ISO best cake recipe

What’s your favorite recipe for chocolate cake? Choc/yellow marble? I’m in the mood to bake a cake!

Aside: is it just me, or is a cake moister when it uses oil rather than butter as the fat?

Bravetart’s chocolate cake is excellent. Freezes well.
This marble cake is the best I’ve ever made;

It’s moister with oil, although I’m old so I prefer the crumb and flavor you get with butter cakes. Also, oil gives you a higher margin for overbaking. Butter requires some practice. I’ve written down exactly when to take out cakes for the recipes I use. You have to account for carryover baking.

Do you like cocoa-based cakes like Devil’s Food that taste somewhat like Oreo, or cakes that taste closer to eating chocolate?

I recommend this link to get started. We’ve tried all those recipes except two. My family loves the Bravetart recipe. Of course, from that list, I’m a fan of the last place RLB recipe.

There was also a follow up bake off. This one wasn’t as “scientific”, but I wanted to highlight one observation from it. The specific ingredients do matter. Different recipes perform better with different brands. I wish authors wrote down the brands they actually use the most. It would help immensely. Is natural cocoa better than Dutch-processed? I used to say it depends on the individual. Now, I’d say that’s still true, but it depends more on the recipe.


I have that cookbook (smitten kitchen every day) and was underwhelmed with that marble cake. I’ve been meaning to try again because there are fans of that cake on Chowhound, too.

It’s hard to repeat a recipe after going to all the effort and expense of making a cake only to be disappointed but I think this one is worth a second try. Is the recipe in the book exactly the same as on the epicurious site?

Yes, I just checked. Could you list what ingredients you used? The white chocolate quality will probably make a big difference. Honestly, the others liked it and brought it up a month ago but I said no.

This buttermilk and oil chocolate cake was unbelievably good. It’s become my gold standard for a “straight” chocolate cake, i.e., not chocolate carrot cake or chocolate Guinness cake.

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Did I read this right - not a single crazy cake on her extensive testing list? That’s surprising.

(I do love the spreadsheets and charts - that’s how I think too, and I have them for my own rabbit holes to figure out why I like one recipe more than another :joy: )

To me the choice of recipe has a lot to do with what function it’s serving - is it birthday cake and will be iced/frosted? Is it tea cake? Is it going to be glazed? And so on.

Chocolate pound cake is rich and delicious on its own, as also chocolate olive oil cake. Crazy cake is perfect for layer cakes where ganache will provide richness, but also for an everyday cake without any adornment, because it’s moist and chocolatey, but not heavy.

Imho any recipe needs to be tweaked somewhat to adapt it to the taste of oneself and ones audience - more cocoa/less cocoa, coffee/salt, oil / butter / blend, and so on.

@bmorecupcake is a baking expert - I trust her recs!

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I appreciate all the links and tips. To answer some questions above, I prefer the taste of chocolate to cocoa, I’m looking for an everyday cake rather than any special occasion. I suck at frosting and decorating and probably wouldn’t even try. Not a fan of white chocolate so I’m not sure about the marble recipe. But I will peruse more closely on the comparison article and then pick one. Thank you!

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I think she tried to keep the cakes somewhat similar. I’m going to date myself – I actually call that vegan cake an Amazon cake (can’t remember why.) I’ve never had it come out well, but I was just watching Ep. 4 of King Arthur’s Isolation Bakeoff and they had a similar cake. I need to tackle it again and figure out what I’m doing wrong.

She actually lists the exact ingredients she uses, so with a some effort you can get results close to hers. In my experience, if you choose the best on her list and get your ingredients as close as possible, you will do very well serving it to the average eater.

These days, I keep coming back to this recipe from Dorie Greenspan. (Alternate link to half recipe.)

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Oh wow - given how complicated the projects you normally tackle are, maybe this is a case of something too simple?!

It’s lighter in texture than egg/butter cakes, and gets moister and deeper in flavor day 2 onwards.

I like that I can make it as small as I want - no eggs to divide!

(FYI - if you’re testing it again, the KAF recipe is low on cocoa relative to others - I use double that amount.)

I thought it is better the day after, too, but sometimes I think I might be falling victim to confirmation bias. Which recipe and brand of cocoa do you use?

Cakes made with oil are definitely moister because the water in butter evaporates during baking. That said, you can use half of each for a compromise of flavor and texture. I am partial to melted virgin coconut oil. If you refrigerate the uneaten cake, it becomes VERY firm, so it’s easy to frost and slice. Let a plate holding a slice of cake sit at room temperature for a half hour or so, and it will be tender and moist.

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The cocoa and white choc were valhrona, the semi choc I used was a 60%.
All the dairy and eggs were local farm products - not sure if that makes a difference. I made it for a birthday so most of the cake went home with the birthday girl. I want to try it again soon. I am considering subbing dulcy choc for the white.

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The good thing about pandemic cooking was that at different points I had to use different brands of cocoa, flour, and everything else. For cocoa - Trader Joe’s, Ghirardelli, Hershey’s (all that was available for a while), and an organic brand from WF. Flour - KAF, WF, Amazon Fresh’s store brand, and various GF blends.

The cake results were actually pretty consistent - I do, however, adjust bake time, and taste the batter for cocoa and sugar and adjust those as well if needed.

Even with GF flour, and aside from needing to adjust liquid for the different absorption, the crazy cake turned out quite well - even the one time that the “fancy” GF flour absorbed all the liquid like some science experiment and turned into a giant blob :joy:

The one fail - though not really, just not-as-good - was when I tweaked the basic recipe for Samin Nosrat’s version that adds eggs: I thought it would yield a richer cake (for a benchmark birthday). But we unanimously agreed that the cake itself was not as good as all the others.

I’m pretty sure for the ones I make. There’s a marked difference not only in texture, but also in flavor, on day 2.

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Do you have your own recipe? Cocoa I’m assuming is always natural (not Dutch processed), correct?

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The standard one - there’s very little variation in the main proportions across versions, just adjustment for pan size (or so the “author” can rename it).

I do increase cocoa to my taste.

My family called it Wacky Cake:

1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 sq. bitter chocolate or 1/4 c. cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vinegar
1/3 c. Mazola or Wesson oil🙂
1 c. cold coffee

Mix and pour into a greased and cocoa dusted non stick 8x8” square cake pan. Bake at 375* for 20 mins. We always liked it with buttercream frosting.


I don’t understand why this is called Wacky, as it reads to me as a quite reasonable recipe.