Cake pan cake: a special recipe for our 225th birthday

225-logoThe King Arthur Flour Company marks its 225th anniversary this year. And in honor of that milestone, we decided to feature one particular recipe from our enormous, historic archive; one recipe that we feel embodies both the essence of American baking, and the spirit of King Arthur Flour. We’re proud to share our 225th Anniversary Recipe of the Centuries: Cake Pan Cake.

Chocolate cake.

Unless you’re one of the small minority of Americans who doesn’t care for chocolate, you’ve probably enjoyed a slice of chocolate cake at some point in your life.

Let’s start with birthdays. Do you have a faded, deckle-edge paper photo of you as a toddler,  chocolate cake smeared all over your face? Or a digital image of same – featuring your own 2-year-old? Chocolate birthday cake is a tradition started early and returned to often.

And then there’s the wedding – how many of you insisted on at least one layer of chocolate among the towering tiers of fondant-coated, buttercream-bedecked vanilla?

Maybe at some point you ventured into more complicated chocolate cakes. Sacher torte. Flourless fudge cake.

Or Chef Susan Reid’s wondrous Chocolate Stout Cake. If I had my way, when you looked up “DA BOMB” in your urban slang dictionary, you’d see a picture of this cake.

So, fact established: chocolate cake is a big part of American life. But why does this particular chocolate cake recipe – King Arthur Flour’s Original Cake Pan Cake – earn our accolades as Recipe of the Centuries?

It’s cake with a history.

Born during World War II, with food rationing in effect, Cake Pan Cake uses neither eggs nor milk nor butter. Yet darned if it isn’t the moistest, richest, deepest/darkest chocolate cake you’ll ever taste.

225th Anniversary Cake Pan Cake-2

It’s a simple, stir-together cake anyone can make.

In fact, kids can have fun by mixing the whole thing together right in a cake pan – no bowl to wash! Though personally, I enjoy stirring up the batter for Cake Pan Cake in my mom’s 1950s-vintage green Pyrex bowl.

Cake Pan Cake is all-inclusive.

Everyone in the dietary melting pot can eat Cake Pan Cake. Vegans, those avoiding eggs or dairy, and those with nut allergies can enjoy it without remorse or trepidation. (As can those eating gluten-free – try our Gluten-Free Cake Pan Cake).

Historic, approachable, inclusive: sounds like the newly formed America George Washington presided over back in 1790 – the year Sands, Taylor and Wood (later known as the King Arthur Flour Company) was founded.

And it represents our long-held company values.

History, approachability, inclusivity – we here at employee-owned King Arthur Flour value those characteristics. We’re a historic company, but we don’t feel (or act) old; we relish the technology that lets us connect with you every day, in so many ways. (Have you seen our Instagram feed or Facebook page lately?)

225th Anniversary Recipe of the Centuries Cake Pan Cake via @kingarthurflour

We want you to feel comfortable coming to us for help, for flour, for inspiration and recipes and cake pans. And we want to serve all of our bakers out there, from the 10-year-old proudly baking her first birthday cake to the retired engineer trying to nail down the exact hydration for the perfect baguette.

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Simple. Accessible. Luscious.

225th Anniversary Cake Pan Cake-14

Chocolate!

For everything you embody, Cake Pan Cake, we crown you our 225th Anniversary Recipe of the Centuries.

A great big thank you to all of you out there who regularly invite us into your kitchen to share the pure joy of baking. Here’s to the next 225 years!

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Kalisa

    Yum! Nothing wrong with simple, and I bet this knocks box mix cakes out of the park!

    I have a bake sale coming up and I just acquired a mini Bundt pan that comes with 4 shapes. Could I pour this batter into those shapes and have it bake properly (adjusting for time, of course)?

    Reply
  2. Gerik

    This has become my absolute favorite chocolate cake since I began making it, and it always comes out moist and richly tasting of chocolate. My favorite thing about it is that there’s never any worry about having eggs/milk/butter around, it’s all simple pantry ingredients.

    Reply
  3. Laura

    This is the best chocolate cake ever! I’ve been making for years and have shared this recipe many times. It’s low calorie but you’ll never know it. The recipe makes awesome cupcakes as well. Thank you KAF for providing such high quality products as well as education and recipes for us home bakers. Your products are superior!

    Reply
  4. Amy

    This one doesn’t do a good job of satisfying my chocolate cake needs because it’s not dark and bitter enough (I like 100% cacao chocolate straight-up, though), but it’s been a miracle-worker for “Sunday school needs a snack” events: reliable and well-loved. Like you all! Congratulations on sticking around for a very, very long time in American business standards. I hope you have as many more anniversaries ahead of you. Having reliably good quality flour is the best part of KAF, but you-all as an extended baking community are a very close second.

