Belle Foley’s Chocolate Cake

February 7, 2012 § 8 Comments

With all the baking I’ve done over the years, I had never attempted a homemade, from scratch cake. Believe me, I’ve had every intention. But whenever I’d research recipes, I would find lists of ingredients including shortening (blech), multiple types of flours and sifting (one of many complicated steps), or lists of specialty ingredients that I know I’d only use a few times. So I’d run to Trader Joe’s and get their organic boxed mix, which is actually quite good. But I challenged myself to make a chocolate cake for this blog, so I was thrilled when I ran across an old-fashioned, farm-style recipe for chocolate cake on  If you’re eager to get to the recipe, you can scroll to the bottom of this post.

Belle Foley’s Chocolate Cake is made with pantry ingredients, is measured into and mixed in one bowl, and seemed like the perfect recipe to use to satisfy my desire for a delicious, organic desert this past weekend.

The only part of this cake that was not organic was the cocoa. I couldn’t find organic cocoa. So I opted for Scharffen Berger’s unsweetened non-alkaline baking cocoa, which is 100% cacao. It was a little pricey, but I’m a sucker for quality.

I loved how easy this cake pulled together, and I swear that beginning with the time I decided to make the cake and ending with me pulling the fully baked cake out of the oven, the entire process took under an hour. And that’s with taking photos!
I measured my dry ingredients (minus the baking soda, per Belle’s instructions) into my largest Pyrex mixing bowl and whisked them together. I didn’t have whole milk, so I used skim and added one tablespoon of butter to the recipe. So I fudged a little (no pun intended). The end result was a light, fluffy cake that reminded me a little bit of the chocolate part of my mom’s homemade whoopie pies.  This cake was so moist, even the next day, that those who sampled kept asking if I’d used extra shortening, or added applesauce.  I hadn’t – it was just soft, moist, and delicious – as Belle would have wanted.

I’m looking forward to experimenting with this recipe: buttermilk instead of regular milk? Different types of cocoa? Omit cocoa and replace with some portion of vanilla bean seeds? Espresso instead of vanilla extract? So many possibilities.

I also tried Belle Foley’s Chocolate Cake Chocolate Frosting. It was delicious, but I think I added too much milk, and again, it was skim milk vs. whole. I didn’t take pictures of the frosting because I ran out of daylight. Overall, the cake, with icing or without, was so delicious I had it for dinner (don’t tell my mom!) and will be bringing the leftovers into the office tomorrow… if I don’t I fear it will be tomorrow’s dinner too. It’s that good.

Belle Foley’s Chocolate Cake
(from boulangere of – I’ve updated some wording for modern folks, but the original, homey recipe is here)

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
4 rounded tablespoons cocoa
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 cup milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trace the outline of a 9″ round cake pan onto a sheet of parchment. Cut inside the line so that the circle fits inside the cake pan. Drop the circle into the cake pan. Don’t spray or grease the sides; you’ll get a more level rise.

In large bowl, whisk sugar, flour, and cocoa together. Add butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla and mix together until smooth. Some little lumps are OK. Batter will be a little thick but don’t worry.

Stir baking soda into the boiling water, then pour mixture into batter and stir well. Again, some little lumps are OK. Batter will seem thin, but don’t worry. Pour batter into pan and transfer to oven.

Bake for about 35 or 40 minutes (or until done, when you can bounce your finger off the top and the cake feels springy).

Remove cake from oven and let cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before depanning. Depan and let cool until room temp to the touch. Sift some powdered sugar over the top. Cut warm, generous slices and serve with big splops of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Or let cool and ice with frosting of your choice.

Happy nibbling,


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