Your Signature Dish Andrea Weigl shares Triangle home cooks’ go-to recipes

A classic chocolate cake, like grandmother used to make

aweigl@newsobserver.comApril 19, 2014 

For this month’s Signature Dish, Martha Sugg Field of Fuquay-Varina shares her go-to chocolate cake recipe.


I love it when readers send me recipes, especially when they come with a note on personalized stationery.

There’s just something about the time it took to write the note, copy the recipe and drop the letter in the mail. A reader doesn’t do that for just any old recipe; it says this one is worthy of my attention.

Martha Sugg Field, 62, of Fuquay-Varina sent a chocolate cake recipe, which I’ve been meaning to try. Even though she didn’t nominate it for the Signature Dish column, I believe – after testing and tasting – that it is worthy to be shared here.

This is what she wrote after we talked on the phone about another recipe: “I told you that I would send you the recipe for the best chocolate cake. This is an outstanding cake. This cake has no eggs. I used instant espresso coffee in the icing. I believe letting the cake sit for several days increases the intense flavors.”

This is not a fancy chocolate cake. This is a down-home chocolate cake, like something your grandmother might have made.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake

Feel free to omit the instant coffee or espresso granules if you are not a fan of coffee. You can also bake this cake in a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan for 35 to 40 minutes or as 24 cupcakes for 20 to 25 minutes. From Martha Sugg Field of Fuquay-Varina via

Nonstick spray

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon table salt

2 cups hot water

3/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

1 tablespoon instant coffee or espresso granules (optional)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Glossy chocolate icing (see recipe below)

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees with rack in the center. Spray two 8-inch-by-2-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray.

WHISK together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl.

COMBINE water, oil, vinegar, instant coffee and vanilla in a large measuring cup. Add to dry ingredients and whisk until just combined (a few lumps are O.K.). Divide batter between pans, then bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool cakes on a rack for 15 minutes, then invert them onto a rack. Leave cakes upside down to cool completely.

ONCE icing is made and cooled, trim cakes to make sure they are even layers. Use a spatula to spread at least 1/2 cup icing on top of one cake layer and then top with a second cake layer. Dollop 1 cup icing on top of cake and spread using spatula across top of cake and down the sides of the cake. Add more frosting to spatula as needed until cake is completely covered with icing.

Yield: 10 slices

Glossy Chocolate Icing

Feel free to omit the instant coffee or espresso granules if you are not a fan of coffee. To ensure the icing sets up, use heavy whipping cream, which contains 36 percent or more milk fat. From Martha Sugg Field of Fuquay-Varina via

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso granules (optional)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

MELT butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar, cocoa and salt. Mixture will be thick and grainy.

COMBINE heavy whipping cream, sour cream and instant coffee in a large measuring cup, mixing until smooth. Gradually add cream mixture to chocolate until blended and smooth. Cook until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth and hot to the touch, 6 to 8 minutes. Do not boil.

REMOVE from heat, add vanilla. Cool icing to room temperature until spreadable, about 2 to 3 hours. (Icing can be chilled until completely cold, then warmed gently in microwave until spreadable. Heat at high power in 20-second intervals, stirring well after each interval.)

Yield: 4 cups

Signature Dish gets recipes from local readers. Tell us about your most requested recipe or nominate someone to have his or her recipe featured at Signature Dish, The N&O, P.O. Box 191, Raleigh, N.C. 27602; or email

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service