Wellesley Fudge Cake

Wellesley Fudge Cake RecipeCan you imagine the mayhem that would ensue in today’s world if a top college official banned sweets from the diet of its students. Unimaginable, right?  Believe it or not, in the late 1800s, that is exactly what the founder of Wellesley College did.  “Pies, lies, and doughnuts should never have a place at Wellesley College” declared Henry Durant.  I’m sure he had only the best of intentions in mind for the young women when he sent a letter to their parents stating that ‘the college refused to accept students who were broken down in health, maintaining that a proper diet is key for proper learning, and that “we have therefore decided not to receive any one who will not come with the resolution to obey cheerfully all our rules in this respect, and pledged in honor neither to buy nor receive in any manner whatsoever any confectionery or eatables of any kind not provided for them by the College’.  I’m pretty positive that wouldn’t have been the school for me.
Wellesley Fudge Cake RecipeWellesley Fudge Cake RecipeThe letter may have been signed by all Wellesley attendees, but I’m betting that not everyone honored their commitment.  Legend has it that many of the girls of Wellesley chose to indulge in both sweets and lies by making contraband fudge in their dorms late at night.  The exact details of how their fudge making evolved into a chocolate cake with ‘fudgy’ chocolate frosting is up for debate.  I’m just happy it did.
Wellesley Fudge Cake RecipeI adapted this recipe from one printed in a January 2010 issue of Cook’s Country Magazine.  Initially, I wasn’t overly impressed with the cake component of the recipe.  However, after sitting a day under a cloak of fudgy frosting, the cake took on a whole new personality.  Likewise, the first go-round with the frosting was a total failure.  It was grainy and lumpy and extremely thin.  In the trash it went.  I significantly adapted the recipe to make it my own and the changes resulted in a silky smooth frosting with a perfect spreading consistency.  It will most definitely be my ‘go to’ chocolate frosting recipe.
Wellesley Fudge Cake RecipeWellesley Fudge Cake RecipeThis cake matured beautifully.  Day after day it became more moist and fudgy.   The best slice was the final slice eaten three days after baking the cake.
Wellesley Fudge Cake Recipe


76 thoughts on “Wellesley Fudge Cake

  1. It definitely wouldn’t have been the school for me either! Although, its students clearly had other ideas in mind and if the results of banning sweets gave birth to a cake like this then I’m glad such a school had existed!

    The cake looks incredibly moist and that frosting is giving me goosebumps – yum!

    • Nazia, it is a little ironic that the very banning of sweets produced something so special we are still talking about it all these years later.

    • This recipe sounds v. much/almost identical, to a mudcake that I make. Only that has double the ingredients! However, your frosting recipe calls for half and half. Half and half – OF WHAT?
      Assume this is America product – never heard of in Oz., but could be a common product under a different name. Could someone please enlighten me??
      Thanks, Jan.

  2. Got Milk….?

    Just looking at the slab of “cake” had me reaching for a glass!

    But my son said that the cake and the frosting – he actually made a noise when he mentioned the frosting – was unbelievably good.

    Not surprising if it came from your kitchen, Mary.

    Guessing the applications for Wellesley dropped considerably after the Dean’s foolish declaration.

    Another Beauty!

    • A big glass of ice cold milk would be the perfect accompaniment for this cake. As a matter of fact, it was my chaser of choice with every piece I ate. :)

  3. Mary, Another breathtaking visual. The back story brings another dimension to your passion and I can only imagine the pleasure I would get enjoying this masterpiece. Thank you for always being an inspiration and for sharing your unwavering joy of baking.

  4. What?? You have a new go-to chocolate frosting recipe? What if we really, really liked the old one? :-)

    Can’t wait to make this. It looks fabulous. Beautiful photos!

    • Michael, this is quite similar to the chocolate frosting I have been making for years, just with a little more versatility. Try it! I think you’ll like it.

  5. A compelling history and a decadent chocolate cake, what a way to begin my day!
    Although I adore Cook’s County recipes and fab tips I’m very pleased to hear I’m not the only one who finds their recipes often need a few changes!

    • Deb, I fear an amateur would have questioned their frosting making abilities and been quite frustrated if they had attempted the Cooks Country’s version of this frosting. Hopefully, with the changes I made, it will result in a delicious frosting for everyone.

  6. Wow, I don`t think I would have been able to discover my love for baking if I had gone to that college at the time! This cake looks like a luscious, chocolate beauty! I would definitely love a slice of this beauty!

