Brownstone Front Cake

I didn’t get around to reading blogs until late yesterday, but it seems almost everyone in my reader had baked a cake — Banana, Bhocolate, Chiffon….Chiffon Cake! Yes, that was what I wanted to make, so I headed to the kitchen and remembered how many eggs I had. Four. Chiffon Cake wasn’t going to happen, but I was suddenly in a retro-cake frame of mind and made a spontaneous decision (because I saw my loaf pan sitting on the counter) to bake a Brownstone Front Cake.

Brownstone Front Cake

I’d known about Brownstone Front cake for years and was always seeing references to it in historical cookbooks. It was a brick-shaped cake, solid and brown like the front of a brownstone, and iced with either a white or chocolate icing. What I didn’t realize were how many different versions there were – some called for whipped egg whites, some were made with cocoa, others solid chocolate, and most included sour cream and buttermilk. Frostings varied. A white frosting was popular, but the recipe I chose (adapted from Jean Anderson’s which is almost identical to Maida Heatter’s) had a plain chocolate frosting. I baked the cake and served it last night for dessert. Fuzz liked it, but Todd loved it. As far as flavor goes, it’s not much different than your average chocolate cake. However, it had a great, moist, dense-but-still-light texture that we all really liked.

This recipe doesn’t make a ton of icing, but believe it or now you will get enough to cover the cake. I’m glad I didn’t double it. Also, this is a cake open to a lot of fun decorating ideas. That was wasted on me since I frosted the cake right after dinner and served it immediately for dessert, but if I’d planned ahead I could have had a lot of fun with the shape.

Brownstone Front Cake

1 cup water, boiling
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted before measuring (8 oz) or 1 3/4 cups unsifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

2 tablespoons softened butter
1 cup powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1 oz melted unsweetened chocolate, cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-4 tablespoons whole milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9×5 inch metal loaf pan with flour added cooking spray and line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment paper.

In a large (2 cup) microwave-safe measuring cup or in a saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir chocolate into the water and let it sit until it’s room temperature. This takes a while so do it first.

Sift together the pre-sifted flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

In bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attached, beat the butter until creamy. Beat in the brown sugar and continue beating for about 3 minutes on high, scraping sides of bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at time, beating 30 seconds after each egg, then beat in the vanilla.

Make sure the chocolate/water mixture is room temperature, then stir in the sour cream into the water. Starting and ending with the flour mixture, add flour mixture and chocolate mixture to batter alternately, stirring just to blend. Batter might be a little lumpy.

Bake on center rack at 325 F. for one hour. Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then invert onto a rack to finish cooling.

For frosting, beat together the butter and powdered sugar. Add the salt and melted chocolate. Continue beating and scraping sides of bowl. Add the vanilla. Add milk as needed, starting with 2 tablespoons and using more (I used all 4 T.).
Ice the cake!

Get a good head start on the boiling water and chocolate step so it will have time to come to room temperature.

The recipe says to use sifted flour, which means a full 2 cups won’t weight the usual 9 oz but more like 8 oz. You can skip the sifting and just weigh out 8 oz

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  1. says

    Mmmm, with those ingredients, it’s got to be moist and tastey! I like the cake’s small size for a small family like mine. When I make a big cake, we eat too much…

  2. Kathleen says

    My mom used to make Brownstone Front Cake when I was little (40 years ago or so). Her version is a little different. I smiled when I saw your recipe for it. Thanks and I really enjoy reading your recipes.

  3. Tina from PA says

    This looks so good ! I too like recipes for smaller cakes ,it’s only the 2 of us . I’m always sending stuff to work with my hubby , the guys just love it ! Thanks for sharing another great recipe!

  4. Jenn says

    I made this last night and iced it up today…so, so good! I did add some espresso powder to the hot water (I love coffee & chocolate together!) and baked it in a 8×8 pan (which I cut to make a layered loaf). Everyone loved it! Thanks so much for the recipe!

  5. says

    UGGGGH! I can’t believe I made the mistake of reading this recipe and looking at that yummy pic on an empty stomach. Bakery, here I come 😉

  6. Janet says

    Good morning! I have this cake baking in the oven right now…smells delicious and looks perfect. Glad it’s sized for 2 and I can whip it up quickly. I was a little surprised at how much batter was in the loaf pan….worried it might overflow but so far…so good;-) Thanks for the tempting picture and recipe!

  7. Janet says

    The jury is in on the cake…it was a huge success. Had company and it served way more than 2;-) Everyone loved this cake. I like a LOT of frosting so I used your recipe on half of the cake and I had some frozen chocolate frosting that I used on the other half. Made a bunch of semi sweet chocolate curls for on top to disguise the differences in the two frostings….thanks again!

  8. says

    I made this cake and did a caramel icing… everyone LOVED it and said it was exactly what they were use to from growing up. Wonderful recipe 🙂 Thanks

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