Steaming a traditional chocolate cake batter produces a light, moist cake, and allows you to avoid using the oven. This recipe from Milk Street uses a foil coil set in a Dutch oven to elevate the cake above the water that steams it. If your Dutch oven has a self-basting lid — dimples or spikes on the underside — lay a sheet of parchment or foil over the top of the pot before putting it in place to prevent water from dripping onto the surface.

Brown sugar and espresso powder give the cake complexity, while sour cream adds richness and tang. Milk Street recommends dusting the cake with powdered sugar or topping it with whipped cream.

Stovetop Chocolate Cake


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 6 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Cut an 18-inch length of foil and gently scrunch together to form a snake about 1 inch thick. Shape into a circle and set on the bottom of a large Dutch oven. Add enough water to reach three-quarters up the coil. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray, line the bottom with kitchen parchment, then coat the parchment. Place the prepared pan on top of the coil.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda into a medium bowl, then whisk in the salt. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs until slightly lightened, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the water, espresso powder, sour cream, butter, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and whisk gently until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Cover and heat on high until the water boils. Reduce heat to low and steam, covered, until the cake is just firm to the touch at the center, about 23 minutes.

Turn off the heat and remove the lid. Let the cake sit in the Dutch oven until the pan is cool enough to handle. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, then run a paring knife around the edges. Let the cake cool completely, then invert onto a plate and remove the parchment. Invert again onto another plate.

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