Suzanne’s Chocolate Cake

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My friend Suzanne served in the Peace Corps for two years in Kenya in the late Eighties. The Peace Corps at that time published a recipe book for their volunteers that provided a chocolate cake recipe that was special in that one could mix it in one pot, use vegetable oil, which was more readily available than butter, and cook in the same pot over a charcoal brazier.

Suzanne perfected the recipe, especially for cooking over the brazier, and since she had the only home for miles around with a cement floor, a tin roof, and good water, she would often play hostess to nearby volunteers and serve them this cake (usually sans frosting).

Once Suzanne returned to the States, she then spent months of trial and error, and several burnt cakes, to adjust the recipe for oven cooking (and layering and frosting). It is now her family’s favorite cake, which they dub “Kenya Cake”. A rich, easy to make chocolate cake, with a great history. Thanks so much Suzanne!

Suzanne’s Chocolate Cake Recipe

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Ingredients

Cake:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp unsweetened natural cocoa
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 5 large or 4 extra large/jumbo eggs
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla

Frosting:

  • 1 box powdered sugar (1 pound or 454 grams)
  • 3/4 cup cocoa (use Van Houten, Droste, or other dark, high quality alkalized unsweetened cocoa)
  • A flavoring liquid (water, vanilla, rum, cognac, kirsch, or amaretto)
  • 1 1/2 cup butter - firm, not cold, not too soft

Method

Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

1 In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and cocoa.

2 Add 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of water and 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Mix for 1 minute.

3 Add eggs, 3/4 cup of water, vanilla. Mix 5-6 minutes with a whisk, 3-4 minutes with a hand mixer, or 2 minutes with a KitchenAid mixer.

4 Pour into three 10" cake pans, bake at 350°F for 25-35 minutes (adjust for convection); test by placing and removing a toothpick through the center at 25 minutes. When toothpick comes out clean, loosen from pans and then put back in the pans. Let cakes cool for 15 minutes. Keep in the pans, wrap in foil, and put in the freezer for at least 2 hours.

Frosting:

This part is a little harder as it is really done to taste.

1 Put powdered sugar and 3/4 cup cocoa into a food processor. Pulse until blended.

2 Drizzle in, until about the consistency of firm butter, several tablespoons of flavoring liquid (water if you aren't looking for flavor beyond the cocoa and butter). To not put in too much liquid, but if you do, add cocoa or sugar. Taste. When the flavor and consistency is right,

3 add 1 1/2 cup of butter (firm, not cold and not too soft). A good rule of thumb is that both the butter and the sugar mixture should be slightly firmer than you would want it to be to spread it, since the mixing action of the food processor will warm it slightly. Pulse until blended.

Assembling the cake:

Remove the cakes from the freezer and from their pans. Stack, frosting each layer as you go. Let sit for an hour before serving.

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Showing 4 of 78 Comments

  • MKJ

    Hi Elise,
    I have made this cake three times, using cold, brewed coffee for the water. Each time the cake layers formed a very high center, which required some judicious decapitation to assemble. The good thing to that is the baker gets to sample cake while working. The me in me wants to know what could cause this exuberancy. ( I’m pretty sure a word was just invented ).
    The oven thermometer reads 350, the ingredients are fresh, the eggs are room temp. and I believe I’m following mixing directions accurately. Any ideas?

  • Olivia Falborg

    why does the cake need to go in the freezer for 2 hours

  • Jinnie

    if I have only 8″ pan, can i cut the recipe in half? Or it is still too much?

  • Amelia Westergaard

    Hi, I have made this cake twice now and it turned out not good :-(. It was watery in the middle of the cake. I have followed the directions but everytime the middle of the cake was very soft. I have tried to baked for another 25min. but it did not help. I am wondering what i have did wrong? But the cake was taste good :-).. It is a fudge with melting chocolate when i cut it…

  • Chocolate girl Vj

    I am a vegetarian… So can you please tell me what to use instead of eggs ?? Really loved your recipe… Just stuck because of the egg part…

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