Is it possible to modify a beloved chocolate cake recipe?

A friend sent me his Aunt Anna's chocolate cake recipe and would love for me to make it (I'm the baker in our circle of friends). The cake ingredients include Hershey's cocoa and half a cup of shortening (no butter). The icing is made with 1/4 lb. of margarine, 8 heaping tsp. of cocoa, and 22(!) heaping tsp. of powdered sugar. I'm not enthusiastic about the idea of making a cake with shortening and margarine. My friend is around seventy, so the recipe may date from a time when butter was a luxury for many people. Could one simply substitute butter for the shortening and margarine? Or would it be better to try to find an similar sort of recipe with better ingredients? And would these fats give the cake and icing a special texture that one could not achieve with butter? This cake was a huge family favorite.



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hardlikearmour March 7, 2012

You should be able to directly sub the butter for the margarine in the frosting. I would probably just use the Spectrum shortening in the cake. I would definitely not just try to find a different recipe or stray far from the original. Your friend has certain memories and expectations of what this cake is. It would be sad to disappoint him.

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Kaja1105 March 7, 2012

Thanks! You are absolutely right about sticking close to the recipe. And using the Spectrum shortening is a great tip.

drbabs March 7, 2012

I also agree about changing the margarine to butter. Those old recipes come from a time when margarine was believed to be a healthy and tasty alternative to butter. My mother has tons of them, and she's always surprised at how much better everything tastes when you use butter instead.

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