Best EVER Chocolate Cake
This chocolate cake recipe was one of our very first recipes. We’ve been using it for almost 12 years for cooking birthday parties, summer camps, family dinners, and kids nites out. We have never been tempted to even think about tweaking it! That’s how good it is.
For 4th bday celebrations and beyond, we usually have each child make their own 4-inch cake. We introduce each ingredient, then walk around and let each party goer measure it into their bowl. Sometimes a parent will come up to one of our instructors and say something like, “You guys have the cakes already made in the back, right? This is just for fun?” To which we always reply, “Nope - this is the real deal! These cakes are going into the oven, and the kids will each get their very own cake back to decorate.”
I won’t lie. On a very rare occasion, we’ve had to remake cakes in the back (and we’re talking once every 100 parties or so). Pretty much every instructor that works for us has at one point forgotten to add baking soda to cakes (the cakes come out completely flat and rubbery, and even taste funny). That’s the sort of mistake that my Dad says you make three times - first, last and never again! Of course we recover quickly and without missing a beat (or disappointing any kids). True confessions from a kids cooking school!
We always make a couple of extra cakes during a party in case one falls on the floor or something. Luckily, it’s rare that we need to use our “emergency cakes.” So we decorate them, cut them into bite-sized wedges, and serve them up to the parents. I can’t count how many times I hear parents say, “Wow, this cake is really good!” The tone is often somewhat surprised, but we’ll take it as a compliment!
So what makes this cake so special? I love the ooey gooey element from the chocolate chips - technically making it a double chocolate cake. It sounds (and tastes) decadent, but it’s actually pretty good for you (as far as cake goes, anyways). We use sunflower oil and applesauce for moisture. The applesauce also lends some sweetness, so we can keep the added sugar on the low side. And notice that we use half whole wheat flour!
Oh, and did I mention the recipe is endlessly customizable? Try using another fruit or sweeter veggie puree instead of applesauce - like roasted butternut squash or pie pumpkin, banana, or even roasted beets! Just make sure to blend or mash well, and add a little water if needed to get the consistency of applesauce. How about forgetting the cocoa powder and chocolate chips, and adding some cinnamon to make Apple Cinnamon Cake. Do the same thing, but with mashed banana and you have banana cake. Or with pureed mango for mango cake. Or how about replacing half the applesauce with finely grated carrot, the chocolate chips with raisins, taking out the cocoa powder and adding a few dashes of cinnamon - and voila, you have carrot cake! You get the idea. Once you master the basic concept, the potential variations are almost endless!
We’ve included our basic buttercream recipe here. It’s unique because we use cream cheese in addition to butter. We love it because it doesn’t feel as heavy and greasy. And if you compare our recipe to others, you’ll notice significantly less powdered sugar! If you decide to decorate your cupcakes, try using fresh fruit (like sliced strawberries) or freeze dried fruit (our favorite is raspberries). That’s what we do for almost all our parties - and the kids love it!
This recipe makes 4 4-inch cakes or 12 cupcakes. Or make a 10-inch cake by multiplying the recipe by 2. Happy baking!
Best EVER Chocolate Cake
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup sugar
¼ cup sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
Heaping 1/3 cup chocolate chips
1 stick butter, softened*
4 oz cream cheese, softened*
½ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
Crack egg into a mixing bowl. Whisk well to combine yolk and white. Add applesauce, sugar, oil and vanilla and whisk well. Whisk in cocoa powder and baking soda. Add flours and whisk just enough to make them disappear into the batter. Fold in chocolate chips.
With a spatula, scrape batter into prepared muffin pan. Bake until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean, about 15-17 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Carefully pop muffins out of muffin pan. Let cool completely on a rack.
While cupcakes are baking/cooling, make your frosting. Combine softened butter and cream cheese in your mixing bowl and whisk until well blended. (If you’d prefer, you can use an electric hand mixer or stand mixer.) Sift powdered sugar over the mixture. Use a flour sifter, or a small fine-mesh strainer and gently push powdered sugar through it with a spoon. Add vanilla. Whisk until frosting is smooth and creamy.
Once cupcakes are completely cool, frost and enjoy!
Makes 12 cupcakes
*Ideally, the butter and cream cheese should be left out at room temperature to soften (1-1 ½ hours). If you're in a pinch, you can do it in the microwave. Just make sure to use a defrost or low power setting so that they soften without melting.