    • Half and Half is a combination of milk and cream. You can make your own by combining equal parts whole milk and cream. If you were to substitute one or the other, I would suggest using all cream. It will result in a richer, creamier frosting. Thanks for following along with Sifting Focus.

  7. Oh… my goodness. This cake looks absolutely delicious! I just stumbled upon your blog on pinterest and already you are one of my favorites! :)

  8. I just made this cake…..words cannot express the love! Replacing my long time fave Pennsylvania Dutch cake I’ve used for years with this recipe! Held back half a cup of icing to eat with a spoon…..couldn’t help myself!

    • So glad you liked it Erin! And yes, that frosting is pretty irresistible. By spoon is the best way to enjoy it. 😉

  9. This recipe has become a favorite! I’ve made cupcakes and cakes out of it, and they always get rave reviews. My mom requests it often for special events! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe (:

  10. I had a sudden bug to make a fudgy chocolate cake, with limited ingredients and time. I foun this recipe and it looked good, I am SO. HAPPY. that I tried it!
    Wonderful, moist, exactly the kind of fudginess I was looking for! How often does that happen in a recipe search??
    I made half the batter in a narrow pan (link) and drowned it in a simple chocolate+sour cream frosting (lack of ingredients dictated that!) http://www.hanamal.co.il/upload/ProductPics/SmallPic214.jpg
    And there is enough for one more cake <3
    So much yumm.

  11. Just about to frost this bad-boy, and it will be consumed in two more days after full maturation on my birthday… I’m literally giggling over the thought.

    • What a delicious way to celebrate your birthday. Mine is right around the corner and I think I just might request this cake from my husband. How wrong could it go? I’ll be right there by his side – and probably giving him directions through the whole process. 😉

    • Many cakes can be made with oil as the fat, however, since I have not tested this recipe with oil I can’t be certain as to how it will turn out. If you decide to try it, please let me know how it goes.

  12. I find this terribly amusing as Wellesley College has long supported the rumor(?) that it has an ice cream endowment–that is funds specifically donated to provide ice cream in every dining hall. The ice cream certainly exists, though I can’t vouch for the endowment. The tradition of adapting a recipe for dorm life (~95% of Wellesley students still live in the dorms) was alive and well during my time. I had nearly perfected a recipe for skillet brownies.

    This cake looks delicious! and I’ll support anything inspired by my alma mater :)

  13. Wow! I made this last night and it is fantastic! The frosting is labor-intensive, but SO worth the effort! Thank you so much for sharing the recipe.

    • Jackie, I haven’t tried making this frosting ahead so I can’t 100% say it will work. However, I think it should. Before frosting the cake, bring it back to room temperature and give it a good stir, or even a brief whipping with a whisk or mixer. If you do give it a try, please let me know how it works. Good luck!

  14. Hi! I am supposed to be making this cake tomorrow for my dad’s birthday and I went out to buy everything I needed and my grocery store does not have dutch-processed cocoa! Ahh! So, I bought a mixture of half natural and half dutch processed cocoa. Can someone please tell me if this will mess up the cake?! I’m kind of freaking out:)

    • The cake should turn out just fine. Sometimes it matters what cocoa you use in a recipe. Sometimes they’re interchangeable. I don’t think you’ll have any problems.

  15. Stop!!! Do not attempt to make this cake in 2, 8″ round pans – It spilled all over in my oven and we had to pull them out, dump the batter and open every window for the smoke that filled the house. THREE pans are required if you use 8″ rounds. Ugh!

    • Lee, I wish I could tell you that this cake would be great as a dairy-free cake but I don’t think it would have a good outcome. Even if you used a suitable egg substitute, I don’t know a substitute for buttermilk. If anyone out there does, please enlighten us. That said, a milk substitute would likely work in the frosting. If you give it a try, please let me know. I’m sure there are many ‘dairy free’ cake lovers that would love to know as well.

  16. Mary,
    I’m ecstatic to attempt making this beautiful cake. I’m a beginning baker and I’m wondering about some simple instructions.
    “Transfer to a large bowl. Slice remaining butter into 4 pieces and stir in with the remaining half and half. Add the chopped chocolate and the vanilla and stir until smooth. Slowly whisk in the confectioners’s sugar and cocoa until incorporated. ”
    Do you add these remaining ingredients into the large bowl with the other, already mixed and heated, ingredients? So after this step has been done all of the ingredients should be in the same large bowl, correct?
    I appreciate your help. I’d love to get it right the first (or first few) time.

    Happy Sunday Baking!!

    • So sorry if my recipe was confusing Jessica. I clarified the instructions and updated the recipe so it now reads more clearly on my blog. And yes, all the ingredients end up in the large bowl. Please let me know how it turns out.

