Sarah Willis is a Niman Ranch pig farmer in Thornton, IA. She contributed this recipe for a farmers’ cookbook we were working on that hopefully will be published one day soon. Her grandmother first got it from the radio and it has been passed down through the family. Several family members have slightly different versions but it is agreed her version is the best.
2 c all purpose flour (Sarah specifies organic)
2 c sugar
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 t baking soda
Pinch Kosher salt
2 eggs (Sarah specifies free range and organic)
½ cup cooking oil (she likes to use Smart Balance)
½ c cold water
1 t vanilla
1 c hot fresh brewed coffee
Method: Combine first four (dry) ingredients in one bowl. Beat the eggs in a second bowl and combine with oil, cold water and vanilla; add the contents of the second bowl to the first bowl and mix thoroughly. Pour in the coffee and mix again. Grease and flour a 9″ round or square cake pan and pour in the batter. Bake 30-40 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven or until the cake passes the toothpick test (a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean because the wet ingredients have solidified). Turn out onto a serving plate; cool, then add frosting if desired. Sarah likes to serve this with a cream cheese frosting or, for a non-dairy alternative, she puts a pattern (doily) on top then sprinkles with powdered sugar. (For my prep, I used the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa tin.)
Tips for first time cake bakers (which would include me, since I forgot everything I used to know when I baked this today) on judging doneness: 1/do use a toothpick (or maybe a matchstick) for the test instead of a knife: when the toothpick test was clean my knife was still coming out covered with batter. 2/What you are doing is making sure the center is set (not jiggling like jell-o®) while the overall cake is still moist; you can also judge this by pressing the top of the cake to see if it springs back (if it does, it’s done). 3/Remember the cake will continue to set after you remove it from the oven. 4/Allow to cool thoroughly before removing from the pan; it will shrink and that makes removal easier.