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.