Sunday, February 7, 2010

Happy birthday, John!

photo by amylovesyah

No sneak peek today because it's a special Sunday -- it's my little brother's 26th birthday! He's the greatest guy in the world, and the first best friend I ever had. Since he's far away, I can't bake him our family's birthday cake, but I'll gladly share the recipe with y'all. This cake is the only birthday cake as far as my family's concerned. Once upon a time, it was light and fluffy and very cakey, but at some point in its dark history, it started coming out of the oven flatter and more fallen than a Victorian streetwalker. Dense and moist, the fallen cake has a texture somewhere between a cake and a brownie, but with an intense chocolatey cake flavor.

My grandmother (who was a chemist) and my mom spent months trying to isolate the one process or ingredient that caused the cake to fall, until the whole family finally convinced them to stop -- we like it better this way! If you want the cake to be fluffy and cakey, just make sure to cool the liquid ingredients before stirring them into the dry. If you want it fallen and dense, go ahead and pour the liquid in hot off the stove. The heat acts as a catalyst to the chemical reaction between the baking soda and the acid from the buttermilk, which causes little air bubbles and in turn causes the holes in the cake. Get the heat from the oven, and your cake is light as air. Get the heat from the liquid ingredients, and the reaction takes place before the pan goes into the oven and your cake falls.

Science lesson aside, here's the recipe.

Chocolate Sheet Cake with Powdered Sugar Icing

Preheat oven to 350.
Boil in a pan until it bubbles:
2 sticks margarine
4 Tbsp. cocoa
1 c water

Sift into bowl:
2 c flour
2 c sugar
pinch of salt
Pour liquid mixture into flour mixture and mix well (see note above). Add:
2 eggs
1/2 c buttermilk
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. vanilla
Bake in 9x13 pan at 350 for about 30 minutes.

About 5 minutes before cake is done, combine the following in a saucepan and cook until it bubbles:
1 stick margarine
6 Tbsp. milk
4 Tbsp. cocoal
1 1-lb box powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix well and spread over hot cake.

And since I deprived you of a sneak peek, here's a quick Project of the Month update -- one finished a.m. sock!


  1. What a compliment for your little bro. I think he's pretty great, too!

  2. I have to vouch for the deliciousness of this "cake"...I still remember it from high school and since losing the recipe many years ago have failed to find another that even compares…now I’m back in business!

  3. mom -- says a lot for you and dad, too!

    rachel -- so glad to give you the recipe again. and just in time for your birthday! maybe you can talk spencer into baking it for you.


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