      • Baking Update:
        As of now it seems that the cake was a success. I had a tiny slice and it was delicious. Can’t wait for Day 3 to savor the fudge cake and I’ll probably have it for breakfast. ha ha

        Thank you so much for your help. Your instructions were so helpful and easy to follow. I appreciate it!

  17. I’ve just baked it and it’s absolutely amazing and moist. I didn’t have buttermilk, so I replaced it with half milk half yoghurt and it turned out perfectly. I may consider adding chocolate chips or nuts next time too :))

    Thanks a lot!:)

  18. My husband offered to buy me a cake for my birthday but I knew I could find a yummier one and enjoy the fun of baking too. Thank you for this wonderful recipe. My whole family approves, they were trying to canoodle extra pieces :)

  19. I made this just now… halved the frosting and it didn’t turn out good T-T I’m so bummed right now >_< it's like the sugar didn't dissolve well

    • I’m sorry to hear that the recipe wasn’t successful for you. Some recipes won’t work as well when reduced by half. You might want to try the recipe again and make the full amount. You can always refrigerate any extra frosting for another use.

  20. Oh, I remember when this cake was in the magazine, because I went to Wellesley and had never seen or heard of it while there. I will absolutely have to make this now that you’ve reminded me, because it looks AMAZING– and the frosting you came up with is gorgeous!

    • Stephanie, it’s no wonder this cake has stood the test of time. If you do decide to make it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

  21. This cake is cooling on my counter right now! I weighed out my flour (312.5 g) and this is the first cake I’ve made from scratch that has turned out edible. I did let the cakes cool for about 20 minutes in their pans, but next time I would let them cool longer as the bottoms stuck to the pan. Or, I would advise that you line the bottom of the pan with parchment pan in order to avoid the issue I had! I’m sure it’s nothing that a little bit of icing won’t fix though. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    • So happy it turned out successfully for you Robyn. Parchment paper more than likely would do the trick. Cake pans differ and some release better than others. The paper would guarantee a clean release. And yes, icing fixes everything! :)

  22. I’ve made this cake 3 times now and it is really, really good – my favorite by far. I definitely agree that it tastes better a day or two later. My frosting never turns out as pretty as yours but I coat the outside in mini chocolate chips and no ones knows what a bad job I did on the frosting :-) Thanks for sharing the recipe!!

    • Edie, I am enticed by a chocolate cake no matter what it looks like. If it is chocolate cake, and it has chocolate frosting slathered all over it, I’m there with a fork ready to dive in. No matter what the frosting looks like, covering the cake with chocolate chips would be well received by everyone, I’m sure!

  23. You r awesome! i am in process of making this cake… The picture looked so tempting i wanted to just pick it up and eat! Iv just made the frosting and left it to chill but i just couldnt stop myself from licking all the tools clean! I just hope it reaches the perfect spreadable consistency after being chilled..

  24. Was looking at websites from Pinterest and saw this recipe. Loved the story, and the cake looks delish. I have a suggestion you might want to try the next time you make this cake: instead of adding the water to the cake, make that 3/4 cup of water into a cup of strong coffee. It will add more flavor, though not a coffee flavor! I have two favorite chocolate cake recipes and both call for strong coffee. I plan to try this recipe soon. Thanks!

    • Thanks Lori for the suggestion! I often add coffee to my chocolate recipes. It gives chocolate sweets a wonderful boost of flavor without being discernible. Hope you enjoy the cake. I just made it again last week and took it to a party. It was a big hit!

  25. Also the frosting recipe is rich and wonderful. Big hit with the family. Also when serving this cake I served just a one inch by two inch slice because it is so rich. Served some with a dollop of fresh whipped cream others with a small dollop of vanilla ice cream but I like it with a glass of cold milk. Yum

  26. I made this frosting and it turned out great. I had to use some heavy cream at the end to thin it out because it was a bit thick for my taste. It was great nevertheless. Thanks for sharing!

    • Glad you liked the frosting Nicole. And yes, it can be a little finicky, either a little too thin or a little too thick – but oh so worth it!

      • My frosting came out absolutely perfect. I put it in the fridge for one hour then took it out and gave it a bit of a mix up for about 30 seconds. Then I let it warm up a bit maybe ten minutes and frosted the cake. Perfect texture. Not too thin not too thick. Just perfect and fudgey. I used a nine inch pan and the cake turned out fine. Would probably use eight inch next as I like a bit more cake to the frosting. Has anyone ever made cupcakes with this recipe? I bet they would be heavenly !

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