Sunday, June 7, 2015

MJ's Fourth Generation Chocolate Cake - A Special Request From the Heart

Today's recipe is another special one and the second of yesterday's "Make-a-Dish" Foundation projects. One of my followers, "Pamela", messaged me and told me that she had an old family cake recipe that she wanted to revamp to grain free so she could still enjoy it. She sent me a photo of a hand written post card that the recipe was written on that her mother had sent to her Grandma back in 1971 (both have since passed). The recipe was titled "Chock Cake" which she told me was simply "chocolate" abbreviated. The post card was signed "Love you, M.J." I asked if she knew where the recipe originally came from to see if I might be able to find it somewhere online, but she recalled that it had come from a newspaper clipping. Pamela also shared that as a child she had entered this cake in a 4-H state fair and had won "grand champion." She is now making this cake with her 2-year old granddaughter (the fourth generation). I asked her what she would like me to call this cake and she and her granddaughter decided on "MJ's Fourth Generation Chocolate Cake." I have to believe that somewhere Pamela, your Mom and Grandma are looking down smiling with such pride.

She wasn't asking me to remake the recipe for her, but simply hoping that I could give her a basic ratio of all purpose flour to almond flour so she might be able to recreate it. Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to do that because it also depends on the ratio of other ingredients in the recipe, particularly the liquid ingredients. The original recipe contained 1 cup of oil, 1 cup of buttermilk and 1 cup of coffee, in addition to the eggs. That is a lot of liquid when using almond flour which isn't anywhere near as absorbent as regular all purpose flour is. So, I gave her some suggestions off the top of my head that she could try and suggested she try making a half-version first so she didn't waste a lot of the more expensive ingredients while she tweaked it to get it just right.

Well, the more I thought about her cake and the special significance it held...I knew that I was going to have to see what I could do to help her. Food is tied to so many of our memories, particularly some of our best childhood memories. Whether it be the special cake our mother's made us every year for our birthday or the certain kind of cookies or fruitcake our grandmother's baked every Christmas...a simple recipe can take us right back to those special memories in an instant. My grandmother made us a fruitcake every year for Christmas and she cracked and shelled the nuts by hand. I was the one in the family that really loved her fruitcake because she always put in more nuts than fruit. So, yesterday I made a half-sized version of this cake to see how it would turn out. It reminded me in some ways of the Pioneer Woman's Texas Sheet Cake recipe I had made years ago. It's a moist chocolate cake and I baked it in a jellyroll style pan so it isn't thick, but more like the thickness of a pan of brownies. Ironically, late last night as I was writing up the recipe from my handwritten notes, Pamela messaged me and said she had tried some of my suggestions and it was very close. I shared with her that I had actually made it yesterday as well and photographed it and was in the process of writing it up to post today. I told her that once she saw what I had done and compared it with her tweaks that we would fine tune it to make it "perfect." I ate a piece last night and another little one this morning at breakfast. I really, REALLY like's super moist and decadent and I find a small piece of it very satisfying.

Since she didn't have the specific frosting recipe, only the ingredients that went into it (butter, milk, cocoa powder and powdered sugar), I decided to make a quick and ridiculously easy chocolate ganache frosting recipe that consists only of melted dark chocolate, heavy cream and a pinch of espresso powder and then it's poured hot over the cooled cake, spread out and topped with chopped pecans. You can frost it however you like (she said sometimes they didn't even bother frosting it because it was so moist). If you decide to double this recipe and make the full sized version of this cake, it can be baked in a 9" x 13" baking pan, but you will need to adjust and increase the baking time. So, I would like to officially present you with MJ's Fourth Generation Chocolate Cake. Enjoy!

Freshly frosted with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

This is the cake this morning after the frosting set up overnight.

MJ's Fourth Generation Chocolate Cake


1/2 cup powdered Swerve Sweetener, or preferred sweetener like erythritol or xylitol (increase sweetener up to 1 cup total if a sweeter cake is desired) 
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used deep dark Valrhona, but any type is fine)
1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
2 Tablespoons coconut flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons NuStevia Simple Syrup (or substitute preferred stevia, to taste)
1/4 cup extra light olive oil (not regular olive oil)
1/2 cup hot brewed coffee


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a nonstick 10" x 15" x 1" jellyroll style pan (if doubling the recipe, use a 9" x 13" nonstick cake pan).

