My Mother’s Chocolate Cake
Mistakes happen, but a little love—and a big dessert—always saves the day
WHEN I WAS A KID, my mother
would always ask what kind
of cake I wanted for my birthday.
My mother wasn’t just any mom,
mind you; she was a professional
caterer, so the possibilities of what
she could make were endless.
But I always answered the same
way: “Your chocolate cake!” Don’t
get me wrong, I liked her Boston
cream pie, her hot-milk sponge
cake, and her spicy applesauce
cake, yet it was that fabulous
chocolate cake with a hint of cof-
fee that I loved the most.
One year, when I was about
eight, I insisted on making the
cake by myself. As I was scooping
the last little bit of the baking soda
out of the box, I yelled, “You’d better put baking soda on the grocery
list!” Mom said, “That’s funny—I
thought I just bought a new box.”
4 ounces unsweetened
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup boiling water
1¾ cups granulated sugar
1§ teaspoons vanilla
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking
2 teaspoons baking soda
§ teaspoon salt
1 cup hot coffee
with her mom,
and at six,
You can see where this is going:
the cake rose quickly, then instantly
fell flat. “How much baking soda
did you use?” my mother asked.
“Just what it said—two cups!” I
replied. Oops. The recipe actually
calls for two teaspoons.
As we scraped the last of the cake
into the trash, my mom broke off a
crumb and tasted it. “It still tastes
good, honey,” she lied. Needless to
say, the next year I made the cake
with my mom. But I learned some
lessons that day. Always check your
ingredient list—twice. It’s okay to
make mistakes, as long as you clean
up the mess. And no one except
Mom can make you feel good about
a big pile of burned chocolate. ;
Chef Joanne Weir is the host of Joanne
Weir’s Cooking Class on PBS.
§ cup unsalted butter,
at room temperature
2 tablespoons milk
1ß cups powdered sugar
2 ounces unsweetened
1 teaspoon vanilla
FROM TOP: ALEXANDRA GRABLEWSKI (FOOD STYLIST: JOYCE SANGIRARDI; PROP STYLIST: LYNDA WHITE; HAIR AND MAKEUP: HEIDI
WELLS/ENNIS INC.; LOCATION: THE HOTEL NORTHAMPTON, NORTHAMPTON, MASSACHUSETTS) ( 2); COURTESY OF JOANNE WEIR
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt the chocolate and
butter in boiling water over
medium heat, until smooth.
Remove from the heat.
In a bowl, beat eggs,
sugar, and vanilla until
creamy. Add to chocolate
Sift together flour,
baking powder, baking soda,
and salt. Add dry mixture to
chocolate mixture, then add
coffee and stir. Pour into two
8-inch greased cake pans
and bake 25 to 30 minutes.
Mix together frosting
ingredients until smooth.
When cake is cool, frost
sides and top of cake.
Nutrients per serving: 553 calories, 7g protein, 77g carbohydrates,
4g fiber, 28g fat, 91mg cholesterol,