Grandma’s One-Bowl Chocolate Cake [Kid-Tested!]

How many of your childhood memories involve food? My Grandma Ivy used to make a simple, single layer chocolate cake with a rich cocoa flavor.  A “naked” cake before this was a thing, this dessert was served right out of the pan. The secret ingredient was vinegar, combined with baking soda to create a light and airy crumb.

I later learned that “vinegar chocolate cake” was a baking technique adopted during the Great Depression when things like butter, eggs, and milk were scarce.

We didn’t miss the eggs or dairy–it was just a delicious treat at Grandma’s kitchen table.

This recipe is perfect for those times when you need a quick dessert that comes together in minutes. It’s also perfect for aspiring kid-bakers because it requires just one bowl, a wooden spoon, and a pan. My ten year-old daughter and her friend made this one afternoon, taking turns with measurements and stirring. No creaming butter and sugar and adding one egg at a time. No alternating flour with liquid. No folding of egg whites or fussy lining and flouring of layer pans. No mom control freak moments, because it’s just that easy!

Grandma's One-Bowl Chocolate Cake [Kid-Tested!]

I loved sharing one of my favorite childhood recipes with my daughter. I also loved having a quick recipe at the ready to set my ten-year old loose in the kitchen. I’ve seen modern takes on this recipe and many add frosting. I like to keep it old-school, adding just a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top.

Bonus: What once fulfilled a need for dessert during an economic crisis might also fill a modern-day dietary need–it’s egg and dairy-free! 

One-Bowl Chocolate Cake Recipe (Egg-free and dairy-free!)

Grandma's One-Bowl Chocolate Cake [Kid-Tested!]

Do you have a favorite childhood recipe that you share with your kids?


Sherri is a transplant from Oregon who came to be a Hawkeye in 2006 and stayed for the sweet corn...and for the Iowa boy she met along the way! She and her husband (Kyle) have a 9 year-old daughter, Aissa. Sherri earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs at The University of Iowa and works for Ruffalo Noel Levitz as an Enrollment Marketing Consultant for colleges and universities. When she's not working, you can find her with her family, enjoying Iowa City and cheering on the Hawkeyes.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.