Granny’s Old-Fashioned Multi-layer Cake with Boiled Chocolate Frosting | Timeless Traditions

Today’s Timeless Tradition’s post is an absolute honor to share with you. When Emilee told me she wanted to share her Granny’s cake and some of the memories that went with it I was so pleased. Not going to lie, I teared up a bit. It is just so special when people are willing to give a bit of their heart to strangers. Even if it is a homemade cake recipe and quick story. Gets me every time, guys. 

Please take the time to read the little bit from Emilee about this cake. This is a special recipe to her and we are honored that she shared it!

There is something that I love about old family recipes. These are the recipes that you may uncover in a kitchen drawer after their passing, shoved away because that person has committed it to memory. The recipes that you have fond memories of, recipes that remind you of the special holidays spent with loved ones. The recipes that instead of the elaborate instructions most of us are used to following in today’s day and time, simply say things like “mix” or “bake until done”.

My granny’s old-fashioned multi-layer cake with a boiled chocolate frosting is one of those recipes. Before she passed away this past January, she was known for this cake in our area. Her hands, gnarled by time and arthritis but still soft, would spend hours preparing each almost paper thin layer of cake (exactly 3 ½ tablespoons of batter went into each pan according to her notes, or the equivalent of her “black kitchen spoon”), stirring the fudge-like frosting, and assembling this work of art.

I call this a multilayered cake because the number of layers she included always – somehow – seemed to vary. Sometimes we would count only 13 or 14 layers, other times, we would spot 16 or 17 as it depended on how thick she poured her batter (though I ended up with 16 possible cake layers for this post, I only stacked 12 as a few didn’t quite make it – hey, I had to taste test!). I think her record was 19 delicious layers. It was always a bit of a game for us to guess how many layers the cake held before diving into it. Everyone’s eating methods varied. Some shoveled the cake into their mouths, other ate the cake layer by layer (which was my way). If we gathered for a special occasion such as a birthday, then the “guest of honor” would be the one to have the first piece – the outside piece which had double the amount of frosting as the others.

The cake holds so many memories for my family. I remember the first time my cousin brought his girlfriend – now wife – over for Thanksgiving. Wanting to be helpful, she started to slice the cake but she sliced it into wedges not the petite rectangles we were accustomed to (as a cake like this is best enjoyed in small slices, preferably with a glass of milk). When my granny spotted this, she quickly took the knife away from the girl, making her have a seat as she worked to undo the damage. We still laugh about that almost 10 years later.

I remember another time, during a family reunion, where my cousins and I spotted what appeared to be our granny’s layered cake sitting on the dessert table. We made it our mission to race over there, getting a piece before it disappeared. We were all sorely disappointed to find that this was, in fact, not our granny’s cake but another family member’s who had used a regular store bought icing.

The first time my mother and I attempted my granny’s multi-layered cake was an event in itself. We had worked all afternoon on it, carefully cooking each paper thin layer of cake, guarding the fudge-like frosting as it cooked away on the stove so that it wouldn’t burn, and finally, assembling it. Pleased with ourselves, we stepped out of the kitchen until a loud splat brought us running back. Our beautiful cake was now in bits and pieces all over the floor – we had assembled it while it had been too warm and the layers had slid apart. I looked at my mom and did the only thing that I could do at the moment. I sat on the floor and started eating.

It was delicious.

Now you may find that there is something unique in this recipe that isn’t in a lot of other boiled frosting recipes – marshmallows. When I called my mom to ask if she remembered including marshmallows when we attempted to recreate the cake years ago, she said that it didn’t seem familiar to her but perhaps that was why her attempt failed. In doing a little digging, I found out that including marshmallows in a boiled chocolate frosting was something that popped up in the 1960’s, mostly in a few areas of the country.

I think that the inclusion of marshmallow helps to really make the frosting come together quickly and easily. Don’t be ashamed if your first couple of attempts at making this cake come out less than spectacular. As long as the taste is there, you can work on your finesse. It took my granny years to perfect her cake and even then, she would occasionally put out a product that was, in her mind, “sub-par”. I simply called it rustic. Trust me, you’ll still end up with the perfect addition to your holiday table.

Granny’s Old-Fashioned Multi-layer Cake with Boiled Chocolate Frosting

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  • 1 stick of margarine room temperature
  • 1 stick of butter room temperature
  • 2 c. white cane sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 c. self-rising flour
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ c. whole milk


  • 1 ½ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 ½ c. white cane sugar
  • 2 ¼ c. evaporated milk
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • 1 stick margarine
  • 12 large marshmallows
Check out our Kitchen Reference Guide for help with unfamiliar terms.



  • Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  • Grease and flour your 9” baking pans (I used shortening and flour).
  • Beat butter, margarine, and sugar together with an electric mixer until creamy.
  • Add in your eggs, vanilla, milk, and flour, mixing until well combined.
  • Using a measuring cup, measuring out just over ¼ of a cup of batter in each of your baking tins. Smooth out the batter using the back of a spoon.
  • Bake each layer for 8-10 minutes until done - depending on the amount of batter you add to each tin will dictate how long it will take to cook. You’ll want the cake to spring back when touching lightly in the center. Remove from pans to the cooling racks.
  • Wipe out cake pans, grease and flour the again, and bake the remaining cake layers as directed.


  • In a large heavy saucepan, melt the cocoa powder, sugar, evaporated milk, vanilla extract, margarine, and marshmallows over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Bring to a rolling boil and cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly. Be careful as the liquid will be hot.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Assemble your cake, pouring your frosting over each layer.
  • Let sit for a and enjoy!


Makes about 12-layers, sometimes more, sometimes less

About Emilee, our Timeless Traditions guest:

Emilee is a soon-to-be mother, entrepreneur, and blogger juggling a full-time job at a local community college. The Southern Belle Blogs follows her journey as a “semi-crunchy” mom and encompasses her love of food along with her work building her small homestead, and her life with her duck hunting boyfriend, her 2 cats, 2 dogs, and their 4 chickens in a small Northeastern North Carolina town.

16 thoughts on “Granny’s Old-Fashioned Multi-layer Cake with Boiled Chocolate Frosting | Timeless Traditions”

  1. 5 stars
    This is the kind of cakes my grandmother made for my brother and myself on our birthdays every year when we were little and she would also make the icing either chocolate with pecans or a pineapple or lemon filling and our birthday is only one day apart so I remember her making me usually the pineapple or lemon but my brother always wanted the chocolate which she would make them for us and I have seen pictures of both of us in our high chairs and a whole cake sitting on them for each of us. I don’t believe she used marshmallows in her icing but it was delicious. Thank You for this recipe. Brenda Barrs

  2. I’m so excited for you to try this and be able to have fond memories of your mom while you do. This is fudgy and runny and not overly sweet so I bet you’ll love it. Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it.

  3. Hi,I’m 58 and have been trying to find the coco icing my mother used to make for the dark hersheys fudge cake for me every birthday! She died in 1979 when I was 16. All I remember was she used a recipie on the back of a can of hersheys coco. It was a dark chocolate(not overly sweet,like confectioners sugar),fudgy and runny. This seems so close(minus the marshmellows)I am so excited to try this! Will let you know how it turns out! BTW I never make posts,that’s how excited I am! Any tips?

  4. This is an old recipe from the 70’s from granny….she wrote it and we don’t mess with her instructions. But yes, I imagine you could use butter in both places.

  5. I may be ignorant here, but why margarine in the cake, and butter in the frosting? Couldn’t you use butter in the cake also? I have not cooked with margarine since the 70’s! Thank you.

  6. I may be ignorant here, but why margarine in the cake, and butter in the frosting??? Can’t you use butter in the cake also??? I haven’t cooked with margarine since the 70’s! Thank you!

  7. I’m so glad! Those old recipes are connected to so many memories, aren’t they. You’ll have to come back and let us know if it is what you remember.

  8. I have been looking for this recipe and sounds exactly like the ones my grandmother used to make for our family. She made the chocolate icing like that too but also would sometimes use a lemon or pineapple filling and topping. Happy to find this recipe. Thank You, Brenda

  9. I’m from North Carolina also. My Granny made blackberry pies she called “stackin’ pies”. They resembled this cake. The pies were a favorite summer memory of mine. She would stack these thin pies as high as 8 or 9 pies. They were wonderful!!

  10. Isn’t this cake something else! Thanks for coming back and leaving a comment…a wonderful comment! We can’t wait to hear how the cake turns out. And danishes and croissants are difficult, so impressed you tackle those!

  11. 5 stars
    The story behind this cake was so moving I am diving into this recipe tonight. I am known more for danishes and croissants…but my cake feet are about to get wet! I have never heard of boiled frosting so that is a new adventure as well. Again, I was touched by the history of this cake and hope to do your grandma proud! I am forwarding 5 stars!

  12. 5 stars
    Look forward to making this with my mother in law. She has won awards for her baking and i can barely bake at all ( icebox cake is about it.. and no baki g involved there) so should fun! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Sure. You’ll have to add time to the cake’s baking time to account for the thicker cake.

  14. Sharon starnes

    Hi, the cake sounds wonderful! Can you make just a regular 8 or 9 inch 2 or 3 layer cake instead of the very thin ones? I run on very limited time.
    Thank you ! Sharon Starnes.

4.23 from 18 votes (14 ratings without comment)

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