Food on Friday – Aunt Fran’s Chocolate Cake


There are some things that you taste that just taste of childhood.  The taste is so familiar – so a part of your life that it defines a part of it.  One of those tastes for me is the taste of Aunt Fran’s chocolate cake.

Now, I did not know it was Aunt Fran’s recipe – it was just the chocolate cake that Mom always made.  Mom usually made it with a frosting recipe that I did NOT like so I would usually take the frosting off and eat just the cake.  The cake was so moist that I thought of it as pudding cake – though there’s no pudding in it.  This cake defined what a chocolate cake should taste like for me and the texture it should have – which may be why I find most other cakes to be dry.  What I never realized (because I was not the one baking it – Mom was) is that there are no dairy products in this cake.  No milk.  No eggs.

Though I grew up on this recipe I never made it as an adult.  I was always more of a vanilla and strawberry type of kid.  I did not eat a lot of chocolate.  Even my Easter Bunnies were white chocolate.  And when it comes to desserts, we really are more of a cookie family than a cake family.  But while talking to my Mom on Monday she mentioned how she was making Aunt Fran’s chocolate cake and started listing the ingredients.  I thought “Hmmmm, I have all of that at home” and decided to go home and make a cake too since I knew the recipe had to be in the family cookbook.

So here’s the recipe:

That bottom recipe is for the frosting I did not like.  You might like it.  The cornstarch gave it a gelatinous texture that I just don’t like but the taste is fine and it probably goes with the cake.

I have a big family so we doubled the recipe to make the 13 x 9 x 2 size cake.

First I measured the dry ingredients into the batter bowl.

I used cake flour instead of all purpose flour and I used Ghiaridelli cocoa powder.

Then I whisked the dry ingredients to blend them.

Next I buttered, then floured, the cake pan and turned the oven on to start pre-heating it.

I could have dusted the pan with cocoa powder instead of flour but since that did not work out so well the last time I tried that (blotchy dried cocoa powder on the bottom of the cake), I decided to stick with the flour.

Then I added the wet ingredients . . .

and using the hand mixer, blended them in – starting at a low speed and gradually increasing my speed to about medium – until I had a smooth cake batter.

What I find interesting is the addition of vinegar in this cake batter also (it was in the Red Velvet cake recipes too).  In flipping through the family cookbook I found that this is fairly common in my older recipes – though it is through the addition of “sour milk”.  If you don’t have sour milk, then you add vinegar to your milk to make it “sour”.  This has my brain spinning, trying to figure out what is the benefit of adding the strong acid to the cake batters and how that affects the taste, because I don’t discern it when eating the cake, yet it would seem that I should.  Hmmmmm.

Back to the cake.  Next the batter went into the cake pan and I baked it for 35 minutes.

Here is what it looked like when it was done.

The boys mainly wanted it as a base for the extra cream cheese frosting that we still had left over from Chris’s red velvet cupcakes.

Oddly, I still did not like it with the frosting and I ended up scraping what little I had started to put on the cake off, so I could keep the cake plain and just add frosting on the individual pieces for whoever wanted it.

I wanted to include a picture of the interior texture of this cake because that is what really makes it for me.

I love this cake.  Like I said, I bit into this and it tasted of childhood.  This is chocolate cake – what it should look like and taste like.  Thank’s Mom for reminding me that I had this recipe – inspiring me to make it – and bringing me back to our kitchen table on Lawnwood Avenue.  And thank you Aunt Fran.

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About Shelly R.

I am a Mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, an attorney, a crafter and the granddaughter of an amazing woman - my Polish Grandmother. My Grandmother gave me so much, through her love and her patience, her sayings and her time teaching me how to craft and to give to others, that it seemed fitting to share some of that wisdom, to tell some of her story, and to chat about life and crafts in a way that would be a testament to what she gave me.
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10 Responses to Food on Friday – Aunt Fran’s Chocolate Cake

  1. amanda says:

    Ooooo… an eggless cake! Thank you for sharing this recipe!!

    • Shelly R. says:

      I thought of you when I was writing the post – I thought it could work for you.

      • amanda says:

        I have heard of eggless cakes using vinegar for rise. My guess is it reacts with the baking soda to produce bubbles in the batter. I have never tried it, and this recipe will be my first, since you like it so much! But I might wait until the weather cools off later in the year before firing up the oven.

        • Shelly R. says:

          Ohhhh – that makes sense, since it did start bubbling when I stirred the ingredients. I have also seen recipes that use “soda water” to infuse the batter with oxygen. I am still surprised that I don’t taste it. I forget how hot it gets down there by June. I lived in Dallas from May through July one year when I was younger and remember triple digits in July. I think you have to be born to it to be able to handle it well. Us Northerners can’t breathe in that type of heat. Your enchiladas are on this week’s menu. I will let you know how we do with it. 🙂

  2. i luv family heritage recipes. there’s always that sense of connection and history!

    • Shelly R. says:

      Me too!! One of the best presents my Mom ever gave us was the cookbook that she wrote all of the family recipes in. She made one for each of the kids and it is just a family treasure.

    • Shelly R. says:

      Jereme – you are an artist with your cakes. I hope to one day learn how to make my cakes look as amazing as yours do – though with 5 boys in this house it would only last a split second before it was gone. Sigh.

  3. Simply Dish says:

    Love it! VERY similar to the ‘Wacky Cake’ – amazing how something so simple can taste so great! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Chip Rosien says:

    I love this cake

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