Mike’s first “real” job as a newspaper reporter took us to LaPlata, Maryland. After we moved there it took me a few months to find a job, so I spent the summer baking, sending the results of my confectionery endeavors in to his office. This cake was a particular favorite, proclaimed by one of his colleagues to be worthy of a blue ribbon at the county fair. Allegheny County doesn’t have a fair, but if it did, you can bet I’d enter this in it.
I’ve found that if you grease cake pans, then line them with waxed paper or parchment paper and grease the paper before flouring the pan, your cakes will pop out easily. You can certainly use the traditional grease and flour method without the paper, but this is my preferred technique. To make the liners, I place the paper down on a counter top, lightly trace its circumference with the tip of a knife, then cut a slightly smaller circle of paper to fit inside the pan.
Also, when I frost cakes, I always frost the sides last. You can certainly frost the top last if you’d prefer, but I find that saving the sides for last makes a smoother edge where the side meets the top. I’m not a huge fan of elaborate decorations on cakes, so I use an offset spatula and smooth strokes to create a very homemade, old-fashioned appearance.
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/3 cups water
- 1 recipe fudge frosting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each with waxed paper, lightly grease the waxed paper, and lightly flour each pan.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat shortening on medium speed for 30 seconds.
Add sugar and vanilla; beat until combined.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each.
Add flour mixture and water alternatively in three batches, beating on medium speed until just combined.
Divide batter evenly between the pans and bake for 35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in pans for about 10 minutes; run a knife around the edge of each pan to loosen the cakes, then turn them out onto cooling racks and remove the waxed paper from the bottom. Flip right-sides up and allow to cool completely before frosting.