19, 2018
In colder climates, if you have heating on the house, it will be a little drier on the edges but still good. In Brazil, I tend to store it in the fridge in an air tight container, it is quite yummy when chilled!