I am so proud to be able to share this deliciously moist, time-honored chocolate cake recipe with all of you! It has been handed down through at least 4 generations in our family, possibly more. It’s a simple looking sheet cake, with fantastic rich, tangy, chocolaty flavor. Who is John Hoosier you ask? Great question. When this recipe was given to me by my mother-in-law I asked her the same question, and she had no idea! I always wondered about the name every time I made this classic Sunday dessert. But then I would get busy making it, eating it and then the distractions of life would call my thoughts another way. My childhood A.D.D. comes back to haunt me I swear! :0)
So in sharing this recipe with you I decided I better do a little research. I expected to find some notable
‘John Hoosier’ from antiquities that did something, or was something, that would cause a simple but delicious cake to forever bear his name. I could not find any notable ‘John Hoosier’ in history. However, the moniker ‘Hoosier’ is well know to local southern Indiana residents and is said to originate there in the mid to late 1800’s. The term then, some would argue, was used for various simple folk from dock workers to backwoods-type immigrant settlers. Some think that it started when they would yell out “who’sh’ere?” So as not to shoot a friend or family member approaching in the forest :0) As the years progressed into the early 1900’s if you were called a Hoosier it was not a nice thing to say; more like saying you were a lazy redneck! Well now, hold on just a minute! I do recall Grandma Kreps referring to this cake as ‘a poor man’s cake’. So we’ve come to the answer to the question: the cake’s not named after a person, but rather it’s a label for a poor, back-woods redneck cake!
The evidence is there; the cake is made with butter-milk (sour milk), a traditional old-time family’s milk. After milking the cow the fresh milk was left to sit for a time so the cream could separate and be skimmed off for churning butter. The remaining milk usually had soured a bit. Nowadays you can purchase cultured buttermilk, in which bacteria is added to create the tart flavor.
When I received this recipe I was informed that there’s an easy substitute for buttermilk if you don’t have any handy.
Adding 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to one cup of milk will curdle it and give a similar tartness. I made it using this method many times and the cake is wonderful! So moist and flavorful. Honestly, I’ve made this twice with store bought buttermilk and it tasted so bland! The ‘substitute buttermilk’ wins hands down for my family as being the tastier cake, and I won’t make it any other way.
Here’s the recipe for you to enjoy, and may it become a family favorite for your go-to easy and delicious Sunday night dessert. Top off a hot slice of frosted cake with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Those old-timers may have been poor but they sure knew how to make the best of it! :0)
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