Baking Challenge: Crunchy-Topped Cocoa Cake

This week’s recipe is one I’ve made a few times before, so the only challenge involved was timing its preparation and baking to work around the prep and baking of a chicken pie in order to have both done early enough that my dinner guest would be able to eat before midnight.  I’m much better at baking than cooking.  Generally when I shoot to have a meal done at 6, we end up eating at 8.  Nevertheless, I did get both the chicken pie and the cake done and fed my guest in a semi-timely manner.  This recipe comes from a little book my best friend got me called Hershey’s Cocoa Easy Baking.  It’s pretty straightforward, it always turns out moist,  and between the rich chocolate cake and the caramelized topping, it is sinfully delicious, so it’s one of my standard go-to recipes when I need a great dessert to come together quickly.

Crunchy-Topped Cocoa Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I once used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder in this by accident, and it was a happy discovery.  It made the cake even more awesome, and I’ve used it ever since.  I highly recommend trying it with that variation.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Broiled Topping (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour an 8-inch square pan.  Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla; beat with a spoon or whisk just until the batter is smooth and well blended.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  I’ve never been a big fan of the toothpick test; it’s not the most reliable.  I judge whether a cake is done as my mother taught me.  I tap the surface of the cake lightly.  If it springs back into place, it’s done.  If it sinks a bit, it needs longer.  Meanwhile, prepare Broiled Topping; spread on warm cake.  Set oven to broil; place pan about 4 inches from heat.  Broil 3 minutes or until top is bubbly and golden brown.  Remove from oven.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Broiled Topping

Combine 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter or margarine, 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans are good), 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes and 3 tablespoons light cream or evaporated milk in a small bowl until well blended.

Voila!

What are you still doing here?  Go bake this.  🙂  Bis bald!

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