My Mother’s Moist Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Icing

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Moist Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Icing

From my mother, I learned how to serve an army. She was constantly having to grab a cake out of the freezer when my father unexpectedly brought business guests home for dinner.

This recipe was a regular at those dinners, pulled from the freezer in a square tinfoil disposable pan, already iced with buttercream icing. Even frozen, it’s delicious. Fresh, it’s awesome. And it serves 36!

You can make it as a sheet cake, a number of smaller cakes for freezing or bake sales, a layer cake, or cupcakes. If you make cupcakes, just make sure they’re really done all the way, through, or the middle will sink. If you make a layer cake, either cut the recipe in half and make two layers—or do three or four layers!

Have fun!!!

Moist Chocolate Cake


  • 3½ cups flour, sifted
  • 1½ cups cocoa
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 4½ cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2½ cups shortening (I use coconut oil)
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups buttermilk


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Sift the flour, cocoa, and salt and set aside in a small bowl.

3. In a larger bowl, mix the brown sugar and shortening.

4. In the larger bowl add baking soda, vanilla, and eggs and mix.

5. Alternately add the flour and buttermilk and mix until everything is combined.

6. Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

On her handwritten recipe card, my mother calls for two 15″ x 10″ pans lined with “wax paper.” Either parchment paper wasn’t invented back then or she didn’t know about it. Either way, parchment paper is a better choice.

For the icing, I turned to David Joachim, who posts pictures of incredible cakes on Facebook (in between his cycling injuries and escapades).

Of all the icings I’ve tried and made, I like this one the best. You can adapt it to be all vegan or not. It’s also pretty damn quick and easy! It also makes a hefty quantity of icing so that you have enough to really generously ice a cake.

My Favorite Vanilla Icing


  • ½ cup Earth Balance vegan shortening, softened
  • ¼ cup real butter (for all vegan, use Earth Balance vegan butter)
  • ¼ cup of the hardened cream at the top of a cold can of coconut milk!
  • 3½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¼ cup milk (for vegan, use coconut milk)
  • Pinch of salt, if you prefer


1. Blend the shortening together for a minute or two.

2. Add the powdered sugar and blend for another 3 minutes.

3. Scrape down the sides and add the vanilla and milk and blend for 6 minutes. Done!


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3 Responses to My Mother’s Moist Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Icing

  1. Tracy Edmonds-Herz June 15, 2015 at 9:10 pm #

    It is very generous to share an heirloom recipe with your readers. I try and treasure these.

  2. Dave Joachim July 14, 2015 at 10:28 pm #

    For the Earth Balance, you must use the stick type, not the kind in a tub. The tub style is too soft for the frosting to set up.

  3. jANE KOSTURA August 26, 2015 at 11:45 am #

    I copied both receipes and hope to be able to use them both very soon. My husband and one son love chocolate cake; so I have an excuse to bake soon. I love reading your e-mail and receipes. thanks for sharing…………..jane kostura

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