Ponzek1 The holidays naturally bring families together around the kitchen table, so why not include the kids in making these special family meals? Not only will they be more likely to try something they helped make, but it’ll also keep them away from their iPad/TV/video games. Deb Ponzek, a mom of three and owner of Aux Délices in Greenwich, Darien, Westport and Riverside, CT created a cooking school in Stamford, CT, that has classes for kids and adults. In December, children can learn to  bake cakes and build gingerbread houses, and adults can make a classic meatloaf and special dinner sandwiches (go to auxdelicesfoods.com for a schedule), all under the tutelage of cooking school director Lynn Manheim and other instructors.

If you want to start the memories this year, Ponzek has shared her incredibly decadent—and ever popular—chocolate cake recipe that your kids will love to help bake and of course eat!

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Chocolate Cake (Serves 10 to 12)

Flavorless vegetable oil spray

2¼ cups sifted all-purpose flour

1½ cups sugar

4½ tablespoons unsweetened

cocoa powder

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup solid vegetable shortening, such as Crisco

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened

1½ teaspoons baking soda

1¼ cups strong, hot brewed coffee

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Chocolate frosting (homemade or store bought)

Preheat oven to 350°F

Spray two 8-inch cake pans with vegetable oil spray. Cut out 2 parchment paper rounds to fit in the bottom of each pan and insert them in the pans. Spray the paper lightly with vegetable oil spray.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Add the shortening and butter and with the mixer on low speed, mix until the batter has the consistency of cornmeal.

In a large glass measuring up or small mixing bowl, stir the baking soda into the coffee. This will foam; increase the mixer’s speed to medium and add the coffee to the batter. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well.

Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and smooth the surfaces with a rubber spatula. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake layer comes out dry. Cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before inverting the cakes onto wire racks to cool completely.

When the cake layers are completely cool, put one on a platter or cardboard round and spread about a third of the frosting over the bottom layer. (You may want to level the top of the bottom layer first by slicing the domed portion of the cake off with a serrated knife.) Put the top layer on the cake and frost the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting.

Photographs by Cristina Lozito