Chocolate cake

Election 2020 anxiety cure: my family’s secret chocolate cake


In a column I recently wrote on electoral anxiety, I mentioned that I had a really good chocolate cake recipe – and now several people have asked me for it.

Come to think of it, it might be a devil’s cake recipe, but I never understood the difference between chocolate and devil’s food. Anyway, this is a great cake that I make for everyone’s birthday no matter what. It came to me from my mother, Jinx McNamara, who got it from her mother, Mary Ann McNulty, whose name I am named. (I gave up Ann in second year, and sometimes I deeply regret that I did.)

She was known to her grandchildren as Mae-mae (hence the title of the recipe). Hers is not a recipe that I normally share beyond the family because, well, every family should have a really good recipe of their own. But it’s been a very tough year, and a very tough election, and so in case this cake could make anyone’s life a little easier, even for a few minutes, here’s how to do it.

(Disclaimer: This recipe has not been tested by the staff at The Times’ Food, so if you hate it, it’s all up to me. But you won’t, because Mae-mae knew what she was talking about.)

Mae-mae’s birthday cake


  • ½ cup of butter
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • ½ cup of milk
  • 2 cups of flour
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of cocoa
  • 1 cup of boiling water


Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl (I’m just using the measuring cup), add baking soda to the milk and let sit for a few minutes. Then add the milk to the butter / sugar mixture and mix well. Add the flour, salt and cocoa and mix well. Add boiling water and mix well again. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Pour in the dough and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Freeze as you want; it doesn’t matter because the cake is the thing.

Share with your friends at the refuge or eat on your own in the privacy of your own room – whatever gets you through. Repeat as needed.

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