Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake

One of the bonuses of summer camp for children is making a variety of new friends which can later lead to some memorable invitations and experiences, especially during long holiday breaks from school.

As a city girl, my most unusual holiday invitation took me to Wisconsin to stay with Betty, one of my junior counselors, on her family’s dairy farm. It was below zero when we went out with her brothers, a gas-powered saw and a sled to cut down a Christmas tree and drag it home. The tree decorations included yards of cranberries and popcorn that we strung by hand, and whole walnuts that we jammed wire into and dipped in gold paint. While we worked, Betty’s mother served us a special type of chocolate cake, which she called snacking cake because it is a perfect snack to eat out of hand anytime.

Some of its unusual features are that it is easy to make, contains no butter, milk, or eggs – and yet this cake has the rich, dense flavor of an old-fashioned chocolate cake. There is also a hidden health plus in this dessert. Some of the flour is whole-wheat rather than refined, which gives the cake some important health benefits. Only whole-grain wheat flour contains the bran and germ, which is where most of the fiber and protective cancer-fighting substances are found. Although it is difficult to create a cake that is both delectable and made only with whole-wheat flour, a small proportion can replace some of the refined flour called for in most recipes without adversely affecting a cake’s taste or texture.

This cake is moist and flavorful enough to go without frosting, although a dollop of frozen yogurt or a whipped topping wouldn’t go amiss.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake


  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 6 Tbsp. Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract


Set a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8- inch square baking pan with cooking spray and then dust lightly with flour.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, cocoa and baking soda. Whisk in the sugar and salt. In a smaller bowl, combine the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and whisk until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes or until it pulls away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn it out onto a baking rack, and cool completely.

Serve the cake immediately or wrap it in foil and store at room temperature for up to 2 days. To serve, cut the cake into 9 squares. (If desired, frost cake or serve topped with a spoonful of fat-free topping or reduced-fat vanilla yogurt.)

Per serving: 229 calories, 10 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat), 40 g. carbohydrate, 3 g. protein, 2 g. dietary fiber, 136 mg. sodium.

The Author:

“Something Different” is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) www.aicr.org

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