St. Valentine’s Special

“‘Now what can I serve that everyone likes?’ you ask yourself when you plan party refreshments. And if you decide on ‘something chocolate,’ you’re sure to be right. For chocolate is America’s favorite flavor.” – My Party Book of Tested Chocolate Recipes, 1938.

Themed parties were popular in the 1930s, so advertising cookbooks vied with one another to present recipes perfectly tailored for special occasions such as holidays, birthdays, and even color-scheme parties. This particular cookbook includes only chocolate recipes, making the argument that chocolate is right for every occasion – a sentiment I whole-heartedly agree with! This is one of several cakes the book suggests for Valentine’s Day.

St. Valentine’s Special

  • 2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 squares Baker’s unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  1. Sift the flour before measuring. Then, combine the flour with the salt and baking soda and sift together 3 times.
  2. Cream butter, then add sugar and cream together.
  3. Add the egg and beat thoroughly.
  4. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla.
  5. Add about a quarter of the flour and beat thoroughly, then add the sour cream and beat again.
  6. Add the remaining flour alternately with the milk, beating after each addition until smooth.
  7. Pour into two greased 9-inch round pans.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

7-Minute Frosting

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 tbsp water
  • 1 1/2 tsp light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • red food coloring
  1. Combine egg whites, sugar, water, and corn syrup in the top of a double-boiler, beating with an egg beater until thoroughly mixed.
  2. Place over rapidly boiling water, beating constantly with egg beater, and cook for 7 minutes, or until frosting will stand in peaks.
  3. Remove from boiling water and add vanilla and a few drops of food coloring and beat until thick enough to spread.
  4. Spread between layers and on tops and sides of cake.
  5. While frosting is still soft, sprinkle chocolate flakes around top of cake to form a 1-inch border.

Tasting notes:

This was a perfectly decent chocolate cake; but as a chocolate lover, I thought it wasn’t quite chocolatey enough. For a cake from a chocolate-themed cookbook, I expected it to have a bit more chocolate flavor. A chocolate-flavored frosting might have helped. It was also slightly dry, but that was probably my fault for baking it just a bit too long – one of my cats was sitting on my lap and I didn’t want to disturb her to check on the cake. Lesson learned! If you do make this cake, start checking on it after about 20 minutes to make sure you don’t overbake it.

This was my first time trying 7-minute frosting (which is ubiquitous in 1930s cookbooks), and I can see why it was so popular. It tastes very sweet and airy, much like marshmallow fluff. Unfortunately, also like marshmallow fluff, it’s difficult to work with; it starts to harden fairly quickly as it cools, and it sticks to everything. I’m pretty sure I got more frosting on myself and all over my kitchen than I did on the actual cake! Although it can be eaten later, the frosting is best the day it’s made, so this is not really a cake to make ahead.

I may not have achieved cake perfection with this recipe – but it is good enough that I will still eat it all.


General Foods Corporation. (1938). My party book of tested chocolate recipes. (n.p.).

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