“The Best Ever – Blue Ribbon Winning – Chocolate Layer Cake – In All The Land”!

Being a Child of the 60’s, not as in Woodstock, but more like Sally Draper but with non-smoking, non-drinking, loving, supportive parents that actually liked their kids, these were my earliest baking recollections with my mom: Dream Whip. Dolloped on top of a boxed gingerbread cake.  My feet tucked under my knees on the kitchen chair watching her transform dense, brown holiday loaves filled with yellow and green cubed sticky stuff into baked jewelry.  The candied cherry halves on top of these confusing loaves glowed like rubies among flowers of pecan petals which caught the light and glistened from a brush of corn syrup. Yep. Mom did fruitcake.

My mom wasn’t the greatest baker by today’s standards.  She rocked the box mixes though, with the icing recipe off the C&H powdered sugar box and that was fine by us.  When I was very young, every birthday was celebrated with a homemade 9×13 cake that resided in the aluminum pan with icing decorations from the baking aisle.  You know the kind, where you peel individual “happy birthday” letters off the paper backing with a flower or two. Those spiky and crunchy sugary treats danced on top of my birthday cake along with graceful ballerinas balancing on one foot while holding a twisted candle with a gracefully extended arm.  Their metallic tutus and matching tiaras sparkled in the candlelight.

Everything changed when this chocolate cake RSVPed to the party and came to birthday cake town.  But it was a good thing. A very good thing.  We went double tiered and swirled.  There was no turning back to boxes and ballerinas.  The icing recipe came first, then the cake, as it should be to my way of thinking.  But there’s more to this little story of glory and how it came to be and earned the illustrious title of the “best ever in all the land”.
Best Ever Chocolate Layer Cake

As I began baking on my own, with the intent to impress high school boyfriends and then college men, mom, being ever supportive of my creative endeavors, started sending away for promotional culinary items for me.  I think it was in hopes of filling my hope chest, which I would tend to guess is a tradition and a nice piece of furniture that doesn’t exist for today’s girls.

Of course, being the 70’s and still being a couple decades away from the internet, brands would regularly run the best promotions in magazine ads.  Thanks to my mom, I have a heavy glass gravy boat and ladle from Grey Poupon, a phone that looks like a ketchup bottle from Heinz and a storage tin for chocolate chips from Nestle, among other things.  The brown beehive Bauer bowl is what my mom used to make her famous chocolate chip cookies in. Chocolate chip cookies were one of two cookies that she would make.  Ever.  Just two kinds.  Funny, the bowl seemed so much bigger back then.

Best Ever Chocolate Layer Cake-

Sometimes the promotional items would be recipes.  In 1985, Hershey’s promoted a recipe booklet along with a page of 5 minute chocolate recipes.  This is the original promo recipe card and is half of the equation to what would become our family’s only requested cake for ever more.  You can tell right away this recipe is a winner by looking at all the telltail signs – the much-loved demeanor of wear and the chocolatey mess.

Hersey's One Bowl Icing Recipe.logo

After college graduation and boomeranging back home to regroup, I decided to take a Wilton cake decorating class at the community center after work.  It was then I discovered an entire world of creativity – of colors and design, of artistry and skill. It immediately became a big part of my life and my mom supported me unconditionally.  She purchased a Kitchen Aid mixer for me to use and would regularly accompany me to buy supplies at the only cake decorating supply store in the area which was over an hour drive round trip.  I think she was secretively proud of what I could create and she willingly and happily relegated herself to the unglamorous role of being my mixing bowl and spatula washer (since we didn’t have a mechanical one) and piping bag washer (no disposal bags then either) as I went along but it gave us both a sense of working together.  I really enjoyed this time with my mom before I was married as it brought us closer together after my time at college.

As a mom, I shared my baking enthusiasm with my boys as they were growing up, at first without giving it much thought.  I found photos of them sitting in highchairs with plastic measuring cups and spoons with a dusting of flour on the tray for playtime.

