Flash in a Pan Chocolate Squares

Saturday 26 September 2020

I have been a cookbook collector since I was in high school, and a recipe collector since before even then. When I was a small girl, my mother would give me her old magazines to look through and I would clip out the recipes to keep. 

I can remember perusing her high school economics text book. Ever page was noted and studied by my yes and my heart. The cleaning, the sewing and, yes . . . the cooking pages.  She also had an old red covered cookbook put out by the Co-op from her hometown of Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia. 

That was likewise devoured and studied, along with a small meat paperback cookbook, and a volume from her housekeeping enclopedia entitled, The Money Saving Cookbook by Ida Bailey Allen. You can see clearly I was a foodie from a very young age. 
Once I got older and started earning my own money I started collecting cookbooks.  This recipe I am sharing with you today comes from The New Brunswick Women's Institute Cookbook. 
Flash in a Pan
This was published in 1987. In my experience community cookbooks like this are the best kinds of cookery books to have. They don't have many if any photos in them, but they are loaded with gems! 
When a woman feels proud enough of a recipe to want to share it in a community cookbook, you can be pretty sure that it is a good and sturdy recipe. Usually a recipe which has withstood the test of time and family.  Indeed most of them will be family favourites, and you can't beat that!

Flash in a Pan

 What intrigued me about this recipe was that it was mixed and baked in the tin. I have made a cake like that since I was a teen, called Wacky Cake. It was a recipe given to me by my best friend Linda's mother.  I have been baking that one for nigh on 50 years now. 

This, too was a chocolate cake, very similar to Wacky Cake, but at the same time quite different. This one was in the cookies and bars section of the book, amongst the brownies and other squares.

Flash in a Pan

 It also used an egg, which the Wacky Cake did not.  In the Wacky cake recipe you made three hollows in the dry ingredients mixed in the pan. Into one went oil. Into the other went vinegar, into the last went water.  This recipe has no vinegar either. 

It also used melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder. I was intrigued.  You lay a layer of walnut halves and chocolate chips on top of it prior to baking.  Again, intrigued.

Flash in a Pan

 Not intrigued enough however to actually mix the cake in the pan. I wanted to be able to cut it into squares and so I mixed it in a bowl and the poured it into a baking tin I had buttered and lined with baking paper so I could lift it out. 

I didn't want to take any chances on it sticking to the pan. I also wanted to be able to cut it into perfect squares. Yes,  I can be a bit pedantic when it comes to things like that.

Flash in a Pan

 The end result is a lovely and moist chocolate bar/cake.  Not too sweet, but with just the right amount of chocolate flavour. 

It is more like a cake than a bar. I don't think you could call it a brownie, unless you are wanting a very cake-like brownie.

Flash in a Pan

 This is the kind of cake/bar my grandmother would have baked. I would love to know the history of it and how it came to have the name of Flash in a Pan.

I suspect it has something to do with it being mixed all together in the pan. Not to mention the ease at which it goes together and the short time it takes to bake. Indeed it is baked in a flash!

Flash in a Pan

 There are a few things in life which make me incredibly happy. One of those things is trying out a new recipe. Another is chocolate cake. I also love walnuts and chocolate chips.

Combine all of those things and I am very happy. In fact I am truly ecstatic if you want to get right down to it!

Flash in a Pan

So are any of you from New Brunswick?  In Canada.  Might you know the history, if any, behind this recipe? I would be very interested to know.
Inside the book on page three is written these words: 
"The past presidents of the New Brunswick Women's Institute gratefully acknowledge and thank all who have contributed to the publication of this cookbook. 
As always, our lives are centred around our homes, and our kitchens are the centre of activity. We feel you will enjoy these selected recipes, some are new and others old, but all reflect the love of good cooking."  
Flash in a Pan

 I don't know about you, but just reading that made my heart happy. Those are my values. Home.  Family. Traditions and good food.

The message is repeated again in French just beneath.  Did you know that New Brunswick is the ONLY truly officially bilingual province in Canada?  Its true. Both Engish and French are its official languages.  As are all of the street/traffic/highway signs, etc.

Flash in a Pan

 You can correct me if I'm wrong, but I do believe it is the law. I also think most children are able to be educated in both languages. My grandsons are being educated in both French and English. Its a good thing. 

Half of this cookbook is in English and half of it is in French.  Different recipes in each half. A great impetus to learn the language.  Thankfully my highschool French is good enough that I can easily sort it out.

Flash in a Pan

 I was really pleased with how this "Flash in a Pan" turned out! It is nice and moist and quite chocolaty considering it only has two ounces of melted chocolate in it. Make sure you use a good dark chocolate. 

