This chocolate cake is the main cake that my mom would make when I was a kid. Like most kids, I loved licking the batter mixing spoon and scraping every single last bit of the frosting. Just the smell of it in the oven and the first bite bring me back to those good old days. When I was going to elementary school in Ecuador, it was customary that the 6th graders (which used to be the final grade of elementary or escuela primaria) would work throughout the year to raise money, which would be used to go on an end of the year trip. Obviously the more money you raised, the better the quality of the trip.
One of the main activities we did to raise funds for our end of the year trip was to sell food and snacks during school recess. Our school hours were from 7:15am to 12:30pm (lunch was eaten at home) with a 30 minute recess. My mom would make this chocolate cake when it was our turn and it always sold out completely. In addition to school events, my mom also made this cake for birthday parties, get togethers with friends, and more. I’ll admit that I was lazy growing up and because my mom made it so frequently, I never really paid attention or learned how to make it. So, of course I thought it would be more complicated to make this chocolate cake than it actually is – it turns out that it’s so easy, you don’t even need a mixer and I’ve already started teaching my 9 year old how to prepare it.
Simple chocolate cake
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup of sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 tablespoons of melted butter or oil
- 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup lukewarm water
For the chocolate frosting or icing:
- 6 ounces of semi-sweet or dark chocolate
- 4 tablespoon of butter
- 1 tablespoon of cream
Additional topping suggestions:
- Fresh berries
- Cake sprinkles
- Toasted coconut
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F (175C) and lightly grease/flour a 9-inch round cake mold.
- Sift the flour in a medium sized mixing bowl.
- Use a mixing spoon to stir in the sugar and cocoa powder.
- Mix in the salt and baking soda.
- Make three holes: a large one for the melted butter or oil, and two smaller ones for the vinegar and the vanilla.
- Add the water and continue mixing with the spoon until you have a smooth batter.
- Pour the cake batter into the baking mold and bake at 350 for ~30 minutes or until you stick a toothpick in the middle and it comes out clean.
- Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool down.
- To prepare the chocolate ganache frosting, melt the butter in small saucepan over very low heat. Once the butter is melted add the chocolate, cut into chunks, and continue cooking at a low/simmer heat level. Stir occasionally and once all the chocolate is melted, stir in the cream and mix well. Remove the chocolate frosting from the heat and let it cool down a bit before using.
- Gently remove the cake from the pan –or you can also just leave the cake in the pan and add the frosting on top if you prefer.
- Use a spatula to spread the chocolate frosting on top of the cake and on the sides (if removed from the cake mold). Add any additional toppings, then let the frosting set and solidify a bit before cutting and serving the cake. If you refrigerate the cake, let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving so that the frosting can soften up.
There are no eggs in this cake, and if you use oil (instead of butter) then it could easily be a vegan chocolate cake- and trust me you will not able to taste the difference. My mom was telling me that she uses either, but does prefer to use butter. I’ve also seen her make it using a mix of butter and melted unsweetened chocolate (for an extra chocolatey version).
Let me add that my mom has the oven on almost every single day and has been baking since I can remember, so she’s developed this intuition that allows her to change ingredients on a whim and will know just based on the consistency of the batter or dough – which sometimes makes it very hard to get precise recipes from her. Not to mention, that she has these custom built gas ovens which don’t even have actual temperature indicators, you just turn it up or down – she will literally put her hand in the oven to test and see if the temperature is right for what she’s baking.
Some other adjustments that my mom sometimes makes to this chocolate cake recipe include using a mix of half regular white flour and half whole wheat flour. She also sometimes uses panela or piloncillo, a type of unprocessed brown sugar, instead of regular sugar.
The frosting or icing for this cake is a simple ganache like mix of chocolate (I used semi-sweet), butter and a bit of cream. It’s very easy to make, but you can also add a different type of frosting based on your preference. I love the combination of chocolate and berries, so I like to add a mix of berries as an additional topping for this cake. You can also use regular sugar sprinkles (perfect for a birthday cake), chocolate shavings or toasted coconut as topping options.
Step by step preparation photos for my mom’s simple chocolate cake