As they grew bigger and could tuck their little feet under their knees like I used to, they graduated to the kitchen stools and baked along side me with their own rolling pin and choice of cookie cutters.  There was always room for their cookies next to mine on the cookie sheet.

photo+2-1

And before I could believe it, since we moms never can really believe our children can grow up so quickly, a few years back, my youngest son home from college for the summer was curious to see if this chocolate layer cake really was the best in all the land.  And it was!  Winning him 2 blue ribbons and 2 best of division ribbons from 2 county fairs that summer.  We also noticed at both fairs his cakes had the biggest wedges taken from them compared to the slivers out of all the other cakes!

 LA County Fair Winner

It was thrilling to see him win but do you know the best part of his first win was for me?  It was being with a 20 year-old who had just stepped in the door from collegiate life who had an interest of being in the kitchen with his mom at midnight asking questions and needing clean-up support as he baked.  It was now my turn to be the dish washer of mixing bowls and spatulas as my mom had been for me and I loved it.  I thought of her at this particular moment, and realized how baking had become a legacy in our family due in part, to this little recipe she sent away for, for me, over twenty-five years ago and her support when I was exploring my own baking talents enrolled in the Wilton class.  I missed her while I readied the mixing bowl to go from batter to icing for my son’s next task as she would have loved the sight of all this.  My son probably wasn’t aware of how much love there was in the room at that moment.  

In honor of Mother’s Day for my mom, who was my staunchest baking supporter and to honor all moms who enjoy or have enjoyed baking with their children and/or grandchildren, I asked Hershey if I could reprint the recipes to share with you.  I am happy to report “permission granted”.  To reprint the recipes, Hershey asked me to stay true to the original and not adapt the recipes for printing.

But…. here are some techniques and tips that were implemented into the winning cakes:

Blue Ribbon Chocolate Cake-9091.700

For the icing,

  • Stick with the good stuff – salted butter and whole milk.
  • Pure vanilla extract- goes without saying but I’m saying it anyways.
  • Measure the cocoa and powdered sugar before sifting.
  • Having all ingredients for the icing at room temp, using whole milk, salted butter, and sifting both the cocoa and powdered sugar together, in our opinion, makes for the perfect icing. 
  • We always use the “medium” flavor amount. 
  • Whipping up the icing for a longer time will lighten the color as you beat air into it.  It’s all a matter of preference but it’s not ours to over beat.  The pleasure that you’ll receive from this icing making your eyes roll back in your head is to let it have some density.  I’m convinced you’ll find your own sweet spot.
  • Add milk as needed. You may find the amount in the recipe is too much or not enough depending on the type of butter you use, the heat of your kitchen and the temp of your ingredients.  Besides ease of mixing everything together, this is also why all of your refrigerated items should be room temp. If your ingredients start cold from the get go the icing will be stiffer and won’t spread as nicely.
  • I use 4 recipes of the icing for two 8″ rounds.  It leaves a little extra. How can this be a bad thing? If you must, you can get away using 3.

For the cake,

  • When my son baked the cakes for the competition he hand buttered and dusted the 2 – 8″ pans with cocoa powder.  I’m a big fan of baking sprays.  I love the Wilton brand.  Love it.  It sprays smoothly without getting all clumped up.
  • It’s always a good idea to sift cocoa, don’t you think? Yes!
  • Use table salt, save the Kosher for something else. Julia and I agree Kosher salt is a no-no for baking because it doesn’t dissolve well.
  • Use large eggs, not extra large.
  • Don’t panic when adding the boiling water. The batter will be very thin so be sure to scrape it up from the bottom of the mixing bowl.
  • The cake comes out flat on top (perfect) and generally not domed so if you don’t see the usual domed effect happening in the oven, don’t worry.
  • Use a wooden pick in the center of the cake to check for doneness instead of using a metal pick.
  • I find the top rim of the cake rounds can get a little sugary crunchy so I take a serrated knife and bevel cut them off. You can’t tell so no one will know. Besides, everyone is too distracted on that first bite by the angels singing. Trust me. The angel thing? It happens every time.

