Two holidays are sneaking up on us, and both deserve a special dessert.

This dreamy, moist chocolate sheet cake is ideal for gatherings — say, a Father’s Day fête or Fourth of July party (aka my dad’s birthday).

The recipe was passed down from my husband’s grandmother to his mom to his niece, Laura, who lives in Nebraska. She made it when she was visiting us a few years ago and, more recently, baked the cake and had it packed in dry ice and shipped to Tucson for my husband’s birthday.

Now, that’s some niece.

My husband was a bit put off when he found out I planned to share the recipe with readers. Gently, I told him that the recipe for this cake, known as hot-water cake, was not his grandmother’s invention, and that I’ve spoken to many bakers who are familiar with using hot water or hot coffee in cake recipes. That put him at ease.

It didn’t hurt that I baked the cake for the purpose of writing this column — so he got to eat as much as he wanted.

The best thing about this cake is that it’s so moist it doesn’t require frosting. Really. Since so many people dislike frosting, I decided to frost only half the cake. I opted for vanilla buttercream frosting, which requires four ingredients you probably already have on hand.

Likewise, the cake recipe contains common, inexpensive ingredients. Put together, though, they yield an uncommonly good cake.

Contact Food editor Tiffany Kjos at or 807-7776. On Twitter: @tiffanykjos