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My perfect chocolate cake with fudge icing

A soft, tender chocolate cake perfumed with cocoa and topped with a layer of honest-to-gosh cooked fudge icing.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Icing20 mins
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 24 servings
Author: Shea McNaughton


  • 9 x 13" pan, greased and floured (see Notes)


  • 2 C granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C vegetable shortening (I use butter-flavored)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 heaping Tbs cocoa (do not level)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C buttermilk (see Notes for a good substitute)
  • 1 C boiling water

Cooked Fudge Icing

  • 1 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 heaping Tbs cocoa (Do not level)
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 2/3 stick butter, cut in pieces (5 1/3 Tbs, to be precise)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  • Heat oven to 350°F.
  • Sift flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa together in bowl – set aside.
  • Cream sugar and shortening with a hand mixer on medium high speed until light and fluffy. This will take from 3-5 minutes.
  • Lower speed and add eggs, one at a time, beating only until smooth.
  • Stir in vanilla extract.
  • On medium speed, add milk and flour mixture alternately, starting and ending with flour mixture.
  • Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat 30 seconds more on medium.
  • Slowly add boiling water while beating on low speed, just until thoroughly mixed.
  • Pour batter into greased and floured 9x13 pan. (See Notes)
  • Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in cake comes out barely clean. If there's a crumb or two of cake on it, that's ok. It's ready. DO NOT OVERBAKE.
  • Set on cooling rack while you make the icing. (See Notes)

Cooked Fudge Icing

  • Whisk sugar, salt and cocooa in saucepan until fully blended.
  • Whisk milk into sugar mixture, then place over medium/low heat and bring to a full boil on stove top.
  • Bring to a full, rolling boil, then stop stirring and let boil exactly 5 minutes, or until candy thermometer reads 235-240 degrees (Soft ball stage).
  • Immediately remove from heat, drop in butter pieces, and stir until smooth.
  • Place in ice water bath, stirring vigorously until icing barely begins to lose its gloss. Totest, drop some from the spoon onto itself - it will stay on the surface for a moment or two.
  • Immediately spread onto HOT cake. This is real cooked fudge - it will set FAST.
  • Store at room temperature 4-5 days. (see Notes)


  1. When making chocolate cake, I use cocoa instead of white flour when preparing the pan.  It looks nicer when the cake is cut.
  2. If you don’t have buttermilk (I never do), you can make your own. Put 1 Tbs. white vinegar in a one-cup measure, then fill with milk (preferably whole milk). Let stand a few minutes. It will turn thick and sour almost like magic.
  3. This cake is too delicate to turn out of the pan, which makes it a perfect cake for transporting to pot lucks and picnics.
  4. Do not overbeat or icing will get too thick to spread.  This takes a little practice, but it’s better to spread the icing too soon rather than too late.
  5. The icing recipe makes barely enough to cover the cake. I always double it for my cakes.
  6. There is no need to refrigerate this cake. Doing so will reduce its delicate tenderness and cause it to dry out. It will also cause the fudge icing to separate from the cake. This cake will last just fine 4-5 days at cool room temperature.
  7. My mother left salt and vanilla out of her copy of the recipe, but both enhance the unique cocoa flavor, so I’ve added them back in.