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Never-Fail Chocolate Cake


The month of May was an absolute whirlwind. It was one of those months that, when it’s over, you look back and say to yourself, “what even happened last month?” and then you remember: you had visitors. And communions. And long weekends. And a very busy, increasingly mobile/vocal baby.

Now that we’re well into June I realize I don’t have that much time before Maeve and I head to Canada for the summer – in fact, we’ll be leaving Ireland next Thursday.

Oh, and I failed to mention we’re in the process of moving house. Yeah. And it’s silage time. So combine the last few weeks being so busy with packing, moving, silage cooking (which is a fairly large task) and running back and forth from Tipperary to Waterford and you can understand why I’m feeling a bit frazzled.

That said, I’ve been enjoying myself immensely. I’m not the kind of person who enjoys being idle. Maternity leave ended last month, and although I’m not gainfully employed (yet), I’m definitely in work-mode. I can’t wait to get back in a kitchen. Or back to writing full-time. Whatever may be in store, I’m ready for it.


The last weekend in that crazy month of May was our niece’s 11th birthday. You may remember the cake I made for her last year. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have time to put the same amount of effort in this year’s cake. The weekend before her birthday I made a massive, pink ombre princess cake to celebrate her sister’s first communion and when I asked her what kind of birthday cake she’d like, she simply said “chocolate”. Like last year.

Well… I didn’t really have any time. When Friday came around I did something I never do – I bought a cake mix. And canned frosting.

It wasn’t even Betty Crocker cake mix; it was Tesco brand. I figured all mixes are the same and come out the same – consistently moist and tasty. I was so very wrong.

This cake mix was an abomination. First, I couldn’t believe the tiny amount of batter it made. Second, it was like cardboard when it came out of the oven. I felt bad, but I had to throw it in the garbage. It was awful.

Saturday morning came around and I knew my niece would be visiting soon – and expecting a chocolate cake. I searched my cupboards to make sure I had ingredients and then I did what I should have done from the start – I made this amazingly quick never-fail chocolate cake.


This is a recipe from home in Cape Breton. It’s actually my sister-in-law’s grandma’s recipe. It has very few ingredients (most will always be in your cupboard, except maybe the cocoa), is low maintenance and bakes to perfection.

When I made this cake, my reasons for never buying cake mix were reaffirmed. It took exactly the same amount of time to make and it was so yummy. My niece loved it, even though it was definitely not on the same scale as last year’s cake.


Never-Fail Chocolate Cake


1/2 cup canola/vegetable oil

1 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

pinch of sea salt

1/2 cup Dutch-pressed cocoa

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup boiling water


  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees (160 degrees Celsius, no fan). Butter and flour any cake pan (bundt, round, rectangular, sheet – go crazy). I just line a regular ol’ springform pan with parchment – I don’t bother greasing.
  • Place the ingredients into a mixing bowl in the order stated in the ingredients list (just one of top of the other; trust me).
  • Using the whisk attachment for your stand mixer or hand mixer, whisk all ingredients for four minutes. This is why it’s important to use cake flour in this recipe – the gluten will not develop as strongly as it would in all purpose flour and you’ll still have a lovely moist cake.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40-60 minutes, depending on the cake pan you’re using (sheet cake will take much less time; keep that in mind). When a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, it’s ready.
  • Cool completely before icing, covering in ganache or dusting with cocoa or powdered sugar. Keep covered at room temperature or in the fridge for up to four days.


3 Comments Post a comment
  1. It’s a wonderful recipe and I love the M&M’s decorating the cake. It looks moist and rich and delicious. My you are busy aren’t you!!

    June 13, 2014

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