Recipe Review

I Tried Aunt Doris’ Chocolate Cake That Reddit Is Obsessed With — And Now I Am Obsessed with It Too

published Jul 2, 2023
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Slice of Aunt Doris's Chocolate Cake on plate with fork, rest of cake in pan in background
Credit: Kelli Foster

Mention chocolate cake, and you’ve got my full attention. It is my all-time favorite dessert. And while I’ve baked some of the most popular ones out there (cue: Ina’s chocolate cake and the viral Reddit hit, Nana’s devil’s food cake), I am always game to try rave recommendations — especially when they come in the form of beloved family recipes. So when I was scrolling the Old Recipes subreddit recently and saw a chocolate cake recipe touted as being a staple at every family birthday for at least the past 40 years, I was immediately intrigued. 

The recipe was shared by Reddit user /MrsNacho8000 who explains that the cake comes from their grandmother’s best friend (and maid of honor), Aunt Doris. “Aunt Doris has been gone since the early ’80s, but she’s been a part of every birthday in our family since with her moist and rich chocolate cake.” Simple math tells us that this cake has been a family favorite for at least the past 40 years, although likely much, much longer. One commenter chimed in to say that their grandmother made the same cake for birthdays, and it was a total hit. 

A quick look at the recipe card told me this cake would likely be easy to bake, plus I had all the ingredients in my pantry, so I knew I had to give it a try immediately. Here’s how it went. 

How to Make Aunt Doris’ Chocolate Cake

The instructions are rather vague, and simply say “mix all ing well. Batter is thin. Bake in 13×9. 350℉, 45m”. I love loosely written recipe cards — they always feel like such a fun challenge. And I knew exactly how to approach this one. Having baked a lot of cakes over the years, I know that the order in which ingredients are added is important, so I used that as a guide here. And while I’m sure Aunt Doris didn’t use a stand mixer, I did. 

I started by whisking together the flour (I used all-purpose), unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Then I creamed softened butter and granulated sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (you could also use a large bowl and electric hand mixer) until light and fluffy, and beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. I alternated between adding the wet ingredients (milk, coffee, and vanilla extract) and dry ingredients, and continued to beat until the batter was smooth. I poured the batter into a greased 9×13-inch baking pan and baked at 350℉ for 45 minutes.

While the recipe mentions frosting, it doesn’t include a recipe, although the original poster mentions in the comment section that their family just used buttercream covered in coconut. I opted for this easy chocolate frosting recipe, although skipped the coconut so I could focus on the cake itself.

My Honest Review of Aunt Doris’ Chocolate Cake 

I’ll cut right to the chase: Aunt Doris makes a totally delicious chocolate cake with the most amazing texture. 

I still can’t decide what I love more about this cake: the texture or the height (it is so tall!). The lofty height was the first thing I noticed when I pulled the cake from the oven. There was no way to miss it. The cake is incredibly tender, moist, and pillowy soft, but not so soft that it’s too delicate. I don’t think I’ve ever described a cake as plush, but that’s the first word that came to mind when I tasted this. In my book, this texture is totally perfect. 

As I read through the recipe, the cake immediately reminded me of my favorite chocolate cake recipe — but this version has more lift and height, which I really love. It was also so simple to make, which is always a plus in my book. The only drawback for me is that I expected and craved a richer, more chocolatey flavor. 

I’ll definitely make this cake again, with a couple of my own tweaks to boost the chocolate flavor (don’t worry — I’ll share them below!).

Credit: Kelli Foster

If You’re Making Aunt Doris’ Chocolate Cake, a Few Tips 

  • Soften the butter at room temperature. Be sure to use unsalted butter and give it ample time to soften before making the cake batter.
  • Or swap the butter for oil. If you don’t have unsalted butter or don’t want to wait for it to soften, use an equal amount of canola or vegetable oil. 
  • Increase the amount of cocoa powder. The cake batter can definitely accommodate more cocoa powder, and it will give it a more chocolatey flavor. I recommend using 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder. No need to adjust any other ingredient amounts for this.
  • Use strong hot coffee. Coffee is great for enhancing the flavor of chocolate (even Ina loves this strategy). Hot coffee (it’s totally OK to reheat leftover cool coffee) is better than cool coffee here, as it’ll work to bloom the cocoa powder, which deepens the flavor of the chocolate.
  • Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Without it, the flavor of the cake, while good, was a little flat. Add the salt when creaming the butter and sugar.
  • Try buttermilk in place of regular milk. The tang of buttermilk is always a great addition to chocolate cake. If you have it, I recommend using it.