Shuga' Mommas

Shuga’ Mommas: Chocolate Cake

True or false:

1. You like cake.
2. You’re short on time.
3. You hate baking.
4. You love baking.
5. You want to make a cake but you’re out of eggs and butter.
5. You have a weakness for chocolate and when there’s none in your house things can get ugly.
6. You need an easy vegan cake recipe.

If you answered true to the first and any of the following statements, this recipe is worth checking out. It ticks all the boxes and can be made with pantry staples. That’s it. Nothing refrigerated. This means as long as you keep your pantry stocked, whenever your sweet tooth cries out, you can have your cake and eat it too.

There are many reasons to love this recipe. It’s the edible equivalent of a machine washable, not too fancy, not too plain, oh-so-comfortable little black dress: suitable for a variety of occasions, versatile with minimal effort and cost effective. It’s incredibly quick, easy and perfect for a lean budget.

I made a cake like this to earn my baking badge as a girl scout. Years later I discovered it again on one of my favourite food blogs as I was prepping for my son’s birthday party. It is now my fall-back midweek dessert and the rainy day activity my son enjoys most. Most of the time I don’t bother with the icing though it is very, very tasty. You choose.

I’ve since modified the recipe from Not Without Salt to suit my need for a more intense chocolate flavour. I also cut the quantities to only fill one pan because honestly, if I made two cakes every time a craved chocolate, I would need to buy a new wardrobe. Chocolate makes my clothes shrink.

This modified recipe is best for an 8″ square pan or a 9″ round.


Ready? This is too easy.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 F/175 C. (If you’re using a convection oven, 325 F/170 C)

Grease your pan and line the bottom with parchment. If you intend to eat it straight out of the oven, don’t bother. (No judgement here. You’re in good company.)

Measure the following into a large mixing bowl:

1.5 cups of flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips (optional but highly recommended)

Combine the following in a separate liquid measuring cup:

1 cup coffee (I use the leftovers from the french press. Instant coffee is fine in a pinch.)
6 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pour the liquid ingredients into the large bowl of dry ingredients and combine with a whisk until the batter is homogenous.

Pour the batter into your pan, pop it in the oven for 30-35 minutes and enjoy. If you need help checking for doneness, here’s some advice.


Just like a reliable little black dress, the possibilities are endless. Last time I added 2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper and called it a Mexican Chocolate cake. It was delicious. Try layering it with Nutella. Play with fresh cream and preserved cherries. Blitz fresh mint into a simple buttercream. It is hard to mess this up. Even if you do, at least you won’t have wasted stipend money on butter and eggs. I hope you like it.


-From the kitchen of Elissa Watts

Shuga' Mommas

Shuga’ Mommas: Chocolate Brownies

Have you ever had a dessert that was so decadent, that you practically swooned while eating it?

This is how I feel about this brownie recipe.

My friend, Catie, was gracious enough to pass this amazing recipe straight from her own kitchen to our GW readers.  Do you know what the most wonderful thing about it is, besides the chocolate? It’s versatile – so you can make it gluten free, or gooey, or cakey, or really however you like brownies. I guarantee after you’ve made a batch, you’ll never ever ever ever ever again travel the boxed brownie route. I know I haven’t.

And, let’s be honest. It’s nice to have a new, easy, delicious recipe to be used in the midst of a busy holiday season!

Catie’s Brownies


  • Butter (190 grams)
  • 2 blocks of quality dark chocolate (150 grams each)
  •  2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of flour

Melt the butter and blocks of chocolate in a saucepan. After melted, remove from stove and stir in 2 tsp of vanilla extract. Add in 2 cups of sugar and stir. Stir/mix in 4 eggs, then 1 cup of flour.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, at 325F (163C).

A couple of notes:

1. I typically add in 1 tsp of almond extract in addition to the vanilla. But, you can add in all kinds of things: brandy, rum, peppermint…the sky is the limit.

2. To make your brownies more cake like, add more flour.

3. To make gluten free: use gluten free flour, and 1 tsp of xantham gum.

You’re welcome. (Trust me, every time you make these, people will profusely thank you). And, thanks to Catie for the recipe!

What’s your favourite holiday treat? Would you be willing to share it with our GW readers? If so, send us an email.


Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: Fair-trade Chocolates

Maybe it’s just because my birthday is October 30th, but I have always been a huge fan of Halloween–the bonfires, ghost stories, and, of course, candy. Something I became aware of when I learned about the Fair Trade movement, however, is what some have called “The Dark Side of Chocolate.”As it turns out, the growing, trading, and manufacturing of some of the chocolate treats we enjoy often depend on business practices which are hard to support, at best, and egregious, at worst. The documentary mentioned above finds evidence of child labor and slavery, trafficking, and other abuses existing on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, a country that produces nearly half the world’s cocoa.

