1 1/2 hours
serves 8 to 10
In My Kitchen Year, Ruth Reichl published a recipe for an enormous cake, which she called "The Cake That Cures Everything".  What a cake! Made of two gigantic 9x13 layers, it could serve 24 to 36 chocolate lovers.
  • 6 Tablespoons (33 g) unsweetened cocoa powder, NOT Dutch processed - plus more for dusting the pans
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) boiling water
  • 1/4 cup (58-59 ml) whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 teaspoon (3 g) baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp (1 1/2 g) salt
  • 1 stick, 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (119 g) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 2/3 ounces (48 g) unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 stick, 1/4 cup (57 g) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup (75 g) whipped cream cheese
  • 1/3 teaspoon (1 2/3 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup + 5 Tablespoons (104 g) powdered sugar

While I adore this cake, I wanted a smaller version, and here is that cake cut down to size: a 1/3 recipe version, made in two modest loaf pans. Because this cake is cut down, some of the amounts look very strange (check out that powdered sugar amount, for example). I find it easier, in general, to use a scale, and simply weigh out the ingredients.



Heat the oven to 350˚F/190˚C. Butter 2 standard loaf pans (8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches, or 21 x 11 x 6 cm) and line them with waxed or parchment paper. Butter the paper and then dust the pans lightly with cocoa powder.

set up ingredients

Measure the cocoa powder into a bowl, and whisk in 1/2 cup boiling water until it is smooth, dark, and very glossy. Whisk in the milk and vanilla.

In another bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

in the stand mixer

Put the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat in both sugars until the mixture is light, fluffy, and the color of coffee with cream – about 5 minutes. One at a time, beat in the eggs, beating about 30 seconds after each one, before adding the next.

On a low speed, beat in the flour mixture, alternating with the cocoa mixture, starting and ending with the flour (flour-cocoa-flour-cocoa-flour). The batter may look curdled, but that’s okay.

pour into pans and bake

Pour half the batter into each pan and smooth the tops. Bake in the middle of the oven about 25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean of crumbs. (The color and material of your loaf pans will affect the time needed.) When the cake is done, remove the pans from the oven, and place on racks to cool. Let them cool 10-15 minutes, and then turn out the cakes from the pans, and let them continue cooling on the rack until they are completely cool.

mix frosting

Chop the chocolate and melt it in a double boiler. Let it cool enough that you could put the pan on your open palm with no discomfort at all.

Mix the butter with the whipped cream cheese. Add the cooled chocolate, the vanilla, and a  pinch of salt, and stir thoroughly. Mix in the powdered sugar and, using the mixer again,  beat well until the frosting is light and fluffy – at least 5 minutes.

assemble the cake

When the cake layers are completely cool, it’s time to assemble the cake. Put one layer on a rectangular plate. Spread about one third of the frosting on that layer, then put the second layer on top and frost the whole thing.

ready to serve – or freeze

This cake will serve 8 to 10 people, depending on how you slice it.

This cake takes well to the freezer, even in the frosted state. Freeze slices, then once frozen, wrap well. To serve from frozen: unwrap each slice, then  warm in the microwave (carefully) or leave out to come to room temperature.


Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year is well worth your purchase and study. Her original recipe for The Cake that Cures Everything may be found on her own website, as well as among the recipes compiled by the NY Times. If you make the cake in its original enormous size, be sure to invite all your friends, who will surely love it. And you.


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