The cake in the movie Matilda is a giant cake. Huge! You need a lot of people around to eat an entire cake like that. Inspired by the cake in the movie, this cake is just as irresistible but smaller so you can make it fast when you crave a cake and need something special.
It takes about 10 minutes to get the batter together, and you can do it without an eclectic mixer. While the cake bakes, you can make the chocolate buttercream. Or you can just use store-bought frosting.
Make It In One Bowl
The first chocolate cake I made from scratch was from the back of a cocoa powder tin. This recipe is a lot like that one, but it’s even easier, and everyone I share it with loves it. It’s my go-to chocolate cake.
A lot of cake recipes call for softened butter, which you have to beat until it’s creamy. Then you mix the dry ingredients together in another bowl, and then you still have to measure out the liquids.
This cake is not like that. You sift or whisk the dry ingredients together, then just dump in oil and hot coffee (or water) and stir until it’s all mixed. So there’s less to get dirty.
The Best Cocoa Powder for Chocolate Cake
The best kind of cocoa powder to use in this cake is 100 percent unsweetened cocoa powder, not hot cocoa mix, which has sugar added to it. Any unsweetened cocoa powder will do.
Sometimes cocoa powder can get lumpy as it sits on the shelf. You’ll want to sift it to get the lumps out so you don’t have to overmix your cake batter.
No Eggs? No Problem
You might look at this recipe and think, “Where are the eggs?” Well, this cake does not need them. It still bakes up with a tender crumb like the chocolate cakes you dream of. It’s almost like magic.
Coffee’s in the Cake, but It Doesn’t Taste Like Coffee
Coffee is a secret ingredient in this cake. The finished cake doesn’t taste like coffee, though, so if you don’t like coffee, don’t worry! It just helps the cake taste more chocolate-y.
If you don’t have hot coffee around, you can use instant coffee mixed with water. Or you can just use plain hot water.
Make One or Two Layers
Layer cakes feel more special, for some reason. I bake this cake in two small 6-inch round pans so that I can layer it. If you don’t have 6-inch pans, you can use an 8-inch round pan for a single layer. Or double the recipe to make two 8-inch layers.
Bake the cake
Preheat the oven to 350°F:
Position the rack in the center.
Grease two 6-inch round cake pans with cooking spray, dust with flour, and tap out the excess.
Line the bottoms with parchment paper or rounds of wax paper.
Whisk the dry ingredients:
In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt until the cocoa powder is well distributed and the mixture is an even light brown color.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry:
Add the hot coffee or water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla to the bowl, and whisk together gently until no lumps remain. You may see some bubbles in the bowl that look like lumps, but they are the baking soda reacting with the hot liquid to create carbon dioxide. The batter will seem a bit thin. Do not overbeat.
Add to the pans and bake:
Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake on the middle rack until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean and the cakes spring back lightly when pressed gently in the middle with your fingertip.
For two 6-inch round pans, this will take about 30 minutes; for cupcakes, 20 minutes.
Cool slightly, the remove from the pans:
Remove the pans from the oven and let them sit on a rack for 5 minutes to cool. Then gently run a knife along the sides and turn the cakes from the pans onto the rack. Peel off the waxed paper or parchment, and cool completely.
Frost the cake
Make the frosting:
As the cakes cool, make the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.
Prep the plate:
On the plate or platter you’ll be serving the cake on, lay 4 strips of parchment or waxed paper down to create a square that’s about the size of the cake. These will help keep buttercream off the plate when you serve it. Lay a cake layer in the center, flat side down.
Fill the center:
With an offset metal spatula or a butter knife, spread a blob of frosting (about 1/2 cup or a quarter of the frosting) across the cake layer and all the way to the edges. Don’t worry if it’s messy.
Top with the second layer:
Lay the second cake over the frosting so it’s flat side down.
Put another 1/2 cup of frosting in the center and spread it out to the edges of the top using the metal spatula. Just worry about getting it spread out—you’ll make it pretty later.
Frost the sides:
Gather blobs of frosting on the spatula and smear on the sides until they are all coated. Then go back and smooth them out with the spatula.
Smooth the top:
Now you can go back and smooth the top so it’s pretty. Keep some ridges to make attractive swirls.
Gently pull the strips of paper out from under the frosted cake.
Add the cherries, if using:
If you want to make your cake look like the Matilda cake, pat 8 maraschino cherries dry with paper towels and keep the stems on.
Arrange on the bottom of the cake, gently pressing the stems into the sides so they stay in place.
Slice and share. Keep the frosted cake at cool room temperature for up to 1 day before serving. If it’s hot, refrigerate the cake. It’s best enjoyed within 2 days.
Did you love the recipe? Leave us stars below!