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“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake

This is the fantastic chocolate cake recipe my mother-in-law uses for all of her Cakes by Nanny creations. (Click here to see some of her work!)

This recipe makes a rich, moist cake and works for cake or cupcakes. And it’s easy enough that even a simpleton like me can handle it!

For many years, this cake has delighted a variety of crowds. People (men and women alike) would ask for the recipe. And the secret to this recipe was. . .

Drum roll please. . .

In plain sight. On the backside of a Hershey’s can!

Unbelievable. So that’s it. Pick up a can of cocoa and you’re on your way!

I’ll still go through the recipe below, in case you want to print the recipe from here. Or see a few ways to avoid disaster. :-)

It starts with your basic dry ingredients:



Baking Soda, Baking Powder & Salt



Add your basic “wet” ingredients: Milk, Vegetable Oil, Eggs & Vanilla Extract

Note, the higher fat content in milk, the better (whole or 2% vs skim) and always use Vegetable over Canola Oil when baking. I’m not sure what the science is behind it. Vegetable Oil just seem to let things bake up better.

Mix everything well, beating for two minutes. The batter will be rich and thick and mouthwatering. Unfortunately, all that will be ruined with the next step. . . .


It might hurt. But you’ve gotta do it.

Pour the boiling water in and watch the gooey richness dissolve into soup.

I struggled with this step the first time I made this recipe for cupcakes.

For a moment, I thought I might know more than Hershey.

I omitted the water to see how the batter would bake up. More fudgy? That would make a goooooood cupcake!


Ya, I was wrong. It wasn’t a good idea.

The boiling water must help contain the rising agents in the cake.

The cupcakes overflowed and stuck to the pan. Rendering them useless for my daughter’s birthday party.



I’m a big believer of not throwing away good cake.

So I scraped out all the liners and put the cake pieces into a 9×13 to use later.

See my finished product at the bottom. 

Now back to the recipe. . .

Once the boiling water is incorporated, pour the thin, soupy batter into a greased and floured baking pan (9×13).

Baking cocoa can be substituted for flour, to avoid any icky white specks on the outside of the cake.

This recipe yields (1) 9×13 or (2) 9″ pans.
Or pour into cupcake liners. This recipe makes about 30 cupcakes. Use about a 1/4 cup to measure. You don’t want to overfill these little guys.

Bake according to the instructions – keeping it in the oven until the center is set. Underbaking will cause the cake to fall in the middle.

Let the cake cool completely before frosting. If you are looking for a fantastic frosting, try my recipe for Whipped Buttercream. It’s light and fluffy. Pretty much the most amazing frosting I’ve ever tasted.


And for that I-ruined-the-cupcakes-but-can’t-throw-them-away creation I mentioned above…

Cake Crumble

Pile cake pieces on a dessert plate.

Pour some caramel sauce over the top and dollop with some homemade whipped cream.

Click below for these recipes:

Caramel Sauce, from the Pioneer Woman. Love her.

Fresh Whipped Cream

Ruined cupcakes are never good, but this helped ease the pain. :-)



"Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 1¾ cups Flour
  • ¾ cup Cocoa
  • 1½ tsp Baking Powder
  • 1½ tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 cup Milk (whole or 2%)
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 cup Boiling Water
  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in boiling water, which will make batter very thin.
  4. Pour into pans that have been greased and floured (or dusted with baking cocoa).
  5. Bake at 350 degrees. Cool completely before frosting.
  6. Yields (1) 9x13 cake (bake for 40-45 minutes) or (2) 9" pans (bake for 35 minutes).
  7. Cupcakes: Fill with ¼ cup batter. Bake 22-25 minutes. Yields 30 cupcakes.
  8. To remove cake from pan: Cool 10 minutes. Place upside down onto wire racks or wax paper. Cool completely before frosting.