Procrastinator’s Chocolate Cake

There are many things to love about this cake. Number 1: you can make it on short notice, whenever a chocolate craving hits, or you have unexpected guests, or you forgot you were supposed to bring something to that potluck. Number 2: you can make it with pantry staples, even when you’re out of milk or eggs or butter. Number 3: it happens to be vegan, so when you find out a guest is vegan or lactose-intolerant, you’ve got a cake up your sleeve that they and everyone else will love.

Ingredients serves 8 [can be stretched to 12]

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil or melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup of coffee [or water, if unavailable]
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar [white or apple cider]
  • Optional: 1/4 c. powdered sugar
  • Optional: 1 c. whipping cream


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Many kinds of baking dishes will work for this – everything from an 8 inch square pan or 9 inch round cake pan, to a 9 x 13 pan. It depends on how thick you like your cake. I’ve also doubled this recipe for a sheet pan – when your layers are really thin, line the pan with parchment to help get it out and serve cleanly. And adjust your time accordingly, checking as soon as 10 minutes into baking.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and sugar straight into your pan, or into a bowl if you prefer. In a liquid [at least 2 cup volume] measuring cup, measure and mix the oil, coffee and vanilla.
  3. Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking tin and mix the batter with a fork or small whisk.
  4. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. Pale swirls will occur where the vinegar and baking soda react. Stir just until the vinegar is even distributed throughout the batter.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, checking after 15 minutes. Set aside the cake to cool briefly. Sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar or whipped cream. If you’re feeling fancy, sprinkle with a dash of espresso or instant coffee, or a chocolate espresso bean.

Answers to “How Can I Help?”

→ If guests are helping make the cake, one can work on wet ingredients, and another can work on measuring the dry mix. You’ll need measuring cups and spoons, and all the ingredients listed above. Make sure you hold off on adding the vinegar at the very last step, after you’ve combined the wet and dry.

→ Slice the cake. Use your judgment, but each cake will between 8 or 12 slices. Find a platter or plate and arrange the slices on it.

→ Garnish the cake, by sifting powdered sugar onto the top, or whipping the cream. If sifting powdered sugar, you’ll need a small sifter and a plate [to contain the mess, rest the sifter on it, instead of the counter]. Once the cake is sliced and on a platter, gently tap a sifter with ¼ cup of powdered sugar over the slices.

→ If whipping cream, it helps to start with a cold bowl, but it’s not necessary. If you remember, stick a bowl into the freezer or fridge for a few minutes up to an hour. You’ll need an electric mixer and beaters, a bowl, whipping cream, and a sweetener. Add a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, or a couple tablespoons of sugar [either powdered or granulated] to start, and see how sweet you like it. Taste testing is just one of the perks of helping out.

→ Don’t have an electric mixer? Find a whisk, and you’ve  just found yourself a new party game. Pass the bowl from guest to guest and have them beat that whipping cream until their right arm has had enough! Then they pass it to the next guest, and eventually, you’ll have whipped cream.