One aspect of social media that I truly appreciate is how it is constantly and serendipitously introducing new ideas into my baking repertoire.

A Facebook friend of mine — one possessing unassailable baking judgment — follows the New York Times’ Cooking website with a fervor of a Fantasy Football fanatic. In a recent post, he noted that a recipe with a less than appealing name — Chocolate Dump-It Cake — was getting a ton of online traction. His question: Had anyone ever baked it?

I clicked on the link, and read. It sort of rang a bell.

Here’s the back story: The recipe originates with former Times food writer Amanda Hesser.

Over the past dozen or so years, Hesser has shared the recipe with Times readers, as well as in her second book (“Cooking for Mr. Latte”) and on her must-read website,

When it appeared in the Times in 2002, Hesser wrote, “A couple of years ago, my mother taught me to make her dense but moist chocolate birthday cake. She calls it ‘dump-it cake’ because you mix all of the ingredients in a pot over medium heat, then dump the batter into a cake pan to bake. For the icing, you melt Nestlé’s semisweet-chocolate chips and swirl them together with sour cream. It sounds as if it’s straight from the Pillsbury Bake-Off, but it tastes as if it’s straight from Payard. Everyone loves it.”

(Payard is the name of pastry chef Francois Payard’s standard-bearing New York City bakeries, the kind of places that routinely make chocolate lovers weak in the knees. So, high praise, indeed).

I read Hesser’s entertaining “Mr. Latte” in the early 2000s, and have a vague memory of wanting to test-drive the recipe. For reasons unknown, I never did.

Last week, after unearthing my copy of the book, I discovered that I’d dog-eared the recipe’s page, clearly a note-to-self kind of gesture. A sign, right? I got baking.

My instant reaction was favorable enough for this Minnesotan to forgive Hesser for that Bake-Off dis. Actually, it was more like, Wow.

Sure, the formula flies in the face of my usual cake-making practices. Preparing the batter in a saucepan? Baking a layer cake in an angel food cake pan? Using sour cream instead of butter for the frosting? Refrigerating the final results?

Yes, yes, yes and yes.

Hesser was right; it’s a rich, supremely chocolately cake. It’s also a relative snap to make.

The icing’s sour cream-fueled tang is a welcome change from the usual sugary overkill. And while I’m generally not a fan of chilled cake, this version is unabashedly divine when served straight from the refrigerator, in a kind of Pepperidge-Farm-on-steroids way.

Hurrah. I’ve found the baked-goods vehicle for all future birthday celebrations. Well, at least until Facebook tells me otherwise.


Follow Rick Nelson on Twitter: @RickNelsonStrib