Bake this cake just once and you'll be hooked for life.
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water, or half water and half milk
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line the bottoms of two 9 in (23 cm) round cake pans or one 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) rectangular baking pan with baking parchment paper, and grease the paper and sides of the pans. Or line two 12-compartment muffin pans with cupcake liners.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the vegetable oil and the cocoa until completely smooth. Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla, and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until very creamy - about 2 minutes.
In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture in two or three additions, alternating with the water and beating until smooth after each addition. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans or cupcake liners. Bake 9 in (23 cm) round layers for 40 to 45 minutes; a 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) rectangular cake for 45 to 50 minutes; cupcakes for 25 to 30 minutes. Just to be sure, a toothpick poked into the middle of the cake or cupcake should come out clean, with no batter clinging to it.
For cake, run a knife around the edge of pan to loosen it, then invert onto a cooling rack or plate. Peel off paper and turn cake right-side-up on a rack to cool completely.
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