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Cake, icing recipes lost & found

Q: I saw your July 24th column ("Rye bread recipe lost … and found," Good Eating) in which you tracked down a missing beloved rye bread recipe. Could you work that magic again?  I had a Trib recipe for chocolate cake and icing which the Trib represented was the winner from over 200 recipes the Trib people tested to find the perfect chocolate cake. I made it for a friend's birthday and she was nuts about it. I want to make it again for her and I'll be darned if I can find the recipe. The recipe might have been printed between 1980 and 1988, I think.  Definitely no earlier than October, 1977, because I did not live in Chicago until then.

—Kate Saccany, Evanston

A: Those recipes ran in Abby Mandel's "Weekend Cook" column published by the Chicago Tribune on Nov. 15, 1987.

Mandel, the late cookbook author, columnist and founder of Chicago's Green City Market, had asked readers for their idea of the perfect chocolate cake. And she got dozens of recipes which she tested and winnowed down to her faves.

Two recipes for chocolate cake and one recipe for frosting were included in Mandel's column. A quick email exchange with you established the cake recipe you wanted came from Florence Martin of Marengo, Ill. The frosting recipe was submitted by Norma Johnson of Oak Park.

Chocolate buttermilk cake

Prep: 45 minutes. Bake: 30 minutes. Makes: One 9-inch 3-layer cake

Abby Mandel included this cake recipe from Florence Martin of Marengo, Ill., in one of her "Weekend Cook" columns in 1987. It was chosen by her as one of two winning recipes in a search for the perfect chocolate cake.

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups buttermilk

Satin fudge frosting, recipe follows

1. Fifteen minutes before baking, place rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans and line with parchment or waxed paper. Butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together and set aside.

3. Cream the sugar and butter with an electric mixer on high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla.

4. Alternately add the buttermilk and dry ingredients, in thirds, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

5. Transfer to prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then loosen from the pans with a small knife. Invert onto a wire rack and cool completely. When cool, spread with satin fudge frosting.

Satin fudge frosting

Prep: 10 minutes. Cook: 6 minutes. Chill: Several hours. Makes: About 2 cups

A frosting recipe from Norma Johnson of Oak Park featured in one of Abby Mandel's "Weekend Cook" columns.

5 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1 1/3 cups sugar

1 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1. Cut the chocolate into small pieces and set aside.

2. Combine the sugar and cream in a heavy 3-quart pan, stirring to dissolve. Bring to a boil, then cook for 6 minutes from the time it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and butter, stirring until melted. Add the vanilla.

3. Refrigerate until well chilled, but not solid. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until it is a soft, spreadable consistency.

Do you have a question about food or drink? E-mail Bill Daley at: wdaley@tribune.com. Snail mail inquiries should be sent to: Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60611. Twitter @billdaley.

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