Light Yellow Cake with Fudgy Chocolate Frosting

This is the first recipe in the “Cakes” section of the 1950 Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook  Book (BCPCB), so I thought I’d start here on my quest to cook back through this classic cookbook.

Light Yellow Cake with Glossy Chocolate Frosting

Light Yellow Cake with Glossy Chocolate Frosting – 9″ square

The BCPCB offers two “styles” for each cake – one made with the traditional Creaming Method, and one made with their new (in 1950), “Double-Quick Method”.  The Double-Quick Method uses slightly differing proportions of ingredients and a methodology that will be familiar to makers of box mix cakes:  dump everything in the bowl and mix for a fixed amount of time.  I believe it is a testament to the superiority of the Creaming Method that this is the method that you almost universally see in cookbooks and on cooking shows.  Therefore, I am choosing to only make the cakes from the “Creaming Method” side.  Each recipe also conveniently shows two amounts – one yielding 2 9″ layers or a 13″ x 9″ oblong and the other yielding 2 8″ layers or a 9″ square. How practical and helpful is that!?

On the left page are the Creaming Method recipes, on the right, the Double-Quick Method ones.

On the left page are the Creaming Method recipes, on the right, the Double-Quick Method ones.

The first difference I noticed in all of their cake recipes is that they call for shortening, while almost all modern cake recipes call for butter or sometimes oil.  Each recipe notes that you can use “half butter for flavor”.  Apparently butter wasn’t worshipped in 1950 the way it is now!  While making this simple cake (I made the smaller amount) I checked the recipe several times because I just couldn’t believe it only required 3/8 cup (6 Tbsp) of fat.  I make a lot of 9″ or 8″ square cakes because it’s just the two of us, and they never require fewer than 1 stick of butter, and oftentimes way more!  I was worried this cake was going to be flavorless and dry, but I went ahead with the stated 6 Tbsp fat, using half butter.  I also double-checked to make sure that my sticks of Crisco were indeed trans-fat free.  I must confess to doubling the amt. of vanilla called for, because I really adore vanilla and I always do that whenever I use it.

For frosting I chose the Glossy Chocolate Frosting recipe as my inspiration, mainly because it was one of the few that didn’t contain raw eggs.  Wow!  I didn’t remember the whole “raw eggs in frosting” thing at all.  I didn’t have the squares of unsweetened chocolate that the recipe called for (who uses that stuff nowadays?) so I melted some good dark chocolate and added 2 Tbsp of dutch-process cocoa.  I also used butter instead of the shortening called for, because I just couldn’t bring myself to use shortening in frosting.  I used the whisk attachment on my kitchenaid mixer to make this frosting extra fluffy, and oh my gosh, it was awesome!  This is definitely going to be my go-to chocolate frosting recipe!

The cake was at once incredibly familiar (I’m sure I’ve eaten it dozens of times before!) and a delightful revelation.  It tasted “clean” and simple – just like milk, sugar and vanilla.  Modern cakes are so over-ladden with butter that they are dominated by that flavor and also somewhat greasy.   The lower amount of fat didn’t make the cake dry at all (although I bet it makes it less forgiving of being overbaked).  However, if you are only accustomed to eating a modern scratch cake full of butter or God forbid your only experience with cake is out of a box,  this might come off as “dry” to you.  Have to say, we loved this simple cake and I would definitely make it again.  I’ll print the recipe for the frosting below, since I feel that I made changes to the printed recipe that are significant enough to not infringe on any copyrights.   If you are interested in the cake recipe, the 1950 edition of the BCPCB was reprinted in the 90’s and there are lots of copies available on Amazon.   I can’t wait for mine to come in the mail so I can keep my “antique” baby safely stored away.  Enjoy!

Sweet, simple yellow cake with amazingly chocolatey, fudgy-textured frosting.  Keeper!

Sweet, simple yellow cake with amazingly chocolatey, fudgy-textured frosting. Keeper!

Fudgy Chocolate Frosting (based on Glossy Chocolate Frosting in BCPCB)

  • 3 ounces dark chocolate (semi-sweet or bittersweet), cooled
  • 2 Tbsp. dutch-process cocoa
  • 1 tsp. Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. Nielsen Massey coffee extract (optional, but it really amps the chocolate flavor)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 5 Tbsp milk or half-and-half
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted, plus more if needed to reach desired consistency

In a small bowl melt chocolate in microwave, stirring every 15 seconds until just warm enough to melt (be careful not to scorch it!).  Whisk in extracts.  When cooled to room temp (you need the chocolate cool enough to not melt the butter, but not so cool that it solidifies), scrape chocolate mixture into work bowl of mixer fitted with whisk attachment.  On medium setting, whisk in butter, then milk.  Add SIFTED powdered sugar (don’t even think about not sifting the sugar – you will regret your choice, and all the impossible to remove little lumps in your frosting that result) and whisk on low to combine and then on medium high a few minutes until perfectly smooth and a little fluffy.  You may need to add more powdered sugar (or a bit more milk) to reach the consistency you like.  Try not to eat so much frosting out of the bowl that you don’t have enough to frost your cake!

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