Posted by: Erica Retrochef | March 20, 2017

Luscious Cocoa Cake

Happy birthday to Buzz!

Swan’s Down Cake Flour put out a pamphlet in 1944 describing their new “Mix-Easy” method of cake making. And I’m all about finding a new (to me) cake recipe!




Have the shortening at room temperature. Grease pans, line bottoms with waxed paper, and grease again. Use two 8-inch layer pans or an 8x8x2-inch pan. Start oven for moderate heat (350° F.). Sift flour once before measuring.


Measure into sifter:
1 1/2 cups sifted Swans Down Cake Flour
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Measure into cup:
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Measure into bowl:
1/2 cup vegetable shortening

Have ready:
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3 eggs, unbeaten
1/2 cup Baker’s Breakfast Cocoa blended with 1/2 cup cold water

Now the “Mix-Easy” Part:
Mix or stir shortening just to soften. Sift in dry ingredients. Add brown sugar. (Force through sieve to remove lumps, if necessary.) Add 1/2 of milk and the eggs. Mix until all flour is dampened; then beat 1 minute. Add remaining milk and the cocoa-water mixture, blend, and beat 2 minutes longer. (Count only actual beating time. Or count beating strokes. Allow at least 100 full strokes per minute. Scrape bowl and spoon or beater often.)

Turn batter into pans. Bake in moderate oven (350° F.) about 30 minutes for layers, or about 55 minutes for 8x8x2-inch cake.


I have to say, I was skeptical of this at first. Mixing flour into the butter directly — whaaaaat? Part of the creaming process is punching little air pockets into butter (or shortening), and flour is much too fine; the granulated crystals of sugar “fluff” the fat.


But they did publish this pamphlet, and it does look really easy. Not quite a piece of cake (ha! ha ha ha! … ha?), but worth trying.


Dry ingredients, wet ingredients — it would be a muffin or quickbread batter if the butter wasn’t already mixed in.


But a minute of beating later, it looked appropriately fluffy. This new (well, new in 1944) method just might work!


Thirty minutes later, they came out of the oven and looked pretty darn good. Not very poofed up, but not collapsed (or burnt). Plus, they smelled very chocolatey.

In terms of texture, this was more dense than I would typically expect in a from-scratch recipe. The chocolate flavor helped offset that, and its texture ended up being really rich and concentrated instead of unpleasant. It was much like a double-layer brownie with icing.

The only thing I didn’t get a chance to evaluate was the “keeps longer” assertion — cake never stays around our house long enough to test that, and we shared this with friends. Good retro recipes don’t need to worry about longevity!

Scans and typing-in of the recipe come from Recipe Curio, still one of my favorite resources for a wide assortment of cool vintage recipes, both advertised and homemade!



  1. Yum!

  2. Vintage find! Lovely 🙂

  3. Just discovered your blog when I was searching for the “pickle boats” recipe that 70’s Dinner Party shared on Twitter today. Enjoyed looking through the recipes, and then realized (after seeing the references to Rosewood Market and Earthfare) that you also live in Columbia!! I live in Shandon, so I’m close to both of them. I’ll definitely keep following! Is it bad that I am more interested in the “disgusting” hashtag? Haha.

  4. I am sad that there are no longer any new posts

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