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Cole’s Crazy Chocolate Cake

Well, there it went, the first month of the last school year that my son will officially live in the house before he launches somewhere. Most of the time I don’t see myself as mature enough to have an adult child, but I do. Huh, what has happened?! Said every parent on the planet at this point. Inside I’m screaming stop and simultaneously trying to let things be what they need to be. Most cliches ring true; it did go as fast as everyone said it would, and it’s a giant bag of mixed feelings most of the time.  

As soon as Cole could stand and hang onto a chair, he would climb up next to the counter, and we would bake and chat. My trick to cooking together was to stay one step ahead, and all would be well. Not mess-free, but all would be well. He taught me how incredibly fun (and successful) cooking with kids could be. I would hand him the teaspoons and ask him a question, or give him a direction while I measured the next ingredient in front of me. (I’d almost say this was my parenting strategy at least 50% of the time . . . trying to stay a step ahead.)

While getting in front of Cole is nearly impossible these days, every once in awhile a little mom energy has me wondering about things in his future that he hasn’t thought of yet. Like, how will this kid eat when it’s entirely up to him? Eek. Instead of freaking out about all the ways I have not prepared him for life’s realities and shoving more words into his already very full head, I started thinking about what we could do together before he leaves and the ways we all learn to eat well. The question just led to the obvious; we have to practice. 

Many say they didn’t learn how to cook growing up and eat what’s convenient because they don’t know where to start. And I get it. Eating well and intuitively takes both time and resources, and perhaps an interest to make it seem worth it. Even though Cole’s been in the kitchen from a young age and loves a wide range of foods, something did happen along the way with his involvement in sports, activities, work, and school, which more than ever don’t allow for as much time to plan what he’s eating and when.

So, I asked him if there was anything he wanted to learn in the kitchen and if he’d want to hang out with me and practice. He said yes. ☺️ And this is Cooking Lesson #1.

Cole’s request? Chocolate Crazy Cake.  

This summer, Cole was throwing a last-minute birthday gathering for a friend and wanted to make that one chocolate cake, he said. “The one in an actual cake pan and has that caramelly coconut frosting on it?” I knew which cake he meant as it was one of the first cakes I made as a child. (How did this all come full circle in lesson one? 😭) I had to dig out my mom’s old Covenant Church Kitchen Treasures cookbook published in 1986 for this recipe. (All the feels.)

Crazy Chocolate Cake
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Makes: 9x13 inch cake
Ingredients
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¾ cup oil, we used coconut oil (liquid not solid)
  • 2 cups water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt in a 9x13 inch baking pan and stir with a fork until mixed well.
  3. Make 3 wells in your flour mixture and pour in vinegar, vanilla, coconut oil, and then water to cover all.
  4. Stir dry and wet ingredients with a fork, crushing the lumps, and stirring until smooth. Make sure to get corners and sides.
  5. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
Frost with Ina's German Chocolate Frosting or Cole's Chocolate Ganache.

 

While Cole loves Ina’s German Chocolate Frosting, I also know not every kid will eat a mouth full of pecans and coconut (yet!), so we opted for this easy ganache as a 2nd choice.

Cole's Coconut Ganache
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Makes: 1 cup
Ingredients
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 8 ounces good chocolate finely chopped, we like bittersweet.
  • (If you want a thinner glaze, double the milk. If you want a thicker filling, add more chocolate.)
Instructions
  1. Bring coconut cream to a boil and remove from heat, pour over chocolate in a bowl and let it sit for a couple of minutes to melt the chocolate.
  2. Whisk chocolate and cream until all melted and glossy.

 

This cake from the 80s happens to be vegan, and if you make the ganache with coconut milk like Cole, it becomes the most inclusive cake for any crowd in 2017. While you might not make this in a dorm room, it requires less than five pieces of equipment – a pan, measuring utensils, and a fork. 

And just so Cole can say he’s been there and done that, we made his favorite coconut frosting, so he has single-handedly whipped raw eggs into a caramel sauce at least once before he flies this coop. 🙌

Here’s what Cole claims he learned and my thoughts to follow:

  1. Always look at the expiration date for ingredients. (Ha, yes. Be resourceful! Use up the oldest first.)
  2. To turn coconut oil to liquid put jar in a small amount of hot water, so it melts. (Strategies for keeping your feet and coconut oil warm in MN 9 months a year!)
  3. Don’t pack flour. (Or you’ll likely eat dry, chewy, and crumbly cake.)
  4. Be careful and precise. (So everything you bake isn’t an experiment!)
  5. Enjoy the process. (Awww, brownie points. Cooking together does bring up all the family dynamics.)
  6. How-to Ganache! (Easiest sauce ever for future ice cream, strawberries, and brownies!)

This past month we celebrated 18 years with Cole. As our family sat around him that birthday night, making him look at us in the face, the reality of this last year together came into focus for us all. I told him he’d led me back to myself time and time again, speaking profound truths and inevitably pointing me to what was next for me (and him) as I lived out being his mom. When he was 4 and asked me why in the world I had signed him up for preschool to asking jaw-dropping questions about relationships and the world, his life has changed me forever. I’m beyond grateful and all the memories just flood. Ugh. But I also told him this shift we are in is ok, that it was time for me to let him go in new (big) ways, a (little) bit at a time. 

So that is what we’ll do, one month at a time, count it and cook it and see where it all leads before he goes. 

Next up? We have a few thoughts that start with breakfast and end with midnight snacks. 

~Heather (& Cole)

PS This month’s He Made It playlist addition from Cole:  Nessun Dorma! By Pavarotti

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