    Reply
  5. Monica

    Oh I love this little cake! I have made it many times, both frosted and plain, and it’s always a winner. Unfortunately, while it’s a great cake for allergy sufferers, and people with cholesterol issues, it’s not a great choice for those of us on sodium restricted diets. At 150 mg. of sodium for 1/16 of the cake, it’s a bit high – who could eat just 1/16 of this cake??? I’m wondering if there is any way to eliminate the baking soda and vinegar, and substitute baking powder instead. I’m referring to the Bakewell Cream Baking Powder which I purchase from your catalog regularly, which is extremely low sodium, and works very well indeed. In any case, Happy 225th Birthday! Long live the King!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Monica,
      Try using 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder instead of the soda/vinegar. You should still get good lift but not have that “leavener taste” in the end. ~ MJ

    2. sharon

      I am curious. What would happen if you reduced the amount of salt to 1/4 tsp? Could that lower the sodium a bit without having to alter anything else in the recipe or would it throw off the chemistry going on? I have often been tempted to try it, but then i figure it might mess up the whole thing and always resort to just putting in the 1/2 tsp.

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Lowering the salt in a cake will generally just alter the flavor. Yeast breads would be where salt alterations can cause some bigger problems. Jon@KAF

  6. Dana Ross

    This is a fabulous choice for your Anniversary cake. I have been baking this cake for 50 years, since I was 8 years old. I had a good chuckle about your recipe instructions stating to cut the cake into 16 pieces, as i have wondeful memories of my dad and us three kids cutting the cake into 4 “decent size” pieces (as described by dad). We then cozed in around the table and devoured the cake right from the pan! Need i say: no leftovers in that cake pan. Thanks for this lovely memory. It is a huge part of what KA means to me.

    Reply
  7. Renee slazinski

    A wonderful cake that I have taught my kids to make when they started cooking!
    Would there be a link to the recipe for the frosting pictured?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Renee,
      The frosting tip is given in the last step of the recipe online: frost the cake with this simple chocolate frosting: Heat 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips with 1/2 cup half & half until the chips melt. Stir until smooth, and pour/spread over the cake. ~ MJ

  8. Mark

    This is an amazing cake recipe. One of my favorites. I use home cultured buttermilk for the main liquid and a mixture of double dutch cocoa and black cocoa, and the result is always rich and chocolaty with great flavor and moistness. It’s a great pick for a special 225th anniversary recipe.

    Reply
  9. Ann Marie rowlands

    I have been making this cake for more than 30 years and it was called 3 hole cake. Once the kids were out of the house I kind of forgot about the recipe until my Grandson was diagnosed with a dairy allergy. In my search for a cake without dairy I rediscovered it. Kind of like reconnecting with an old friend. By the way we never did frosting, just served with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

    Reply
  10. Cassandra Clark

    In my family, this is known as “Grammy’s World War II Cake” – easy, delicious, make-it-anytime because of the staple ingredients, it has been our go-to chocolate cake for three generations and always brings back such memories. This is still my favorite birthday cake or anytime cake, and the ultimate comfort food. Perfect recipe to celebrate the KAF anniversary!

    Reply
  11. Carol

    My all-time favorite. I actually just made this cake yesterday and of course it’s gone already. I’m looking for tips on how to turn this into a golden vanilla cake however it takes more than just leaving out the cocoa. I’m vegan so I use soy milk in place of the milk because I prefer that over water. I also increased the vanilla and used half teas baking soda and half teas baking powder. The taste is okay but the texture is too heavy. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Carol, we’re glad to hear you are in the club of bakers who LOVE this recipe. We have a similar recipe called Spicy Cake Pan Cake, which should be your base for a vanilla version. Instead of tomato juice, use vanilla soy milk and consider reducing the cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove unless you want it to be a vanilla-spice cake. You can leave out the 1 cup of mix-ins, or you can add your favorite mild fruit like apple or you could even use white chocolate chips! Good luck making this recipe your own. Kye@KAF

  12. sharon

    I have made this cake for years. Moosewood has 4 vegan frostings to go with this cake. All are chocolate based. They are chocolate coconut, chocolate orange, chocolate raspberry , and chocolate peanut butter. Every time i make it, i keep saying i will try a different glaze and every time I go back to the chocolate peanut butter. i bet just a plain peanut butter frosting would be awesome.

