Jenny Lee is the winner of  Contest #7: The Best Dessert for Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Etc. Days. We loved  her story that her great-aunt bought this recipe for what would have been a zillion depression-era dollars. And, of course, we loved her Red Velvet Cake recipe.  Honorable mention goes to Brandy Bates for her Mile High Chocolate Cake that she said  “will make your husband forget just how much you spent on those really cute new shoes that just could not live without.”


Family legend says my great-aunt Myra Lee bought this recipe during the Depression for $80 in Chicago. It looks deceptively easy. Its not, especially the icing, which requires constant attention. But it is well-worth the time and effort to make this amazing cake. Enjoy.

1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 whole eggs
2 oz. food coloring
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cocoa
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cup Cake flour
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp soda


1) CREAM shortening, sugar & eggs (this is your Short Mixture).

2) PASTE food coloring & cocoa.

3) MIX vanilla, salt, buttermilk, cake flour, vinegar, soda.

4) ADD your Short Mixture along w/Paste of food coloring and cocoa. Don’t beat hard, just blend in.

5) BAKE 30 minutes in 2-9 inch pan at 350 degrees.

6) COOL and SPLIT each layer in half.


5 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter

1) COOK flour and milk until quite thick on low heat. Keep it stirred.
2) CREAM sugar, butter & vanilla until fluffy.
3) ADD sugar/butter/vanilla Mix to the Flour/Milk mix. Do not beat for too long.
4) COVER icing between layers and all over cake.

Honorable Mention: Brandy Bates

Mile High Chocolate Cake

For Mile High Chocolate cake that will make your husband forget just how much you spent on those really cute new shoes that just could not live without.

5 ounces fine-quality unsweetened chocolate, chopped

2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups sour cream

For frosting 1 cup sugar

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups whole milk

4 ounces fine-quality unsweetened chocolate,

finely chopped 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

6 sticks (1 1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Make cake: Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter cake pans, then line bottom of each with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment. Flour pans, knocking out excess. Melt chocolate with butter, then cool. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Beat eggs, sugars, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and thick, 3 to 5 minutes. At low speed, mix in melted chocolate until incorporated, then add flour mixture in 3 batches alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until each addition is just incorporated. Spread batter evenly in pans and rap pans several times on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until cakes pull away from sides of pans and a wooden pick inserted in center of each comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool in pans on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edges of pans. Invert onto racks and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

Make frosting and assemble cake: Whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add milk and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture boils and is smooth and thick, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate and vanilla until smooth. Transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature, covering surface with parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming. Beat butter with an electric mixer until creamy, then add cooled chocolate mixture a little at a time, beating until frosting is fluffy and spreadable. Cut each cake horizontally into 2 layers with a long serrated knife. Put 1 layer on a cake stand or large plate and spread top with 1 1/4 cups frosting. Repeat with 2 more layers, then add remaining layer and spread top and side of cake with remaining frosting.