A Catholic Home - Chocolate cake hits spot for birthdays, Mother’s Day

Photo: Rachel Bauer Photo: Rachel Bauer

My grandmother always made devil’s food cake on her daughters’ birthdays

Ah, May, my favorite month, dedicated to the Blessed Mother, bursting with flowers for her crowning and sweetened with a day for honoring our earthly moms.

With Mother’s Day approaching, I wondered what gift could possibly mean something special to my 94-year-old mom, who lives in an assisted living home. She never asks for much beyond simple needs. She likes homemade meals though, and that is one place where I could make a difference. I have to say — and my mom would fully agree — that I learned very little from her about preparing meals. But there is an exception: She taught me how to make my grandmother’s devil’s food cake.

When I was 5 or 6 years old, my mother started letting me choose the menu for my birthday. I usually picked fried chicken and mashed potatoes. The one thing that was constant, however, was a chocolate cake, not just any cake, but one handed down from my maternal grandmother, Myrtle Bunker Ingalls (1893–1966). And I didn’t know it until much later, but my mom was following her mother’s example.

Grandmother was born near Bunker Creek in Lewis County. She taught school in Shelton for a year or so, but the rest of her life she spent in Lewis County, working hard and raising her three daughters.

She always made her chocolate cake with mocha frosting for her daughters’ birthdays. In 1962, my Aunt Jo took a ceramics class and painted Grandmother’s recipe on tiles to give to her two sisters. My mom’s tile fell into my hands years ago, and my cousins Christine and Karen both remember seeing the ceramics.

So here’s the old-fashioned cake recipe, and happy Mother’s Day to all of you. May the Blessed Mother watch over us all and bless us with sweetness in our families. 

Chocolate cake with mocha frosting
recipe for chocolate cake
Photo: Rachel Bauer

Chocolate cake

- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 4 heaping tablespoons cocoa (grandmother always used Ghirardelli)
- 1/2 cup shortening
- another cup brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups sifted cake flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- another 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans.

Warm 1 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of milk and cocoa in a pan on low heat until smooth, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and
allow to cool.

Cream 1/2 cup shortening and the second cup of brown sugar. Add three eggs and beat thoroughly. Sift together the cake flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with another 1/2 cup of milk. Stir in the chocolate mixture and vanilla.

Bake about 20 minutes, depending on your oven.

Mocha frosting

- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
- 3 tablespoons strong, hot coffee
- 1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the sugar, salt and butter thoroughly. Pour hot coffee over the mixture until it reaches the desired thickness. Stir in vanilla.

Northwest Catholic - May 2015

Janet Cleaveland

Janet Cleaveland is a member of the Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater in Vancouver.


Website: blogs.columbian.com/small-plates/author/jcleaveland/