No-Ingredients Chocolate Cake

This is the easiest cake I have ever made.

I found the recipe in a magazine maybe two years ago and made it solely because it didn’t call for any ingredients that I didn’t immediately have on hand.

No butter.

No cream.

No eggs.

No buttermilk.

No sour cream.

This isn’t even one of those mayonnaise cakes.

It’s as if the cake has no ingredients. It’s outstanding.

The only thing the average cook might not have on hand is cocoa powder. The rest is flour, salt, sugar, water, canola oil, vanilla, baking soda, and the secret ingredient that makes it all happen: white vinegar.

The original recipe called for a blend of all-purpose flour and wheat flour, but screw that. You don’t need it. You can use all all-purpose flour.

After I made this cake once or twice, I realized it was vegan. (If you’re making this for vegans, do double check that the cocoa powder you use doesn’t have anything weird in it.) It doesn’t taste “lite” or flavorless in any way, but it’s not really a special cake either. On the other hand, if you’re having people over or are in charge of bringing a dessert to a party, this is the easiest thing in the world to whip up.

One word of caution: do not lick the batter bowl. You might get a big kick of white vinegar. It's not pleasant, I assure you.

To change it up, you can use pancake mix instead of flour (which will mean it’s no longer vegan, I suppose). You can add instant coffee if you like. Add a half cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter for an extra chocolate punch. You can sprinkle the cake while it’s still warm with a liqueur – try coffee liqueur or Kahlua.

For a simple frosting-like topping, melt chocolate chips in a bain-marie; add a pad of butter and a few drops of water. Frost the cake (make sure it’s cool) by spooning a small puddle of the melted chocolate onto the cake and gently pushing it around with the back of the spoon. Let it cool and set. Decorate with a few sprinkles or, as I did, with a dried rose petal.

'No-Ingredients' Chocolate Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1 pinch salt
1 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar (no substitutions here)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 if making a round or square cake. Preheat to 325 for cup cakes.

Grease an 8x8-inch pan or 8-inch round cake pan and dust with flour or sugar. Or, line a muffin tin with cup cake wrappers (yield is about 12 medium cup cakes).

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk (or sift them).

Mix all the wet ingredients separately.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until set, 15-20 minutes for cup cakes and 25-30 minutes for large cake.