For Chocolate Lovers only

My Chocolate Cake Mix

Tips: This contains no partially hydrogenated fats or preservatives or artificial colors/flavors; it’s just a basic mix for a basic chocolate cake. If you’re going to make this, I’d suggest making up several batches of the mix at one time. Store it in an airtight container (or a doubled airtight plastic bag) in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator!) for up to two months. I have used unbleached all-purpose flour; my assumption is that it would work with bleached all-purpose flour, but since I never have that in the house I haven’t tried it. You’ll need unsweetened, Dutch process (also referred to as “alkalized”) cocoa powder. I have used both Hershey’s and Droste successfully. Make sure your baking powder is dated as far ahead as possible.

This cake can be made with either unsalted butter or a tasteless vegetable oil (I used corn oil in my tests). For instructions with oil, see Note. The baked cake will keep at room temperature for a couple of days, if stored airtight; it also freezes. If you frost the cake, you’ll need to store it in the fridge.

Approximate cost of dry ingredients: $1.50, about 23 ounces of mix


  • 2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, stirred before measuring and spooned lightly into measuring cup
  • 1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • Large pinch of salt

Sift or strain all ingredients into large bowl. With large spoon, blend well until of an even color. Carefully pour or spoon into airtight storage container. Seal; store at cool, dry room temperature for up to 2 months.

To make a cake, you’ll need:

  • One package or container of cake mix
  • 1-1/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (butter must be soft but not melted)
  • 3 eggs, graded “large”
  • Optional (but good): 2 tsp. vanilla


Adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees F. This can be made with a stand mixer or a powerful hand-held mixer; if stand mixer is used, fit with paddle beater, if available.

Select and prepare pan(s). To use a doubled foil pan as described above, simply place one empty pan inside another; pans need not be greased. To use layer pans, choose pans either 8 OR 9 inches in diameter, and at least 1-1/2 inches deep. Grease pans, line bottoms with circles of wax paper cut to fit, grease paper, and dust entire inside of pans lightly with flour, knocking out any excess. I usually use solid vegetable shortening to grease my pans. Yes, this is partially hydrogenated, but you’re using a very small quantity and I use it almost exclusively for that purpose these days. You can substitute additional butter to grease the pans if you wish.

Pour cake mix into a large bowl or large bowl of electric mixer. Add remaining ingredients. Beat at lowest speed until dry ingredients are moistened (if using a hand-held mixer, beat at a low speed). Thoroughly scrape bowl and beater(s) with rubber spatula. Beat two minutes at medium speed. Batter may appear slightly curdled, but will bake up fine. Pour into prepared pan(s).

Bake in preheated oven for 27 to 35 minutes, turning pan(s) back-to-front once about halfway during baking time (if using layer pans, switch their positions in the oven as you do so). Cake is done when toothpick inserted in center emerges with a few moist crumbs still clinging to it. Do not overbake!

Remove pan(s) to cooling racks. For doubled foil oblong pan, allow cake to cool completely before serving or frosting. For layer pans, cool 10 to 15 minutes. Gently loosen cakes from edges of pan; invert onto cooling racks. Carefully peel off wax paper circles from cake bottoms; re-invert to cool right side up. Cool completely before frosting.

Note: to make cake with oil, use a tasteless vegetable oil (such as corn oil), and use only 1/2 cup (yes, 1/2 cup oil instead of 3/4 cup butter). Prepare cake as directed above with stand mixer, hand-held mixer, or by hand using a whisk EXCEPT: after dry ingredients are moistened and bowl beater(s) scraped, beat only one minute at medium speed. Bake and cool as directed above.

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