Make Ahead

Margaret Fox's Amazon Chocolate Cake

April  8, 2021
19 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
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 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

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 6 to 8
  • 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Charity Prawitz
    Charity Prawitz
  • K.V.
  • Sarah O
    Sarah O
  • catalinalacruz
  • Kate Valleri
    Kate Valleri
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

196 Reviews

Charity P. October 12, 2020
I am surprised and impressed! This cake is SO EASY! It was ready before the oven preheated! I doubted this recipe... I thought there's no way it can be good... too simple. BUT it tastes great! It has a fudgy, moist, crumbly texture (no eggs). I served it to my anti-vegan father and he had no idea! He really like it, but suggested it would be better with frosting. I agree. I used coffee instead of water as suggested and it gave a super rich chocolatey flavor. Next time, I will cover it in a rich chocolate ganache. Thank you!
rosecedar August 28, 2020
How wonderful to see a Margaret Fox recipe! I too have been making this one for over 30 years, after finding it in Fox's cookbook Cafe Beaujolais (which I purchased at that wonderful restaurant in the last 80's). The cake is fabulous on its own and goes over the top with chocolate frosting. Another of my go-to cakes is Clay's Almond Cake, from Margaret Fox's other cookbook - Morning Food. It's dense, moist, almond-sweet, like a giant macaroon. Both of these cakes have given me (and many guests) so much pleasure over the past 30 years. Thank you Margaret Fox!
karen D. August 27, 2020
I've been making this for over 30 years. Sub coffee for the water. Everyone's favorite! With or without frosting.
K.V. May 22, 2020
This is perhaps the only cake I've made repeatedly. And regardless of the crowd, it pleases everyone. Once people have taken a bite, I tell them it's vegan! (To prevent any bias among die-hard non-vegans.) Thank you a million times over, Margaret Fox.
Sarah O. May 21, 2020
My go-to chocolate cake - so delicious, every time! I use coffee instead of the water and it really does bring out the chocolate flavor.
catalinalacruz January 23, 2020
Has anyone made this with Dutch cocoa?
catalinalacruz January 23, 2020
Receiving no reply, and ready to make this, I used Dutch cocoa with great results. A tender, chocolaty cake with nice rise. I also followed Kate V.'s recommendation to dust the cake pan with dried, unsweetened coconut, and added 1/2 cup of dried coconut to the batter. Also reduced the sugar to 2/3 cup and used coffee instead of water. Guests asked for the recipe.
Kate V. March 17, 2020
Hooray! Glad you liked it!
Kate V. September 11, 2019
Having made this cake 20+ times, I thought I’d share one of my favourite go-to adaptations: chocolate and coconut.
I spray a bundt pan with baking spray, then coat the pan with desiccated coconut; this comes out as a nicely toasted outer layer to the cake. I also throw about 1/2 cup desiccated coconut into the chocolate batter, along with a teaspoon of coconut flavoured oil (the kind of oil you’d used to flavour icing or candy). I use six tablespoons of vegetable oil instead of the original five. Bake for 25-30 minutes and let the cake cool before turning it out of the pan.
catalinalacruz May 21, 2020
I always use melted coconut oil in any cake recipe that calls for oil. It seems to make a more tender cake.
judy April 6, 2021
I also throw in some dried cherries. so good. Since I am not vegan, I add 1 egg and reduce oil to 4 tbsp. One I used butter, and it was just as good.
Vicky S. September 5, 2019
Unfortunately im done with this website and its bad recipes
Hannah July 10, 2019
I find this cake genius, I have made it at least 10 times now! It is my go-to bake sale cake these days since it is so easy, cheap and quick to throw together late at night, and because it suits vegans too. I have served it plain, with confectioners sugar and with a frosting - all options have been very well received! I am baking one again right now, this time I added some organic instant coffee to the dry ingredients and used coffee instead of water - the dough was delicious so I hope it works! Thank you for the tips!
amirah June 11, 2019
One cup of sugar was too sweet for me -- just goes to show that everybody has different tastes. I will continue to make this, just with less sugar, as the recipe is so simple and unfussy.
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.
K.V. 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?

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.

I baked two 6" pans and used this recipe for icing. A-mazing!!!
dietjessg October 3, 2017
I’m thinking of making this cake with GF flour, any thoughts?
karen D. August 27, 2020
I've made it that way for years. Use Bob's red mill gf flour.
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
Made a fast mocha glaze
2 tbsp cold brew concentrate
2 tbsp cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups confectioners sugar .
No one knew or cared that it is a vegan cake ; just a great tasting chocolate cake
( 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