There aren’t many social occasions that couldn’t be improved with quality baked goods, especially if it’s a tedious meeting or the type of gathering that people feel obligated to attend. Good food can grease the wheels of many get-togethers, smoothing over tensions or reluctance with mouthfuls of tasty goodness. One of the easiest and most delicious of these options is cupcakes.
Over the past few years, cupcakes have had a renaissance. There are famous cupcake eateries in almost every large city, and even traditional events like weddings, have featured towers of the perfect-sized cakes. Maybe they’re slowly sliding out of the pop culture spotlight, but that doesn’t stop me from baking them for all sorts of occasions.
One of the best aspects of cupcakes is creativity. You can decorate them in a myriad of ways based on the theme you choose. They can be filled or iced, topped with powdered sugar designs or elaborate marzipan. With some simple tweaks of a recipe, you can make them healthy with carrots or fruit or stuff them with peanut butter. Truly, cupcakes offer unlimited opportunities for creativity.
I’ve tried a lot of cupcake recipes over the years, from simple to a thirteen-step process that had me biting my nails with the stress of it all. It was only through trial and error that I discovered what worked best with my personal entertaining style. I believe in feeding my guests good food, but I don’t want to spend all my time in the kitchen. Cupcakes are great for this, because I can make them the day before and ice them well in advance of the gathering. I also realized that I like to spend less time on the cake batter and emphasize the decorating aspect. Nothing works better for this than a one-bowl cake recipe.
You read that right!
This particular recipe has been a family favorite for two generations. In fact, it has been my birthday cake for as long as I can remember. The crumb is delicate and moist, and chocolate is my absolute favorite. Some years I slather peanut butter icing on top (homemade, of course!) while other years inspire me to dust it with powdered sugar and tiny violets from the garden.
One word of caution, don’t bring the water to a full boil. After adding the water, mix everything else into the batter then add the eggs last. I always test the temperature of the batter with a finger. Don’t add the eggs when it’s still really warm or you’ll end up with chocolate cake with tiny pieces of scrambled egg in it. I know this because I served a new boyfriend my famous chocolate cake dotted with yellow, cooked egg. Luckily he had a sense of humor about it, and he asked me out again. Enjoy!
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
¾ cup cocoa
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ cups boiling water
¾ cup corn oil
1 tsp vanilla
Grease and flour your cake pan, tapping out all the excess flour. Place ingredients in a bowl, mix until smooth. (Add eggs last after batter has cooled slightly to prevent cooking the egg separately.) Bake in a 9×12 pan, in 2 9-inch round cake pans, dozen muffin/cupcake tin (you’ll probably end up with extra batter) or large bread loaf pan. Bake at 350º for 35 minutes for the 9×12 pan. You will need longer baking time if you use the other pans.
Amy L Overley is a freelance writer and editor and explorer of creativity. She’ll try her hand at anything remotely crafty including wedding favors. She blogs regularly about her adventures and the humorous results of her creative exploits.