Marie Antoinette had her issues, but maybe the suggestion to "Let them eat cake" wasn't all wrong. Sometimes, a little cake goes a long way, and cake is the way to go. To start with, "cake" is just such a fun word, just saying it makes a person happy. The way the word sounds, the way the mouth feels when you say it: the sharpness of the two "k" sounds, the long "a." To say the word "cake," you have to stretch your mouth wide, almost in a smile. And cake is so not necessary, so reminiscent of little kids' birthday parties and candles and singing and colorful frosting. 

It's good to have a go-to cake, and not one from a box or a bakery. The Joy of Cooking has the perfect anyday/everyday cake prescription. It's even relatively healthy (though if you don't tell anyone, they'll never guess). They call it "Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake" and in parentheses add, "Vegan." Older versions of the Joy of Cooking don't have this recipe;  it's not in my 1975 copy of the 1931 classic cookbook, but is in the 1997 update, which tells us in its introduction, "new chapters reflect the new ways we eat." By now, the word "vegan" probably wouldn't have to be in parentheses, subservient to the euphemistic and not entirely synonymous description "dairy-free." But I haven't checked the 75th anniversary 2006 edition of Joy.

An interesting bonus to this cake being vegan is that it consists entirely of shelf-stable items you will already have (or should) in your pantry, so you can make it anytime, without having to plan ahead. No eggs, no milk, no butter means no ingredients that you might have run out of or that might have gone bad. 

Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake (Vegan)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour one 8 x 8 inch pan or line the bottom with wax or parchment paper.
Sift together into a large bowl:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened nonalkalized cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
Combine and add:
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Stir until smooth. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Slide a thin knife around the cake to detach it from the pan. Invert the cake and peel off the paper liner, if using. Let cool right side up on the rack.
Serve plain, dusted with powdered sugaror frost with quick frosting. 

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