The email raving about the “amazing homemade chocolate cake with homemade chocolate frosting” came from friend and fashion blogger Heather Dunhill, who ate it at a Siesta Key dinner party. She said, “Who does that anymore? YUM! It made me — the girl who could care less about chocolate — drool,” and she asked if it might it make a good Guest Food Editor column.
It took all of a nanosecond to fire back a “yes” and make arrangements to meet the baker. The cake was made by Katie Hayes from a recipe that is a family treasure. Hayes’ late, great aunt, Betty, gave it to her mom, Anno Swain, who passed it on to Hayes and her sister, Susan Erhart (president of the SPARCC Auxiliary). It has been in the family at least 30 years.
The cake is so “chocolatey” because it has so many kinds of chocolate: the Duncan Hines Deep Fudge cake mix, plus chocolate pudding, plus chocolate chips and the cocoa in the frosting. Hayes says you can use another brand of cake mix if you can’t find the Duncan Hines. The recipe is not a secret by any means but mistakes do occur in transmission. One happened when Sherry Luria, then Swain’s son’s fiancée, asked for another family treasure — carrot cake. Swain inadvertently left out the baking soda. The cake, of course, came out flat as a pancake. Fifteen years later, the family still jokes that Swain left it out on purpose so Luria’s cake wouldn’t be as good as the one that mom makes.
There are minor variations in how the ladies make the chocolate cake. Swain and Hayes use a mixer and spray the pan with Pam. Erhart mixes it by hand and butters and flours the pan. Hayes’ sister-in-law uses a yellow cake mix and vanilla pudding with the same frosting. The cake is reported to be great with just powdered sugar on top, but this family can never do without frosting. The secrets to making it successfully are to soften the butter and add the dry and liquid ingredients alternately. The result is wildly popular.
“Bundt cake is always better,” Hayes says. “There’s more frosting per piece.”
Start to finish: 2 hours, plus frosting time
1 package Duncan Hines Deep Fudge cake mix
1 package instant chocolate pudding and pie filling (regular size)
1 pint sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil
1 12-ounce package chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 10-inch Teflon bundt pan by spraying with Pam or buttering carefully, then dusting with flour.
Mix all ingredients together and pour into a prepared bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes. Let cool about an hour before removing from pan. You can slide a knife gently around the edges, but mostly you just need to place a plate over the top of the pan, then flip it upside-down and gently shake the pan to loosen the cake. Cool completely before frosting.
1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter
2/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa
1 box confectioner’s sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine sugar and cocoa in a bowl. Soften the butter in a separate bowl. Then alternately add the sugar/cocoa mixture and the milk and vanilla to the butter until creamy consistency. Frost cake when completely cool. Enjoy!
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