chocolate cake: an old family recipe

My sweet grandmother passed down this chocolate cake recipe. What I’m presenting here is my dad’s version of her recipe. Delicious, moist, and dense. It’s been a family favorite for years. Perfect with vanilla ice cream, try this easy recipe today!

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare a pan.

Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray.

Start with the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (heaping)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda

Stir these together until well combined.

Mix in wet ingredients.

  • 2 cups Miracle Whip (no substitutions)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups double-strength brewed coffee

I like to stir things in a bit before using a mixer so it doesn’t splatter. Then mix well, about two minutes. The Miracle Whip may seem weird, but it works. My family has always called this “mayonnaise cake,” which is odd since there isn’t any mayonnaise in the cake. Be sure to use regular Miracle Whip, not “lite,” and not another brand.

The image depicts the hand-stirred chocolate cake ingredients ready for the mixer.
I have stirred the ingredients by hand and am ready for the mixer.

When I get to this stage of the recipe, I can’t help but think of a time when I was twelve or thirteen. I enjoyed helping out in the kitchen, and my mom had asked me to bake this cake. I knew that she sometimes used displacement to measure ingredients like shortening–she would fill a large measuring cup partway with water and then add shortening until the volume had increased the desired amount. Then she would discard the water and use the shortening. Let’s just say that I learned that the displacement measuring technique does NOT work on Miracle Whip. She will probably read this post and be horrified. I’m not sure I ever mentioned that little fiasco.

Pour into your prepared pan and bake.

The chocolate cake ready to go in the oven. It's topped with sliced almonds and chocolate chips.
The cake is ready for the oven. I’ve topped it with sliced almonds and chocolate chips.

Notice that my 9×13 pan is pretty full. It seems like boxed cake mixes have gotten smaller over the years. This one will fill your pan. Start checking after about 50 minutes. You want a toothpick to come out clean from the center. It usually rises significantly and cracks on top. Depending on your oven, it may take an hour.

Let cool completely and then top with your favorite frosting. Enjoy!

The finished chocolate cake!
The cake is out of the oven; it took 55 minutes. It’s not quite as tall as usual and didn’t crack on top, but that’s probably because I loaded it with sliced almonds and chocolate chips.

Please note that the calorie count indicated for this recipe does not include any toppings or frosting.

Other options:

If you prefer not to frost the cake, top it with chopped nuts and chocolate chips before baking. You won’t miss the frosting!

This recipe also works well in loaf pans or as cupcakes. Just adjust the baking times. I typically get three loaves or close to three dozen cupcakes. If you don’t frost the cupcakes, you can call them muffins!

chocolate cake

My sweet grandmother passed down this chocolate cake recipe. Delicious, moist, and dense. It's been a family favorite for years. Perfect with vanilla ice cream, try this easy recipe today!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 15
Calories 226 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder, heaping
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups Miracle Whip, no substitutions
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups double-strength brewed coffee

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray.
  • In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and baking soda until well combined.
  • Slowly stir in remaining ingredients and then mix well, about two minutes.
  • Pour into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Start checking after about 50 minutes. It will rise significantly and the top will be cracked.
  • Let cool completely and then top with your favorite frosting.

Notes

  • Stir in nuts if you would like.
  • This recipe also works well for three loaf pans or as cupcakes. Adjust baking times as needed.
  • Instead of frosting, consider topping with nuts and chocolate chips before baking.
  • Note that the calorie count does not include any toppings or frosting.
Keyword cocoa, coffee

If you’re a chocolate cake fan, consider trying this easy recipe!

This chocolate cake always reminds me of my childhood. My kids grew up with it too.

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Fondly,

Crysti

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