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.

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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.

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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

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!


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hey there, Brenda! Yes, you most certainly can just double this recipe to fit in a 9″x13″ pan. Happy Baking! Morgan@KAF

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

    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

  3. 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!

    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: 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: Happy baking! Mollie@KAF

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

    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

  6. Marilyn

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

    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

  7. 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”!


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