Retro Recipes - Chocolate Cake with Boiled Icing

Happy Monday!

I'm starting something new at Nesty - Retro Recipes!  These posts will feature a classic recipe that has stood the test of time and made people happy for generations!  Recipes you have probably enjoyed at home, for Sunday dinner, to comfort, and to celebrate!

For my first Retro Recipe post, I'm featuring a classic Cape Breton recipe, Chocolate Cake with Boiled Icing.
Chocolate Cake with Boiled Icing, Mmmmmm!
I'm going to assume that all of you have had chocolate cake (if not, my sympathies).  It's entirely possible that you've never had boiled icing, though.  If that's the case, you're really missing out.  It's an East Coast classic, and every family has at least one cook who makes "the best chocolate cake with boiled icing ever."  I can remember watching my Aunt Irene make it for family birthdays.  My family is blessed with several ace bakers who all make fabulous versions of this delectable dessert, and I make a not too shabby version myself.

For the uninitiated, boiled icing is made by combining brown sugar, egg whites, cold water and a bit of salt in a double boiler and beating the mixture until it forms peaks.  Recipes vary from cook to cook, and some include vanilla. (Please share your version in the comments!) You may be familiar with a similar icing known as White Mountain Frosting, which follows a similar method but uses white sugar and corn syrup instead of brown sugar.  Boiled Icing is one of those recipes which is a multi-sensory experience, something you taste with your nose before you actually take a bite.  The frosting has a wonderfully sweet fragrance which combines with the deep chocolately scent of the cake to form a mouthwatering perfume.  The cake is visually pleasing too; if the frosting is properly made, its light peaks will float high above the dark chocolate cake.  Indeed, at home, if you see a chocolate cake with boiled icing in a restaurant's dessert case, there is little doubt that you will be ordering a slice.

A note about chocolate cake.  As I mentioned above, while I'm sure all of you have had chocolate cake, it's possible you may have never had chocolate cake from scratch.  Mixes and store boughts have their place, but if you've never made a chocolate cake from scratch it's time to muster your courage and give it a try.  I promise it's really not that hard and the results will absolutely be worth the effort.

I was going to post a link to a recipe, but I wasn't able to find one online.  Funny, but my experience has been that the best versions of this recipe have been handed down on handwritten notes and recipe cards for generations.  The recipe I have been using with great success (and the one pictured above) is the recipe from the Cedar House Restaurant and Bakery as it appears in Cape Breton Tastes, Recipes from Cape Breton's Best Restaurants with Gary Walsh.  My husband received a copy of this book as a going away gift last year and it is a wonderful collection of recipes from some of Cape Breton's best restaurants and features glorious photography of Cape Breton by award winning photographer Warren Gordon.  I will continue to try and get a recipe for this frosting that isn't copy written (this may involve asking a family member to send me theirs!).

When it comes to cooking, be brave.  Everyone starts somewhere!  My best advice to beginner cooks it to pick up a copy of a really good general purpose cookbook (like the Betty Crocker Cookbook or The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook).  These books have every basic recipe you could ever need, from meatballs to chocolate cake.  Pick a recipe and make it a few times, and before you know it you'll be adding your own twist to it.  Just have fun. These cookbooks often cover the very basics, such as cooking techniques for different kinds of food; I still rely on Betty Crocker's vegetable charts.  My other bit of advice is this; you can't love cooking if you don't love food and you can't love food if you don't eat it!  Again, be brave!  Try something different on a menu.  Pick up Thai dumplings from the freezer instead of egg rolls or spring rolls.  Use pesto on your pasta instead of tomato sauce.  When you start challenging your palate you will gain inspiration to cook and create.  And even if you never learn to truly love cooking, by learning the basics you will be able to prepare many simple, yet delicious and satisfying meals at home.

Part of the purpose for starting Retro Recipes is to focus on how simple to prepare many classic recipes actually are. For example, although there's nothing quite like Sunday dinner at home, you'd be amazed at how easy it actually is to prepare roast beef, chicken, or turkey.  (I really believe the vegetables are more work!)

If there's a Retro Recipe you'd like me to feature, let me know!  I love a challenge and I love new recipes!

Two more things before I go!  First, it has come to my attention that some of you are experiencing difficulty posting comments to Nesty.  I have made some adjustments to my settings and have successfully received a comment, so I believe the problem is fixed.  However, if you experience difficulty commenting, please let me know!  You can email me at

And finally, a great new blog for you to check out!  My cousin Ainsley has started Patty-Cake Manners, and she has lots of great stories about her family's adventures in the North, as well as her hobbies and interests.  Ainsley is a talented scrapbooker, cardmaker, quilter, and gardener, and was published in the current issue of Canadian Scrapbooker magazine.  So go on over and check out her blog!

Have a great week!


  1. I'm craving cake! I love the idea of retro recipes! I'll be looking forward to seeing what you come up with. And thanks for the mention! xo

  2. Love the recipe idea . Had that exact cake last night!! I really think you should do " pork pies", which just happen to be my personal fav !

  3. The recipe in Tastes is directly from the Cedar House, so they are the owners of the copyright, otherwise I might be able to get permission from the author. Just to let everybody now, the cookbook is available to order on the Chapters website. Even though the recipe is from my father's book - I'm partial to my grandmother's boiled icing. Remember, do not try to make boiled icing on a humid day!

  4. Thanks for the tips Catherine! I love your Dad's book so much...I take it out when I'm homesick and look at the pictures and read the recipes! I make the bannock a lot too!

  5. um did you know that cake if maybe one of my favorite things...EVER.. and now I really want cake lol.

  6. Have you tried the boiled icing recipe using the Nutri-whip? mmm mmm good! Holds up much better and stays in shape!


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