If you are in a hurry and you must make a dessert, this recipe is very easy. Not only are all the ingredients conveniently in one bowl, if you have no time to make a frosting, some Nutella from the pantry and some icing sugar will do. This recipe is from Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Cookbook and it is my go-to recipe whenever a chocolate cake is called for. There were some good recipes in that old book, including Banana Tea Bread, a quick bread recipe that I have tinkered with over the years. That cookbook is a classic; it is over 40 years old!
Out of curiosity, I checked the index of The Essential New York Times Cookbook the latest iteration of the Times cookbook, and I could not find the one-bowl chocolate cake–unless it’s been re-named. The Banana Tea Bread made an encore appearance, however.
This one-bowl recipe makes exactly two cake layers, each about 1 1/2 to 2 inches high. To make it dramatic I would bake 2 more layers but I wouldn’t recommend doubling the recipe to do it. I’m a little hesitant to tinker with this chocolate cake recipe because it’s a cake not a quick bread, and so less forgiving. To make a 4 layer cake I’d just make 2 batches. I’ve updated the recipe, most importantly by converting the measurements to grams so it is more precise. I had to be careful converting the cocoa powder because that 1/2 cup is volume, not weight. The end result is this cake has a moist and tender crumb, and it is not cloyingly sweet at all.
One Bowl Chocolate Cake (Adapted from: The New York Times Cookbook)
Have at room temperature:
219g (1 3/4 cups) all purpose flour (2 cups cake flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
30g (1/2 cup) plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
271g (1 1/2 cups) superfine sugar
113g (1/2 cup) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup warm water
2/3 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Prepare to bake. Preheat oven to 350˚F/175˚C.
Cake Baker’s Note: If you have a fast oven, reduce heat to 325˚F/170 degrees Celsius. This will allow the sides and the center of the cake layers to cook more evenly. Bake layers 25-30 minutes or until the center of the cake springs back when lightly touched.
Prepare the pan(s). Grease and flour two 9×1 1/2 inch layer cake pans. Line bottoms with baking parchment paper or waxed paper cut 1/8 inch smaller than the bottom of the pan. Grease and flour the top of the parchment/waxed paper. If desired, dust pans with cocoa powder.
Cake Baker’s Note: Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter with 1 tablespoon flour. Brush the inside of the pan(s) with this mixture.
Put all ingredients into a LARGE bowl. Sift together all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Blend on low speed until all ingredients are just moistened. Scrape down the sides. Mix on medium speed until just combined.
Bake the cake. Pour batter into pan(s). Fill the pans half way, dividing the batter evenly. Shift pans back and forth on countertop to release air bubbles. Bake 25-30 minutes (20 minutes in convection oven). Cool on a rack 10 minutes. Remove from the pan(s) and cool completely.
Frost/decorate. Place the rounded side down on a serving plate. For the bottom layer, I choose the less attractive one. Frost bottom layer with nutella. Place top layer right side up on top of the nutella and press down lightly. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top layer.