Last updated on October 27th, 2019
Helene’s Crazy Chocolate Cake is just that — crazy! It’s crazy moist, crazy fragrant, and crazy delicious. Easy to make? Yes — insanely easy. All you need is a bowl and electric beaters. Here’s my family’s history with this not-too-sweet dessert, along with the step-by-step recipe:
Helene’s Crazy Chocolate Cake: Family History
Helene Willis is my grandmother’s sister’s daughter. When she sent me her Crazy Chocolate Cake recipe, she included this historical note:
“Family history on the Crazy Chocolate Cake is sketchy. Mom just always talked about this being a family staple, and I do remember Grandma Metzger making it at her boarding house in Portland a time or two when we visited her. I was probably 15 first time I remember her serving it which would have been about 1948. My mom, (Naomi, Nova’s oldest sister), always brought this cake to any gathering, and it has always been my husband Roe’s favorite birthday cake iced with Mocha Icing and decorated with walnuts. We now have a son and also a grandson who have taken up the Crazy Chocolate Cake mantle. Grandson lives in Phoenix, but he informs me often that he makes it frequently! Mom always cut a small bite out of every cake as soon as it came out of the oven. She loved it warm!”
Helene’s Crazy Chocolate Cake: The Batter
To start, select your baking pan! For a sheet cake, Helene recommends a greased 9×13 or 8×12 baking dish. For a round, layered cake, Helene suggests 2 8-inch-diameter cake pans. I lined my cake pans with parchment paper, and greased the sides of the pans with non-stick vegetable spray.
Onto the batter! Tip 1 1/2 cups flour into a large bowl.
Add 1 cup sugar…
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa…
1/2 teaspoon salt…
1 teaspoon baking soda…
1 large egg…
1/2 cup milk and 1/2 neutral-tasting vegetable oil, poured into a 1-cup measure (for easy clean up)…
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used my own, homemade extract)…
And 1/2 cup boiling water. I used boiling coffee the second time I made the cake, just to enhance the chocolate flavor in the cake.
You can add butter, too, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon for flavor. Helene says to pour the boiling liquid (water or coffee) over the butter to melt it before adding to batter. (I omitted the butter.)
Next, beat the works with electric beaters for 2 minutes. The batter will be thin.
Baking the Cake
Divide the batter between the 2 cake pans (or pour all of it into a single baking dish, if that is what you’re using).
At this point, you can top the batter with 2 layers of sugar. The first layer will sink into the batter, while the second layer will float on top. The sugar will give the cake a crunchy-sweet top. (I omitted the sugar topping.)
Bake until the batter browns and puffs a little, and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean — 20-25 minutes. (Oven times for other baking dishes are included in the printable recipe below.)
Let the cakes cool in their pans for about 15 minutes, then unmold, and cool completely on a wire rack.
When completely cool, you can glaze the cake or frost it. Or, you can take the easy route, as I did, and simply dust it with confectioners’ sugar! I slipped the second cake into a zip-lock bag, and froze it for later enjoyment.
This cake isn’t just delicious. It’s crazy delicious! I hope you’ll give it a try some day. Honestly, it may be the only chocolate cake recipe you’ll ever need.
A genealogy question for you: Helene Willis is my grandmother’s sister’s daughter. She’s also my great grandmother’s grandchild, and my father’s cousin. Is Helene my “grandaunt” — or a cousin who is once (or twice!) removed?
Breaking News: Gail Metzger Woodside (my father’s uncle’s daughter) has informed me that Helene Willis is in fact my first cousin once removed. Glad that’s settled!
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Here’s the printable:
Helene's Crazy Chocolate Cake
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup unsweetened (baking) cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup neutral-tasting vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup boiling water (or coffee)
- Center the oven rack; preheat oven to 375°F.
- Tip all ingredients into a large bowl, finishing with the boiling water (or coffee). Beat, with electric beaters, until smooth -- about 2 minutes.
- Divide the the batter between 2 greased 8-inch round cake pans. Alternatively, the batter can be poured into 1 greased 9x13- or 8x12-inch baking dish.
- Bake until the batter browns and puffs slightly, and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean -- 20-25 minutes for 2 8-inch cake pans or 1 9x13 baking dish; 25-30 minutes for 1 8x12-inch baking dish.
- Cool on a wire rack. When completely cool, the cake can be glazed or frosted. I simply dusted mine with confectioners' sugar. 'Twas delicious with coffee for breakfast.