Chocolate Chip Cake


This recipe for chocolate cake holds a special place in my heart. My mother has made this cake every year for my birthday for as long as I can remember. This is especially important because my mother cannot cook any food. Every time she tries to cook for the family it ends up being a disaster. The only exception to this rule is the cake. A couple years ago, as my mother was taking the cake out of the pan the cake fell apart, so she baked another one. Every year since, I have begged my mother to bake two cakes instead of one. Unfortunately, it only works some of the time. As for sustainability, this recipe is already pretty good, but it can be improved. Some ingredients can be swapped out and the overall recipe can be made cheaper and therefore more accessible.

Ingredient Substitutions

This cake uses standard ingredients except for the sour cream and Jell-o mix. The biggest environmental impacts in the recipe are the eggs and the sour cream. Both these ingredients come from animals and require refrigeration. This means that they have all the impact from keeping the animals alive, which is huge. Sour cream alone produces 78 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilogram (CO2e/kg). This means the green house gases produced from manufacturing sour cream had an equivalent environmental impact of 78 kilograms of carbon dioxide which is massive. Substituting out sour cream is easy because other dairy products produce far fewer emissions. Milk has a carbon footprint of about 1.2 CO2e/Liter which is far less than sour cream making it an excellent choice. The other top polluting ingredient is eggs which produce 4.8 kilograms of CO2e/kg. Interestingly enough, applesauce can be substituted in for eggs. Applesauce is a great option not only because it produces fewer emissions, but it also does not involve animals in any way. Substituting these two ingredients brings the cake’s carbon footprint down by almost 20 kilograms of CO2e which is roughly equivalent to driving forty miles in a car.

Sustainability of Mass Production

Cakes use a lot of dry ingredients like flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. All of these ingredients have to be bought separately and their cost can add up. estimates the cost of a similar cake to this one at 32 cents per serving made from scratch versus 19 cents per serving when using a cake mix. This is a 40% cost reduction in the dry ingredients for the cake which can be huge for some families. Using a cake mix also brings unseen environmental benefits because it is mass produced. This mass production means a lot more can be produced for a lower cost. Michael Pollan argues in The Omnivores Dilemma for “alternatives to industrial food and farming, (8)” because he disagrees with the monoculture of the industrial process. Pollan tells us the supermarket is not a cornucopia of choice. Instead it is “dominated by a single species … Americans know as corn. (18)” Although Pollan is right in saying most processed foods originate from corn the principles of “industrial food chains” that he rejects can actually bring benefits. For example, industrial production can be good for the environment especially if you live in a region far away from where the ingredients originate. The reason why is industrial agriculture has evolved to increase efficiency. Buying ingredients separately means that they were all shipped to your local grocery store from different places which produces a lot of emissions and costs a lot of money. Using cake mix means all the ingredients are shipped to a factory then shipped to stores as one combined unit, lowering shipping costs and emissions because factories often strategically place themselves near where raw materials are produced. This means cake mix costs far less to transport both economically and environmentally.


The new cake recipe I have created is far more environmentally sustainable. Not including the emissions created by transportation, swapping out only the sour cream and eggs means the cake produces almost 20 fewer kilograms of CO2 than it would otherwise. Including transportation emissions, the cake is even more sustainable because of the efficiency of mass production. Mass production also means the cake costs significantly less, making it more economical. If you are willing to sacrifice taste only a little,



1 ½ cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

2 ¼ cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ cup warm water

½ cup vegetable oil

½ pint sour cream

12 oz semi sweet choc chips

1 box Jell-o instant choc. Pudding

Revised Ingredients:

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 box yellow cake mix (Duncan Hines)

1 box Jell-o instant pudding

½ cup warm water

½ cup vegetable oil

1 cup milk

12 oz semi sweet choc chips


Combine dry and wet ingredients in two separate bowls

Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing thoroughly

Add the chocolate chips last

Spray a pan generously with cooking spray

Bake @350 for 55 minutes

Cool for 5-10 minutes