    Reply
  13. MHHluvsKAF (Mary Helen Haskell)

    CAKE PAN CAKE is absolutely the BEST – easy to do, easy on the taste buds, easy clean up! Followed recipe exactly the first time; next time will add 1/2 tsp or bit more of Chipotle powder to mix; use to taste as too much can overpower chocolate and some do not like a bit of “heat” TY for bringing this recipe to the forefront. MHHluvsKAF

    Reply
  14. Monica

    I’m reporting back on the baking powder vs. baking soda/vinegar experiment. I made the cake today, using 2tsps. Bakewell Cream Baking Powder, no vinegar, reduced the salt to 1/4 tsp., and used Double Dutch Cocoa instead of natural. It was a resounding success. Rose nicely, tasted great, family loved it. Thanks Mary Jane! Now I can bake my cake and eat it too! Oh, and to blogger Sharon who wanted to know about reducing the salt by 1/4 tsp., I regularly reduce the salt in most recipes, without a noticeable difference in flavor. The trick is not to try to eliminate it entirely. I have found that you can reduce the salt in yeast breads by about 1/3, without consequence, and in a sweet dessert recipe by about 1/2. I have been doing this for about a year, and no one in the family seems to notice. The only recipes I don’t mess with are treasured special occasion recipes – sometimes a girl’s gotta eat what a girl’s gotta eat!

    Reply
  15. letoile

    I love he different names this beloved cake has . . .it was Crazy Cake at our house. The first recipe I got to make myself and like all the other veterans who have been making it 50 years or more, its an excellent choice for your honoring it.

    Letoile

    Reply
  16. Melissa

    I can attest to the perfection of this little cake! It is scrumptious. I used strong coffee in place of the water and it really does bring out the chocolate flavor. By the way, there is no vinegary flavor, as one might fear. The frosting is perfect too. It is my husband’s favorite cake.

    Reply
  17. Jackie Staaf

    I have made this cake for more than 50 years, and my mother before me. Our family calls it 3 Hole Cake. We always mix the dry ingredients in a round cake pan, then make 3 holes to measure in the wet ingredients. And most of the time it has gone unfrosted, often with vanilla ice cream (used to be homemade ice cream) on the side.

    Reply
  18. Ruth Wright

    This was called a “war cake ” when I first got the recipe and I have made it many times It is a cake that everyone enjoys

    Reply
  19. Catherine Anderson

    I’d like the recipe for cake pan cake 225th anniversary. You just put on facebook but I couldn’t bring up the recipe.
    Thanks

    Reply
  20. Sandra Barnett

    I was given this recipe as Depression Cake. I also found a post on Pinterest for this same cake in, I believe, 3 different flavors. One being vanilla. I have these versions saved under Desserts.

    Reply
  21. Marilyn Stinson

    I learned this at my grandmother’s knee back in the 50’s. I don’t use the espresso powder, but sometimes use cold coffee instead of water. I never use salt. I have also left out the chocolate and used cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg for a spice cake for a friend who can’t have chocolate. Very good, too.
    I’m going to try with some molasses in place of part of the sugar and ginger to see if it will be like gingerbread. Miracle Cake, Wonder Cake, Budget Cake. All kinds of names for it. Glad to learn the real history.

    Reply
  22. Allie Birchmeier

    In my family this is “poor mans cake” and we have been making it for years! Always a birthday favorite.

    Reply
  23. Joe

    I was excited when I first saw this recipe; thinking this would be great for “anyone”, and specifically for someone who is on a very restricted diet. However, they have to avoid white flour as well; so if a wheat or oat flour could be used, then that may work. Me, I can eat just about everything and anything (thus far). But I’m trying to think of just one family member, and this just would not work for them.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Joe, our all purpose flour is made from wheat but if you are hoping to use 100% whole wheat flour, then we recommend using our White Whole Wheat Flour in place of the all purpose in this recipe. It is still 100% whole grain, but it is made from a wheat berry that is lighter in color and flavor than the traditional whole wheat. The only change you will need to make is adding more liquid–add 2 teaspoons of extra water for every cup of flour you use. I hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  24. wecancook

    This cake was amazing. I will make it again (and again). I made to frosting as directed. Wow. I thought it was even better cold from the fridge.
    Am going to make this and the gluten free version and take both to work.
    Will be fun to play with recipe wise.

    Reply
  25. robyne

    I got this recipe from one of my KAF cookbooks. Really, easy, quick and the most chocolate flavor. I have made it a number of times for friends and they can’t believe the recipe! Leave it to our very resourceful women of the 2nd world war to come up with something this easy and delicious. Thank you KAF!!

    Reply
  26. Nan

    Oh, it made me so happy to see this post! I inherited my grandmother’s recipe for this chocolate cake – in our family it was called Wacky Cake. I also have her 8×8 metal pan, the interior of which is rugged with dings, gouges and grooves from decades of cake slicing. I shared this recipe on my blog a couple of years ago, and it is an amazingly moist, rich cake. No butter, no eggs!

