Articles / The Best Cake You've Ever Eaten


The Best Cake You've Ever Eaten

Published May 1, 2023

Plus three other mind-blowingly good, tried and true desserts

Shilpa Uskokovic’s Chocolate Sheet Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
Photo: Kate Bittman

My husband, Nick, works at Bon Appétit, with otherworldly-accomplished recipe developers and a serious test kitchen. Sometimes, delightfully, the hard work they do in the kitchen makes its way to our home.

About a year ago, Nick came home with the best cake I’ve ever had, hyperbole not included. It was Shilpa Uskokovic’s Chocolate Sheet Cake with Brown Butter Frosting, and Nick brought a few pieces, and I might have shared a bit with him and Holden, but I’m honestly not sure. 

Shilpa’s cake is pure magic. It’s soft and pillowy, and chocolatey but not overly so (the chocolate flavor comes just from Dutch-process cocoa powder), and the frosting is the most perfect combination of salt and sweet (you cook butter with nonfat dry milk powder — I’ve never used the latter in my life but clearly it’s a workhorse). I could eat this cake every day.

So far, I’m sure I’m not saying anything that would seem weird to most of you. The thing is, though – I don’t like sweets in general, and cake is probably the biggest offender. It’s big, and usually too dense, and usually way too sweet. For me to eat it, it needs to check a bunch of boxes: Both the cake and the frosting need to be extremely fluffy, it absolutely cannot be cloyingly sweet, and preferably there’s a salty aspect to it. And that’s high maintenance, so — I forgo it.

But the Shilpa cake is the cake of my dreams — I made it for Holden’s seventh birthday (happy birthday to Holden, one of the kindest humans I know!) this weekend, and normally I have a long, drawn-out discussion with him over what kind of cake he’d like, but this year I ran the chocolate brown butter cake by him briefly and, when he was on the fence, I made an executive decision. (PARENTING. I really wanted that cake!)

The cake, unsurprisingly, was a big success: birthday child kept sneaking bits of frosting, and I think every grownup there came up to me to ask me about the heaven cake, and could they get the recipe.

I am such a savory girl — cheez doodles, puffed or crunchy; salt and vinegar potato chips (Holden’s fav too); pretty much any cheese imaginable, but especially a Gruyère or Midnight Moon; creamy dips. And I do like some sweets — cotton candy is my true love, donuts and candy are up there too — but when it comes to a “real” dessert, I have four fail-safes that I absolutely love.

Today, I’m sharing with you these four desserts, all of which are quite possibly perfect. 

  • Shilpa Uskokovic’s Chocolate Sheet Cake with Brown Butter Frosting: Acclaim above.

  • Bittman Brownies: I will never make anyone else’s brownies. Why mess with perfection? Once I made a pan of these — they take five minutes, baking aside — and put a post-it note for Nick on them saying something like, “Brownies! Eat!” and he ate the whole pan. It was not great for our relationship, but now it’s a good story and I finally recovered.

  • Merrill Stubbs’ Mom’s Cream Cheese Cookies: WHY do we not put cream cheese in every cookie? How is cream cheese in cookies not more of a thing? These cookies are a revelation; they, not surprisingly, have a cheesecake-like flavor, but better, and not mushy. Perfectly chewy. 

  • Yossy Arefi’s Powdered Donut Cake: I made this cake for the first time Thanksgiving 2020; we were supposed to have friends from down the hall over, and were so excited to socialize, and we got a covid exposure. We left them half the cake at their door. The cake almost made up for not being able to see them. It tastes exactly like a powdered donut, but it’s less dense. It’s absolutely wonderful.

What are your perfect sweets? Tell us in the comments.

Chocolate Sheet Cake with Brown Butter Frosting


Photo: Aya Brackett

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Powdered Donut Cake