Easiest Ever Birthday Cake Recipe

Every mom needs a trick up their sleeve and this is mine: a perfectly wonderful chocolate cake that literally takes minutes to throw together.

I call it my lifesaver chocolate cake because it’s the one I always turn to if I just need a cake, quickly. Let’s face it, there are usually not enough hours in the day! Most recently I used it to make a birthday cake for my two-year-old son. As you can see, we went with the construction site theme — also an easy option if you need an emergency birthday cake for a little boy. More on that later…

My construction-themed chocolate cake. It's so easy to make!

My construction-themed chocolate cake. It’s so easy to make!

So, back to the cake. A friend gave me this recipe years ago. Not only is it quick to make, it’s vegan. That’s right. No eggs. No butter. No milk. Don’t worry, it still tastes great! It’s very moist and most people are shocked when I tell them it’s vegan. This means you can make the cake for people with allergies or eating preferences and you can make it when you’ve run out of typical cake ingredients.

It also means your kids can lick the batter out of the bowl and you don’t need to worry about food poisoning from raw eggs. Hurray!

Luke really enjoys licking the spoon clean when we make this cake!

Luke really enjoys licking the spoon clean when we make this cake!

Don’t be shocked by the vinegar in the recipe. You don’t taste it at all in the finished cake. I’m not sure but I think the reaction with the baking soda is what helps to make the cake so light and fluffy. The same technique is used in these vegan chocolate strawberry cupcakes (I’ve made these too; they’re also amazing but slightly more work).

Lifesaver Chocolate Cake


  • Cake:
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • Glaze:
  • 225g bittersweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).
  2. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a bowl.
  3. Add the oil, water, espresso powder (if using) and vanilla to the bowl.
  4. Mix together with a whisk until smooth.
  5. Add the vinegar and stir quickly. You'll see the batter change colour as the vinegar and baking soda react. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter.
  6. Pour into an 8 inch square or 9 inch round baking tin. I always grease and flour the tin to be on the safe side but the original recipe calls for an ungreased tin.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes and then set on a cooling rack.
  8. For the glaze, melt the chocolate in a pan over very low heat.
  9. Stir the hot water and vanilla into the chocolate and stir until smooth. It may appear lumpy at first but keep stirring and it will smoothen out.
  10. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake. Refrigerate the glazed cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.

P.S. If you want to take this chocolate cake and turn it into a construction site for a special little boy, here’s what to do.

  1. Go buy 4-5 little construction vehicles at your local department store.
  2. Bake two of these cakes in round forms.
  3. Use a knife to level off the top surface of one of the cakes. This will be your bottom layer. Cover the top surface in glaze.
  4. Take the second cake and cut away part of it to create the effect of an excavation site. Put on top of the first cake.
  5. Use the rest of the glaze to cover both layers and the sides. Let the glaze cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before continuing.
  6. Make a batch of this buttercream frosting and use it to frost the top surfaces of the cake, to create a ‘muddy’ effect.
  7. Put the vehicles on the cake and have them ‘spill’ their load all over the cake. Use different coloured sprinkles for effect.
  8. Serve to one very happy little boy!
A happy birthday boy and his construction site cake.

A happy birthday boy and his construction site cake.

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One Response to Easiest Ever Birthday Cake Recipe

  1. Anna July 17, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    Oh I love this idea! I definitely want to try this cake out.

    I recently cut out grains/ cane sugar from my diet so trying to sub out the flour might be a challenge but I can definitely sub the sugar for coconut sugar 1:1. I’ll report back on the results! Sounds super easy and the construction site looks fantastic!

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