So what can we do about it? The good news is that there are several companies, growing bigger and more numerous every year, who intentionally source fair-trade cocoa and rigorously sustain ethical production procedures. One of my favorites among these companies is Equal Exchange, whose founding story can be found here. Also, there are some tasty treats to be discovered among Divine Chocolate’s offerings of chocolate, fruit, and nuts. Some retailers that stock these brands include Ten Thousand Villages, Whole Foods, and Oxfam stores. In 2009, Cadbury also committed to sourcing fair-trade cocoa for many of its products as well, so keep an eye out for this symbol on their chocolates.

Other than purchasing fair-trade chocolate and other treats, there are some other small, but significant actions we can take, like signing a petition to keep larger chocolate producers accountable to pledges they’ve made to amend their labor practices. Often, these efforts meet with some degree of success, but they need momentum to keep moving forward. So, Happy Halloween, and if you didn’t make it onto the fair-trade bandwagon for this holiday, there’s plenty of time for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter!

Beauty and the Budget

Beauty & the Budget: Easter DIY

Spring has sprung in Oxford!  My heart feels lighter and my spirits are up as I find myself surrounded by daffodils and tulips and warm sunny picnics in the meadow.  I think I can understand the urgency in Robert Browning’s poem “Home-Thoughts, From Abroad”, (penned while he was traveling) when he begins with, “Oh, to be in England, Now that April’s there”.  The spring landscape is indeed something to yearn for.

This season presents images for us that have a way of calling us to stop, to marvel and to reflect.  To reflect upon the beauty of new beginnings and to appreciate the simpleness of things such as robin’s eggs and budding flowers.  Spring has a way of reminding us to savor moments a little longer…by lingering in the sunshine or having a meal on a blanket outside.  For me, Easter is the highlight of this time of year…a time for me to reflect upon my faith and to celebrate the beautiful gift of hope that seems to bud forth in my heart anew.

To celebrate this season I found a few lovely DIY treats online and put in a few of my own as well. Don’t worry about going over budget and enjoy making your space feel fresh and decked out for Easter and spring!

a. fabric scrap cards

b. paint sample egg garland

c. tissue paper and parsley eggs

d. bunny napkin fold


e. Homemade chocolate eggs

f. easy chocolate bird nests

g. family doilie table runner

h. decoupage pots

Shuga' Mommas

Shuga’ Mommas: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

True confession: I might have a *small* chocolate chip obsession. (And, no, I didn’t just recently post on my facebook status that I was in desperate need of chocolate chips, specifically Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips, and begged someone from America to mail them to me. Nope, wasn’t me).

Needless to say, if I can put a chocolate chip into a recipe, I’m a happy gal.

My friend, Lisa, introduced me to the concept of chocolate chips + pumpkins = muffins. I doubted her at first, but once I baked them….OH MY.

That, my friends, is how pumpkin chocolate chip muffins became an autumn staple in our home. And because it is now pumpkin season, it’s a great time to make them. So, go do it.


  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 16 oz can of pumpkin puree (or be daring and roast a fresh pumpkin)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup applesauce (UK friends, this is hard to find. I often just add a bit more veggie oil and leave out the applesauce)
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups choc chips

Pre-heat oven to 350F (180C).

Mix eggs, sugar, pumpkin, oil & applesauce. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt & cinnamon. Mix well. Stir in choc chips. Pour batter into greased mini muffin (or reg muffin) tins. Bake for about 15 minutes.

For my gluten free friends – remove the 3 cups of flour and add 3/4 tsp of xantham gum, and 2.5 cups of gluten free flour. You’ll get the same results.

Happy Autumn!

PS – Next time, I think we’ll move off the chocolate chip theme, and on to healthier things. Maybe.

Shuga' Mommas

Shuga’ Mommas: Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Oh, graduate wives. I have failed you.

Today’s lovely post was supposed to have photographs, yes, BEAUTIFUL photographs of Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. Instead, this is what you get:

Batter batter everywhere!

I love to bake. Sometimes, the things I bake turn out so well, I start to get a bit prideful. (Go on, tell me I’m a great baker). And, it would have to be today, of all days, a day when chocolate chip banana bread should be photographed in all its gorgeousness, that this batter decides it has a mind of its own. “SEE!! You can’t put me in a bread pan! I will get out!” Personally, it was great reminder that I’m not Martha Stewart.

But, on most days, I can make a mean Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, and now, you can too!


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (use real butter, I promise it’s better)
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 bananas (one mashed, the other diced)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • I pkg of chocolate chips (frozen)

Pre-heat oven to 350F (180C).

Roll chocolate chips in flour. When baking, this will keep them from sinking down to the bottom of the pan.

With mixer (hand or stand) cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks. In a separate bowl, stir baking soda into milk. Add to butter, sugar, and eggs. Add the mashed banana. Combine salt, flour, baking powder, and add to mixture. Stir in vanilla. Beat egg whites and fold into mixture. Add chocolate chips and diced banana. Bake for one hour.

And, please send me photos of your fabulous bread once you’ve baked it. I need to be reminded of what it’s supposed to look like.

Happy baking!


PS You can omit the chocolate chips for some awesome banana bread.