Ann Pillsbury taught all of America, and the world too, a thing or two about baking when she starting publishing her collection of baking “secrets” early in 1944. Her many cookbooks, most often 64-page booklets, dealt with cakes and sweets of all kind and popular of the time, her no-knead concept of making bread. She told everyone that baking was fun, even named a booklet as such. She creating a fun market for Pillsbury flour, even coming up with a 6-page series of ‘Tasty Talk’ short pamphlets. These shorts included Fun With Cookies, Fun With Breads, and Easy Tricks for Picnic and Patio Fun. “Fun” being a big part of the gimmick. You see, “Ann Pillsbury” was a fictitious character created for marketing purposes and essentially represented the members of the Pillsbury Home Service Department.
Now in 1952, Ann Pillsbury published another 62-page booklet, Kate Smith Chooses Her 55 Favorite Cake Recipes. The Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake recipe became an instant top favorite. It brought the taste of brown sugar back into the cooking scene ever as popular as the star’s radio singing did to Berlin’s God Bless America.
The recipe today is very similar to Ann Pillsbury’s version but it contains what I think are elements traditionally found in Southern recipes like the use of buttermilk, an extra egg and a quadruple amount of brown sugar. Shortening, brown sugar, flour and chocolate squares are the steadfast ingredient in both recipes. Oh, the Fudge Icing is my take on one from my family. Now, candied cherries would never appear on such a cake. As my grandmother would say ‘this is pure foolishness’, but hey, its Christmas, a time for festive doings, fun and silliness. Enjoy!
Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake
makes 3 layers
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 -1 oz squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a mixing bowl, cream the shortening to a fluffy consistency. On medium speed, slowly add the sugar, tablespoon at a time until well incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition. Add the melted chocolate and beat; use a rubber spatula along the sides so that all are mixed well.
Combine the sifted flour, salt and soda in a bowl. Alternately add the flour mixture with the buttermilk in about four additions beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides and mix just until batter is blended. Stir in the vanilla well but do not over-beat.
Pour the batter into 3 well greased caked 8-inch round pans. Even out the batter and bake in a preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until center of cake tests ready. Use a toothpick, cake tester (comes out clean) or the ‘indention’ springs back’ method. Remove and cool in pans for 10 minutes. Revert to wire racks and allow to cool completely.
Use the icing below as a filling and as a frosting for the top and sides. Decorate with nuts and candied cherries for Holiday fun.
Brown Sugar Fudge Icing
1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
4 1/2 tablespoons shortening
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons Southern Comfort
In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, cocoa, shortening, butter, salt and milk. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a good simmer stirring frequently. Continue simmering and stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Add the powdered sugar, vanilla and Southern Comfort. Beat with a hand mixer for about a minute or until icing is smooth and creamy. Add several drops of milk if icing becomes too stiff. Use as a filling and to frost cakes.