February is birthday month for both my brother and I. Which meant that Mom made two birthday cakes. And they were always the same. So was Dad’s, but she waited until June to make that one. Not only did Grandma Endres provide the recipe for our favorite cookies (both the sugar and the double chocolate drop), she also passed down the recipe for the best cake ever. I vaguely remember having a DQ cake at a party or two, but inside the family, it was always the chocolate cake with the caramel icing.
I’m not sure what culture this cake would trace back to, other than the Endres household. But, as far as we know, there is a piece of it that may still be wandering the world. Daddy was eating a piece of birthday cake as he signed the card he and Mom sent the year I was in Spain. A crumb fell on the card and left a nice smudge, but I never saw it. That is the only piece of mail that didn’t make it to the house on calle Octavio Paz.
As I was recently reminded, the cake does not require a mixer, just a whisk. It also does not require any perishable ingredients. Because of this, you could make the cake on a camping trip, but I don’t think we ever did. The icing, on the other hand, boils milk and butter with the brown sugar. Add in the vanilla and the baking powder, and you have the same ingredients as caramel, just in different proportions. This caramel-like quality is what made our cake the ugliest one at the Girl Scout bake sale every year. After taking it home year after year, we let other people sample it one year. It was one of the highest priced cakes after that.
Why’s it so hard? Too little patience, and it runs off the cake onto the plate, or into the edges of the pan. Too much time sitting in the cold windowsill, and wherever the glop falls onto the cake, that’s where it’ll stay, because you won’t be able to spread it. And, if you don’t remember that ‘bring it to a boil’ means a roiling, almost-out-of-the-pan boil, then, well, the icing will never thicken, and it will just soak right into the cake. That’s the lesson I learned the first time I tried to make my cake up here in Alaska, without Mom. But, other than the sticky mess, no one who ate it complained about the taste of a caramel infused chocolate cake.
My third attempt up here was better. Other than my oops doubling the measure for the baking soda when measuring the salt, thus causing me to quadruple the whole recipe. I used the snow and cold air outside to cool my pan as I stirred the icing, and it may have actually been thick enough. But I’d forgotten to cool my cakes. So, the icing melted again when it hit the hot chocolate, and while it didn’t soak in completely like the first time, it definitely slipped in around the edges of each pan. The cakes barely looked iced.
And, yes, last week I flipped a decade and put a zero in my age.
Chocolate Soggy Devils Food Cake
1 ½ c flour
1 c sugar
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
3 Tbl cocoa
5 Tbl melted shortening or veg. oil
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c cold water
Mix the dry ingredients
Whisk in the liquid ingredients
Bake in an 8” round pan at 350° for 20-25 mins
Brown Sugar Icing
1 c brown sugar
4 Tbl cream or milk (1/4 cup)
1 tsp butter
Bring to a roiling-out-of-the-pan boil, turn off heat
Add 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
Beat/cool until thick enough to spread over cooled cake(s)
Double both recipes for a 9×13 pan