At Home With Algonquin: Pretty Good Cake from Man with a Pan

I was slightly nervous when I started this recipe, partly because my cake-baking expertise was limited to boxed mixes and partly because the last recipe I tried from John Donohue’s Man with a Pan (Spinach-Basil Pesto) ended up all over the kitchen ceiling. Admittedly that one was my fault, not the book’s, but I was still a little shell-shocked.

I chose Stephen King’s recipe for “Pretty Good Cake” because it meant the pressure was off– my finished product just had to be pretty good. I didn’t have to live up to a hyperbolic title (see: The Best Cheesecake on Earth). I figured if I added enough butter and sugar and stuck it in the oven, I was guaranteed a pretty good result. And boy, was I right. The cake was moist and delicious, with just the right amount of chocolate. I’m petitioning to have it re-named “Cake That’s So Good It Gives You A Whopping Sense of False Confidence In Your Cooking Skills”.

You don’t need an excuse to bake this cake. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t have one. I made it for my friend’s birthday and it was gone in twenty-four hours. Make it for yourself. Don’t tell anyone. Eat it alone in your bedroom. It’s that good.

— Jordan Castelloe, Blog Intern



1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

3 teaspoons vanilla

1/4 cup milk

1 cup white flour (or a little more; check your batter)

2 eggs

1 stick melted chocolate

(Jordan’s Note: I didn’t know what a stick of chocolate was, so I just used a handful of chocolate chips. To melt them, I put them in a heat-proof glass bowl and then put the bowl in a pan of hot water. It was far more successful than my first attempt to melt them in the microwave, which nearly set the house on fire.)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees while you’re getting ready.

2. Grease a 9×9 inch pan with lard or Crisco.

3. Mix the sugar, butter, and chocolate into a nice sweet soup.

4. Beat the eggs, add the vanilla, then add these ingredients to the sweet soup.  Start adding the flour and the milk.  If you need to add extra flour or milk, do so.  Your objective is the kind of batter that made you say “Can I lick the bowl?” when you were a kid.

5. Put in the baking powder last.  Keep mixing, but don’t overdo it.

6. Bake it for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

7. Frosting?  You can finds lot of recipes for that, both on the Net and in Betty Crocker’s cookbook, but why not buy a can?  It’s just as tasty.  Don’t do it until the cake cools.



One Comment On This Post:

August 26, 2011
9:50 am
Liz Angel says...

This weekend I am gonna try it !!! Thanks for posting! XD

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