My mom has been making my sisters and I the same birthday chocolate cake for the past 20 years.
It's a one-bowl recipe that comes with a delicious condensed milk frosting like no other.
I made it for the first time and despite it being slightly lopsided, it was as moist as I remember.
It's not birthday in my family without the chocolate cake recipe my mom's been making for nearly two decades.
This isn't the first family recipe I've tried out in the past year, but it's certainly up there with one of my favorites.
I know there are a lot of families with a staple birthday cake recipe — and I bet a lot of them are good — but in my opinion, nothing holds a candle to the one-bowl chocolate cake recipe my family's been using for years.
It's moist, fudgy, and sort of like a cake-meets-brownie hybrid. It's certainly not the prettiest dessert out there, but when the flavor is there, who really cares?
Like a lot of family recipes, it turns out this cake actually came from someone else.
My mom told me this cake recipe was shown to her by her friend Allie when our families spent Thanksgiving together in 2003.
She still keeps the pink piece of paper Allie scrawled the recipe on all those years ago as a memento.
Most of the ingredients in this recipe, like all-purpose flour and sugar, are pantry staples.
I can barely make out a word on the original piece of pink paper so for ease of reference, these are the ingredients — most of which are common pantry items.
For the cake:
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of baking cocoa
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup of buttermilk
1 cup of hot water.
For the frosting:
1 can of condensed milk
1 teaspoon of coconut oil
2 tablespoons of cocoa.
The first step is to combine the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
Before starting anything, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit so that it's nice and hot when the batter is complete.
Once that's done, start adding the flour, sugar, baking cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda into a bowl.
Once all the dry ingredients are in the same bowl, give it a mix to make sure there are no lumps.
Nobody likes a lumpy cake, so make sure you give your dry ingredients a good stir before going on to the next steps.
This was especially important for me, because my sugar had quite large lumps in it.
Next up, add your wet ingredients to the same large bowl.
This is the best thing about making a one-bowl recipe — less kitchenware means less cleaning up.
At this step, pour in all of the wet ingredients (except for your hot water) and give it a stir until everything has combined.
When you've mixed the wet ingredients in, it's time to add the hot water.
I personally love this step because as the hot water blends in with the chocolate mix, you get hit by a whiff of what smells exactly like a cup of hot cocoa.
But in this step, I'd really recommend pouring the water bit by bit to avoid it splashing everywhere when you mix, and to get everything evenly incorporated.
The mixture will seem very watery — this is normal.
Compared to other cake batters, you may think something is going wrong at this stage of the process because of how watery it seems.
But don't sweat it, this is normal. I'm not sure why the water is necessary but I have a suspicion it contributes to the overall moistness of the final result.
Now it's time to pour the batter into an appropriately sized baking dish and pop it in the oven for between 35 to 38 minutes.
It's now time to grease a good size baking dish. According to my mom, a 13-by-9-inch baking pan is ideal, but don't stress if yours isn't exactly those dimensions.
Once the batter has been poured in, pop the dish into the oven and bake it for at least 35 minutes.
While the cake is in the oven, start the four-ingredient frosting.
Personally, I hate the kind of thick, marzipan-based frosting that can make cakes look more professional.
I'm much more of a fan of this frosting, which is super gooey and delicious because it's made primarily from a whole can of condensed milk — and condensed milk is basically heaven in a cup.
Mix all the frosting ingredients into a saucepan on a low heat. When you see bubbles, switch it off.
Once you've emptied the can of condensed milk, a teaspoon of coconut oil, a few drops of vanilla, and two tablespoons of the baking cocoa into a saucepan, warm it up gently on a low heat.
The trick here is that while you stir, keep watching the mixture until you see bubbles. Once you do, switch off the heat. You can leave the frosting there until you're ready to pour it on the cake.
At this point, I realized I wasn't sure whether to let the cake cool before adding the frosting, so I gave some family members a call.
I had a question about cooling times that I wanted to ask my mom but when she didn't pick up, I gave my younger sister Nati a ring.
Nati, who was planning to have the cake for her own birthday that Friday, said it's best to let the cake cool before adding the frosting.
My cake ended up slightly lopsided, which is a PSA to make sure your oven railing is straight.
Here's a reminder: make sure your oven railings are straight before you bake anything because you'll probably end up with an uneven cake like mine.
Luckily, the cake had cooked on both the thicker and thinner sides so I didn't have to worry about any raw batter.
Listening to Nati's advice, I left it to cool for around 45 minutes before adding the frosting.
With a cooled cake, it's time to add the frosting. Feel free to spice it up with some decorations.
Once the cake has cooled off, pour the frosting on top and use the back of a spoon to spread it evenly across the surface.
I could honestly have left the cake just like that, but if you're feeling fancy, now is the time to decorate. To make it look slightly more visually intriguing, I sprinkled a few silver sugar balls on top.
For inspiration, one of my close friends, Amy — who has fallen in love with this cake recipe having known me for a decade — plans to add "Star Wars" decorations when she makes the cake for her boyfriend in June.
Now it's time to enjoy.
Though it was the first time I'd made it by myself, I was pretty proud of the results. The cake was as moist as I remember. As I ate, I realized that one of the reasons is that the frosting soaks down to the base, giving it that brownie-like texture.
Even though the cake has become a family staple, I also wanted to give credit to my mom's friend, Allie, for bringing it into our lives.
When I texted her to let her know I was writing about it, she revealed she was first shown the recipe by someone she met while living in Paris in 2002. She then promised the person she'd pay the kindness forward by sharing the recipe with her best friends.
"That is how it got passed along to your wonderful mom," she added. And thank goodness for that.
Read the original article on Insider