Adventures in Good Cooking – Chocolate Upside Down Cake

Warm pudding cake served
with ice cream.
     I am on a mission and it is, indeed, an adventure in good cooking! This whole thing actually began several years ago when I received the book, The Man Behind the Cake Mix, a biography about Duncan Hines, written by Louis Hatchett (2001, Mercer University Press).
     It was a gift from Hines’ great niece Cora Jane Spiller, who according to Hatchett was instrumental in the completion of the book. Duncan Hines was a traveling salesman (during the early 1900s) with a hobby – he kept detailed notes on the restaurants where he ate. Over time he shared his list with friends and eventually began publishing Adventures in Good Eating. Ultimately that guidebook made him world famous and helped form the standards for today’s restaurant industry.
     Hines’ also published a cookbook.  Adventures in Good Eating and The Art of Carving in the Home went on sale during a time (1939) when few cookbooks were on bookstore shelves and the concept of a book collection of famous restaurant recipes was unique. Cora Jane also sent us a copy of this book (2002 edition, edited by Louis Hatchett, Mercer University Press) and that’s when I decided I would use the books as my inspiration for a Literary League program.
    That program is coming up soon so I’m testing recipes (the program will include sampling). Selecting which ones to include is the hard part and I am easily detracted. At present the cookbook is full of sticky notes . . . marking recipes I want to try for both my program and . . . just because. Although the recipe for Chocolate Fudge Upside Down Cake is not one I never intended to make for my literary presentation, it was at the top of my list to try. Its origin —  Cathryn’s in Portland, Oregon
     Personally I think the name is a misnomer – there is nothing “upside-down” about the recipe; it is actually a wonderfully rich and creamy pudding cake with a deep chocolaty flavor. But, far be it from me to mess with the name of this vintage cake!
    Watch for more Adventures in Good Cooking posts as I prepare for the program and test additional recipes from Hines’ cookbook.

Chocolate Fudge Upside Down Cake     Makes one 9” square
¾ cup (granulated) sugar
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup milk
1 cup (all-purpose) flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ tablespoon (unsweetened) cocoa (powder) (easy ½ Tbsp. measure = 1½ teaspoons)
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup (granulated) sugar
½ cup (packed) brown sugar
¼ cup (unsweetened) cocoa (powder)
1¼ cups boiling water

1.     Cream together the first two ingredients (sugar and butter).
2.     Add milk to the above mixture.
3.     Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa; add to above mixture. Stir well and put in 9” buttered and floured (or sprayed) pan.
I use a fine mesh strainer to "sift" the flour directly over the creamed mixture.
4.     Sprinkle with nuts.
5.     Combine ½ cup of sugar, ½ cup brown sugar and ¼ cup cocoa; mix well and spread over top.
6.     Pour boiling water over the top of all.
Cake is ready to go in the oven.
7.     Bake in preheated 350° oven for 30 minutes. Let cool in pan.
The surface of the cake contains moist cake, velvety pudding and nuts.
We like the new dark chocolate Hershey's® cocoa but it
does turn bake goods a dark color.


  1. I love cakes without eggs! this cake sounds super yummy...i gotta try it soon. thanks for posting.

  2. It is good! I just talked to Hines' great niece (Cora Jane Spiller) this a.m. and she said this was her go-to dessert for years.

  3. cake without seems interesting...
    I'll follow your proposition...
    thanks for sharing...
    kissies from Greece...-:))

  4. Love Greek food so hope you like this vintage American cake!