Chocolate cake nod to the 1980s

by thebaking

I got the idea to make a cake like this a while ago.

And I made it a few weeks ago.

The cake managed to stop chasing ghosts for long enough for me take a picture.

The cake was a double-layer, very dense and moist, chocolate cake. The icing was vanilla-flavour buttercream-style.

The cake and icing were both made from scratch.

I made the cake with a – rather heavily – modified version of a Devil’s food cake recipe in an old cookbook I have. I’ve been using various versions of that particular recipe for at least 10-15 years: I remember using the recipe as a kid. The cookbook page that the original recipe is on may or may not have small traces of batter splatter on it.

For the icing, I threw the ingredients in a bowl and mixed until the icing was the consistency I wanted.

The vibrant yellow and dark black colours were thanks to using pigment gel food colouring – not the liquid food colouring that comes in dropper bottles.

The advantage of using pigment colouring is that the colouring is so concentrated that very little gel is needed to achieve dark or bright colours. Also, as it’s a gel and not a liquid, using pigment colour probably won’t mess with the consistency of your icing.

Pigment gel food colouring can be found at many grocery stores, baking supplies stores, and – in Canada – stores such as Bulk Barn. The packaging will look something like this:


Ok, so here’s the cake recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare the cake pan or pans that you’d like to use by lightly greasing the inside surfaces with margarine or shortening. Then, coat the greased pan insides with a light layer of flour.

In a bowl, mix together:

-3/4 cup canola oil

-1 1/2 cups sugar – I usually use regular fine grind white sugar

-1 1/2 – 2 cups water or another liquid – I usually add around 2 cups liquid total and sometimes use chilled coffee instead of water. More water – as long as you don’t add too much, makes the finished cake more moist and dense

-1 teaspoon salt

-3 teaspoons vanilla extract or another liquid flavour extract. Vanilla sugar also works.

-2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder

-1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

-1 teaspoon baking soda

-2/3 cup cocoa powder

-2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour – I usually use all-purpose unbleached wheat flour

Beat all ingredients together for about two to three minutes or until fully blended and the desired consistency. The consistency you should be aiming for is somewhere between a thick soup and pancake batter. Gradually add small quantities of water or another liquid if the batter is too thick. Remember to stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula a few times so that everything is mixed together.

Pour the batter into the pan or pans and bake for about 30 to 45 minutes or until a wooden toothpick stuck into the centre of the cake comes out without any batter sticking to it.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

You can make the icing ahead of time. But it’s best to wait until the cake or cake layers are fully cooled before decorating the cake.

To make the icing:

-1/4 cup of margarine – use a margarine that is firm like butter when it’s stored in the fridge. I usually use Earth Balance brand margarine.

-1/4 cup of shortening – You could also use either 1/2 cup of margarine or 1/2 cup of shortening instead of both shortening and margarine. When measuring shortening, it’s helpful to remember that most vegetable shortening is sold in boxes with cut lines/measurements printed on them. You can use the cut lines as a guide to measure shortening when adding it. And you can the size of the cut piece of shortening to estimate how much margarine to use. It also helps to bring the margarine and/or shortening to room temperature before using it to make icing.

-1/2 cup liquid – I usually use coffee or soy milk. I have also used beer or whiskey. Pretty much any consumable liquid could be used.

-2 teaspoons liquid vanilla extract or other flavouring. You could also just use more of whatever other liquid you are using.

-4 to 6 cups icing sugar

Mix the margarine and shortening together until well-blended. Add food colouring at this stage. If you want to add more food colouring, you can add it, gradually, later.

Add about half of the icing sugar and mix.

Add the liquid and the flavour extract.


Gradually add more of the icing sugar. Mix and add more icing sugar until the icing is of the consistency and thickness you’d like.

I usually use an old-school hand-powered egg beater to mix icing, but you could also use and electric beater or stand mixer.

To decorate the cake the way I did, I made a batch of plain, non-coloured, icing. I set a small amount of icing aside and coloured it black. I coloured the rest of the icing yellow.

I iced the cake with yellow frosting first.  Then, armed only with  a spatula and a butter knife, I carefully iced the sections with black icing. You could also achieve a similar effect to what I did with black icing by cutting a slice out of the cake before frosting the outside.