In some ways this cake is a cautionary tale. I picked this cake for name, and name alone, and while it was certainly tasty it almost didn’t live up to my spooky expectations. I was looking for a Halloween cake; a Halloween cake for a friend’s hybrid themed birthday (Halloween-Sukkot-26th Birthday), when I saw it. And I was looking for a Halloween cake in a cookbook, because I’m trying to cook more from my cookbooks, to occasionally thumb through tasty pages, instead of typing keywords into Pinterest.
(falling apart, well-loved)
Two years ago I was helping my grandmother clean out her shed, and she bestowed upon me these gems; Sisterhood community cookbooks from a Jewish congregation in Missouri, packed with the same sort of Jewish-50’s-American recipes that make up many of my own grandmother’s. There’s chop suey (so treyf!), casseroles and Jell-O, and of course a delectable assortment of cakes, cookies, and pies.
I’m drawn to community cookbooks, informal and shoddily bound collections. I remember the spiral bound packets compiled by our parents in pre-school, every year, a portrait of brought lunches and after-school suppers. At our local bookstore here in Birmingham (Reed’s Books – check it out!) I’m drawn to these collections in the cookbook aisle, where they live nestled in a small box between members of the culinary cannon.
But back to the cake. Satan’s Velvet Robe. What could connote more evil than the devil itself? And then I made it. And it looked like this.
In other words, chocolate cake, which is not only not spooky, but is actually a welcome sight to most people. So I improvised.
I melted chocolate into the leftover evaporated milk for a drip-effect….
…. and took advantage of the new bottle of red food coloring I had bought for the occasion.
Then I looked at how much Crisco I had used between the cake and Malted Milk Icing and thought, maybe this cake is scary after all.
(2 hours post-purchase)
I garnished this cake with chopped pecans and coconut (for taste, not fear), and finished it with the last of the Marigolds (see last week’s post involving edible flowers), which happened to be 1. Wilting and 2. My birthday friend’s least favorite flower as a flower-growing farmer (spooky!). Before I knew it I had a cake that felt appropriate for the hybrid Halloween, and was feeling the sort of happiness that comes from knowing what you’re taking out of your oven has reached you from someone else’s past. Living history is cool. I love community cookbooks because though I never knew Mother Agnes of the Never-Fail-Red Devil’s Food Cake, I have to think she’d be happy to hear the rave reviews of her cake at a birthday party in Birmingham all these years later.
Satan’s Velvet Robe*
A combination of the following 2 recipes.
Mother Agnes’ Never-Fail Red Devil’s Food Cake
1 1/2 C sugar 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 C Crisco 1/2 tsp baking soda
4 eggs 1/2 tsp salt
2 C cake flour 1 C buttermilk
1/2 C cocoa 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C boiling water
1 tsp red food coloring
- Preheat your oven to 375 and grease two 8″ circular pans.
- Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together (the recipe says 5 times, I did it 3 and found it light and airy!).
- Cream Crisco in a mixer bowl on high-speed, adding sugar gradually. Add one egg at a time, creaming after each addition.
- Add 1/3 of flour mixture, then 1/2 of buttermilk, beating until smooth. Add second third of flour, cream, then last half of buttermilk, cream. Finish by mixing in the last third of your flour mixture. (Flour, Milk, Flour, Milk, Flour!).
- Add vanilla and food coloring, while putting your water on to boil. Add boiling water last, stirring in quickly.
- Pour batter into the two pans and bake in pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes.
Malted Milk Icing
1 square unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 C evaporated milk 1/4 tsp salt
2/3 C Crisco 1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C sugar 1 Tbsp water
- Beat all ingredients on high-speed in a mixer bowl, until becoming stiff.
To Construct “Satan’s Velvet Robe”
- Frost both layers of your cake with Malted Milk Icing. Chill.
- Melt 4 squares of unsweetened chocolate into 1 tsp of Crisco (or a generous splash of evaporated milk for a creamier chocolate drip!). Pour over top and dribble down the sides of the cake.
- Splatter with red food coloring (my addition!) for a spooky touch.
- Garnish with chopped pecans and toasted coconut.
- Note: The original recipe says to freeze this completely, wrapping in double Reynolds Wrap, before serving. I didn’t have time to freeze it through, but I stuck it in the fridge for an hour, and will certainly be trying again per the freezing method.