Rosa’s Mud Cake

It’s hard to even count how many different shapes and sizes Rosa’s Mud Cake has taken over the past three decades. That’s it up there, in a heart shape underneath frosting and an army of m&ms for Phoebe’s Valentine-themed birthday party a few years back. It was also the cake I used for Phoebe’s birthday “beach cake” and the dessert I made for my parents anniversary (one round pan, sprinkled with powdered sugar, surrounded by raspberries) and, of course, the cake I ate at my best friend’s birthday parties all through childhood. Her mother is the famous Rosa and she cooked the most amazing meals for her family from a collection of recipes she had jammed into in little wooden box on her kitchen counter. (How I dream of that box!) Even before I had kids, I knew enough to dig around for the mud cake card so I could copy down the instructions and continue her tradition. The secret to its moist muddiness is a cup of strong black coffee. (Don’t be scared by that, you’ll hardly taste any mocha action.) Is there any wonder the recipe has been enshrined on my recipe door?

Rosa’s Mud Cake
Makes 1 9×13 sheet cake or 2 9-inch layers.

1 1/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup strong black coffee (brewed, not grinds!)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Dump everything in a bowl, mix, pour into a sheet pan that has been buttered and lightly floured. Bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Glaze
More often than not, I make this cake without frosting. But here’s a glaze that takes about 10 minutes (most of it hands-off time) that is impossible to mess up. (Unlike most of the frostings I attempt.)

Dump a small bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 6 ounces) in a heatproof bowl. Meanwhile heat 1 cup of heavy cream so it’s bubbling but not boiling. Pour over chocolate chips and let sit about 2 minutes without stirring. Whisk together and pour over cake that has been set over a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet that has been lined with foil or parchment.

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22 Comments

Maryanne Duncan

Jenny, I love your web-site. This cake reminds me the Texas Sheet Cake I used to make all the time with my mother. We made it for so many family gatherings and we knew everyone would always love it. Great Memories. I am going to make this cake for my boys soon. We are all chocolate fans, here. Love, Maryanne

Reply
Trish O

oh my…i just made the cake today “just because.” It is wonderful. This Rosa person in great.

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Emily

I have a birthday cake to bake this Friday and this recipe looks delicious. But, I’m wondering — can you leave out the coffee? Or would you not recommend that?

Reply
Kyra

Emily- the coffee with just deepend and enhance the chocolate flavor. I highly recommend you keep it and you probably won’t taste it (but if you HATE coffee, sub hot water instead, or do half coffee and half hot water).

Reply
Dianne

Thank you! Not to ask a dumb question – but does it need frosting and if so, what kind works best?

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jenny

Not a dumb question — but I do have a dumb answer. I have been in search of the perfect chocolate frosting for a long time, so I could give you one of the many millions i’ve tried right here, but maybe someone else out there has The Definitive Chocolate Frosting?

Reply
Jenny

Have you ever used decaf? Any concern about the caffeine for kids, or is it diluted enough that they don’t go extra-bonkers (beyond what party excitement and choco cake might do anyway)?

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emily

Can’t wait to try Rosa’s cake this weekend for our family Scorpio Dinner dessert (there are lots of us scorpios so we do one dinner). As for the best chocolate frosting, try the one on the can of Hershey’s Cocoa. It is really, really, really good. The recipe on there for Hot Cocoa is the bomb too.
Love your site Jenny-thank you!!!!!

Reply
elizabeth

has anyone made this in a bundt pan? i would love to serve this at a party just dusted with powdered sugar

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Mavi

I am reading this post months later! But this cake reminds of one I’ve made since the 70′s. Mine has the coffee in the frosting. The frosting is very easy to make on the stove, and you pour it over the cake top and let it spill over the sides.
Here it is:
Royal Cocoa Frosting
3 T. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
3 T. unsweetened cocoa
1 c. granulated sugar (in 1/2 cups!)
1 c. strong, black coffee (instant and/or decaff is ok)
1 T. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
few grains of salt
Mix the corn starch, cocoa and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a small bowl.
In a small saucepan, heat the coffee and butter until butter is melted.
Reduce heat to low and stir in cocoa mixture, stirring constantly (I like to use a whisk), simmer gently a few minutes until it’s the consistency of chocolate pudding.
Stir in remaining 1/2 cup sugar and vanilla, dash of salt. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes. Fill and frost cake.
Note: This usually makes a little more frosting than needed. I just pour it all on top of the cake and let it spill over the edges and puddle around the cake—it’s too good to waste!
Note: I usually use Sharffenberger’s Cocoa, but I’ve gotten good results with Hershey’s and Ghiradelli’s.

Reply
Weezy

My favorite frosting: Devlish Frosting from The Wooden Spoon Dessert Book by Marilyn Moore (she also has an amazing peach cobbler in there):

Sift together in a large bowl:
3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. cocoa (pref. dutch processed)
1/8 tsp salt

Add, in this order:
8 tbls soft unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbls buttermilk (plus more if needed)

Beat at low speed until smooth, add more buttermilk to get to spreading consistency.
Makes 2 c. frosting

Reply
Jenny

I love this cake, but both times I have made it it has come out the pan less than successfully. Any tips for making sure it comes out in one piece?

Reply
Jenny

I realize I’m late on replying here to you Jenny, but a reader just wrote me saying she had the same problem. I would try adding a light dusting of flour to the buttered pan before you pour in the batter. I changed the recipe to reflect this. Good luck and let me know how it turns out.

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June2

Line the buttered pan with parchment paper and it will come right out. Also, try cocoa powder to flour the pan and you avoid that white crust on the dark cake plus add more choco flavor.

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Gina

Hey do you know how many cupcakes this recipe would make I’m thinking of making two batches…I need 60 cupcakes. Thanks!

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Maggie

Just stopping by after many years of making this to say thanks and how much we love it! I halve it all the time for our tiny family. It is the easiest, most forgiving, fast and delicious cake ever! And for the record, I’ve never had it stick in the pan. Weird… maybe they were cautious with the oil. Thanks again!

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Sarah W.

Just found you via Cup of Jo…I’m wondering what size pan(s) you used to create the round version (pictured) of this cake, and what the bake time is. Did you use the glaze as a filler and frosting? Thanks!

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Lisa

Made this for our little guy’s 2nd birthday party. SO delicious and so unbelievably easy – thank you!

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Awads

i finally got around to making this super easy, super delicious chocolate cake and it did NOT disappoint! a real crowd-pleaser. i think this might replace the recipe on the back of the hershey’s cocoa as our go-to chocolate cake. thanks!

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Anne

Mine didn’t make it out of the pan either, will try parchment next time, but will use the pieces for a trifle for Valentines day!

Reply