In a large bowl, sift together the powdered sweetener, cocoa powder, almond flour and coconut flour. 

In a small bowl, beat the egg, buttermilk, vanilla and liquid stevia together; whisk and stir into the flour mixture. Taste for sweetness and add more, if necessary.

Add the oil and hot coffee; whisk together until a thin, smooth batter forms. Pour batter into prepared baking pan. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (a clinging crumb or two is okay). Do not overbake. Cool and frost, if desired.

*Notes: I reduced the sweetener a bit from the original recipe (there would have been 1 cup of sugar in this half recipe version). I combined powdered Swerve and liquid stevia to equal about 3/4 cup of sugar in sweetness; if you prefer a sweeter cake, increase the total amount of sweetener up to 1 cup (taste to adjust as you go). This recipe is a half-recipe version of the original recipe. If you wish to make a full sized recipe, double all ingredients and bake in a 9" x 13" baking pan and adjust the bake time accordingly. (The original frosting recipe consisted of melted butter, milk, and cocoa powder heated together on the stove top and then poured over a box of powdered sugar and pecans were stirred in). I chose to make a simple stove top Chocolate Ganache Frosting and topped with chopped pecans (recipe below). 

**Optional Chocolate Ganache Frosting Recipe: Melt approximately 8 ounces of dark chocolate chips or chunks (I used 71% cacao) over a double boiler in 1/2 cup of heavy cream; stirring frequently until melted and smooth. Add a couple pinches of instant espresso powder to deepen the chocolate flavor, if desired. Whisk until smooth. Pour hot frosting over cake and spread until smooth with an angled icing spatula; sprinkle with 1/2 cup chopped pecans. If you prefer your ganache thinner; add more cream and if you want it thicker, reduce the amount of cream.



Alice said...

What a beautiful labor of love, GGC.

We will be celebrating my sister's birthday soon and, recently being diagnosed pre-diabetic, she is making changes to her diet. I think this will be a lovely birthday cake for her.

Your Sesame Seed Sandwich Buns are a big hit with her (with both of us!) and I will be making more tonight for us for the coming week.

I'm so happy you were able to help Pamela with this special memory recipe. It is a wonderful treasure for her, and a coup for the rest of your readers!!

Congratulations on your success and much thanks, as always.

Alice B.

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Thanks so much Alice! I'm so happy you and your sister are enjoying the Sesame Seed Sandwich Buns. They are one of my favorites, too.

I was honored to help her with the recipe and hope that she and her family enjoy it for generations to come. You are right, but now many can enjoy her special cake and I bet that would make her Mom and Grandma proud to least I hope so.

Thanks again. Hope you are enjoying your weekend. :-)

Peggy said...

Hi GG,
How sweet of you to remake this special cake for her and it looks delicious too!! You mentioned in your description about remembering old family recipes such as Christmas Fruitcakes, which are very special in our family and we can no longer eat. Have you ever done or seen a sugar free, grain free makeover of fruitcake?


darlene said...

I just made this and it's delicious! However, mine didn't rise anywhere near as much as yours, maybe 1/8". (it's really too flat to even be considered a brownie) I used the same size jelly roll pan you did. Is there really no baking powder or soda in it? Maybe I should double it next time?

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Darlene,

There isn't any baking powder or soda in this cake (I used her old recipe but it was made with regular flour). Did you use blanched almond flour (skinless and finely ground)? If you did, then you may want to try adding 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (it reacts with the acidity in the buttermilk to create rise). If yours really turned out that thin, you may also want to double the recipe..OR, for testing purposes with the baking powder, you may want to move it to a square pan ( 8x8 or 9x9) and see how it turns out for you. It is definitely a thinner than normal cake, but mine was definitely more than 1/8"...that is even thinner than a cookie! Let me know how it turns out if you add the baking soda and/or double the recipe. Also curious about your almond flour too because some are heavier (almond meal) and that might also cause a thinner, denser cake. Let me know! :-)

Darlene said...

