What's the easiest chocolate cake you can possibly make? I simplified the recipe for crazy cake (also known as wacky cake or Depression cake) to come up with fluffy, moist chocolate cake made with the fewest ingredients, simplest measurements, and easiest instructions. A great recipe for beginner bakers!
Easy Chocolate Cake
- 1 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- ¼ cup of cocoa powder
- 1 cup hot water
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup oil
- optional: ½ cup chocolate chips, 1 teaspoon of instant coffee
- Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.
- Add the flour, baking powder, and chocolate chips to a large bowl.
- Add the remaining ingredients to a medium bowl. Stir well to dissolve the sugar and cocoa.
- Pour the contents of the medium bowl into the large bowl. Stir thoroughly, breaking up any flour clumps.
- You can bake cupcakes or cake. After baking, to test doneness, stick a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the cake is done, the toothpick will come out mostly clean.
- To make cupcakes, line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Divide the batter equally. Bake for 20-25 minutes. To make cake, use a 8x8 square pan or a 9 inch cake pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
- Flour: Required for structure. I suggest using all-purpose flour for the softest texture. I have also used white whole wheat flour, but I definitely noticed that the cake had a coarser texture.
- Baking powder: Makes the cake rise. Can substitute 1/2 teaspoon baking soda + 1 teaspoon vinegar for the 2 teaspoons baking powder.
- Sugar: Adds sweetness. I used 1/2 cup because I don't like very sweet cake. Depending on your sweet tooth, anywhere between 1/2 cup - 1 cup would be reasonable. Brown sugar, coconut sugar, or other sugars that measure like white sugar would be okay. I don't recommend liquid sweeteners, such as maple syrup or honey, because they will affect the ratio of wet and dry ingredients.
- Vanilla extract: Adds flavor.
- Salt: Enhances flavor of other ingredients.
- Oil: Makes the cake tender and moist. I used canola oil, which has no flavor. Any stronger flavored oil will affect the taste of the cake. Coconut oil will produce faintly coconut-flavored chocolate cake. I do not suggest olive oil. I do not suggest using melted butter because the chocolate will overpower the butter flavor anyways and butter contributes less moisture to the cake.
- Cocoa powder: Required for chocolate cake. Use natural cocoa powder (this is the standard kind you get), not Dutch processed.
- Chocolate chips: Optional. Adds sweetness and melty chocolate goodness. Jazzes up the cupcakes. Much easier than frosting cupcakes.
- Coffee: Optional. Improves chocolate flavor. Adds subtle coffee flavor. You can add 1 teaspoon instant coffee to the water or use coffee instead of water.
Step by Step Photos
Before starting on the batter, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Start with the dry ingredients. Measure 1 cup all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder into a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup chocolate chips if you'd like.
I use hot water to dissolve all of the sugar and cocoa powder. Dry cocoa lumps in chocolate cake do not taste good. Hot water also helps bring out the flavor of the cocoa.
Add in 1/2 cup sugar (more if you like sweeter cake), 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Note that you only need one 1/4 cup dry measuring cup. I measure the sugar first and then cocoa powder. Since the sugar does not leave residue on the measuring cup, I did not need to wash the measuring cup in between.
I used the lines on the liquid measuring cup to add 1/4 cup oil. I did not measure the oil with the dry measuring cup because I dislike cleaning oil off measuring cups.
If making cupcakes, line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners. If you don't have paper liners, you can fashion 12 cups out of aluminum foil, but this is rather annoying. I would suggest baking a cake instead.
If making a cake, get a 8x8 square pan or a 9 inch round cake pan. I usually line cake pans with aluminum foil for easy cleanup later. You can also spray the pan with cooking spray.
To transfer batter to the muffin tin, I use the 1/4 cup measuring cup. To make a cupcake, I scoop 1/4 cup of batter, tap against the side of the bowl to get rid excess batter on the side, and pour in the batter.
I'm not exactly sure how to prevent messes. If some batter drips onto the muffin tin, wipe it off with a napkin before baking. Bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes. When I did not use chocolate chips, the cupcakes took 20 minutes to bake. When I used chocolate chips, the cupcakes took 22 minutes to bake.
After the bake time, use oven mitts to take out the cake. If you do not have oven mitts, I would highly suggest buying a pair - using layers of towels to remove hot objects is more inconvenient and more dangerous.
Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes before eating. I have a bad habit of wanting to eat foods right when they come out of the oven even when they are very very hot. The texture of the cupcakes also improves after cooling. Right out of the oven, the cupcakes will have a spongy texture and stick to the liners.
Warning: If you leave cupcakes to cool in the muffin tin for too long, the bottoms of the cupcakes will get a bit wet because of the heat condensing. This does not affect the taste, but may affect the aesthetics.
For fun, I did an informal taste test for these chocolate cupcakes. Here are some comments I got:
- Spongy and sticks to the liners. (This was when the cupcakes just came out of the oven...lesson learned.)
- Not the best, but certainly not bad.
- Very fluffy and moist.
- I like how it's not too sweet.
Even if it's not the best chocolate cake recipe ever, it makes a very quick, simple, and tasty cake, perfect for sweetening up everybody's day.
Possible Chocolate Cake Problems
When I made another batch of cupcakes to photograph, I accidentally forgot to add any oil. I ended up with 11 cupcakes instead of 12. Cupcakes made without any oil have a squishier, chewier texture and stick to the liners even after cooling. To mask this problem, I sprinkled powdered sugar on top and called it a day.