The summer after my senior year, I hit the jackpot: after years of just babysitting, I got my first job—part-time cashier at a local craft mall for $6.50 an hour. I spent afternoons with a handful of middle-aged women who, aside from always changing my soundtrack choices from Nat King Cole to 1970s bands that I still don’t know names of but shudder when I hear in the grocery store, were very nice to me. They also kept Sunchips in the break room, and that made me like them very much.
The next summer, I worked at camp, and the summer after that when I came back home, the craft mall had gone out of business. A friend was living with us at the time, and she and I stalked job listings daily, which is what led us to a joint interview with a marketing company offering between $15 and $18 per hour, all summer long.
I should stop here and interject: There’s a chocolate cake recipe circling the Internet—maybe you’ve seen it? It promises chocolate cake in mere minutes. All you have to do is mix a couple ingredients in a mug and stick it in the microwave, and voila, just like that, cake! The first time I saw the recipe, on a food blog months ago, I’ll admit I was tempted. But a wiser, seasoned part of me balked. When something seems too good to be true, after all, it probably is. And I remembered that summer job interview.
Essentially, our interviews were an elaborate sales pitch disguised as a test: a massive group of well-dressed college students, assembled into a large room, with a speaker in front, being told we’d be watched during the presentations and, if we were lucky, asked to participate in an opportunity for big money.
When I was taken into a private room and told I qualified, the guy asked me to sign something, pay $200 for my start-up kit and be on my way: get my friends to buy, and I’d make my money, he’d make money, his boss would make money.
It was classic sales: big promises, smart delivery and, if you could see it, small catch.
So when I found a newspaper clipping in my grandma’s files: Cake in 31 minutes! Just six minutes of prep! I laughed out loud. I remembered the sales pitch. I remembered the mugs of chocolate cake on the Internet. And then, because it was Grandma’s, I tried it.
If you’re looking for a rich and fudgy, best-ever chocolate cake, this is not it. If you’re looking for the cake to wow your friends with, well, this isn’t that either. If, however, you’re looking for something fast and easy and, as an added bonus, low in cholesterol? Let’s just say, Have I got a deal for you!
Six-Minute Chocolate Cake
as reprinted in a newspaper, taken from Carol Cutler’s The Six-Minute Souffle and Other Culinary Delights
I’m retyping this recipe exactly as it appeared, which is almost exactly how I made it but with one alteration: I used champagne vinegar instead of regular. I can’t speak for the regular vinegar, obviously, but I can say my version (or the crusty bits I pulled off the top, piece by piece when it came out of the oven) made a nice snack, albeit missing something.
And also, I just offer this one bit of important advice: mix everything together VERY well. If you are so inclined, mix in a separate bowl before pouring into the pan. It will matter.
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup oil
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons vinegar
Confectioners’ sugar or chocolate icing
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Select an 8 X 8 X 2 pan or a 9″ round cake pan. Add all ingredients, except the vinegar, to the pan. Stir with a fork or wire whisk until thoroughly blended.
Add vinegar and stir quickly to thoroughly blend in the vinegar, and immediately place in the hot oven. There must be no delay in baking after the vinegar is added.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the center is slightly puffed and the sides begin to pull away from the pan. Cool. Sprinkle top with confectioner’s sugar or frost with chocolate frosting.
Cooking ahead: Six-minute chocolate cake is better if allowed to mellow for a day.