I love to bake, but didn't grow up in a family that passed down recipes from generation to generation and connected through a love of food. So when I heard about a popular 80-year-old chocolate cake recipe on Reddit, I knew I needed to live vicariously through another family's love of baking and try it out for myself.
Posted ten days ago by Reddit user Kristin Toth (u/iamktf) on the Old_Recipes subreddit, "Nana's Devils Food" has generated quite a buzz on the site, with over 2,000 upvotes since it was posted in October. Toth, who lives in Manchester, New Hampshire, shared the chocolate cake recipe, writing, "Best chocolate cake ever, guaranteed," and explained in the comments that her family traces the recipe back to a time long ago when they made a home in the outskirts of Philadelphia.
Other commenters on Toth's post jumped in, comparing the recipe to ones that appeared long ago on cans of Hershey's cocoa powder, or sharing childhood stories of their grandmothers making something similar, most often handed down from a friend or neighbor.
"I had nearly forgotten about this recipe until my mid twenties when I asked my mother to try to track it down before it was lost forever," Toth told TODAY Food. "When she found the recipe, it was beaten to hell and written in nearly illegible handwriting, but we were able to decipher it and have been sharing it with anyone who will listen since then."
As for the origins of the family recipe, Toth says that's a bit more mysterious.
"Anyone who could have shed light on this is long since deceased," she said. "Popular opinion is it originated mid-century and was passed along by a close family friend before it was adopted by our family as our go-to cake recipe."
As for the name of the cake, that's a more simple story that, surprisingly, doesn't involve Grandma.
"This has been my older brothers favorite cake since the '70s, and one day he just started referring to it as 'Nana’s Devil's Food Cake,'" Toth explained. "This is curious because we come from a Hungarian family, and while we have plenty of 'Nagymama’s' and 'Nagypapa’s,' we have never had a 'Nana.'"
To make my own version of the recipe, I gathered the simple ingredients — eggs, flour, cocoa powder, a cup of coffee (cooled but not cold), to name a few — and went to work. The instructions in the Reddit post are brief, simply saying to combine the dry ingredients and wet ones separately then fold them together. After sifting my dry ingredients, I combined the two and poured the mixture into a greased and floured bundt pan.
The Reddit recipe doesn't provide a specific cooking time, but after preheating my oven to 375 F as instructed, I read through comments where people said they'd baked theirs between 25 and 30 minutes. I started there, but after 30 minutes, my cake needed more time. I ended up baking it closer to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into it came out clean.
Just seeing the bottom of the cake in the bundt pan, I knew it was going to be good. The color was richly dark and it smelled amazing. In fact, twice while baking and cooling the cake, my 12-year-old son said, "Mom, that chocolate cake smells so good."
Toth, too, recalls the heavenly fragrance of the cake.
"This cake was an integral part of my childhood," she shared. "The addition of coffee to the mix gives it an unmistakable scent that brings me back to my childhood kitchen to this day."
While Redditors commented about icing the cake with everything from salted caramel to peanut butter, I used a traditional chocolate ganache recipe from Curtis Stone. It was simple to make and even simpler to drizzle on top of the cake when it cooled a bit.
When I cut into the cake, I could see how moist, warm and gooey the center was. And the first bite? Chocolate heaven. Toth's "guarantee" that this is the best chocolate cake is real. Like she and her family, I'll now be using this recipe as my go-to chocolate cake recipe from here on out.
I'm eager to make the cake again with different frostings, but the dark chocolate ganache I used was true chocolate perfection. The bitterness of the dark chocolate drizzle combined with the sweet, milky chocolate of the cake made for a perfectly balanced bite.
And my son, who drooled over the heavenly chocolate aroma coming from my oven all evening? He had three slices.
"You haven't had chocolate until you've tried this cake," he told my daughter as he shoveled it into his mouth.