Comparison of Hundred-Year Old and Modern Recipes for Devils Food Cake

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, February 27, 1912:  Quite uneventful. Ruth went up to Oakes this evening, but I staid at home and studied my lessons.

Devil's Food Cake (Hundred-Year-Old Recipe)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since this diary entry is self-explanatory, I’m going to go off on a tangent.

I recently bought a 1912 cookbook off EBay. My daughter glanced through it and noticed that the devils food cake recipe seemed very different from today’s recipes.

So we decided to compare a devils food cake made with a modern recipe with one made using a hundred year old recipe.

In the early 1900s angel food cakes and devils food cakes were seen as the polar opposites—one was white and light; the other dark and heavy.

The cake made with the hundred year old recipe was a dense chocolate spice cake. The recipe called for mashed potatoes (mashed potatoes ?!?!), cinnamon, nutmeg and nuts.  It reminded us of gingerbread–though ginger was not an ingredient. I’ve never eaten anything exactly like it—but the cake was very good and I’d make it again.

100 Year-Old-Recipe

Calumet Devil’s Food Cake (Chocolate Spice Cake)

2 cups flour

2 level teaspoons Calumet (or any other brand) baking powder

2 level teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup butter

2 eggs

1 cup warm mashed potatoes

2 squares unsweetened chocolate

1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour baking pan, 13 X 9 X 2 inches. Melt butter and chocolate. Combine with all of the other ingredients except nuts. Beat until well-blended.  Stir in nuts.

Pour into pan. Bake approximately 45-50 minutes or until pick comes out clean.

Adapted from the recipe in Calumet Baking Powder Reliable Recipes (1912)

The modern devils food cake recipe that my daughter made was from my Betty Crocker Cookbook. The recipe called for red food coloring—but otherwise seemed similar to other modern chocolate cake recipes. The cake was awesome.

Devils Food Cake

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)

1 1/2 teaspoons soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup shortening

2 eggs

2 ounces melted unsweetened chocolate (cool)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon red food color

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour baking pan, 13x9x2 inches, or two 9-inch or three 8-inch round layer pans. Measure all ingredients into large mixer bowl. Blend 1/2 minute on low-speed, scraping bowl constantly. Beat 3 minutes high-speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan(s).

Bake oblong about 40 minutes, layers 30-35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool.

(Recipe suggests using chocolate or cream cheese frosting.)

13 thoughts on “Comparison of Hundred-Year Old and Modern Recipes for Devils Food Cake

  1. A “chocolate spice cake” seems to make more sense to me as a devil’s food cake. Always thought a chocolate cake was a chocolate cake, and never seemed to make sense to call it a devil’s food cake. Interesting post.

  2. I have a bunch of my great grandfather’s old recipes from his bakery but can’t figure out the modern day translations. I don’t have anyone to ask hoping maybe someone could give me ideas on where to look.

    1. You are so fortunate to have the recipes–and I bet they’d be really good if you could get them figured out. I don’t have any suggestions–though maybe someone will see your comment and have some ideas.

      One thought–I think that modern ovens became popular in the 1930s or 40s. I wonder if you might be able to find a book or extension publications from that era that explained how to adapt the recipes.

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