My grandmother grew up in the sandhills of North Carolina. As the oldest girl of 11 brothers and sisters, she helped her mother in the kitchen and was always a good cook.

She did most of her work from memory and experience. But she did keep one cookbook around: One that was probably given to her when she was young. An edition of “The New Practical Housekeeping” printed in 1890.

She would occasionally clip a recipe and tuck it in the pages. But the recipe below, she wrote on the book-leaf herself. It’s for “Mrs. Rhoads’ Chocolate Cake.” Mrs. Rhoads was a long time family friend who passed on well before my birth.

The Recipe

Here’s the recipe in a more readable text:

Mrs Rhoads Chocolate Cake (circa 1900)

  • 3/8 cup of Butter Substitute
  • 1/2 cup of Corn Syrup
  • 1/2 cup of Maple Syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 sq chocolate - melted
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream the fat, add the corn and maple syrup and the eggs well beaten.

Sift baking powder, flour, salt and soda together, and add to the first mixture, alternatively with the milk.

Add melted chocolate and vanilla and beat well.

Bake in two layers or in small tins, until firm to the touch and the mixture shrinks from the sides of the pans.

Time will be 30 minutes for the layer and 20 or 25 minutes for the small cakes.


I believe “1 square of chocolate” refers to the Bakers’ 1 ounce square.

The recipe probably assumes a “medium oven” – IE: 350F / 180C

Traditionally White Lily self-rising flour is a brand used in southern recipes like this. It has a lower protein and gluten content, which results in a lighter, fluffier baked good with a greater rise.