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Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake

Posted By Suzanne McMinn On September 12, 2008 @ 1:05 am In Cakes,The Farmhouse Table | 83 Comments


This is a traditional chocolate cake and it has never failed me. It’s so moist and delectable, I often don’t even frost it. I bake it in a large rectangular pan or as cupcakes then sprinkle some powdered sugar on top. A bite is like a warm hug, a sweet kiss, and a trip to grandma’s all rolled into one. Bake it in cake rounds and frost it–and you might as well stick some candles in it and call it your birthday. You know, one where you get to pick the number and everything.


It’s a made-from-scratch cake with the most basic of ingredients that are easy to keep on hand as staples, so go ahead, make it today. You probably have the stuff. As with all of my recipes, special flour isn’t required. This isn’t because I believe there is no purpose in this world for cake flour, but it simply doesn’t fit my culinary perspective. I totally stole that term from the Next Food Network Star series, in which they are constantly asking the contestants to define their culinary perspective. (And some of them have a lot of trouble doing it.) Culinary perspective is a somewhat pretentious term, so I use it slightly tongue-in-cheek, though I do have one. I’m interested in old-fashioned, traditional country cooking. There is a reason food is better in the country. It’s homegrown and homemade, created from scratch using the simplest of ingredients. Most of our great-grandmas didn’t have access to gourmet ingredients or even many of the ingredients that might be considered almost basic today. And yet they baked better cakes and pies and bread than we ever will with our fancy store-bought specialty ingredients. Self-sustaining and frugal, they practiced the art of making delicious food from pantry staples along with the milk they drew into the pail that morning, the eggs they tucked into their aprons from the hen house, and the butter they churned with their own hand. In other words, they weren’t running to the supercenter for cake flour. They knew how to make cake without it. We can, too. And so why isn’t the Food Network knocking at my door? Don’t they know I have a culinary perspective? It takes some of those contestants halfway through the season before they figure theirs out and by then they’re getting booted off! I already have mine! I’m ready!

Oh, yeah, this was a post about cake……

This cake recipe is my own. You won’t find it anywhere else on the internet. It’s based on an old-fashioned chocolate cake recipe from a cookbook long ago then adjusted to make a more satisfying cake, to me. I don’t like skimpy cake layers. (I don’t like skimpy icing, either. I don’t like skimpy anything!) It makes a moist, rich, light and high cake. We love it. I hope you will, too. (Please do not be afraid of scratch cakes. You haven’t had cake until you’ve had a scratch cake! Cake mixes….aren’t cake. Homemade….. Try it; you’ll like it.)


How to make Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
1 2/3 cups milk

Heat oven to 350-degrees. Grease and flour two round cake pans. In a medium-size bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another, larger bowl, combine butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat well. Add flour mixture and milk; beat again. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. These are tall layers and may take a bit longer to bake than you are accustomed to. However, ovens are different. For me and my oven and my cake pans, it takes the full 35 minutes. Your mileage may vary depending on your oven and whether your cake pans are 8-inch or 9-inch. Please watch your cake carefully. Do not open the oven during the first 15 minutes of baking–it may make your cake fall. At 30 minutes (or even 25 if your oven bakes quickly), check your cake with the toothpick test until done. Do not overbake! Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes then invert to cool completely.

If baking as cupcakes, cupcakes will be done in about 15-20 minutes. In a large rectangular baking pan, cake will be done in approximately 30 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, or (especially if baking in cake rounds), ice with Fluffy White Frosting.

How to make Fluffy White Frosting:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a pan on the stove. Cook till bubbly and sugar is dissolved. In a bowl, combine egg whites and vanilla. Add sugar mixture to egg whites, a little at a time, beating constantly. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Easily frosts a two-layer cake. I can’t stand it when a recipe doesn’t make enough frosting. This one makes plenty. When you first make the frosting, it will be a bit warm from cooking the sugar-water mixture. It spreads easier if you refrigerate it for 30 minutes before frosting the cake. Make the icing while the cake is baking.

This is icing like nothing that comes in a plastic can at the store. It’s heaven in a bowl. This cake is great with vanilla ice cream–but with this icing, you won’t even want it. The icing is enough. It’s that good.

P.S. If you’re baking this cake with farm-fresh milk and eggs, it’s even better.

P.P.S. That’s how our great-grandmas made it.

P.P.P.S. Food Network producers? If you’re reading? Don’t forget that I have a culinary perspective.

P.P.P.P.S. Can I do the show from here? Cuz I have chores.

Find these recipes on Farm Bell Recipes for the handy print pages and to save them to your recipe box:
Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake
Fluffy White Icing


See All My Recipes


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