A recipe for Cordelia's birthday cake

This is the recipe for a chocolate three-layer cake that we've made for Cordelia's birthday most years. It originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune in 1979. The recipe makes the best "conventional" chocolate cake I've ever tasted, and the buttermilk in the icing adds an interesting edge to the flavor.

I've corrected the previous version of the recipe: I had forgotten to tell you to beat in the egg yolks!

Cake (for three 9" layers)

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 teasp. baking soda
1 teasp. baking powder
1/2 teasp. salt
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, separated
2 teasp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup ice water

  1. Melt chocolate.
  2. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate (large) bowl, beat butter then add sugar while beating.
  4. Beat in egg yolks.
  5. Beat melted chocolate into butter/sugar/yolk mixture.
  6. Combine vanilla and ice water.
  7. Alternately add water mixture and flour mixture, in thirds, to the chocolate mixture. Don't overbeat.
  8. Clean beaters. Beat egg white until it forms stiff peaks. You can add some cream of tartar before beating if you like.
  9. Fold a small amount of egg white into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the rest.
  10. Turn batter into three 9" buttered and floured cake pans. (Consider cutting rounds of parchment paper to put into the bottoms of the cake pans.)
  11. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes. The cake tends to scorch, so keep an eye on it while it's baking.
  12. Let stand 10 minutes then remove layers, letting cool on racks.


4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
9 oz. cream cheese
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 teasp. vanilla extract
1 lb. powdered sugar
a few tablespoons of grated semi-sweet chocolate

  1. Melt chocolate.
  2. Beat cream cheese, adding buttermilk and vanilla.
  3. Add powdered sugar in thirds, beating.
  4. Beat melted chocolate into mixture.
  5. Use all but 1/2 cup to frost top, sides, and between cake layers.
  6. Use the remaining icing to make a rim around the top of the cake. Dust with grated chocolate.
  7. The icing is pretty runny, so you may need to chill it before frosting the cake.

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