Sam’s Chocolate Cake or Not-From-a-Box Chocolate Cake

13 Apr

On my mom’s side of the family, there’s a chocolate cake that always accompanies birthdays, picnics, Christmases, you name it. It’s known as Sam’s Chocolate Cake. Who’s Sam, you ask? Well, no one’s quite sure, but I assume he’s a long-lost great uncle or a cousin of a cousin of a cousin. My mom has been trying to get everyone to call the cake “Mom’s Chocolate Cake.” (“Mom” as in her mom—my grandma—
not herself, because she’s not THAT egotistical.) Anyway, her attempts to change the name are to no avail…this will always be known as Sam’s cake. (Nice try, though, Mom.)

In any case, this cake is special. And it’s freaky fast to make. You can even choose not to use a mixer—it’s that easy (although sometimes I use a hand mixer to make the batter extra smooth). The minimal directions probably stem from the fact that only the ingredients get passed down and never any directions. I’ve included my own as I’ve made this cake time and time again. It’s different from other chocolate cakes because while it has a dark chocolate flavor, it is also light, moist, and spongy. Don’t back away simply because there aren’t any full fats like cream or buttermilk. This cake is a keeper.

Serves 12


¾ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 c. sugar
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ t. baking powder
2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
1 ½ c. water
¾ c. canola oil
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs, at room temperature


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter and flour a 9×13″ cake pan. Stir cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, flour, and salt together in a medium bowl. With a fork or hand mixer, slightly beat water, oil, vanilla, and eggs together in a larger bowl for about 30 seconds. Mix wet ingredients into dry by hand with a wooden spoon until smooth, about 2-3 minutes, breaking up lumps as you go. A few very small lumps are OK. Do not overmix. Bake approximately 40 minutes or until center is light and springy to the touch and cake is pulling away from the sides of the pan. Let cool in pans for at least an hour.

Frost with desired icing.

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