 When you hear the angels, let me know. 🙂

Remember to enter the fabulous Wilton GIVEAWAY before Thursday for a chance to win a sweet swag bag filled with 2015 products and a FREE Wilton Method Craftsy online class. 

Hershey's One-Bowl Buttercream Frosting
Yields 2
The BEST chocolate frosting you will ever taste!
Print
Ingredients
  1. 6 Tbls. butter or margarine, softened
  2. HERSHEY'S cocoa
  3. 1/3 cup for light flavor
  4. 1/2 cup for medium flavor
  5. 3/4 cup for dark flavor
  6. 2 - 2/3 cups unsifted confectioners sugar
  7. 1/3 cup milk
  8. 1 tsp. vanilla
Instructions
  1. Cream butter or margarine in small mixer bowl. Add cocoa and confectioners' sugar alternately with milk; beat to spreading consistency (additional tablespoon milk may be needed). Blend in vanilla.
Sweets To Impress http://www.sweetstoimpress.com/

 

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake
Serves 8
A moist, deeply chocolate cake that pairs perfectly with Hershey's One-Bowl Buttercream Frosting
Print
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups sugar
  2. 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  3. 3/4 cup Hershey's Cocoa or Hershey's Dutch Processed Cocoa
  4. 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  5. 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  6. 1 tsp. salt
  7. 2 eggs
  8. 1 cup milk
  9. 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  10. 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  11. 1 cup boiling water
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in water. (Batter will be thin.) Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.
  3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.
  4. Prepare frosting, spread between layers and over top and side of cake
Notes
  1. One 13x9x2-inch baking pan may be substituted for 9-inch round baking pans. Prepare as directed above. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Frost as desired.
Sweets To Impress http://www.sweetstoimpress.com/

 

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Comments

  1. Marilyn, you’re a doll for sharing this recipe as well as the sweet memories it holds for you and your family. I can’t wait to try it!

    • Marilyn says:

      You’re welcome, Cindy. To be truthful it was a little difficult to let the recipe go out into the big bad world because it has meant so much to our family and it’s been “ours” for so long but the joy I receive in sharing my passion of baking is so others can enjoy it too. I hope it becomes a favorite for you. Good cake karma so my cakes don’t stick to the pan. haha! 🙂 When you try it let me know what you think.

  2. Can’t you make the best memories around baking? Love hearing yours and as a true chocoholic, I can hardly wait to try!!

  3. So exciting! I, a non-baker, might even actually try this!

    • Marilyn says:

      Absolutely, Lisa! I hope you give it a try when your sweet Princeton alums grace you with their presence! 🙂 Maybe an anniversary cake? xoxo

  4. My mouth is watering for a BIG wedge of your chocolate cake!

  5. I love recipes with a story and boy, this one certainly holds many memories for your family! This chocolate cake looks AMAZING!!

    My mom isn’t the world’s best baker either. Our birthday cakes as kids were always in a 13×9 pan and came straight out of the box, no adaptations. I found baking inspiration on my own and she has kind of mentioned that she isn’t a fan of the fancier cakes…but then this past weekend she asked me to bring home my round cake pans to make a birthday cake. I think I’m rubbing off on her!!

    PS: My parents have a ‘hope chest’ in their bedroom but I’ve always called it a hoke chest…can’t believe I’ve been mispronouncing it all my life!

    • Marilyn says:

      With the beautiful and delicious things you make it’s no wonder you’ve made her a convert. 🙂 My brother called it my “hopeless chest” like only a brother can do but then he made me a beautiful one and it’s a cherished possession of mine.

      p.s. can you be anymore cute? 🙂

  6. Karen Kibbee says:

    Well Marilyn, this is just the sweetest story. Definitely got a little teary eyed. So awesome that you are sharing such a lovely tradition with your son! I’m sure your mom would be so thrilled and I’m sure it’s just the best feeling for you. So cool! And not to mention the cake just looks and sounds beyond amazing. I am going to give it a try!

