An Easy Peasy Chocolate Cake Recipe for Dad’s Day, a Grad’s Day or Just Because

Dianne Dillman, for the Shuttle

One Bowl Chocolate Frosting


  • 8 oz. semisweet chocolate
  • 1 pkg. (16 oz.) powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter or non-dairy butter, softened
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • ⅓ cup milk or nondairy milk

Microwave chocolate in a large, microwaveable bowl on medium for 3 min. or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring after 1 min. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Cool 5 min. or to room temperature.

Add sugar, butter and vanilla; beat with electric mixer on low speed until well blended. A wooden spoon will work, too.

Gradually add milk, beating until well blended. If frosting becomes too thick, beat in additional milk by teaspoonfuls until of desired spreading consistency. Promptly ice the cake or it may firm up.

Mother’s Day fell on the same day as the deadline for this article, so I was thinking of my sons, now grown, and remembering this super-simple, wonderful chocolate cake. It’s dark, moist, and luscious. No fancy mixing skills or equipment are required. It comes together in a bowl with a whisk, and you can use a fork or a wooden spoon if no whisk is available.

It is also foolproof, in my experience. The worst results we experienced were tiny white balls of flour throughout. Have no fear; the problem was merely cosmetic. The cake tasted the same and the balls were imperceptible. It also tends to stick to the pan, and I’ve included instructions for how to deal with that.

It’s a perfect project for home schoolers. Baking teaches math skills, fractions, precision and how to follow instructions. And it’s one school assignment you get to eat. Kitchen skills are basic — like managing finances, mowing a lawn, or showing love and gratitude. They’ll also yield lifetime benefits. There’s also a sense of accomplishment and deep satisfaction that comes from feeding our loved ones and friends.

My sons were mixing this cake recipe as soon as they were able. They stood on chairs or step stools at the counter to do the mixing. To my mother’s horror, the kitchen counter was coated in flour, and there was plenty on their curly red hair when we put the cake in the oven. As they grew older, they took over the measuring and eventually, did all the preparation unassisted.

I found the original recipe in the Philadelphia Inquirer about 30 years ago and as chefs do, I tweaked it. The icing recipe comes from the Baker’s Chocolate box. It’s sweet, milk chocolatey, and super easy, but more suitable for children. For adults, I’d advise a ganache or chocolate sour cream icing.

For an even simpler topping, a spoonful of vanilla or coffee-flavored whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream are perfect. There is no reason to think of this solely as a kids dessert; I once served it to rave reviews for a fancy dinner party.

Mississippi Mud Cake


  • 3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 1-½ cups water
  • 1 stick, (4 oz.) butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

(Note: You can use high quality chocolate, substitute gluten-free flour blends, organic sugar or try different flavorings. A little instant coffee dissolved in the water or a ½ cup of leftover coffee subbed for the water will enhance the chocolate flavor.)

Preheat the oven to 275°. (Yes, 275°! Low and slow is what you want.)

Oil or butter a smallish tube pan if you have one; otherwise use whatever size you have. Reduce the time baking if using a large pan. The recipe can be made into cupcakes using liners, or baked in a 9” or 10” round pan. Sprinkle flour into the pan and rotate until coated. Turn over and tap out the excess flour.

Heat the chocolate and water in a microwave-safe bowl for about 3 minutes until the water is hot. Stir until the chocolate is melted. Add the stick of butter and allow it to melt, stirring occasionally.

For best results, sift the sugar, flour, baking soda and salt, but don’t hesitate to skip this step if it’s too complicated. Add the rest of the ingredients to the melted chocolate mixture and stir until combined and well mixed; do not beat it. The batter will be thin and a little lumpy. Pour into the prepared pan and place in the center of the oven.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely on a rack in the pan. Unmold onto a plate. It may help to use a dinner knife to loosen it gently from the sides of the pan. This cake sticks to the pan nearly every time. Use a spoon to scrape off any stuck bits and gently press back in place.