My childhood chocolate wonder cake

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chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream

This is the chocolate cake recipe which kick-started my lifelong love affair with baking. I used to make it as a child and through my early teenage years. I knew the recipe by heart. I stumbled across it in one of my mom’s old handwritten recipe books and it’s recorded as ‘Wonder Cake’. I couldn’t wait to dive into my kitchen and make it again.

chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream

There is something really special about revisiting a recipe that you knew so well. In a way, it was a little like discovering a much-loved childhood toy. I looked at it and remember all the components, but now approaching it with a good deal more life and experience under my belt. I was super eager to taste it.

chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream

I needed to make a few minor modifications. Margarine was replaced with butter (obviously) and vanilla essence with extract (of course). I also tested the metric measurements to give an alternative, but I kept the method exactly the same.

There was no icing recipe with the cake, so I created one, which is kind of like my perfect buttercream. It makes a little more than is needed for the cake, which is moderate in size, so I was very generous with the layering. My brother-in-law raved about it so much and said anyway ‘cake is just an excuse to eat the icing.’

chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream

Cooks notes ~ I love to add espresso powder – diluted before – to my chocolate buttercream as it amplifies the flavour of the chocolate. You can use a teaspoon of strong instant coffee if you don’t have it. I use a really good quality Valrhona chocolate with 70% chocolate solids that melt very quickly.

chocolate cake

The cake turned out very well. The sponge is perfectly light and moist and it really is a lovely recipe. It’s not the darkest or most decadent, but the frosting makes up for that giving it a sophisticated edge.

chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream

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The best chocolate cake by Ina Garten

my childhood chocolate wonder cake

An easy chocolate cake recipe from my childhood.
Print Recipe
chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream
Prep Time:20 minutes
Cook Time:30 minutes
Total Time:1 hour 15 minutes



  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 5 Tbsp milk
  • 250 g 1 cup sugar
  • 125 g butter room temperature
  • 3 large free-range eggs separated
  • 140 g 1 cup flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 125 ml 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  • 150 g butter
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 200 g dark chocolate 70%, melted (extra for decorating, optional)
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp espresso powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


To make the cake:

  • Pre heat the oven to 180C / 350F
  • Put the first 3 ingredients into a small pot and bring it to the boil and allow to cool
  • Using an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar until pale. Add the egg yolks one at a time ensuring they are well mixed before the next addition.
  • Add the cooled cocoa mixture and beat.
  • Sift the flour, salt and baking powder and add this to the cake mix alternating with the milk. Add the vanilla extract and beat briefly.
  • Beat the egg whites until stiff and lastly fold these into the cake mix by hand.
  • Divide the mixture between to 20 – 23cm greased/lined cake tins and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until springy to the touch.
  • Allow to cool and then remove from the.

To make the icing:

  • Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and then allow to cool.
  • Dissolve the coffee in the milk and Beat this with the butter, icing sugar, and vanilla extract.
  • Add the cooled melted chocolate and continue to beat until the icing is soft and fluffy.
  • Ice the cake by generously spreading a layer of frosting in the middle, top and sides.
Author: Sam Linsell

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  1. Wow Sam, this looks gorgeous & the tale behind it is so wonderful–makes one feel all woozy inside, i love it when i stumble upon my grans recipes and when i get it right it feels even better

  2. Hi Usha, it was a indeed a special moment. My mom died when I was 19 so it was a lovely little conncetion with my past through a recipe xx

  3. I love cakes that have stories and history woven into their measurements. This looks beautiful and delicious, thanks for sharing.

  4. Oh my gosh that looks amazing! I can see why it would inspire wonder. 🙂

  5. Food memories are the best kind! Such a marvelous chocolate cake and irresistible story!

  6. My husband favorite cake is the recipe on the Hersey Cocoa box but I use black cocoa.. It’s a really very rich
    moist cake and frosting to die for. This looks delicious will have to try.Just wondered this looks a bit on the dry side.

  7. Hi Vicki it is not dry at all. Not extremely chocolatey (its a mild chocolate sponge) so perhaps your Hersheys black cocoa would work well, or you could add more? The beaten egg white gives the cake a lovely texture.Must say I would love the recipe on the Hersheys box? (we dont get that product here in South Africa).

  8. Thanks Deb 🙂

  9. My Version of Hershey’s Perfect Chocolate Cake and Frosting

    •2 cups sugar….(I use 1 3/4 and 1/4 cup of brown sugar)
    •1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    •3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa…..I use black cocoa
    •1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    •1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    •1 teaspoon salt
    •2 eggs
    •1 cup milk…( I use 1/2 of Buttermilk and 1/2 cup milk)
    •1/2 cup vegetable oil
    •2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    •1 cup boiling water..(I use 3/4 cup water and 1/4 cup strong brewed coffee)
    I add 1 good cup of lightly toasted walnuts as my husband loves nuts in any baked goods.


    1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
    2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
    3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with “PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE” CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings. VARIATIONS: ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.
    THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.
    BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.
    CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.
    1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine 2/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa 3 cups powdered sugar
    1/3 cup milk ( sub. a little coffee for the milk )1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    Top with nuts
    Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

  10. Oh wow Vicki thanks so much for sharing
    s xxx

  11. What an absolutely beautiful cake. Exactly how I like cake. Your pictures are truly amazing and I’ve seen many of them via my wife. Hoping I can nudge her to make this one for us once the baby comes. Thanks!

  12. Thanks Matt for the kind words and good luck with the baby 🙂

  13. Oh shit. Just making this tonight for tomorrow’s 5th birthday and I didn’t put in the salt or the vanilla extract as it weren’t mentioned in the instructions! I didn’t go back to the ingredients list to check if I’ve got everything in… My brain is mash in this corona virus lock down time.

  14. Hi Marianne I’m sure it won’t make much difference and I hope you liked the recipe. I apologise for the error and have gone in to correct it. Thanks, Sam

  15. anonycake says:

    Wow do you have any other history about this recipe! I actually found this page by googling the ingredients of my childhood cake recipe lol.

    My grandma (90) has been making the exact same recipe for all our lives but she doesn’t know where it came from so I’m trying to find the source of it now!

  16. Hello Anonycake and this is so interesting. I had this cake hand-written in my own little cookbook I collected recipes in and if I remember correctly the recipe was given to my mom from a friend and it was called ‘Wonder cake’. It was so easy to make so I used to make it all the time. I really do want to make it again soon. Please let me. know if you find any more details about it. It’s fascinating how recipes move around. Sam

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