Southern Food

I have maintained for quite some time that one could not duplicate the moist, light consistency of a boxed chocolate cake mix in a homemade recipe.  I would see a beautiful recipe in a magazine or cookbook, try it and always be disappointed with the results (too dry, too dense, etc.).  So I gave up and resigned myself to the box mixes, figuring I was willing to sacrifice flavor for great texture.

Then I saw a recipe online that looked right.  I tried it.  The texture was exactly what I had been looking for. With a few tweaks for flavor’s sake, I eventually landed on a version of the recipe that I thought was The One.

I celebrated and bragged and happy-danced and boasted for several weeks.  This resulted in a whole lot of eye rolling from my friends (whatever, hookers, this is my equivalent of running the Boston Marathon or splitting the atom) and a whole lot of “buy one more pound of cocoa and I’ll strangle you in your sleep” from Husband.

Then I was faced with another issue: frosting.  I couldn’t release My Precious without an equally delightful frosting.  Though I know I may not have many followers in this camp, I’m not a fan of traditional buttercream (you know, the sugary birthday cake variety that gets a crunchy crusting after a day or so and is so sugary sweet it literally gives you a toothache).  I experimented with a few chocolate buttercreams but wasn’t wowed.  I then tried my hand at a whipped ganache but was perplexed with the issue of refrigeration – it being made from cream.  Refrigerating (which I thought was necessary, though maybe I’m wrong) resulted in a stiff truffle-like layer sitting atop the cake.  I experimented with recipes using cocoa and some using melted chocolate but found flaws (tiny as they may have been) with each.

I’d seen a few recipes that included corn syrup and thought perhaps it may be the key to achieving the sheen and spreadability I was after.  I was planning to spend the weekend experimenting with recipes that included a combination of all the varieties I’d tried but did one last search online to see if one already existed.  I stumbled across Bobby Flay’s Creamy Chocolate Frosting recipe and became very hopeful (actually I squealed like a poked piglet).  It contained the combination of ingredients that I had been contemplating: cocoa and melted chocolate plus a generous amount of corn syrup.  I tweaked it a bit (pink sea salt… really Bobby?) but eventually arrived at something I was excited about!

So now, without further ado (maybe a little ado… mental drum roll please), I present to you ‘Suck It, Betty Crocker’ Chocolate Cake.


‘Suck It, Betty Crocker’ Chocolate Cake with Creamy Chocolate Frosting

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup strongly brewed coffee

Grease and flour baking pan(s) and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-sized bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together oil and sugar until fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined, about 2 minutes. Beat in buttermilk and coffee until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually beat in flour mixture until just combined.  Batter will be very thin.

Pour batter into prepared pan(s)* and bake per the following or until the cake no longer jiggles in the pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. DO NOT OVER-BAKE.

Cupcakes: Fill paper lined cupcake tins half full.  Bake 12-15 minutes. Makes approximately 36 cupcakes.

8-9” Round:  Fills three pans.  Do not try to fit all of the batter into two.  Bake 20-25 minutes.

Bundt or 13×9 Pans:  Fill pan 2/3 full.  Use excess batter to make cupcakes (I usually make 1 – 13×9 cake and 12 cupcakes with one batch of batter).  Bake 35-45 minutes.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes then remove from pan – do not allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans or they will be difficult to remove.  If you need to handle the cakes beyond turning them out, use waxed paper as the cake will stick to your hands.

*Sorry about the extra batter issue.  My math skilz are not good enough to reduce the recipe.


Creamy Chocolate Frosting

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

In a food processor, process the butter, sugar and cocoa until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and then add the melted chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds.

This recipe makes enough frosting for cupcakes, a two-layer cake, a sheet cake or a bundt cake.  If making a three- layer cake, you may want to double the recipe or try the Milk Chocolate Buttercream Frosting recipe below for the middle layers to ensure you have enough frosting for the entire cake (the milk chocolate buttercream makes for a nice contrast in color, texture and flavor).


Milk Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces milk chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature

Whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.  Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla and increase the speed to medium-high, mixing until incorporated. Slowly add the melted chocolate and whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed to incorporate all of the chocolate.

Mandy Richburg Rivers

Mandy Richburg Rivers

Mandy lives in Lexington, South Carolina, is a contributing writer for the Food & Drink section and is currently working on her first cookbook. Mandy is an award winning recipe writer and judges regional cook-offs and other culinary contests.

“I'm just a gal that likes food. Of course I like to eat, but what I've discovered about myself over the years is that there are more ways for me to enjoy food than just eating it. I like to shop for it, read about it, cook it, entertain with it and write about it. And when it's really good, sometimes I'm tempted to throw it on the floor and roll in it."