1939 Vintage Chocolate Cake with Fudge Icing

I love auctions, and I love cookbooks (especially very old cookbooks), so when I saw these at an auction a few years ago, I had to have them!  Deep inside the box I bid on sat 4 small college notebooks with cut out newspaper clippings all through-out the notebooks.  I’m assuming this is something a lot of the girls did back then while in college or upon finishing college to prepare for a future marriage.  I’ve heard of several others who found similar college notebooks with newspaper clippings inside also.

I loved the hand-written recipes scattered throughout the book, but most of the recipes were from newspaper clippings.  I saw this recipe on the last page of one of the 4 notebooks we bid on…and I was thinking of making a cake for a lady I work with for her birthday…so, this was perfect timing.  I have several chocolate cake recipes I could have used, but this one was looking back at me saying, “Bake Me, Bake Me!!”  Sooooo bake I did!

I loved this cake, it’s a heavy cake, but very soft and moist…and it held up well, meaning it did not fall apart when cut like some cakes do.  There was no icing recipe to use from the 1930’s, so I decided to use my very familiar Fudge Icing recipe that I love!  The two together was perfect for one another! 

I really felt good just knowing what I baked in 2013 was hand-written on the last page of this notebook.  I have no way of knowing who wrote it, or where and why this person wrote and saved it.  The recipe was originally named Edna’s Chocolate Cake…and beside it written was the word “fine.”  I’m assuming the author loved this recipe, and it makes me happy to know it was loved even today…in 2013! 

*you have to read the note on the first page of the 1939 notebook…it’s cute.

Happy Cake Baking!






1939 Vintage Cookbook (notebook) 



2 cups brown sugar

½ cup butter (1-stick)

2 eggs

2 ounces chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate bar)

½ cups sour milk (I used buttermilk)

1 teaspoon vanilla (real-not imitation)

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup hot water (with baking soda in it)

1 teaspoon soda (baking soda)


1. Grease and flour 2 (8-inch) baking pans (see note below)

2. Melt chocolate and set aside to cool slightly.  (See note below)

3. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar well.

4. Add eggs one at a time and mix well.

5. Add chocolate (melted and cooled) to creamed butter mixture.

6. In another bowl, sift together flour and baking powder together.

7. Add baking soda to 1 cup HOT water and mix well.

8. Alternately add flour, soda water and sour milk to creamed chocolate mixture.  Starting and ending with flour.  Mix until incorporated (do not over mix).

9. Bake at 350 for 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.  (Time varies according to the temperature of your oven).

10. Ice with Fudge Icing (recipe below).

*Note:  When baking a chocolate cake, you can flour cake pans with cocoa.

*Note: The recipe did not say what type of chocolate so I assume regular chocolate is what was used, but not sure.  I used the bittersweet, but you should be able to use semi-sweet or un-sweet.

*You can also use 9-inch baking pans, but cake will be thinner.

  • How to make sour milk if you have not buttermilk.  1 Tablespoon vinegar for 1 cup milk.  This recipe uses ½ cup sour milk, so add ½ Tablespoon vinegar (1-1/2 teaspoon) to the milk and let sit for 5 minutes).  Use like buttermilk when a recipe calls for buttermilk.

Cake recipe was hand written inside a cookbook called “Trinity Methodist Church Cookbook.”  Compiled from the choice recipes of the members of Class 17 of Trinity Methodist Church of Clearfield in November 1939.  Recipe was hand-written inside the last page of the cookbook.  Cake recipe original name is “Edna’s Chocolate Cake.”

Fudge Icing


3/4 cup Cocoa
4 cups confectioner sugar
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla (real)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
pinch of salt

Mix cocoa and sugar.  Cream part of cocoa mixture with butter and mix well. Blend in vanilla and 1/2 of milk. Add remaining Cocoa and sugar mixture and blend well. Add remaining milk and beat to desired consistency.  If too thin, add more confectioner sugar.  If too thick, add more milk.

Written on first page of cookbook was this message:


How to Preserve a Husband

Be very careful in your selection.  Do not choose while you are too young.  First, choose one of a good moral character.  When once selected, give your entire thought to preparation for domestic use.  Some insist upon keeping them in pickle; others are constantly getting them into hot water. This only makes them too sour, hard, and sometimes bitter.  Even poor varieties may be made sweet under proper treatment.  Garnish them with patience, well sweetened with love and seasoned with kisses.  Wrap them in a mantle of charity, keep warm with a steady fire of domestic devotion, and serve with peaches and cream.  Thus prepared they will keep for years.  This is a Puritan receipt and has been in constant use in all the families of Class 17.




2 thoughts on “1939 Vintage Chocolate Cake with Fudge Icing

  1. Hi! Wonderful blog you have here! Was looking for things of 1939 as we are planning a party for a friend who was born then. Thought it’d be fun to include music, food, etc. from back then, so was all too happy to run across your recipe. ‘Course, it doesn’t hurt that I’m a hopeless choco-holic(sp?) Heeheehee! Thank you for sharing things like this. I will definitely visit your blog again! God bless!


    • Hi Cindy, and welcome to my blog! I have to say your friend is very lucky to haved a friend like you. I think your friend will be very impressed with you taking the time to make it so special. I just want you to know that cakes back in the day are much heavier cakes, and actually not as moist as they are today, although this cake was moist…but heavy. Scratch cakes tend to be heavier than boxed cakes anyway, unless your making a chiffon or angel food cake, but then you may already know that! lol

      Cindy, if you send me your mailing address I just may have one of the newspaper cookbooks I can send to you. This is only if it is something your friend would care to have. It’s very light-weight so the postage would be small, so I’m not worried about that. I’ll take a look through my cookbooks tomorrow and see if I can part with one…if so, you may have it. Let me know if I would have time to get it to you before your friends party. Thanks for stopping by and let me know how things go for yoru party! Have fun! God Bless as well!


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