a really good chocolate cake.

even though i'm still writing out my list, i may have actually completed one of the 101 things i hope to have done in 1001 days. whoo!

one of my favourite cakes is a chocolate cake sold in a gas station in manila; those of you there surely know which one i mean, polly's chocolate cake, made by polly garilao. it is dark, supermoist, chocolatey, with a pudding-like just-on-the-edge-of-too-sweet chocolate frosting; it is not a fancy cake, it's quite homey and old-fashioned, and frighteningly easy to eat. i don't really seek it out when i'm in manila because although it is a substantial 8"x8" (or so) cake, it doesn't exactly feed eight, like it should--it's more like three to four people if you're lucky, or two people hovering over the plain brown box....cake crack, i tell you. also, finding somewhere that sells it can be a chore--the only regular source (besides ms. garilao herself, of course) seems to be the shell gas station in magallanes and it's not particularly easy to transport, especially via transpacific flights.

i have about three dress sizes' worth of reasons not to look for a similar recipe, but look i did, and it was surprisingly easy to find a pretty darned close equivalent to it. i wanted a recipe with ingredients that were easy enough to come by in the philippines, low on dairy products, and somewhat older (christine mentioned she grew up eating them). i looked for traditional, quick recipes that used vegetable oil or shortening, and cocoa instead of chocolate. i tried out a few, but surprisingly the recipe that got the right colour, texture, moistness and flavour was one that i found in regan daley's "in the sweet kitchen"--a bit of a fancy-schmantzy book, but the recipe itself was passed down from her mother, and there are many variations of it around the interwebs. i had my doubts at first because she described it as chewy, and someone else called it as dense; i don't know if those are two adjectives i would use for the polly cake. still, she said it was the one cake she really craved, the one she could polish off in one sitting. hm. i knew that feeling, so the recipe looked good enough to try.

i'm having a tough time photographing this cake.

oh weeee, the recipe looked good, but the results even better--supermoist, dark, springy, yeah yeah. the secrets of the cake universe unlocked, and whilst this may not be the exact polly garilao gas station chocolate cake, it's so darned good (and yes, so darned close), it doesna matter. and yayeah, so darned easy. here's the recipe, and step by step instructions:

1. sift 1 1/2 cups of AP flour into an ungreased, unfloured 8"x 8" pan.

2. in a separate bowl, mix 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 cup white granulated sugar, one teaspoonful of baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoonful of salt. add to pan, and mix carefully with flour.

3. make 3 indentations in the flour mixture--2 small and one large.

4. add one teaspoonful of vanilla extract to one of the small holes, one tablespoonful of white vinegar to the the other, and 6 tablespoonfuls of vegetable oil to the large one. pour one cup of cool water over everything and mix well, without beating it (a few lumps are okay).

5. bake in a preheated 350˚F oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out relatively clean. cool before frosting.

some notes: make sure to use natural cocoa, absolutely not dutch-processed if you want that deep, dark colour; hershey's or ghirardelli brand is what ms. daley recommends, but i've been using valrhona because...well, why not? (edit:as manggy points out in the comments valrhona cocoa is dutch processed, which i've neglected to mention. technically, a dutch-processed cocoa is milder flavourwise, but valrhona uses a superior bean than most brands. also, technically you should adjust the leavener because of the alkali content, but as i haven't tried this cake with natural process cocoa, i can't say if it's truly a detriment.) i also prefer to bake this cake at 335˚F for 35-40 minutes. this all-in-one recipe is for a cake that will be served in the pan; if you'd like a more elegant presentation, line the pan with parchment before adding all the ingredients. or, dare to mix the batter in a bowl first (whoo).

also, if you want to go with a more polly-like frosting, don't do the cocoa buttercream in the link; instead, make a ganache with semi-sweet chocolate chips and heavy cream, then pour it over the cake. if you have access to it, buy semi-sweet chocolate (chips or by the block) made in the philippines by nova; it's only about 300p a kilo (about us$7), and spot on for the consistency of miss p's frosting.

so there, lil' keikis, i hope i have saved some of you some money, effort and grief. and no matter what your verdict may be, maybe this will become a staple of your sweet kitchen.


o, we call that a "wacky cake" back home.

as you recommend it, with the ganache, it was Ms Fillette's first birthday cake. we were vegan at the time and that cake is hot on their set.

the idea of a gas station cake is thrilling! xxox

i've never had a polly cake, but my goodness you make me wish i had a flight booked to manila, to visit a gas station no less!

thanks for the recipe, i'll give it a whirl soon.

Do you think it'll be just as good as yours when I try it with Hershey's? I don't have ready access to valrhona and I'm itching to try your recipe soon, since I'm too lazy to go to Shell Magallanes. ^_^

This cake looks delicious. Thanks for sharing. How did u manage to take such nice close up pictures? the cake looks so moist. Do you think a cream cheese frosting will go with this cake?

Yep, like Michelle said, that looks almost identical to the recipe for "Wacky Cake" I make from the American Heart Association cookbook, except I use melted margarine instead of vegetable oil. So you don't have to feel as bad about wolfing it down: the AHA says it's okay! Also, it's my favorite cake ever. I usually forgo the icing for a dusting of powered sugar.

Haha, I know this cake you speak of. It's really good, but I've sworn off buying cakes (making them seems like a good way to limit my caloric intake, as I will often be too lazy anyway).

