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Bubbie is the Yiddish word for Grandmother, and the nickname my children used to call their paternal Grandmother. Bubbie was quite a character: she was a red headed Iowa born girl with long long slim legs and movie star looks. She was difficult, messy and a true character.
Bubbie wasn’t an adventurous cook. In fact I cannot remember any cookbooks she owned other than a paperback Joy of Cooking. She made the same meals over and over: pot roast, chicken soup, chopped liver and poppyseed cookies. She managed to add a lot of Crisco and butter to every single dish, and of course everything tasted delicious and was presented in a beautiful way.
Like most of us, Bubbie had a signature dish. Hers was chocolate cake. Every special occasion such as a birthday, a trip or a visit to her in Palm Springs she would end the meal with her chocolate cake. Her four kids and later the grandkids would devour said cake with gusto accompanied by a tall glass of milk. She would kind of sort of measure everything, dump it all into a stand mixer, turn the speed to “high” with flour and cocoa flying through the air. Then she would proceed to talk on the phone for a few minutes and voila, the cake was done.
The devil was in the details as they say. In this case the “details” happened to be the frosting. Because she did not measure but rather dumped in powdered sugar and then milk the frosting came out a little different every time. Everything was stirred wildly in an old metal saucepan. The frosting was good but not consistent, and a lot of sighing and moaning happened. It always tasted great but the frosting at times was soft, sometimes it was too solid…and by chance it was often just right.
I watched her make this cake a couple of times and I did take a few notes but the frosting was an enigma. I should have weighed the box of powdered sugar and the milk, but what did I know? Fast forward to the past few years, where my kids and husband demand Bubbie’s Chocolate Cake for various occasions. I always get very nervous when it comes to the frosting, but this December when I made the cake for my Grandson and his friends I did a lot of searching on the internet, and I have it down. By the way, my awesome daughter and son-in-law let my 13 year old and his three buddies ate the remaining chocolate cake for breakfast! I highly approve.
Bubbie’s Famous Chocolate Cake
Makes 12 really big servings
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- ¾ C cocoa (sift first) – I used Hershey’s justs like Bubbie
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 stick melted butter
- 5 squares unsweetened melted chocolate (Hershey’s or Bakers is old school fine)
- ¾ stick melted butter
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- About ¼ cup milk
- 2 ½ cups powdered sugar to start PLUS another cup for later (sift before measuring)
Preheat the oven to 350 with the rack in the center of the oven. Use my special nonstick goop or Pam to spray a 9 x 13 metal pan.
Place sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, eggs and milk in a mixing bowl. Mix then add boiling water and melted butter.
Using a stand mixer or handheld mixer, beat on medium for three more minutes. Pour into a 9 x 12 prepared pan (the batter is very runny).
Bake for 35-40 minutes in the middle of the oven. (I needed 40 minutes). Remove to a rack and partially cover with a dish towel while it cools so it stays moist. You can frost the cake after two hours and it may seem a little warm which is OK. Personally I wait three hours until it is totally cooled down before frosting.
Melt chocolate and melted butter together slowly in a saucepan, then remove from heat for five minutes.
Meanwhile combine the vanilla, milk and powdered sugar (sift another cup or so to add later if needed) together with a spatula until smooth. I discovered this method when I was trying to make the frosting less daunting!
Add this powdered sugar/vanilla/milk mix to the barely cooled chocolate/butter and beat by hand with spatula or whisk. Add ¼ more cup sifted powdered sugar at a time until it is loose but tastes good. For me, I had a total of about three cups of powdered sugar. The frosting should be shiny.
Spread on the cake, covering the entire top. Cool before covering. The frosting layer here will be about ⅓ inch thick…it is intense!
Keep at room temp for up to five days. This recipe also makes 24 cupcakes that will take about 25 minutes to bake.