Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Vanderwolf's Family Secret Chocolate Cake Recipe

If you promise not to tell anyone - Here is our secret family recipe for the best chocolate cake EVER!
This has to be the recipe I make more often than anything. I don’t want to say it’s a “never fail” recipe because then I will jinx it but.... it’s really hard to do something wrong with this cake.
The best part about this recipe is you are only dirtying 1 bowl and 1 whisk.
Okay, that’s soooooo not the best part.
The best part is the taste! So moist and chocolately it could get by without being iced. (Of course we do ice it though. Pffft...like we’d miss a chance to pile on even more calories)
Okay, get ready for the tastiest cake ever!

Vanderwolf’s Family Secret Chocolate Cake Recipe
1/2 cup baking cocoa
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup sour milk or cream
2 eggs
2 tsps vanilla
1/2 cup oil
1 cup boiling water (do not use hot tap water, use boiling water)
Preheat oven to 325 (Yes, 325, not 350). 
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together first 5 ingredients.
Make a hollow in centre of bowl and add the remaining 5 ingredients into centre.
Whisk all together until well blended (you can use electric beaters if you want but a whisk also works fine)
Pour into prepared baking pan. (It makes 2 – 8 inch cakes, 1 – 9X13 cake, or 24 – regular cupcakes. It makes a bazillion mini cupcakes. Okay, not a bazillion...maybe 48). I find spraying with cooking spray and then lining the bottom with parchment paper works best.
Bake 35 mins or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. (Depending on pan size this varies greatly. Keep an eye on it!)
Remove from oven to cool 5 minutes on wire rack. If you are not going to serve it in the pan you should remove it from the pan after about 5 mins.
When completely cool, ice with your favourite icing.

Here is the recipes for the two frostings in the photos of the cake.

Creamy Peanut Butter Icing
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl. Mix on medium-low speed of electric mixer until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you go. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.
(Add more confectioners’ sugar or cream as necessary to get to smooth consistency.)
Old Fashioned Cocoa Frosting

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 – 5 cups powdered sugar
8 tablespoons (about) whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Beat butter until creamy. Add cocoa powder and about 4 cups of sugar. Beat well. Add vanilla. Add milk – 1 tbsp at a time – until frosting reaches desired consistency.
(You may need to add up to a cup more of icing sugar to get right consistency or more milk.)

We also added some chopped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for decorations and between the layers. You know, because there wasn't enough calories in it yet.
Here are some step-by-step photos of the icing and peanut butter cups coming together!

First layer.

First layer with 1/2 of the peanut butter icing and some peanut butter cups.

Second layer.

Second layer with the remaining peanut butter icing and more peanut butter cups.

Third layer and covered in the old fashioned cocoa frosting.
So good.

Just in case you needed proof that this recipe has been used in our family for a while - this is what the ancient book looks like. I believe it is a Lillooet Crafts & Things Cookbook from 1974.

It looks like a treasure map..... and it is, in a way.

And, for good measure. One more photo. Here is how this recipe looks as cupcakes....

Pretty Flowers!

And here is a photo a reader of our blog sent us:

Thanks for sending us the photo Angel. It turned out fantastic :)

Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. Please leave a comment if you get a chance to try it out and let us know how it turned out for you.


  1. Jo and Sue, thanks for linking this in. Have a great week.

  2. This cake looks outrageously good! Stopping by from Carole's Chatter, Food on Friday~I make alot of scones and your recipes look great. I can't wait to try the Cranberry Eggnog Cornmeal Scone recipe! Lynn H @ Turnips 2 Tangerines

  3. The basic recipe is like the Texas Sheet cake that I have been making for decades & has always been my sons' favorite dessert ever! I have always made it in a sheet cake pan though & the frosting is different & we frost it while it's hot so some of the frosting soaks in. Yum, so moist.
    That said I cannot wait to try your version, with the layers & the Reeses!

  4. Hey there, I am a little confused as the info above says it makes 2 8inch cakes but the pictures show three layers. Help!

    1. So sorry for the confusion!!! We usually make 2 - 8 inch cakes and cut those in half horizontally to have 4 layers. For the photos above we simply divided the batter amongst 3 - 8 inch pans and baked them a little less time so we would have 3 layers. Hope that clears things up! :)