Chocolate Delight: Mahogany Cake

Mahogany Cake: cocoa powder and brown sugar.

Have you ever read A Cake Bakes in Brooklyn?  You should.  Some months ago, the author loaned me a book by a mysterious cake maven named Mrs. Osborne.  Read more about this fascinating woman, with a unique perspective on how to bake a cake, here.

I’ve baked one recipe from Mrs. Osborne’s book, a fairly unsuccessful Puff Cake.  But another recipe captured my attention, a brown sugar and chocolate confection called Mahogany Cake.

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Mahogany Cake
From Mrs. Osborne’s Cakes of Quality, by Mrs. Grace Osborne, 1919.

I didn’t have the pans she wanted, so I baked it in a regular rectangular cake pan, which I buttered and dusted with cocoa powder.  The milk, sugar and cocoa powder comes to a quick boil, so watch out for that.  After I mixed the flour in, the batter was super smooth; when the melted chocolate was added, it was very velvety, just like Mrs. Osborne promised.  Don’t forget the teaspoon of vanilla at the end; she doesn’t list it in the ingredients.

When completed, the batter tasted like hot fudge.  The cake showed promise.  But here comes round two, Baking the Cake.  Pay careful attention, it is detailed:

I ALWAYS managed to fuck this part up, because I forget to reset the timer.  That’s how the Puff Cake got overcooked and tough last time; this time I forgot to set the timer after 230 degrees.  So I went from 230 to 300 in the last 15 minutes. Grr.

The  results: the cake had a nice fudgy flavor.  I actually do not like chocolate cake (Short story: my mother was a prize baker, once she was testing a million chocolate cake recipes, I ate too much cake and puked.  Haven’t been able to stomach it since.)  but the flavor was rich enough I didn’t find it off putting.  But the texture was not great: although the top was most, the center and bottom of the cake was really dry and unpleasant.  That’s the same problem I had when I made the puff cake.

Mrs. Osborne’s ridiculous baking methods seem like they’ll be worth the trouble; they stink of some long forgotten baking secret.  But in reality, the long, low bake time seems to dry the cakes out.  Thumbs down, Mrs. O.

3 Responses to “Chocolate Delight: Mahogany Cake”


  • Hmmm..Mrs O sounds like she`s trying your nerves. I have a bunch of egg whites in the fridge, so I think I`m going to try the puff cake…I just gotta have a stab at that oven timing! Love your blog — found it recently. theresa

  • You should give it a whirl–and let me know how it goes!

  • I have a theory that Mrs O. is trying to make a virtue of slackness. To me it looks like she can’t be bothered waiting for her oven to preheat (I imagine it would take even longer with the wood burning ones in those days), and so she’s shoved the cake into a half warm oven, and since it’s turned out okay(ish), she’s selling it as an intentional method of baking.

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