When my daughter Sadie turned nine, she asked if she could have a weekly cooking night. Thursday nights became Sadie's territory, and as is our habit, I knew we'd work out the details as we went.
When Sadie plans her dinner menu, she always includes dessert. This is her favorite chocolate cake, adapted from a recipe from one of the first books she took into the kitchen, Mollie Katzen's Honest Pretzels.
The results of Sadie's weekly dinners have been extraordinary. In the midst of what you would expect — extra time it takes to cook, me breathing deeply to stop from taking over with a difficult step — the meals themselves have been wonderful: full of pride, enthusiasm, and great food.
But the piece I didn't expect is how much these few hours of each week have changed Sadie. Watching her, I see more clearly than I ever have that the experience of feeding people is as nurturing for the cook as it is for those who sit around the table.
Over the years, my advice to parents who want to bring their kids into the kitchen is to set them up with a cookbook and a stool, and back away slowly. Depending on the age of the child, you might need to hover in the corner to act as crisis manager. But they can do it. They can plan a meal, and feed the ones they love, and the whole experience will enrich their day and their week and their lives, but they have to own the process. And your biggest gift to them is to carve out the space, and most of all, the time, for them to do it.
This chocolate cake is a great recipe for kids. Everything is actually mixed right in the cake pan, so you won't end up with any bowls to wash. What you will end up with, however, is a delicious chocolate cake that's hard to imagine any kid turning down.
I was a bit nervous about this recipe at first. Mixing everything right in the cake pan? No mixer needed? Turns out I had nothing to be nervous about.
As long as you use a spatula to get into all the edges and corners as you're mixing to make sure everything combines well, it's the easiest chocolate cake you'll ever make. It might even be a dangerous recipe to have now since I can whip up a chocolate cake at a moment's notice!
- Christine, November 2015
One-Dish Chocolate Cake
Makes 1 (9x9-inch) cake
(40 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
(120 grams) all-purpose flour
(150 grams) granulated sugar
(240 milliliters) water
(75 milliliters) safflower or other neutral-tasting oil
Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, granulated sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a 9-inch square cake pan.
Add the water, oil, and vinegar to the pan, stirring gently to blend the wet ingredients into the dry. Scrape down the sides with a silicone spatula and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes before serving. Serve plain or dusted with powdered sugar.
Reprinted with permission from The Homemade Kitchen: Recipes for Cooking with Pleasure by Alana Chernila, copyright (c) 2015. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.