Cockeyed Chocolate Cake with Coconut Topping
This is a great recipe for kids because it's so ridiculously simple. It's probably the first cake I ever baked from scratch. Five minutes to prepare, you mix the batter right in the pan, it is basically foolproof. This is an old favourite recipe from The I Hate To Cook Book by Peg Bracken published in 1960.
The writing is hysterical, chapters include; Spuds and other Starches - or ballast is a girls best friend, Potluck Suppers - or how to bring the water for the lemonade, and Company's Coming - or your back's to the wall.
Vintage cookbooks are the best, so full of stories. They reflect the changing times, culinary fads, tools we use in our kitchens, even the food we find in our supermarkets. For example, I've never seen a North American cookbook from the 1960's with a recipe requiring a food processor, or calling for garam masala or any other 'exotic' spice for that matter. How things have changed. The evolution of food photography and styling trends in old cookbooks is always of great interest to me too, I find a lot of inspiration from the images in older publications. The History of Food Photography is great place to learn more about this subject, if you like that kind of stuff.
Some of the personal notations crack me up, like"the Reverend went back for more, twice!". Notes in margins from previous owners and the stained pages tell me which recipes are recommended, and where adjustments are needed. My copy of The I Hate to Cook Book was liberated from my mom's collection many moons ago, when I set up my very first kitchen. Many of the recipes for baked goods have notes in the margins in my mom's handwriting, usually hiding some wheat germ or soy flour in batter. Always trying to pull one over on us. God love her.
Preheat the oven to 350F, and grease a 9 inch square cake pan. Gather together the following ingredients for the cake:
- 1 1/2 cups sifted flour
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup cold water
Sift the dry ingredients directly into the greased cake pan. Tap it a couple of times so the ingredients settle into a layer rather than a mound in the center of the pan. Use your finger to make make three grooves in the sifted dry ingredients. Pour the cooking oil into one of the grooves, the vinegar into another, and the vanilla into the third groove. Now, pour the cold water over the whole thing. Use a fork to combine the ingredients, continue stirring until the mixture is lump-free. Bake at 350F in the center of the oven for 25 minutes.
Mix up the coconut topping for the cake while it bakes. In a small bowl, combine:
- 4 tablespoons soft butter
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 2/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
After baking for 25 minutes, remove the cake from the oven, and turn on the broiler. Spread the coconut mixture over the cake (while it's still hot) and return the cake to oven for another 4-6 minutes, until golden brown on top. Watch it carefully at this stage, it will burn quickly.
Try to let the cake cool complete before cutting it, this won't be easy.
This recipe can also be made without the coconut topping, if you'd prefer, just bake the cake at 350F for 30 minutes.