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Torta de Chocolate / Chocolate Cake, 1907

January 14, 2011
Libro de Resetas (sic)
 Libro de Resetas (sic), su dueña Susana Irazoqui Palacios, ink manuscript, Julio 9, 1907. folio 2.
This is the first in a set of six ink manuscript cookbooks written by a family of related women in Durango, Mexico from just before until  shortly after the Mexican Revolution.  Susana Irazoqui Palacios inscribed the flyleaf of her notebook with her name and the date Julio – 4 – 1907.  It is also stamped with the name of the stationary store where she purchased it: Libreria Moderna J. Villarreal, located at no. 57 1/2 on 4a de la Constitucion.  We know little else about Susana, but since two of the first four recipes are for torta de chocolate, I think we can guess that she liked chocolate and cake!

Torta de Chocolate

1 taza de mantequilla
1 de leche
2 de azucar
3 de harina
4 huevos y Royal

El betun con 2 claros de huevo y azucar y limon.

 Chocolate Cake 

1 cup of butter
1 cup of milk
2 cups of sugar
3 cups of flour
4 eggs and baking powder

Glaze with two egg whites, sugar, and lemon.

In the Kitchen…

In contrast to many published recipes from the 19th and early 20th c., Susana provides precise ingredient measurements for this recipe, but she was apparently confident that she would rememberhow to prepare it, and so wrote no directions.

Since I couldn’t contact Susana to ask about her process, I fumbled through by referring to the directions she provides for another torta de chocolate and to a couple recipes in Joy of Cooking with similar ingredients and proportions.  I don’t know how similar my cake is to one Susana would have served, but I can say that it was delicious!  It had a light, but moist texture and was just sweet enough without being too sweet.

Due to dietary restrictions, I substituted margarine and soymilk for butter and milk, and for the glaze I used an orange instead of a lemon, since that’s what I had in my kitchen.  Because I was making the cake for just two people, I halved the recipe and prepared it as follows:

Cream together in a mixing bowl:
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup white sugar

Add, mixing in one at a time:
2 egg yolks


In another bowl, beat to stiff peaks:
2 egg whites

In a third bowl, combine:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Add alternately to egg mixture and mix in 3 parts:
flour & baking powder mixture
1/2 cup soymilk

Fold in:
beaten egg whites

Bake in a greased-and-floured 8″ cake pan  at 375* for 25-30  minutes, till almost done.  I used one 2″ high pan; if you use traditional 1″ high pans, you will need to make two layers and decrease the cooking time.


 Meanwhile, mix the glaze:
1 egg white
juice from 1/2 orange
1 heaping tablespoon sugar

When the cake is almost done, lightly brush the glaze on top and return to the oven for 5 more minutes, till cake is springy and a knife comes out clean. 

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes; then run a knife around the edge and turn out onto a plate. 

You’ve probably noticed the oddest thing about this cake: Susana titled it “Torta de Chocolate,” but there is no chocolate mentioned anywhere else in the recipe!  Since her other “Torta de Chocolate” uses chocolate meringue as a garnish, I decided that this cake, too, might be topped with chocolate.  I grated two ounces of 70% dark chocolate and sprinkled it on top the cake.  It quickly melted into a ganache-like topping, and was a perfect compliment to the sweet cake.

Torta de Chocolate


IMPORTANT NOTE: This weekend I consulted with an expert cake maker, who pointed out that  “El betun con 2 claros de huevo y azucar y limon” probably means to serve the cake topped with an uncooked meringue of egg whites, sugar, and lemon, rather than to apply it as a glaze like I did.

Although early 20th century cookbooks often use uncooked meringues, these are not recommended today, due to the risk of salmonella.  If you would like to use meringue, I suggest turning the cake out of its pan onto a cookie sheet when done, topping with the stiffly-beaten eggwhite, sugar, and lemon mixture, and then returning it to the oven for 5 minutes or until the meringue is nicely browned.


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