Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lucy Burdette's Chocolate Cake

LUCY BURDETTE: When it came time to pick a pen name for my new Key West food critic series, I didn't hesitate. I chose my maternal grandmother's name, Lucille Burdette, AKA Lucy.

Actually, I don't know if she was ever called Lucy as she died when I was only five or six. Sadly, I don't know much about her--I have a few oil paintings that she did and a few memories of her as a sweet, warm grandmother. This is a photo of her with husband, Frank, a grandfather who I never met as he died even younger. All that tragedy makes the paintings she left more precious.

I could imagine that she might have been a good cook, as my mother and both of her sisters loved to get together for dinners and holiday meals. And recently, when sorting madly through my messy (ulp!) drawer of recipes, I found a recipe for chocolate cake from Nana, AKA Lucille Burdette. Now I do already have a go-to chocolate cake recipe that is in much demand in my family. But I definitely wanted to try Lucy's version. Here's how it went...


1/2 cup Crisco (I am not a fan, so I used a stick of butter:)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Hershey's cocoa
1 egg
 1/2 cup sour milk (or sweet, with one TBSP vinegar added)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup boiling water

The instructions were as follows: Put all ingredients into bowl and mix. Bake as usual. Hmmmm...not much detail there.

So I added my interpretation:). Beat softened butter and sugar until well combined. Then add the other ingredients one at a time, mixing after each. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt pan, add the batter, and bake for about 30 minutes until cake springs back when touched. Cool for ten minutes and then invert onto a cake plate.

Sift powdered sugar over the top when completely cool and serve with ice cream!

I tried the cake out on two confirmed chocoholics. They both had seconds. So for an easy, tasty cake that uses ingredients you are likely to have on hand, we recommend it!

And while you are snacking, I will remind you that DEATH IN FOUR COURSES, the second Key West food critic mystery, will be out on September 4! You can find pre-order links right here. And stay tuned for all book and food news by following Lucy on Twitter or facebook.

And since my wordpress website is driving me bonkers lately, here are some direct links for ordering:


Barnes and Noble



  1. Using family recipes is a wonderful way to honor your relatives, and to keep their memories alive. It also helps when they're good recipes--it's hard to feel sentimental about calves liver and onions (which my grandmother happened to enjoy).

  2. Lucy, don't you love how sometimes you have to interpret recipes? I find this a lot. I think you did a great job. The cake is so pretty. And love the memories.

    ~Daryl aka Avery

  3. How wonderful to have your grandmother's recipe! (And, even more so, her name.) I treasure the ones I have from my grandmother. They are written similarly, assuming full knowledge of method.

    Probably the Crisco was a war-time choice since butter was more scarce and 1/4 pound of it probably wouldn't have been used for a cake.

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

  4. Thanks for the comments friends! Sheila, my mother used to make liver and onions too--we kids always got a hamburger on those nights:)

    Avery, yes! if a cook wasn't very experienced, she (he) would have no idea what that meant...

    DC, I think you are right about the Crisco/butter. I don't think I've used Crisco since the seventies, when we were making the wedding cake (for my first marriage:) with icing made of Crisco and sugar. Arggggg

  5. What a wonderful story. I'm sorry that you didn't get to know her better. Am I mistaken or did you get her smile? I see a resemblance!

    We love cakes like this around here. I think Harbinger is right that Crisco was probably a war time choice. I read an article about Crisco chasing away lard, which was actually a fine baking choice, with some seriously aggressive marketing after the war.

    ~ Krista

  6. This looks so delicious and thanks for sharing the story with us!

  7. Thanks for the cake recipe. I bet that cake taste divine warm from the oven.

  8. Bobbi, it was great to see that you still remember Nana so fondly. I have that original recipe for that cake too, but it is in Nana's handwriting, if you are interested,I would be glad to send you a copy. Mom said that during the war they often would use mayonnaise instead of crisco for the fat content in cakes. Love the picture! It is one of my favorites ( I think Mom got all of us copies of that particular one. Chris

  9. This cake looks fabulous, and you're right, I do have the ingredients on hand. Can't wait to try it, thanks for posting!

  10. Thanks Chris, I would love to have the recipe in her handwriting! will email you...

    And thanks Mary--I'm going to make it again later this week too:)

  11. Hi Lucy,
    It's fantastic. Your Lucy Burdette's Chocolate Cake are adorable!
    Would you be interested to share your pancake photos in our food photography site

    It is a food photography site where all foodies around the world submit all food pictures those make readers hungry :)