    This is a wise and tasty choice for your Recipe of the Centuries.

    Reply
  27. Barbara L. Kissack

    I would love to try this cake! I live in Laramie, WY, and our altitude is 7200 feet. What adjustments should I use at the altitude?

    Thank you! I love all your great products and all the recipes I’ve tried. You’ve really enriched my life and also that of my friends with whom I share my cooking!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Barbara, thank you so much for sharing such kind words with us, and we’re thrilled to learn that your life has been improved with baking. For adjustments at high altitudes, check out this link on our website:http://bit.ly/1mzNN58 Happy baking, and keep spreading the baking love. Bryanna@KAF

  28. Emma Hamm-White

    I also grew up knowing this cake as Wacky Cake. I am over 70 years old and I think the first time my mother made it, I was about 8 years old. If I remember correctly, Mom always made a Rocky Road frosting, with just marshmallows in chocolate, confectioners sugar icing. It has always been one of my favorite cakes (chocoholic that I am!).

    Reply
  29. Janet

    This was our all time favorite birthday cake! It was the first cake I ever made by myself as a 9 year old. Brings back great memories!

    Reply
  30. Sherron

    Oh, this is Mama’s “Black Magic Cake,” and one of the first cakes I ever baked (we won’t mention how many years ago). We never frosted it, and didn’t always use the powdered sugar, but a little vanilla ice cream with the warm-from-the-oven cake made one of the BEST desserts anyone could eat! Mama and I played with the recipe some; I wonder if she still has the “Orange Marmalade Cake” version? I can’t find mine, and don’t have time to play…. Thank you, King Arthur Flour, for making this wonderful little cake your “Recipe of the Centuries”!

    Reply
  31. Marilyn

    I don’t have espresso powder; can I substitute finely ground espresso beans or liquid espresso?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Espresso is an optional ingredient in this recipe, as it amps the flavor of chocolate. You might consider using 1/2 teaspoon of instant coffee granules or 1/4 teaspoon liquid espresso. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  32. DJ

    I have made this cake twice with rave reviews. I want to take it out of the pan and frost. I will use parchment paper to make it easier. My question is how to frost it on the sides as the frosting is not stiff. Is there a technique/trick for this? My husband loves the frosting. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      DJ, this frosting is basically a ganache, although ganache usually calls for heavy cream rather than half & half. You can allow this to cool to room temperature and then whip it up to a stiffer consistency with your mixer. Heavy cream will give you a thicker, stiffer frosting than half & half. Barb@KAF

  33. Jo

    We love this cake, I have used peanut butter chips in the frosting,– delicious. This cake is a winner with or with out frosting, I have also used half dutch cocoa and half KAF black cocoa with excellent results.

    Reply
  34. Kay

    Hi, I’m looking for a simple chocolate cake recipe and this looks like just what I’m looking for! May I know if it is possible to substitute the all purpose flour and baking soda with self-raising flour? Also, would the cake still be as good without the frosting? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kay, this cake is easy and delicious with or without frosting! Since Self-Rising Flour includes salt and baking powder, not baking soda, we wouldn’t recommend subbing Self-Rising Flour for the All-Purpose Flour here. This substitution tends to work best in recipes that call for at least 1/2 tsp of baking powder per cup of flour. For more on this topic, check out our related blog post: http://bit.ly/2bI0Zid. In the meantime, if it’s a chocolate cake recipe made with self-rising flour that you want, you might enjoy this recipe (designed for self-rising flour) instead: http://bit.ly/2bYxAUG Happy baking! Mollie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re so happy to know this classic has found a home in your baker’s heart, Lee. A cake of this size will make about 12 cupcakes, and we’d recommend baking at 350° for 20-25 minutes. Happy baking! Mollie@KAF

  35. Patricia McMahon

    I made this cake for the first time and I will be making this again and again! I chose the recipe not because I’m vegan, but because I didn’t have eggs and needed a cake. It was very moist and chocolaty! I didn’t use the espresso, and I frosted it with buttercream made with Bailey’s Irish Cream, then topped with mini chocolate chips. I’m thinking of a peanut butter/cream cheese frosting next time. Thanks for posting this recipe!

    Reply
  36. Kay

    I made this in KA silicon baking cups to use for my granddude’s ‘smash’ cake for his 1st birthday last month. Unfortunately, because he’s not yet had sweet treats, he was not impressed. But…adults were grabbing forks to polish it off!

    This is one great tasting cake & has been my go-to recipe when making chocolate cake. I do not use the espresso powder.

    Reply

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