For generations, this white cake—with a Swiss meringue–type white frosting that has melted chocolate poured over the top—was trotted out for birthdays in the Noyes family. My dad introduced it to our immediate family, as did his father to his, and it goes back at least to my great-grandfather at the Noyes ancestral home, Edgewater Farm, near Waterloo, Nebraska (now owned by my cousins Mac and Laura Burford). This dessert is the jewel in our family’s food legacy, and, no, it’s not a vanity project—this has been the name of the cake through the ages. I was heartsick when I couldn’t locate a copy of the long-surviving recipe for this cookbook, and at the last minute—after I finished writing it, and as I was moving cookbooks from my house to the farmhouse—my grandmother’s small spiral-bound book entitled “Kitchen Secrets” fell out of the pile. In a bit of happenstance (this seems to occur frequently to me, and my recipe tester Bonnie Benwick refers to it in Yiddish as beshert or destiny), the cover slid off and the first loose page inside was the recipe for this cake, written in my grandmother’s hand. It took some tweaking to bring it into the current day (with original instructions like “add butter the size of a walnut”), and my very understanding editor let me sneak it into the desserts lineup.
My cousin Carol Clark has since sent me her own copy of the same recipe, written by my great-grandmother, whose notes attest to the magic of the frosting: “This is really a plain cake, but it takes practice to get the frosting just right. The cake is better when it is several days old. It is very good, almost like candy.” Herewith, the cherished single-layer version true to the historic family recipe, although I sometimes double the recipe to make a two-layer cake for larger events.—Brian Noyes, from his new cookbook, The Red Truck Bakery Farmhouse Cookbook.
Read our interview with Noyes here.