    • Marilyn says:

      Thank you, Karen. You are just so sweet and supportive. If you have any questions email me and and I’ll get back to you right away and we could even chat on the phone! That would be fun. 🙂 You will LOVE this cake. I have never met anyone that has tried it and didn’t make it their go-to cake for every celebration. You must report back. 🙂 Thanks again for leaving such a lovely comment. xoxo

  7. I love everything about this post. Of course it is a beautiful cake but the story, well, that is the icing. Truly.

  8. Looks like a perfect Mother’s Day dessert to me! I have been wanting to try out a scratch recipe for a long time! Thank you

    • Marilyn says:

      Hi Tammy,
      I think you’ll really love this one. Everyone does! 🙂 Happy Mother’s Day!

  9. This chocolate cake definitely does look like the best ever.. though I think I would need to try out the recipe to test the claim! Yum!

  10. Oh my, how did I miss this post? The brown bowl!!!!! I remember it – yes it looks like it has gotten smaller! How special the memories are. I remember your mom in that kitchen, and the smell of the cookies. Never had a choc-chip better than hers, that’s for sure. Now the chocolate cake looks amazing! My hope chest still graces the foot of my bed. My granddaughter and I sifted through it just a few weeks ago – funny how old memories blend into new ones isn’t it?

    • Marilyn says:

      That’s so funny and touching that you remember the bowl. I also remember being at eye level with the Mix Master and the scent of the motor mixed with cake batter. I have as many memories in your mom’s kitchen as I have in my mom’s. Didn’t we have the greatest childhood, Nancy? xoxo

  11. Wowzers!!! I hear the angels singing & have not even yet made your “best in the land” chocolate layer cake!! Think I’ll make it for myself as my special day is coming up soon & then I can share the splendid chocolate yummyness as well as retelling the story of the recipe’s loving history. Can I just say that 4x the frosting looks absolutely purrfect! Hugs to you my friend for a most generous share…you rock Miss Marilyn!
    PW

    • Marilyn says:

      Thank you, my duck buddy! I should really cut it down to 3 batches, that’s probably enough, but I always like to error on the side of ridiculous deliciousness. 🙂 xoxo

  12. George Melendez says:

    Hi Marilyn…..
    This recipe is just wonderful. I have a few chocolate recipes but this one is so easy and is delicious. I did make a little change and substituted the boiling water with fresh brewed coffee. My family and friends fell in love with cake and are frequently asking me when am I going to bake it again. Thanks for a wonderful recipe.

    George Melendez
    Humacao Puerto Rico
    jormelenn001@gmail,com

    • Marilyn says:

      Hi George,
      I’m so happy you liked it. It’s winner for sure! I love the idea of substituting the coffee for the boiling water. I’ll have to try that sometime. I really appreciate you taking the time to let me know the chocolate cake is part of your recipes and reputation for your friends and family. 🙂

  13. Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I searched for hours for the perfect chocolate cake recipe and this is it! I have made it at least four times already. I guess it’s true that the old school recipes are the best. This is a keeper!

    • Marilyn says:

      You are welcome, Angela! I’m happy to spread the chocolate cake love along with a spatula of icing!

  14. Kayla Ellis says:

    Hi!

    I am wanting to make a chocolate cake for a friend’s baby shower and I don’t usually make chocolate cakes. Is the cake easy to handle when it is time to frost? I don’t want something that is going to crumble when I try to move it. Also, do you think this recipe would work in a spring form pan?

    Thanks,
    Kayla

    • Marilyn says:

      Hi Kayla,

      The cake is very moist and isn’t crumbly. Make sure you prepare the pan prior to baking so it releases easily. The batter is very runny so if you want to bake in a spring form pan i’d test it out first by placing water in it to see if it leaks. I’ve always used 2 standard 8″ round cake pans. Making sure the icing is at room temp to frost is important too. If you do bake in a spring form pan, let me know how it turns out. I’d be interested to know! 🙂

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