One of the cookbooks my sister bought me for Christmas is a little tome called “Vintage Cakes” by Julie Richardson. It is a wonderful book and for me it is almost the story of my childhood and teenage years told in cake. So many of the recipes in this book are old friends that I grew up with and still enjoy, others I haven’t tasted for years but remind me of simpler times. This one however just jumped off the page. It was almost as if I was transported back to my moms kitchen on any given weekend. There I was at the kitchen table watching my mom take a big pan of this cake out of the oven, ready to be cooled and taken to any number of events.
I feel as though I have always known this cake. It was certainly one of my moms most made recipes. In the summer when I was growing up we would almost always have cook outs and get togethers in our back yard or at one of my parents friends house. They were always great fun. My favorite of all the weekend outing was going to Farmer Jims. Farmer Jims was one of those places where there was an enormous grassy area with pavillions where someone in the group would get there early, stake out a good spot and then everyone else would arrive after church and unload coolers, barbeques, water floats, cases of beer and soda and all sorts of food. This cake was always there. I can hardly think of a time when this cake wasn’t at one of these events or when it wasn’t sitting on the counter of our kitchen ready to be snacked on. I haven’t had this cake since I left home in the 1970s but just the smell of it baking made me feel like a kid again and I could almost feel my moms presence in my kitchen while I made it.
It isn’t at all fancy, you don’t even take it out of the pan, just slice it in squares and serve it right out of the baking pan, but it is old fashioned and delicious. Give it a try.
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (13/4 ounces) lightly packed premium unsweetened natural cocoa
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup water
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (1 ounce) lightly packed premium unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch-processed
1/3 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups (12 ounces) sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) toasted chopped nuts (such as walnuts, pecans,
15 X 10 X 2 inch baking pan, greased
Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 375’F.
To make the cake, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the cocoa. Add the oil and water and bring to a rolling boil for 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool
Meanwhile, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, then whisk the ingredients by hand to ensure they are well mixed. Pour the warm cocoa mixture into the sifted ingredients and whisk until just combined.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. With a rubber spatula, stir the buttermilk mixture into the batter. Pour the batter into the greased pan and place in the center of the oven. Bake until the top is firm and a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out with moist crumbs, 22 to 25 minutes.
While the cake is in the oven, make the frosting: melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the cocoa and bring the mixture to a rolling boil; boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and whisk in the milk and vanilla. Add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time while whisking continuously.
Immediately after the cake comes out of the oven, pour the frosting over the hot cake and sprinkle with the nuts. Try not to jiggle the cake before it sets or you’ll leave waves in the frosting. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.
Well wrapped and stored at room temperature, this cake keeps for up to