Bishop Chocolate Cake
The Roots of Independence
July 4th is a holiday that is steeped in nostalgia. The day commemorates the birth of our nation, the roots of our national independence, but also reminds us of our own roots, entwined with and fed by connections to our past.
On the Fourth of July I remember summers from my childhood. I remember gathering with family on long lazy summer afternoons for picnics, conversation and some occasional fireworks. Those gatherings were sun soaked opportunities to catch up and renew bonds of family and friendship over ample meals of fried chicken or barbecue, summer salads, watermelon and tempting desserts.
This cake is based on a bond of friendship. It is a family favorite, one I remember from my childhood. It has shown up at many a family picnic or potluck over the years. It is easy to make and easy to transport. It is also a crowd pleaser, a basic recipe favored by children and adults alike.
The original recipe was given to me by Aunt Hen. Aunt Hen got it from a friend she had known for many years. While the cake may or may not be her friend’s original creation she made it often and her name has been attached to this cake in the vernacular of my family for as long as I can remember.
What's In a Name?
In my family a Bishop Chocolate Cake is a simple cake made with cocoa powder and covered with a fudgy chocolate frosting that is poured over the cake while it is hot. This cuts down on the number of steps involved and time spent in the kitchen. While the whole cake, fully frosted, rests to cool, the cook can attend to the rest of the meal or any other details that need to be accomplished before the cake is served.
The original recipe was wonderfully simple and tasty but over the past forty years my tastes have grown to prefer recipes with less sugar as well as less fat where possible. I have also come to expect a richer infusion of cocoa. As a result I have updated the original recipe somewhat.
It isn’t what I would call a particularly health conscious chocolate cake. There are recipes for those elsewhere, (a Midnight Chocolate Cake, for example.) Still I did cut a half cup of fat and half cup of sugar from the original while using some brown sugar in place of some of the white. I like the taste a little better and with that rich fudgy icing they really aren’t missed at all.
Bishop Chocolate Cake
1 stick margarine
½ cup cocoa powder
1½ cups sugar, 1 cup brown and ½ cup white
2 cups plain flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup tap water
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon soda
Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
Dissolve soda in buttermilk. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, cream the butter. Add sugar, cocoa, salt, eggs, and vanilla.
Add water and buttermilk alternately with flour ( Add ½ cup liquid, then 1 cup flour. Repeat and end with the liquid.) Beat well after each addition.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees until cake comes away from the sides of the pan, about 35 minutes. (I baked mine in a glass pan and lowered the temperature to 325 degrees accordingly. It took a few minutes longer that way with a total baking time of 38 minutes.)
½ cup butter
6 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 pound confectioners’ sugar
In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, milk and cocoa powder. Bring this mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and immediately add the confectioners’ sugar, whisking until smooth.
Pour the hot frosting over the cake as soon as you remove the cake from oven. Let cake and frosting cool at the same time.
Note: To add design mix 1 cup 10x sugar with 1½ Tablespoons of milk and a dash of vanilla. Whisk until smooth, then place in a small Ziploc sandwich bag.
After pouring the chocolate frosting on top, quickly snip the end from a lower corner of the bag and pipe the white frosting in long thick lines across the top, end to end, about 2 inches apart.
Set the bag aside and draw a knife through the top of the icing, first in one direction and then the other, a few inches apart.
Honestly, this didn’t work as well as I hoped. I don’t know if I would do it again or not. If so I would make sure the chocolate frosting was hotter and I would have everything completely ready to go so I could work faster.