I can remember my grandmother, over a small saucepan on the stove, making this wonderful topping for a chocolate cake. It is simple in preparation; simple in ingredients needed, and can produce one of those between the eyebrows-middle of the forehead sweet headaches quicker than any sweet thing I know.
Similar to dulche de leche, except for the addition of butter, this simple sauce is wonderful poured on a piece of chocolate cake, similar to Mrs. Watson’s Chocolate Cake (see Desserts posting). Take an unfrosted piece of this cake, split it down the middle, the flat way, to make two side-by-side pieces. Spoon some of this sauce, warm, over the pieces of cake. It will soak in and transform your cake into a gooey, warm, chocolate-based piece of comfort heaven.
Although this sauce has been made for generations (handed down from my maternal great-grandmother), the first known recorded recipe was committed to paper when my Mom and Dad gave us a collection of family recipes for Christmas. You could not provide the cake recipe and not include the recipe for this sauce. So, included below, (and commented), is the recipe for “Butter Sauce”, as written by my dad, who jokingly would sign his work “AWH”, for A. W. Hoople, his favorite “pen-name.
(a.k.a. Butter Sauce, as quoted directly from the “Red-Book”; the book of Morris Family recipes)
“The hitherto unpublished and extraordinarily complex recipe for the butter sauce that goes so well with Mrs. Watson’s Chocolate Cake
Sugar: 2 cups, more or less (2 cups is plenty, have made the sauce successfully with 1 ½ cups)
Butter: a big hunk or (if you prefer) a large glob (about 4 TBSP, or ½ of a stick is plenty)
Milk: Some (about ¾-1 cup, whole milk, or even cream works well here, too)
Vanilla: be generous and don’t use imitation vanilla
NEXT COMPLEX INSTRUCTION
Boil (Bring to a low rolling boil over medium heat, boil slowly, stirring occasionally, until very light brown in color, approximately 15-20 minutes. You can take it to a darker color, but the key is dissolving the sugar, not making caramel.)
This sort of reduces cooking to its simplest terms and allows one’s imagination to run rampant. Nan’s recipe. (My maternal grandmother) I can guarantee that she never wrote it down either.”
(Thanks, Mom and Dad, for all the great recipes…and thanks, Dad, for all the great transcriptions!)
Mrs. Watson’s Chocolate Cake
This truly is a classic cake, and to many, truly at the top of their “comfort food” list. There have been thousands of these cakes made by my family alone, and who knows how many beyond that. Dark, rich, moist, easy, flexible, portable, delicious!
I couldn’t have been more than six years old, or so, when Mom and Dad became members at the Lancaster Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, New York. The pastor of the church at that time was one Reverend Walter Vale Watson. I remember him clearly because he came to see me in the hospital when I was seven years old and had to have an emergency appendectomy. Mrs. Watson was the Reverend’s wife and as is the tradition in many churches, Mrs. Watson was present at a lot of church events that included food. At one of these events that Mom was attending, Mrs. Watson happened to bring her chocolate cake; Mom took one bite and had to have the recipe…the rest is chocolate cake history. This is a “cannot-fail-to-please” and not your run-of-the-mill cakes made of chocolate. Birthdays, parties, picnics, chocoholic, anniversary, or just for the hell of it; cupcakes, layer cake, or sheet cake…this is a great cake!
(There is a great buttery/sugary sauce that can be easily made and poured over this cake that is just ridiculous! (I’ll post the recipe for it separately) Heavenly! And please don’t make this cake and then put canned frosting on it…this cake deserves a handmade butter cream frosting…)
Mrs. Watson’s Chocolate Cake
In a large saucepan, over medium heat, cook together and stir until thick:
- 4 squares of bitter chocolate
- One (1) cup of sweet milk (at least 2%)
- Two (2) heaping tablespoons of butter
- Two (2) cups of sugar
- One (1) cup of sour milk or sour cream
Mix and then add:
- Two and a half (2 ½) cups of flour
- Two (2) teaspoons of baking soda
- Salt, to taste
- Vanilla, to taste (1 or 2 teaspoons)
Beat well to combine all ingredients, pour into a 9” x 13” baking pan that is greased and floured, or prepared with baking spray. Cook at 350° F for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes back without any batter on it. If making cupcakes, or layers for a layer cake, reduce time and watch carefully to avoid burning. Frost and serve as desired.