Nancy's Notes: The Basic Chocolate Cake For Mrs James Nichols

I'm back with another of Nancy's Notes. For those of you who don't know what exactly the Nancy's Notes articles are about, let me illuminate you. I have been investigating my great, great aunt's recipe book filled with recipes from the 1930s, hand written and clipped.                                                                                                                                                                 Every week I try to bring you a new one with a little of the history behind it. For a more in depth breakdown, check out my post on the articles here. You can also catch up on our other recipes for Crisp Oatmeal Cookies, and Agnes May Dalrymple's Date and Walnut Loaf by clicking on the links.

This time I decided to use them to make something rather special, a birthday cake to be exact. I was perusing Nancy's recipe book and I found this rather fantastic clipping, I decided this was going to be the basis for Himself's cake and also this post. 

Mrs James Nichols wrote a letter to her friendly newspaper baker about difficulties she was having with a rather straightforward recipe.

I also wanted to add this rather fabulous little cutting from 1937 which I found on the opposing page, a list of telephone etiquette, isn't it fantastic!

Q. I am baffled for a very ordinary recipe- a moist chocolate cake, one that isn't dry or crumbly.
Naperville Ill. Mrs James Nichols

A. The reason cakes dry out and become crumbly when baking is that the dough was beaten too much, so take it easy when making.
Chocolate Layer Cake- Sift enough pastry flour for 2 cups then sift it again into a mixing bowl with 1/2 generous teaspoon of salt. In the top of a double boiler melt one square of bitter dark chocolate. Cream 1/2 of butter until light and fluffy, gradually add 1 1/2 cups of fine granulated sugar, creaming well after each addition. Add too whole eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
To the butter, egg mixture add the flour gradually and alternately with 3/4 cup of buttermilk working quickly to blend the whole well, and begin and end with flour. 
Stir in the melted chocolate, add one teaspoon of soda, diluted in one tablespoon good white vinegar and one teaspoon vanilla extract.

Mix well but do not overmix, pour the mixture into two buttered layer pans.
Bake in a hot oven (400 degrees) for 25-30 minutes then put the layers together and fill them with your favourite filling. 

I made a double batch, and carved the cakes to make them nice and level. As we were having a bowling party I thought some bowling themed cake decorations would be spot on! Things were going to be themed by The Big Lebowski, so it made perfect sense for Himself's cake to be White Russian flavoured. I'm going to try and remember my recipe for it as I tend to just make it by eye!

White Russian Frosting
220g Butter
1kg icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
80ml double cream
2 tbsp fine ground coffee
1 shot of vodka
1 shot Tia Maria
Add alcohol to taste


Whip frosting vigorously and use it to crumb coat the cake. Save excess for after cake has been refrigerated.
Coat cake with remaining decorative frosting, save enough for a little pipe work on the base and top.
I added some decorations, made some extra cake pops and decorated them to look like bowling balls. I used the same batter as the cake so don't be afraid to get versatile!

When cut, your cake should look like this! Don't you love a massive cake?

It was so tasty! I have to say, everyone seemed to really like it which is always a positive. There wasn't very much left by the time we took it home. Himself wolfed that up with a cuppa.

Invest in a palette knife and you'll get a nice smooth finish
Don't underestimate the ease of cutters, the fondant work is so easy with them
Refrigerate for 24 hours when baked and for a further 12 if you can after the crumb coat.

Thats all from me folks. Give it a try

Much Love

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