One nitpick, though: Valrhona cocoa is invariably dutch-processed; it is also the most readily available deep dark cocoa you can find.

I seem to recall a local "ganache" recipe that makes use of sweetened condensed milk that I think mimics the famous cake more and is just that baby step to push the cake over the top.

halloo miss michelle, "wacky", huh? the only "wacky" cake i know of (also a fave with my vegan friends) involved something far more illicit than one pan baking...it was still sort of awesome, and yes, i have craved it now and again.


miss deborah, isn't it the best? the whole gas station thing. for awhile, there was only one place i could find large bars of cadbury fruit and nut in manila, in a gas station on the way to the provinces. just sort of loving the whole concept of a petrol providores.

kaoko, i think it will be very good. not quite the same, but more in keeping with the polly's cake. i would use it if i had it on hand, but i'm sort of awash with dutch-processed cocoa at the moment.

my little corner store, believe me, it was not easy photographing this cake. it is such a deep dark colour that it seems to eat up the light--just a lot of trial and error!

miss kate, yes, if the AHA says so, then so be it :)! i prefer the cake as is myself. too much chocolate is sometimes not a good thing.

manggy, yes, it is, although i dispute the "readily available" part. it is, however, the most readily available in my house!

manggy, oops, no, i don't dispute the "readily available" part, just the "most" part. maybe to a certain segment of the population, in certain countries. def. not in guam.

That cake looks amazing. SO rich and chocolately - i may ahve to try this when I next have people round. Don't think I would dare attempt it when its just me or else I might eat the lot!

katie, smart woman. tis dangerous, this cake. too easy!

Hi Santos! I'm booked for a visit to Guam at the end of February and was hoping you could reocmmend some places to eat or other places not to miss out on. It would be hugely appreciated. :)) I don't have your email, but you can reach me at gypsysoul73ATgmailDOTcom. Thanks much!!

Aargh! That looks too good and waah, there goes the low carb New Year Wish:)

Holy moly Santos! That's great! While I can go to the gas station in Magallanes to buy the cake, why not make it indeed! And it's not that hard based on your recipe. Will give it a twirl plus the ganache too.

Yum! I never grew tired of trying out different recipes of chocolate cake ...and this one is a MUST!

cake crack!!!
crazy chocolate cake in seattle.
but yes, cake crack.

Wow..!! looks very rich.. Santos.. :)

hi christine, i'll write you soon!

acornbud, you can still do low carb, mostly ;)

mila, anne from simply anne's tried it and said it came out dry. try a lower temperature or check it after 20-25 minutes instead of the prescribed 30.

anne, i'm sorry it didn't quite work out for you, it has always worked out very well for me. i'll have to re-check my oven's temps again....

mary jane, crazy, yes!

mamabok, it's rich but not horribly so--there's no dairy products in it!

mamabok, at least in the cake part, that is!

Hi Santos,

In the last few months, you may remember receiving an email invitation to become a part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher Program. With all the recipe-writing and food photography to be completed, we know emails can easily get lost in the shuffle, so Foodbuzz would like to re-extend our offer of inviting you to be a part of our food blogger network. I would love to send you more details about the program, so if you are interested, please email me at Shannon@foodbuzz.com.

And that is some good-looking cake. =)


Shannon Eliot
Editorial Assistant, Foodbuzz.com

any "dump everything in" recipe you post invariably ends up being tested on the P, including this one. tried it on our weekend away. easy-peasy but with one slight hitch:

we set the smoke detector off in the cabin. fortunately, it was only the top that got charred. the rest of the cake was beautifully moist. we finished the whole thing (using spoons and fingers and finally tongues) in two sittings...

hi shannon! thanks!

mees bramble, charred, you say. charred! mmm, smoky chocolate i think is in.

(using spoons and fingers and finally tongues)

oo err, sexxxxy

Ah yes, I know that cake. I got the recipe from my uncle in Pennsylvania, where they call it a wacky cake. Probably the easiest sheet cake to make-you don't even need a bowl!

Hi, Santos, Long time reader, first time commenter (commentator... doesn't seem right). I have made this cake and it was awesome. I am currently eating a vegan diet, so this cake is great for me, but the way some of your other recipes look (napoleon charlottes, for example) mean that the veganism will have to end one day, just so that I can try them.
Thanks for a really amazing blog that inspires a lot with food!

hi lyra, i love all the names for this!

hi tim, i like the idea of there being a blog commentator, you could do play by plays of different recipes :) i need to start doing more vegan recipes, so you won't miss out!

Hi ,

I happened to visit this page while bloghopping as usual. I was very amazed with the pictorial presentation.I gave it a shot and was really thrilled with the outcome. Thank you so much for such a lovely recipe.I was planning to put a picture of the same with frosting shown in http://simplyannes.blogspot.com/2008/01/going-easy.html .

Would it be fine with you if i link back to your page for the recipe.Kindly let me know!

thanu, yes of course, link away. i look forward to seeing more recipes on your blog in the future!

I saw this post when it was new and tried out this recipe and it has become my favorite go-to chocolate cake recipe. Just wanted to stop by to say THANKS for posting it, it is delicious every time!

cool beans! thanks for stopping by katiedid!

This was the first chocolate cake I ever made, following the recipe exactly on your site and to this day, it is still my favorite. Thank you for posting this santos. xoxo kat from sydney
ps. I've just baked one and am about to tuck in!

hello kat! whoo! love this cake, so glad you do too. have a slice for me and have a great weekend!