Joni Woolf: Be brave; fix that recipe

Published 1:48 pm Sunday, April 7, 2019

The internet is a grand source for many kinds of information. This is especially true of recipes. There is no end to the wide variety of methods of cooking almost anything, and it is all right there at your fingertips. You don’t have to open a single book or magazine: just type in whatever you’re looking for, and Voila! It appears.
Last week I was looking for an extra-special chocolate cake to take to our church luncheon on Sunday. Though I often bake a pound cake, or a basic vanilla-flavored cake with varieties of frostings, this time I was looking for chocolate. So, I typed in “the best chocolate cake recipe.” There wasn’t just one; there were many, all competing for the title “best.” Perhaps my method of choosing was not scientific: I picked the one with the prettiest picture. It was called (like all the rest) “the best chocolate cake recipe,” so I set about to make it. I knew after reading carefully that the frosting called for an inordinate amount of confectioner’s sugar. It called for nine cups, twice as much as I use in an Italian Cream or Red Velvet frosting, and I’m already doubling those from the originals! But I proceeded. Here’s the recipe. After you read it, I’ll tell you how I adjusted it on the spot, and how I would adjust it even more the next time I make it.

The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe (believe it or not!)
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 cup boiling water
Prepare three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper, grease sides pans (I also flour sides). Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. (this is not a mistake; cook at low temperature). Add all dry ingredients to a large bowl and mix together. Add eggs, buttermilk, and vegetable oil to dry ingredients and mix well (a whisk works fine — don’t get out the mixer). Add vanilla to boiling water and add to mixture. Mix well, put equal amounts in 3 cake pans and cook 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out fairly clean (it took me longer: 40 minutes). Remove from oven, let cool in pans about 10 minutes, then turn out on rack to cool.

Chocolate Frosting
1 ¼ cups butter
1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
9 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 to 5 tablespoons water
Beat together butter and shortening until smooth. Slowly add 4 cups powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla and half the water and mix until smooth. Add another 5 cups of confectioner’s sugar and mix until smooth. Add cocoa and mix until smooth. Add remaining water and you may need more water than recipe calls for. I did. Spread between cooled layers and on sides and top. (Although I reduced the sugar to 8 cups and the butter and oil to 1 cup each, I still had 2 cups frosting left over — that’s why I will offer even greater cuts below).

Chocolate Gamache
6 oz. (1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup heavy cream
Place chocolate chips in medium-size bowl; heat cream to boiling and pour over chips. Let sit 3 to 5 minutes and stir to make creamy gamache. Pour over top of cake and make drizzles down the side.

The cake was delicious, but there was much too much frosting. I would advise cutting all frosting ingredients by 1/3, except for the water. It needed more water than the recipe called for. And I was too slow in trying to create a drizzle effect around the edges. The gamache had begun to solidify slightly and the drizzles became hunks of chocolate thrown at the sides of the cake. Still, I received many compliments on the cake, including from my daughter, who is mostly a pound-cake-eater. So, try it. The layers were easy to make, as was the frosting. There was just too much of it. No one needs that much sugar.

So, use the internet. Then use your common sense.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at