My culinary heritage: A cake with no name

As part of my culinary goals, I am revisiting my culinary heritage by re-creating and re-imagining my family recipes. This post is about one of those delicious creations!

This time, I have made a recipe from my maternal grandmother’ collection. Although “recipe” is a stretch as the card is titled “No Name Cake” and includes a list of ingredients without instructions. But thanks to a lifetime of kitchen experience, with a bit of help from Google, I managed to bring this nameless dessert to life!

I had a mission to make this cake in April, but I delayed and delayed. You see, whilst I am an excellent cook and I really love cooking, I am only an adequate baker – and I don’t enjoy the craft a great deal. Most baking is just too much effort, and it requires too much precision. (And cookies require too much back-and-forth for each new sheet!) Indeed, my baking skills are such that I was sure this would be a failed attempt.

But I persevered…

One of the reasons I chose this recipe was because I wanted to challenge myself to figure out how to put it all together. I was also a little intrigued because there was such a small amount of chocolate (2 tablespoons of cocoa powder) with some nutmeg and cinnamon – and a bit of lemon. (Although I don’t know if the lemon was meant to be on the list…)

Gathering ingredients for a cake with no name

Before beginning, I went to Google to try to find recipes to use as my guide. I began searching for cakes with shortening and found a wide range of results for yellow cakes. So, I added cocoa powder to my search and finally hit upon a recipe called “Crisco Chocolate Cake”. The ingredient list was similar, although much more chocolatey than Grandma Eberle’s, so I used it as my guide for the instructions.

This is the first time I’ve made a cake with shortening and I had to forgo my go-to American brand (Crisco) and bought some Trex instead. This was my first moment of panic, as the texture as quite different from Crisco and seemed a little “crumbly”. But I was committed to the cake, so I proceeded. I was impressed with how well the shortening mixed in with the eggs and sugar – especially as I don’t own a mixer so was doing this all by hand.

Mixing by hand is hard, but the results are worth it

Grandma’s card included a line for “sour milk” as well as a line for “milk” at the end which was crossed out. It also included 1 teaspoon of lemon, just before the crossed-out milk. I wasn’t sure if the lemon was meant to make the sour milk or if it was meant for the recipe on its own. So, I used a bit of lemon to create the sour milk and I also added a bit to the batter. I figured a bit of lemon wouldn’t ruin it, regardless.

Once mixed (by hand) I poured the batter into two cake pans (greased and floured) and put them in the oven. The recipe I’d found suggested 25-30 minutes at 350°F (175°C; Gas Mark 3), but it was closer to 50 minutes baking time. I wonder if a higher temperature was in order…

Two pans, ready for the oven

Regardless, the cakes turned out nicely and seemed to be evenly cooked. And they came out of the pans nicely, too. Which is very important!

The pans might have been just a tad too small

The one thing I wasn’t sure about was how to put the cake together. I didn’t have everything required for a buttercream frosting and I was running short on what I would need for a chocolate glaze. I thought about doing a combination of chocolate and peanut butter, either both together or one for the middle and one for the top. But, in the end, I went with a simple lemon drizzle glaze.

A cake with no name, drizzled in lemon icing

I used a thicker glaze for the centre layer and made a thinner glaze for the top. Although I think I went a little too thin on that one. And so, I was convinced that this was the stage where I ruined the cake.

However, I finally cut into the cake this morning (18 hours after it was done) and I was so excited to see how light and moist the cake is. It’s not too chocolatey and the cinnamon and nutmeg give it a nice little kick. I’m also glad I went with the lemon glaze, as I feel it made for a lighter cake. Which is perfect for breakfast!

It’s a piece of cake!

The recipe is below for anyone who wants to try it out. And if you make your own edits to the recipe, I would love to hear out it turned out! I’ve added my instructions under Grandma’s ingredient list.

No Name Cake


¾ cup shortening
1½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1¾ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons cocoa
¾ cup sour milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon
½ cup milk


  • Heat oven to 350°F (175°C, Gas Mark 3). Grease and flour pans and set aside.
  • Beat shortening, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. (I hand-mixed.)
  • Add sour milk, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Beat/mix until blended, scraping bowl as needed.
  • Pour into prepared pans.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. [Note: It took nearly 50 minutes for mine to be done]
  • Cool layers on wire rack for 15 minutes then remove from pans to cool completely.
  • Drizzle with a lemon glaze or frost as desired.

2 Replies to “My culinary heritage: A cake with no name”

  1. Your Grandmother Eberle and my Grandma Smith – wrote the same kind of recipes! I spent many an afternoon by her side watching her make bread, scones, donuts, cakes, cookies, candies and frosting and nothing ever really had the same ingredients. It depends she always told me – what I have available.

    1. My Grandma Eberle was quite the cake-baker in Upper County. She made countless celebration cakes for people over the years from birthdays and baptisms to weddings and anniversaries. I loved watching her work… especially when she let me eat a frosting flower or two!! 🙂

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