In my mystery novel, Restrike, Coleman and Dinah Greene, who grew up in North Carolina, live and work in New York. Coleman is editor of an art magazine and Dinah runs a print gallery. But they haven’t forgotten their Southern childhoods. They were brought up by their grandmother and a great aunt, who taught them to sew and cook. As an adult, Coleman designs and makes her own clothes, an activity that relaxes her, distracts her when the stresses of her job are troubling her, and reminds her of the loving aunt who taught her to sew.
Dinah learned to cook from her grandmother, famous for the delicious meals she prepared. Dinah enjoys serving Southern food to her husband and their friends, and sometimes escapes to the kitchen to bake a cake or cookies to distract her from her troubles.
In my youth, girls were taught to cook by a mother or a grandmother, and family recipes were passed along through the generations, as they were to Dinah. Early in Restrike, Dinah prepares a special meal of shrimp gumbo and corn muffins for her husband. The gumbo and the muffins were both made from treasured family recipes.
My family loved chocolate, so my mother, Reba Dorman White, prepared all kinds of chocolate goodies, but she was best known for her fudge cake. The source of the original recipe for that cake is no longer certain. It may have appeared on a Crisco label, but more likely, it came from a Softasilk cake flour label or someone gave it to her. Or perhaps it came from The General Foods Cookbook (1932) where I found a version. The cake is still made by several members of my family, and it was also baked by the Greene girls’ grandmother, who serves it as a special treat in Angels, my prequel to Restrike, about the Greene girls as children.
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Yield: 10-12 servings
A classic frosted chocolate fudge cake recipe adapted from The General Foods Cookbook (General Foods Corp, 1932), is author Reba White Williams choice to pair with her book, RESTRIKE.
For the cake
1 cup boiling water
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped into small pieces
2 ¼ cups sifted cake flour
2 cups sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, well beaten
For the 1 Minute Fudge Frosting
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
3 cups sugar
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Light cream (optional)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
- For the cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″x13″x2” pan, line with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper.
- In a large bowl of an electric mixer, stir boiling water and chocolate until chocolate melts. Cool.
- Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt together in a medium bowl. Stir into chocolate mixture. Add vegetable shortening and beat about 1 minute with an electric mixer at medium speed. Scrape bowl constantly while beating.
- Add buttermilk, vanilla and eggs. Beat again, scraping bowl. Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes. Cool completely, remove from pan and frost with 1 Minute Fudge Frosting.
- For the frosting: Place chocolate, sugar, milk, vegetable shortening, butter, corn syrup and salt in large saucepan. Bring slowly to a full boil, stirring constantly, and boil briskly for 1 minute.
Cool to lukewarm, add vanilla and place in bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until frosting is thick enough to spread (if frosting becomes too thick, add a little cream or soften over hot water). Stir in pecans if desired.