Whole Parenting Family

My Grandma’s Pantry Chocolate Cake

the old recipe

This pantry cake is naturally dairy & egg-free. It’s a World War II recipe to grab what’s already in your pantry and bake up a storm. My paternal grandmother was pretty amazing. And so is her cake. My mom’s creamy chocolate frosting makes a double-deckered delight!

It’s Ash Wednesday today, so most Catholics are beginning to gird their loins and offer something up for Lent. We always give up treats. I ate a ton of this cake on Fat Tuesday. And now those of you who aren’t into Lent or didn’t give up sweets can eat a ton of it too!

Ingredients & Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


2 cups sugar

3 cups flour

1/3 cup cocoa

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

dry ingredients

Add & beat:

3/4 cup canola oil

2 cups warm water

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons vinegar


Pour into oiled 2 round cake pans or one large rectangular one. Bake for 25-30 minutes or til toothpick is dry.

If you’re my mom, you insist on not using parchment paper. And then every time you try to jimmy the cake out of the pan, but leave a little delicious bit for me. Bad for the cake, great for me.

left overs




get every bit out

Let the two cakes cool before frosting. But it’s best to freeze the whole shebang if it’s going to be a day or two before serving. Never refrigerate (just dries it out). Bring to room temp before serving.

My mom’s chocolate chocolate frosting!

Melt on stovetop:

1 1/2 stick butter


While melting, add:

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup whole milk


Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly then remove and add

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (higher quality = better frosting)

1 tablespoon of whole milk until it’s a nice glossy finish

choc chips



I had to put this smiling babe down for a nap, so I missed a few steps in the process. Sorry to shortchange you on the photo documenting of the deliciousness.


oooh la la





  1. abby on February 13, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    looks amazing and I LOVE that it is dairy and egg free. might have to make this for tomorrow! you’re the best!

    • Natural Mama Nell on February 14, 2013 at 11:29 pm

      It’s so easy! And pretty allergen friendly!

  2. Brittney Renneberg on February 13, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    This looks so good!! I’m going to make this for a baby shower I’m hosting in a few weeks. 🙂 Thanks for the recipe!

    • Natural Mama Nell on February 14, 2013 at 11:30 pm

      It makes a great sheet cake, or double deckered number. Can’t go wrong! Let us know how it goes.

  3. Sarah on February 17, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    I feel like I just won the chocolate cake lottery! Is this THE chocolate cake that we have been eating for years?!? I don’t know why I never asked you for the recipe…I’m definitely stealing it now!!!

    • Natural Mama Nell on February 17, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      Yes, it is! Delighted you have the recipe now! Go put it to good use 🙂

  4. […] shared in this post. I made this for AA’s birthday–his surprise birthday at the office birthday. Which was […]

  5. Francine on May 9, 2017 at 8:32 am

    This looks very similar to my family’s wacky cake recipe! If you want to take it to the next level, try subbing the warm water for coffee–it really brings out the chocolate flavor!

  6. Elizabeth on May 9, 2017 at 9:13 am

    Mmmm. This looks so good! I have a very similar recipe from a friend that replaces some of the water with coffee and the canola oil with orange-infused olive oil. If you’re a fan of the chocolate-orange flavor combo (is anyone not?), it’s AMAZING. I love to serve it and “surprise” people with the orange–and the fact that it’s vegan!

  7. Rachel Hochstetler on May 9, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    This is sitting cooling on my counter as I type and smells SO SO GOOD! Our son Theo has been dying to make his little sister a birthday cake for her actual birth day (in 2 days – planned c-section) and specifically said it needs to be “chok-ill-it.” (Note: this is mostly because he wants an excuse to eat cake rather than excitement about her birth.) Thank you for reposting this on Facebook when you did, Nell – God was looking out for little Theo!

    • Natural Mama Nell on May 15, 2017 at 7:11 pm