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A cake to bring comfort to kids (and parents)

Mollie Katzen’s made-in-the-pan chocolate cake. PICTURE: Linda Xiao/The New York Times

Mollie Katzen’s made-in-the-pan chocolate cake. PICTURE: Linda Xiao/The New York Times

Published Apr 7, 2020


This recipe, which I first wrote about in an article about the best kids’ cookbooks a year ago, is adapted from Mollie Katzen, a chef and author best known for “The Moosewood Cookbook.” 

It’s an ideal recipe to make with young kids (or for older kids to make alone) because it calls for just a handful of ingredients, and it’s mixed and baked in one pan. (It’s also vegan.)

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It’s surprisingly moist and delicious on its own or dusted with powdered sugar, but in times like these, a layer of buttercream frosting and a rainstorm of coloured sprinkles are a very good idea. 

A couple of weeks ago, my five-year-old made it while I looked over her shoulder. She took a bite of the finished cake, looked me in the eye with pride and said, “My cakes are better than Mama’s.”

And so, instead of remembering cancelled plans and uncertainty, maybe they’ll remember this as the time when they discovered that baking can be not just a means to a sweet reward, but an act of self-care and solace, just as it is now for their worried mother.

Made-in-the-Pan Chocolate Cake

(Serves 9-12)

Total time: 45 minutes


160g all-purpose flour

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200g sugar

30g unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

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1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

80ml canola oil

1 tspn vanilla extract

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1 tspn apple cider vinegar or white vinegar

2 tbs semisweet or vegan chocolate chips (optional)

Powdered sugar, for dusting on top (optional)


Heat oven to 160 degrees. Add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt to an 20-by-20-cm square glass or metal baking dish. Whisk the mixture together until uniform in colour. Use your fingers to break apart any lumps.

Add 1 cup water along with the oil, vanilla extract and vinegar. Stir slowly with a fork or a whisk in small circles to blend. Mash, scrape and stir with a fork and spoon until the mixture becomes a smooth and uniform batter.

Scrape the sides of the baking dish with a rubber spatula and spread the batter in an even layer. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, if using.

Use a damp paper towel to wipe the edges of the baking dish clean. Carefully transfer the dish to the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the batter comes out mostly clean, 28 to 33 minutes. (Instead of looking like you dipped the toothpick in chocolate frosting, it should look like it has some chocolate cake crumbs clinging to it.)

Remove from the oven, let cool, then cut the cake into squares. If you’re feeling fancy, this tastes good (and looks pretty) with some powdered sugar dusted on top.

The New York Times 

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