Thanks; I will try it again soon and let you know. Yes, I did use blanched almond flour.

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Doubling the recipe might be enough then Darlene. Let me know how it works if you make any changes. :-)

Darlene said...

Would you believe, duh, I just realized I had used too large a jelly roll pan~no wonder it came out so thin! I bet it will come out just fine if I use the right size pan next time. Senior moment! lol

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Darlene,
Too funny. We all do that kind of thing sometimes. Hope it turns out nicely in the right sized pan. :-)

Unknown said...

Looks so yummy! Can I use coconut oil instead of Olive oil? :)

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi there,

Yes, coconut oil would work fine in this recipe. :-)

905lovestostamp said...

I am SO keen to try almost all of your recipes, but am wondering how I can limit or substitute something else for coconut flour. How I wish I didn't hate the taste of coconut SO much! I don't mind coconut milk and am working on coconut oil (can use 2nd press and am trying to incorporate a little of the 1st). When I have tried coconut flour it is pretty strong tasting. Can you taste the coconut in this? I hate to spend the money on ingredients and hate the recipe. Any suggestions generally for substitutions for coconut flour in recipes, or does it depend on the recipe? I know once you suggested protein powder, I assume unflavored of course, I will look for one.

I've never heard of this stevia syrup, where could I access it? Last time I bought the Swerve confectioners, Sweet Perfection, and the ChocoPerfection mini mint bars all at Netrition, an online store that specializes in low-carb products suggested by a friend who has followed low-carb eating (but not necessarily wheat-free, etc but is eating now almond flour, etc) for decades. The prices seemed reasonable and shipping was too. Since I pay per package sent to a US address, it was helpful to order all together. I try and buy the products you use whenever possible, thank you for having your store and your lists, it's such a help to me!

Thanks again, this recipe looks AMAZING!!!

Have you ever made a white cake (vanilla--not a pound cake, just a regular vanilla cake) with old-fashioned icing? THAT would be my dream! I'm afraid that I like birthday cake like this too much, and there's a bakery too close to my house... I need to learn how to make such a cake. It's my hope you will be able to make one for us. My other absolute obsession in sweet things are sticky cinnamon buns. I like them without all the nuts, but they would be healthier I'm sure with them...

Thanks so much, how special to pay tribute to this lady's grandmother!

Your recipes are better than anyone else's for eating this way, I cannot thank you enough!!!

Joanne Lowe

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Thanks so much Joanne. I don't care for the taste of coconut flour either so if you notice, in most of the recipes where I use it, it is in small amounts in proportion to the other flours. With the cocoa powder and other ingredients, the coconut flavor gets totally lost (in my opinion). The only other dehydrating type of ingredient to mimic coconut flour that I've used is unsweetened whey protein powder.

I find the simple syrup at Amazon. It isn't as concentrated as pure stevia but you could also use regular stevia, just add very tiny amounts and taste as you go. I've added your suggestions to my "to do" list and whenever I get one perfected, I will post it. I know what you mean about sticky buns! Thanks so much for the kind comments, too!

Kathy said...

Hi GG,
What a gift it was for you to remake this recipe for the follower who messaged you simply for some guidelines! I am very interested in making this cake but am confused about something. In the directions it says - Lightly grease a nonstick 10" x 5" x 1" jellyroll style pan - and has an Amazon link to the pan; however, the pan that displays is larger than 10" x 5" x 1" (it measures 14.25 x 9.38 x 1 inches) and I wondered where I can find the correct size pan to use as I do not want to double the recipe. Thanks in advance!

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Kathy,

Thanks so much. Wow, I tried finding it on Amazon and it seems they might not carry it right now. Sometimes you can find that size at Bed Bath & Beyond. In case you can't find that size (I hope they haven't stopped making it)...Wilton makes a similar size pan: You will need to grease it generously because it doesn't appear to be nonstick. Hope you are able to find the pan! :-)