USA Today Bestselling Cozy Mystery Author

New West Test Kitchen: Chocolate Cake

First of all, welcome to the new, updated website. We’re still working out a few things, but we’re getting our feet under us, and hope to be done by next week. For now, we’ve got a New West Test Kitchen post coming up because it is FRIDAY! Today, I wanted to do something that we all know and love. Chocolate Cake.

This week, we’re working from Chocolate Cake recipes that were just a list of ingredients. Now, if you know anything about baking, you know that the way you incorporate ingredients makes all the difference. Sometimes, even, the order in which you incorporate them. So tackling these recipes was difficult. But ultimately, productive.

Chocolate Sheet Cake (Beckatron)

This is my favorite chocolate cake recipe. It’s got a very unique taste and is possibly the most moist cake I’ve ever had before. I highly suggest trying this one out.

Blend 2 c. flour & 2 c. sugar and set aside. Mix together 1 c. margarine, 1 c. cold water, and 4 T cocoa. Bring these three ingredients to a boil and pour over flour and sugar mixture, blending well.

Add 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon soda, and 2 eggs. Mix well and pour into a cookie sheet (15 1/2 x 10 1/2)Bake at 325 for 30 minutes. Make sure to let the cake cool before frosting.

Bring to a boil: 1/4 cup butter or margarine, 1 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup milk. Once on a low boil, remove from heat and add 1/2 c. chocolate chips. Don’t cool. Continue beating until it thickens. Once relatively thickened (but still pourable), pour it over the cake and spread to the corners.

You only really need a light coating of the frosting, but make sure to spread it when it’s hot because it will start to harden if you leave it to cool. The moist, spicy chocolate cake is a perfect counterpoint to the sweet frosting (which is why you can get by with only a light coating of frosting). This is by far the best cake I’ve ever eaten.

In addition to making this in sheet-cake form, I tried it in mini rounds, as well. They still worked out to be the amazing, moist, chocolatey goodness that I’ve come to know and love in the sheet cake, but I was able to make them as individual cakes, which I really appreciated. Good to know that it works in multiple formats.

If you try this recipe, please come and find me here and tell me about it. I so adore this cake, I just want to share it with everyone. So I hope it makes you as happy as it’s always made me.

Chocolate Cake – First try (Tistylee)

Once upon a time I would have shied away from recipes like this… a list of ingredients with no directions!  When I was a much younger me, I would sift through my grandmother’s cookbooks, looking at the recipes with wonder: How do you know what to do with them?  It was like a codebook… sometimes there were just lists of different foods, with no amounts or order to them.  The baking ones are more specific in terms of quantity, but still no advice on what to do with them.

Like this one:

2 c. sugar

½ c. butter

2 sq. melted chocolate

2 eggs, well beaten

1 c. thick sour cream

2 ½ c flour, with 1 tsp baking soda (mix well)

1 c. boiling water (last)

1 tsp vanilla

This recipe was my Great Grandmother’s and years ago I would have just passed it by.  Now I am intrigued… sour cream?  In a cake?  What kind of chocolate: unsweetened, semi-sweet, German?  How would it turn out if I subbed out the eggs?  Which egg substitution should I use?  How long do I bake it?  At what temperature?  Should I make an actual cake, if so what size pan?  Or just cupcakes?

Due to the lack of instructions, I pondered the order in which I would use the ingredients for nearly a week.  Tried to consider all the options.   I felt a bit like a detective, combing through the culinary clues for how to create this cake.  Here’s my first try…

First, I decided on using unsweetened chocolate, and melted 2 – 1 oz squares with butter over low heat.  Didn’t want to scorch it!  Nothing worse than burnt chocolate… what a waste!

While that melted together, I made up my “eggs”: for each egg needed, I mixed 1 T milled flax seed with 3 T of water.  If you let that set for a few minutes, that mixture thickens up to a texture a bit like eggs.

Third, I measured out 2 cups of sugar into a big bowl and poured the melty chocolate over it and mixed together.  I wanted to make sure that all the sugar and chocolate were incorporated together well before adding anything else.

Fourth, I added my “eggs” combining completely, then added the vanilla, doing the same.  Fifth, I mixed in the sour cream completely.

Sixth, I measured out the flour and baking soda into a small bowl, stirred together “well” as the recipe suggested.  (One of my only directions, so I’d better follow it!)  Then added the flour/baking soda to the rest of the cake batter.  Before adding the flour, the batter was definitely too runny, but with all the dry stuff, it got much too thick.  Thank goodness for the “last” addition of cup of boiling water.

Remembering my grandmother’s trick in making bread lighter, I decided to try it out on the cake batter.  With a whisk, I stirred and stirred the batter until it was quite bubbly before pouring it into the cake pan.

Unable to decide just what type of cake I wanted, I made both a 9” round pan AND a small batch of cupcakes.  Cheating a bit, I looked into my Betty Crocker cookbook to determine what temp they recommend baking cakes at… 350 F… so I went with that.  The 9” pan took 40 minutes until the knife came out clean while the cupcakes only took 20.  And yes, I baked them separately.  This time.  When they were out, I put them on a baking rack to cool.

With this obscure cake recipe, came one for frosting.

1 c. sugar

1 c. sour cream

Boil until forms soft ball in cold water.


1 tsp vanilla

Chopped walnuts

Luckily, I have a wee bit of experience making candy or else this would have seemed complete gibberish to me!

In a quart pot I mixed the sugar and sour cream together over medium low heat.  As it liquefied, I got out my candy thermometer and attached it to the side of the pot, so I could wait for “soft ball” stage.  Admittedly, I forgot at the beginning and stirred it too much, so the frosting  took a bit longer to reach temp than it should have.  But after realizing my error, and leaving it alone, it didn’t take too long to get there.

I added red food coloring while it boiled, my son’s favorite color, and waited.  Once at the right stage, I stirred the vanilla in quickly.  I omitted the walnuts.  Then, while still hot, I poured the frosting over the cooled cake and cupcakes.

The cake itself turned out chocolaty, but not too sweet.  Due to the egg substitute, it was a bit dense, like a cakey brownie.  I wondered if it would dry out quickly, as my past eggless cakes had.  It certainly looked that way a few hours later, as it sat on the counter waiting to be eaten.  Yet, once covered with frosting and plastic, the moisture in the cake was secured.  The frosting was very sticky at first and a bit difficult to eat.  The caramel goodness clung to the top of our mouths and we found ourselves covered with sticky red frosting everywhere!  But it also got better with covering.  Perhaps the frosting provided the wetness the cake lacked, and the retreating moisture took the stickiness.

I really liked this cake.  I imagine my grandfather and his brothers coming in from farming and finding this cooling on the counter.  With dust in their hair and still in their muddy shoes, they clambered around to sneak a piece.  I’m sure my great grandmother shooed them away to wash their hands for supper, only to notice the cake half eaten as they ran off to do her will.  They would devour it completely, relishing the remains after their supper proper.  My children have certainly made an effort to do the same.


So I decided to make the cake again with a few variations.

First, I used semi-sweet chocolate instead of the unsweetened.

Second, I used buttermilk (1/4 cup for each) as egg substitute.

Third, I sifted the flour before measuring.

Finally, I added 1 cup coconut to the original frosting recipe.

Everything else, I did the same as the first time.


Due to the buttermilk substitute and the reduced flour (from sifting), the cake batter ended up runny. Thus, it needed more baking time.  It actually took an extra 10 minutes.

The resulting cake was more moist that the original and more chocolatey. It also fell, like the first, and was very dense.  But decadently dense. Delicious!