I love the walnuts on the top. I did not bother to toast them this time as I knew they would be baking in the oven on top of the batter and would get nice and toasty anyways. I didn't want to risk them burning.

What you have here is a moist and delicious chocolate cake bar. With toasty walnut halves studding the top and little pocket of semi-sweet chocolate from the chocolate chips.

It needs nothing else. I would not even attempt to frost it. Not too sweet,  just right. If you are looking for a great, quick and easy bake for the weekend, I highly recommend!

Flash in a Pan

Flash in a Pan
Yield: Makes 12 squares
Author: Marie Rayner
prep time: 5 Mincook time: 30 Mintotal time: 35 Min
A delicious moist chocolate cake that is mixed and baked all in one pan. Topped with walnut halves and chocolate chips this goes really well with a glass of cold milk or a hot drink!


  • 1/2 cup (120ml) canola oil
  • 2 ounces melted unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 large free range egg
  • 1 1/4 cups (175g) plain flour
  • 1 cup (190g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) water
  • 12 to 16 walnuts halved
  • 1/2 package of chocolate chips (I used 1 cup/180g)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas  mark 4.  You will need a 9-inch square cake tin.
  2. Mix the first 9 ingredients in the cake tin. Beat with a fork until light and creamy, for about 2 minutes. Scrape the bottom and sides of the tin with a spatula and then spread the batter out evenly in the tin.
  3. Arrange walnut halves evenly over top and scatter with the chocolate chips. Do not mix them in.
  4. Bake for about 30 minutes until the cake springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  5. Cut into squares to serve.


Alternately you can grease the pan and line with baking paper. Stir the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. Add all the wet ingredients and beat until smooth. Pour into the prepared pan. Top and bake as above.
Did you make this recipe?
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Flash in a PanClearly I do not have a heck of a lot of willpower when it comes to either chocolate or cake, or walnuts for that matter. Life is far too short not to be happy. A little treat now and then does a body and a mind good.  
This content (written and photography) is the sole property of The English Kitchen. Any reposting or misuse is not permitted. If you are reading this elsewhere, please know that it is stolen content and you may report it to me at: mariealicejoan at aol dot com 

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  1. Looks delightful~perfect small chocolate cake. I like that it has no frosting, stands alone in its deliciousness.

    1. You are right about that Katy! Its a lovely cake! xoxo

  2. Dear Marie, when I wrote to you in appreciation a few weeks ago, I should have mentioned a recipe of yours that brought people to their knees when they tasted it: "Brownie Pie". Your recipe today, "Flash in the Pan", looks incredibly delicious. I have printed it out to go into my treasured notebooks, all filled with your recipes. You are a Gift of Love (and wonderful recipes) to all who know you through your blog. Your family is Blessed to have you. I imagine how great it would be to sit on the steps with a "hot cuppa" with you, and feast on good conversation. You are beautiful, and I say that to you as an artist, who knows beauty when I see it. A grateful reader of The English Kitchen.

    1. Thank you so very much for your sweet comment! You made my day! I have always equated food with love and I like to think I share a little bit of that love with everyone each time I post a recipe. I am so pleased to know it is appreciated. I hope you bake these squares and that you enjoy them! oxox

  3. This looks like a really good recipe. I love the back stories you tell about them, too. I think you're right -- if someone is willing to put something in a community cookbook, then it probably has stood more than a few good tests of time!

  4. I made this yesterday for my chocolate loving Swede :)

    I wasn't brave enough to mix it in the tin, so I did it the conventional way. And we don't get chocolate chips here, so I just chopped up some baking chocolate instead. He was very happy and even though I'm not that fond of chocolate, I also enjoyed the flavour, combined with the walnuts. Because I'm naughty, I served it with a dollop of whipped cream :)

    Lovely, easy, no fuss recipe and a great result. These old classics are classics for a reason.

    1. You are so right Marie. That's what makes a classic a true classic, their ability to withstand the test of time without any fuss or muss. You and I are very adaptable I think. Ohh a naughty dollop of whipped cream. Sounds fabulous! xoxo

  5. This was a recipe put out by Bakers chocolate squares, many years ago. I think it was called One Bowl cake or something like that and I had cut the recipe from the box. I used to make it for my family often back in the 80's and 90's and then lost the little box piece with the recipe on it. I was delighted to find it here, exactly as I remembered it. Thank you!

    1. How wonderful Francesca! These old favourites make their way into community cookbooks and become our family favourites don’t they! You are welcome! Xoxo


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