The best cakes in the world are not discovered at high-end confectioneries and patisseries, not even on the racks of Michelin-star chefs working in luxury hotels. The best cakes in the world are not determined by the price of a slice or the European street you experience it on.
I speak of a very distinct variety. These are those elusive pieces of art hidden in a small farewell party where you question your motives while reaching for a second helping. They are the cherished recipes grandmothers follow every time the children come over on Sundays. The ones leftover from a weekend lunch where the frosting has stuck to the roof of the container and the sponge has that sweet taste only heightened by a gulp of cold milk.
I treasure every one of my cake recipes like an old friend who has grown up with me and evolved along the years. And judging by your current interest in this article, you are among the privy few I have chosen to confide in.
This one is plausibly among the most famous cake recipes in the world, printed nearly a thousand times a week (or even a day!). It lies disregarded on the back of shelves in millions of kitchens around the world. I stumbled upon it only after I had left the container back-first in my own cupboard.
I’m talking about the cake recipe on a Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened cocoa box. The small font. Compressed lines. The fact that most of us like our recipes Googled meant that this classic from the company’s 1934 cookbook is overlooked almost every time.
It requires a handful of ingredients available with any grocer. I played around with the recipe, adding my own estimations in similar proportions.
- 4 and a half cups all-purpose flour (I took 3 cups)
- 3 cups white sugar (1 and 3/4th cups here)
- 1 cup Hershey’s cocoa (kept this 1 cup)
- 1 cup vegetable oil (unchanged as well)
- 3 cups water (made it 1 cup water and 1 cup milk)
- 3 tsp baking soda (I added 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp baking powder)
- 1/2 tsp salt (unchanged)
- 3 tsp vanilla essence (added just 2 tsp here)
- I also added a well-beaten egg with the oil, just for that extra sponginess. (You can skip it for an eggless version)
After sieving the dry ingredients into a bowl, I whisked the oil, egg, vanilla, and water together. The wet mix went into the dry bowl and I added the milk slowly to reach a smooth silky texture, the velvety kind that falls back in a cascading spiral. The oven was set at 175 degrees Celsius for about 50 minutes (I had checked the cake with a kebab stick around the 35-minute mark).
The frosting was pretty simple. Double boil a slab of 200 grams of nice dark chocolate with 100 grams of salted butter. The salt just hoists the taste to an entirely new level, probably to a frosting heaven. Add four cups of icing sugar to the melted chocolate and whisk slowly to dissolve. That’s it!
Once your cake is cooled, slice it in half. I take a large knife and cut it with the pressure slightly towards the top of the cake. That way you get two equal halves. Now frantically whisk the frosting mix for about two minutes. You’ll notice it begins to thicken. That’s the air cooling the butter and allowing it to set.
Take a nice dollop of the chocolate frosting and massage it onto the top of the lower half of your cut cake. Set the top back on and apply the frosting evenly.
We did not wait for a minute to dig in. I gave a box of it to Astha and she devoured all of it in a single sitting. The rest I took with me to the office. The last slice was saved in a fridge box for the following day.
Cold milk and a nice chunk of chocolate cake – one of my best dinners in a while.