September 24, 2017

Smarty Cooking School: Emergency Chocolate Cake

CSP Team Note: Meet our newest Smarty, Molly Bollier. Molly will be sharing some yummy recipes in our Smarty Cooking School! If the rest of her recipes are anything like this, we’re all in for a treat! :-)

Moms, I know you can relate. Sometimes, you just need chocolate cake. And, if you’re like me, you don’t want to bother with the grocery store (again) this week. So, I have your solution.

I’ve been making this cake for years. I used to call it my “Unexpected Guest Cake,” because it can be made with ingredients I already have in my pantry, it comes together in about 5 minutes and leaves your house smelling of decadent chocolate as it bakes. And though it may look basic, I assure you it isn’t!

Emergency Chocolate Cake CSP

The other wonderful thing about this cake is the easy clean-up. Use one bowl in which to mix everything and one pan in which to bake it. Then, put them both in the dishwasher. Done!

The fabled history of this cake dates to the Depression. During that time, it was difficult to procure fresh foods like milk and eggs – two ingredients common in most cake recipes. So, women got creative and made chocolate cake out of what was readily available (talk about lemonade from lemons!). The recipe that emerged was called “Depression Cake.” But, who is going to make that without some context? Surely, that recipe was passed down and circulated a thousand times over. In the years I have been making it, I have altered the ingredients and proportions until the consistency, texture and flavor is juuuust right. I hope you’ll agree.

And you can serve this cake in myriad ways.

“Just plain”:

Emergency Chocolate Cake slice CSP

Or, perhaps with ice cream:
Emergency Chocolate Cake with Ice Cream CSP

Or, with ice cream and chocolate sauce:

Emergency Chocolate Cake with Fudge CSP

Or, maybe powdered sugar is your thing:

Emergency Chocolate Cake with Powdered Sugar CSP

I’ve sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on top. I have baked mini chocolate chips into the cake. I’ve topped it with caramel and buried it in whipped cream. The options are limitless. Just try not to eat the whole pan at once!


Emergency Chocolate Cake

9 servings | 5 minutes prep, 35 minutes bake time


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons neutral-flavored oil (I use canola)
1 cup water


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (F).

Grease an 8×8 glass baking dish with oil or cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and sugars with a fork until combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir using a stiff spatula until well incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 33-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the pan completely before slicing.

Store these in a sealed container at room temperature for up to three days. You can also freeze them for up to three months.

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