Every family has their special recipes passed down generation to generation to generation. We certainly have a few dishes passed on from the two or three past generations, but none have lasted as long, or continue to endure as strongly, as the Holzheimer Chocolate Cake. It’s my great-great grandmother’s chocolate recipe that now is the official family birthday cake. It’s not a birthday celebration without it. Even when living in France, my family brought me a slice of one they baked (of course they kept 3/4 at home and enjoyed it themselves…).
The cake is very simple, yet far moister and a bit richer than most traditional chocolate cakes. It’s two twin cake mixes that sandwich a layer of chocolate frosting with more chocolate frosting coating the top and sides of the cake. Then, go crazy with icing decorations.
For the cake: 2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup buttermilk (1/2 cup milk with 1/2 tsp vinegar)
2 cups unsifted flour
2 unsweetened chocolate squares (2 oz.)
1 heaping tsp. baking soda to mix into buttermilk
Start by greasing 2 9 inch layer pans with canola oil and a very, very thin layer, almost a dusting, of flour. Cut the stick of butter into small slices, then cream the butter with the brown sugar. At the same time, on low-medium heat, melt the chocolate in the hot water. Be careful not to over melt the chocolate to the point of burning and sticking to the sides of the small pot.
Once all the clumps of butter are gone, add the eggs and mix. Then add the chocolate mixture. I noticed after mixing the chocolate into the butter-sugar mixture that a small swirl of the butter-sugar mixture refused to go away, despite having the blender on “cake mix” for three minutes. Don’t worry about it if that happens, it seems to be more an appearance issue than recipe issue.
Sift the two cups of flour after measuring and place it on some wax paper. In four stages, alternate between adding the flour and the buttermilk. As always with flour, lower the blender speed to avoid a flour storm.
After this five minute or so process, the batter should be ready to split into the two pans. A little hint when taking the beaters out of the mixture– slow the blender speed gradually while slowly lifting the beaters out of the mixture. The dishwasher appreciates it (though it’s less batter for them to sample!).
Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350, careful not to make the batter dry!
Then let the cake sit for a good six hours minimum before adding the frosting.
The frosting is so easy, it’s called the “easy chocolate frosting.”
Melt four squares of unsweetened chocolate (like Baker’s, the equivalent of four oz.) with three tablespoons of butter. Meanwhile, sift 3 cups of confectioner’s sugar and mix it with 1/8 teaspoon salt, 7 tablespoons of milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Add the hot mixture to the bowl of the dry mixture and mix the two together thoroughly with no clumps evident at all. Let the frosting rest for at least 30 minutes, even an hour, giving a quick stir here and there to keep the frosting good and loose.
Then with a pastry cream spreader knife (my name for the utensil, not sure of the real term), cover the top of one of the cake batters. Then place the other cake batter on top the frosting, and spread the chocolate frosting all over the top and sides of the cake. Treat yourself to a snack with any leftover frosting.
Do some grand icing decorations, the candles, and there’s the perfect birthday cake! Or…a perfect chocolate cake for any dessert.
Now five generations have enjoyed this in my family and the next five certainly will too!