This cake’s name refers to some key ingredients the recipe doesn’t call for, which were rationed in America during World Wars I and II: butter, milk and eggs. But I like it for what it has aplenty: big chocolate flavor, a moist, fudgy crumb and one-pan ease.
Healthful oil replaces the butter, making this version better for you than a typical chocolate cake. I take that goodness a step further by using mostly whole-grain pastry flour, and just enough sugar so the cake definitely tastes like dessert but it is not overly sweet.
The way to make it is so different, it almost feels as if you are performing magic, but the steps make perfect sense when you understand the reasoning behind them. Most methods for making cake revolve around minimizing the development of gluten, the mixture of proteins that typically makes the crumb less tender. Because gluten forms when the flour is hydrated, most cake recipes have you either add the dry ingredients directly to the fat before adding the liquid or combine the fat and liquid and then add the flour. That way, the flour becomes coated with fat, creating a barrier against the liquid and minimizes gluten.
In this recipe, you want the opposite effect. It is essential to develop the gluten because that structure holds the crumb together: There are no eggs or milk to do it.
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That’s why, after combining the dry ingredients right in the baking dish, you make a well in the center and pour in the oil and vanilla extract. Then you sprinkle a mixture of water and cider vinegar directly over the top of the dry ingredients to hydrate the flour before mixing the whole thing together. (Why vinegar? It provides the acid that activates the gluten further, and it also balances the pH of the baking soda.) Once the batter is mixed, I double down on the star ingredient by stirring in mini chocolate chips that melt into the tender, rich cake as it bakes.
You won’t miss what’s not there, and peace will reign in your dessert kingdom.
Double Chocolate ‘War’ Cake
Yield: 9 to 12 servings
To make this cake vegan, omit the mini chocolate chips, or use carob or vegan chocolate mini chips.
You’ll need an 8-by-8-inch square baking pan.
From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.
1 cup whole-grain pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil or other neutral-flavored oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup bittersweet mini chocolate chips
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the whole-grain pastry flour, all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in the baking pan.
Combine the water and vinegar in a small bowl.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture in the pan; pour the oil and the vanilla extract there. Sprinkle the water-vinegar mixture over the dry ingredients; stir to form a smooth batter. Scatter the chocolate chips over the surface, then stir them in so they are evenly distributed.
Bake (middle rack) for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack for the cake to cool.
Before serving, dust the top of the cooled cake lightly with confectioners’ sugar.
Per serving (based on 12): 210 calories, 3 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 18 g sugar