It’s funny how a series of happy accidents can make fantastic memories. Recipes are often the tie that binds, and this is no exception. The following is one part family recipe*, one part blizzard ingenuity project**, and one part internet stumble***. Together, they fell together in what tasted exactly like a Suzy-Q! If you don’t know what a Suzy-Q is, I like to describe it as a devils food cake sandwich, filled with a marshamallowy cream. Suzy-Q disappeared in 2012 when Hostess went bankrupt due to a baker’s strike. Like the Twinkie and Sno-Balls, the devil’s food treat has been brought back by the 2013 revamped Hostess Brands, LLC. Reports are that the treat has drastically changed, so this recipe may be gleefully welcome in your kitchen.
Each part of this recipe is relatively simple to make. The cakes, in my opinion, are better if you bake them the day before icing. The marshmallow-like top is best added last, for a couple of reasons; its a little messy, & without a cake cover, it can form a bit of a crust. I bet this would be an exceptional cupcake recipe, and I’ll be sure to add an edit if I give it a try!
If you’d like to know more about the stories that led to this delightful confection, read on after the recipe.... (because, seriously? Who cares about a 5 page dialogue, just get to the recipe!)
Suzy Q Cake
A couple of helpful hints... Measure your ingredients, and put the water on to boil. Once you add moisture to baking powder and soda, waiting for the water to come up to temperature can result in cakes that have a rounded top. Cakes can be cooled completely, wrapped tightly, and frozen for up to 60 days.
- 2 cups all-purpose or gluten-free AP flour substitute
- 2 cups white sugar
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder or instant coffee
- 1 cup buttermilk (the Babcie approved option), milk, almond, coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons of sour cream (optional but helpful if you don’t have buttermilk)
- ½ cup vegetable, canola oil, or melted coconut oil
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water
- Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring. Put water on to boil
- Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt & espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk throughly to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir flour mixture until combined well.
- Check that water is boiling before starting the next step.
- Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, & vanilla to flour mixture. Mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and slowly add boiling water to the cake batter until well combined. Batter will be very loose.
- Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick, inserted into the center of the cake, comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Remove cakes from the pans, and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Now, its true, Suzy Q’s did not have icing or a chocolate coating. But, initially this was a traditional, buttercream iced chocolate cake, that needed a little camouflage.*** Also, I’m not so sure that the marshmallow would work as a filling. My family’s recipe suggests using cold butter & water, and the use of a food processor. I’ve also made this successfully with a hand mixer, and a stand mixer.
Ice cool cakes. If cakes are too tall in the center, shave the mound off using a bread knife. Be sure to set aside those crumbs to mix with a little icing for a perfect “taste test”. I like to flip my cakes over so the crisp corners from the pan are on top. Icing between the layers is most important, but icing the WHOLE cake can’t hurt!
- 1 pound confectioners sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1/3 cup butter
- dash of salt
- 1/3 cup water with 1 tsp of espresso powder or instant coffee
- 1 tsp vanilla
In a Mixer
- Cream room temp butter and salt. Slowly add water & vanilla until blended.
- Add cocoa & cream
- Slowly add confectioners sugar
- Add water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.
In a food processor:
- Put sugar, cocoa, cold butter, and salt your mixing bowl, and process.
- Add cold water and vanilla.
- Process until smooth.
Okay, this is important: be sure that your mixing bowl, utensils, and whisk are CLEAN. Any form of grease will make your egg whites flop, and the magic won’t work. I’ve not made this with anything other than a stand mixer, and don’t intend to try. This stuff is super fun in a pastry bag, but does not store well. Plastic wrap will be a challenge, so I suggest a cake plate. If you intend to use sprinkles, don’t wait! This icing sets up quickly and toppings won’t stick.
- 2 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites and salt, on high speed, until foamy.
- With the mixer still running, slowly add the sugar. Beat mixture until soft peaks form (when you pull the mixer out of the mixture, you should get a little point that bends over, almost like the top of a soft serve ice cream).
- Over medium heat bring the corn syrup to a boil, in a small saucepan. When the corn syrup comes to a boil, remove from heat. Slowly pour the hot corn syrup into the egg mixture, while your mixer is mixing on high. Beat the mixture until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes.
- Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
And now a couple of short stories:
*My grandmother, Babcie, was a great Polish cook & an occasional baker. There is a family legend that her “Cocoa Cake” won some sort of Betty Crocker, or Better Homes and Gardens type baking contest in the 1950’s. It’s the little things about this recipe that I adore, like how it uses exactly the right amount of butter to grease the pans and make icing with only one stick. This was usually the cake of our childhood birthdays, and continues to be a favorite.
**One stormy winter day, I found myself with lots of time, and few things to eat around the house. So, the decision was made that there should be cookies! Alas, we only had cake flour. There should be cake! So, cake there was, but no confectioners sugar!! One internet stumble later, I found this fun recipe for a fluff-like icing, that seemed to be just the thing. It’s been a household fave ever since!.
***In January 2018, I decided to make a friend a birthday cake. Of course, I got my wires crossed, and made it a week early, but who cares! There was cake, on both weekends. At the time, our home was being gently redecorated, and I just couldn’t put my hands on Babcie’s legendary cocoa cake recipe. So, off to the internet. I found a recipe that looked close-ish, so I incorporated a couple things from memory, and gave it a go. The result was moist, a little loftier than Babcie’s, and definitely more Suzy-Q like. My first attempt resulted in cakes that were so rounded, that my lovely treat cracked. Obviously, the solution was a marshmallow top to hide my structural mishap.