Not chocolate cake, that’s a different thing.
Advertisement for cocoa cakes (among other things) from the June 24, 1863 edition of the Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Argus.
When we talk about chocolate, we usually think about chocolate bars, which are basically chocolate-flavored candy. But it isn’t as if Milton Hershey was an Aztec king. It took time for us to get there.
In a nutshell, the modern process for making chocolate candy is to grind cocoa beans into a paste that’s roughly half cocoa butter and half cocoa solids (because the bean itself is 54% cocoa butter). The paste is heated until it’s a liquid; while liquid, we add sugar, milk solids (if milk chocolate), and some amount of either cocoa solids or cocoa butter to adjust the cocoa concentration of the bar. The liquor is cooled and, voila, chocolate candy.
A necessary step in the process of making modern chocolate is to obtain either isolated cocoa butter or cocoa solids. And while the U.S. had a chocolate manufacturer in 1765, nobody had a process for isolating cocoa butter or solids until the 19th century.
In 1828, Dutch chemist Casparaus van Houten invented a hydraulic press that he used to squeeze cocoa butter out of ground cocoa beans in paste form, reducing the fat content by half and forming the paste into a hard cake. That cake could then be ground into a powder, and thus, cocoa powder was born.
Speaking broadly, cocoa butter is what gives a chocolate bar its texture and cocoa powder is what gives a chocolate bar its flavor (that is, other than the sugar). So it became easier to flavor cakes with cocoa, given that cakes often have plenty of fat on their own.
From the box of A.D. from Lutz, Florida, by way of Pennsylvania in the 1940s, and originating in Ohio in the 1920s.
1/2 cup butter
1 scant cup sugar
4 Tbsp. cocoa
1-1/4 cups sweet milk
1 tsp. [Vanilla] extract
2-2/3 cups [self-rising] flour
Bake in layers.
- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.
- Cream butter, sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, waiting till incorporated.
- While mixing at a low speed, alternate adding flour and milk. Continue to beat until smooth.
- Fill two greased and floured 9″ cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes.