Maryland Knows How to Make a Damn Fine Fudge Cake

November  7, 2017

Friends who gift cookbooks are friends to keep around. Today's recipe comes from a vintage cookbook given to me by a dear colleague who lives on Cape Cod and frequently finds such treasures at local rummage sales. She knows how much I love baking, and that I'm from Maryland, so she brought me an old, weathered book last year called Maryland's Way. The pages are yellowed and torn in places. It was written in 1963 to raise funds for the Hammond-Harwood Museum House in Annapolis. With recipes from a range of contributors, it beautifully illustrates the state of cuisine at the time in Maryland "society."

Frugality reigned at the time of publication, and it's clear that the homemakers of Maryland were seeking impressive ways to host dinners and teas and potlucks using simple pantry ingredients. To me, the cookbook is a true lesson in the power of kitchen alchemy: That flour, butter, eggs, and sugar alone can yield hundreds of different (and showstopping!) desserts never ceases to amaze me. I'm surprised by how many the recipes stand the test of time.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Today's recipe is as timely as ever. I skimmed the ingredients thinking "okay, nothing special here, we'll have a simple chocolate cake," before baking. And then the batter puffed up in the oven into a spectacular confection worthy of a Parisian bakery window. The top is shatteringly delicate, with a thin crackling sheen not unlike the top of a very good brownie. Beneath is a moist, fudge-like cake that's lighter than a chocolate torte but denser than a classic chocolate layer cake and studded with bits of chopped black walnuts.

Photo by Posie Harwood

I frosted the cake, as instructed by the cookbook, with a paper-thin layer of a chocolate frosting (I laced mine with espresso powder, but boiling coffee achieves the same sophisticated flavor). To be honest, the next time I make this cake, I'll serve it plain with a dollop of very lightened sweetened whipped cream or a drizzle of heavy cream. The cake is so spectacular that it demands little in the way of icing. And when I say "the next time I make this cake," I'm referring to the first of hundreds of times I know I'll bake it, as it deserves a permanent place in every family's dessert traditions.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Dot Williams
    Dot Williams
  • Trish
  • Monica M
    Monica M
  • Regine
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


Dot W. November 13, 2017
Made this as an 'optional' dessert at a family gathering and it was ok. Not as good as my personal brownie recipe, but very easy to put together.
Trish November 10, 2017
This was very, very sweet - and that was after i added an extra ounce of chocolate and swapped some flour for cocoa powder. I might try again with unsweetened chocolate instead of bittersweet (and, in fact, I found another version of this recipe that calls for unsweetened chocolate so am wondering if the reference to bittersweet here was a mistake). (For any who are wondering, I am definitely not a person who regularly finds desserts too sweet.) That said, it was a breeze to whip up, otherwise turned out very nicely and I absolutely still ate it ... just thinking about the next time.
Monica M. November 9, 2017
Made a small version of this yesterday. It was just as you described. Thank you!
Regine November 9, 2017
Looks delicious. Will make soon. I could see myself eat it with a scoop of whipped heavy cream, creme fraiche, or vanilla ice cream.