Hi Brenda! Happy holidays and thanks for having me! Today I wanted to share one of my all time favorite recipes. I love this cake so much that I even included it in my debut novel, THE ART OF FALLING. It’s super easy, always comes out perfect, can be scaled up or down, and because there’s no raw eggs, kids (and adults) can eat the batter without worrying about food poisoning. Always a plus for this busy momma!
Chocolate Celebration Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups cold water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 9” round pans or 24 muffin tins.
Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in large bowl.
Combine oil, vinegar and vanilla in a small bowl.
Add oil mixture and water to dry ingredients and mix by hand until well blended, about one minute.
Immediately pour batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly.
Bake until tooth pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 minutes for round pans or 20 minutes for muffin tins.
Allow to cool 10 minutes before removing from pans and frosting.
For some extra holiday flavor, try mint or orange extract instead of vanilla.
Decorate with chocolate shavings, sprinkles or candy. I used Skittles in honor of Ben from THE ART OF FALLING.
For a (slightly) lighter treat, serve with berries and cream instead of frosting.
For an extra holiday treat, here is an excerpt from THE ART OF FALLING, where Bria ends up baking this very recipe with Ben’s mom, Adele – right after she has a particularly unsettling encounter with Ben. Enjoy!
“Good morning,” Adele said with a bright smile. She wore a ruffled apron sprinkled with cherries tied around her slender waist. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”
“No, I’ve been up for a while.”
“That’s right. You’re an early riser like Ben.”
The comparison cut her, bringing the previous night back full force.
“I tried to sleep in.”
Adele laughed and continued gathering mixing bowls, measuring cups and baking supplies. “If you’re up, would you like to help?”
“What are you making?”
“Chocolate cake. I thought I’d whip something together for Ben’s birthday while he’s out running.”
“Right. That’s Monday.” She had tried to forget.
“Yep. I’ll be on set all day, but I try to have something special for the kids. It’s actually a vegan cake. So moist and easy.”
“What can I do?”
Adele handed her an apron. “Measure out the dry ingredients?”
“Sure.” Bria picked up the recipe and sat down at the counter.
Three cups flour, two cups sugar. The cocoa powder spilled on the counter as she measured out half a cup.
Adele grabbed a damp cloth from the sink and wiped it away. “Here’s a trick my mom taught me. With something like cocoa powder that has a small opening, use a smaller measuring cup. Like two quarter cups instead of a half cup.”
“Thanks.” Bria added baking soda and salt, trying to remember the last time she’d baked anything.
“Whisk that together,” Adele said. “Perfect.”
Bria smiled. So long as she could forget she was baking for Ben, keeping busy was way better than lying in Abby’s bed and rehashing everything that had gone wrong.
Pulling the bowl of dry ingredients close, Adele dumped in oil, vanilla, vinegar and water.
“I’ve always been disappointed that vanilla extract doesn’t taste like it smells,” she said.
“Like coffee,” Bria said. “I want something that tastes the way coffee grounds smell.”
“Precisely.” She dumped the batter into two waiting cake pans and slid them into the oven. “Half an hour until that’s done and maybe fifteen after that before Ben gets home. What kind of frosting should I do?”
“Vanilla. With Skittles.” The words came before she realized she was speaking.
Adele laughed. “Skittles. You know I buy them in bulk for him. You’d think they’d be terrible for his teeth but that boy’s never had a single cavity.”
Before she could say something about how his perfect smile turned her into goo, she grabbed another mixing bowl. “How do you make frosting?”
“I have a fantastic whipped cream recipe somewhere. I got it from your aunt, actually.”
“Oh, that really fluffy one?”
“That’s the one.” She pulled an oversized mixer forward on the counter. “Can you get the whipping cream for me? It’s on the door of the fridge.”
“Whipped cream is the thing I miss most going from vegetarian to vegan,” Bria said, handing her the carton.
“There’s nothing like the real thing.”
“That’s what Mom always said.”
Adele looked up from her measuring and gave her a soft smile. “Your grandma must have been a wonderful cook.”
“Oh?” She locked the mixer down and turned it on.
“He owned the bakery before Aunt Becky. Most of her recipes come from him.”
“Do you ever bake?”
Bria shook her head. “With just me and Dad, there’s always too much for us.”
“You can always send leftovers here. Food doesn’t last long in this house.”
“Ben eats a ton, doesn’t he?”
“Especially during football.”
Bria picked up the measuring cups, stacking them inside each other. “How is his leg?”
“Getting better.” Adele covered the frosting bowl with plastic wrap and sliding it into the fridge. “He’s planning on playing on Friday.”
“Already?” A sliver of fear crept into her voice.
“I know. I wish he’d rest longer, but I can’t hold him back. Ben goes after life with everything in him. I’d never want to diminish that.”
Ben came through the back door, stopping short. “Hey.”
“You’re back early,” Adele said. “I haven’t started breakfast yet.”
He sat own at the opposite side of the counter from Bria and stretched out his leg. “My calf gave out.”
“Ice?” She pulled out a frying pan and set it on the stove.
Bria hopped up and opened the freezer without looking at him.
“Thank you, Bria,” Adele said.
“You don’t need…” Ben said. His eyes slid away to the ice pack in her hand.
“Don’t worry about it,” Bria said.
“Are you going to stay for breakfast?” Adele asked. “I think I have some of Abby’s vegetarian sausage I can cook up for you.”
Bria turned away from Ben. “I should get home. I have a lot of homework this weekend.”