Column: My family’s chocolate cake is the cure for election anxiety — here’s the secret recipe

Chocolate cake, though not Mae-mae's. Start mixing and baking!
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

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

Come to think of it, it may be a recipe for devil’s food cake, but I never understood the difference between chocolate and devil’s food. Either way, it 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, for whom I was named. (I dropped the Ann in second grade, and sometimes deeply regret doing so.)

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


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

Mae-mae’s Birthday Cake


  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 heaping tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 cup boiling water


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

Frost however you want; it does not matter because the cake is the thing.

Share with your shelter buddies or eat alone in the privacy of your own bedroom — whatever gets you through. Repeat as needed.