A Baltimore favorite from the 1940s

Julie Rothman
The Baltimore Sun (TNS)

A few years ago, Janet Plum of Kingsville, Maryland, wrote wanting help locating the recipe for a favorite chocolate cake from her childhood; it was made by a German bakery in downtown Baltimore called Doebereiner’s in the 1940s and ’50s.

At the time of her original request, in September 2014, I never heard from anyone about the recipe. Then, as sometimes happens with this column, I received a letter out of nowhere recently from Audrey Crooks of Reisterstown, Maryland. She had located her copy of the recipe she thought was likely the one that Plum was in search of. The recipe had been given to Crooks some years ago by her former next-door neighbor, Peggy Sindall, who is the daughter of Doebereiner’s owner George Doebereiner.

In a column in The Baltimore Sun in 2003, Jacques Kelly reminisced about weekly visits with his family to George Doebereiner’s bakery and ice cream parlor. The sweet shop was well known for what many people swore were the finest sweets Baltimoreans ever hauled home on the No. 13 North Avenue streetcar.

According to Kelly, the bakery closed sometime around 1953. But clearly, memories of the wonderful baked goods sold there live on for many.

This recipe is for an old-fashioned and straightforward three-layer chocolate cake. Perhaps the secret to the cake’s deliciousness was the quality of the ingredients and the care with which it was made at the Doebereiner bakery. Sadly, almost all of these neighborhood bakeries are now gone, along with most of the recipes that made them so special. It’s good to know that every once in a while, an old recipe turns up again so we can try to re-create some tasty memories.


Bonnie Engelskirch, who grew up in Baltimore and now lives in Georgetown, Del., is looking for the recipe for the Federal Hill cake made famous by Muhly’s Bakery in Baltimore. The bakery is closed now, but she was hoping someone might have the recipe to share with her.

Mary Kelly of Chase, Md., is in search of the recipe for a chocolate devil’s food cake that was on the jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise many years ago.

Doebereiner’s Chocolate Cake

Makes: 1 8-inch three-layer cake

11/2 cups milk, divided use

2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate

11/2 cups sugar, divided use

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs, separated

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda (dissolved in a little water)

1 teaspoon vanilla


16 ounces powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

6 teaspoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 to 6 tablespoons strong hot coffee

1/4 cup slivered almonds

2 tablespoons butter

Combine 1 cup milk and baking chocolate in a medium saucepan and heat on low until chocolate is melted. Stir in 1 cup sugar and bring to a boil. Boil until thick and syrupy, approximately five minutes, stirring occasionally. Set mixture aside and allow to cool.

Cream together 1/2 cup butter and remaining 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add in egg yolks, then 1/2 cup flour, beating until smooth. Add remaining 1/2 cup milk and then the remaining flour, beating until smooth. Then add the dissolved baking soda, cooled chocolate mixture and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff and then gently fold into the mixture.

Divide the batter evenly between three 8-inch, round cake pans that have been greased and floured.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove from pans and allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, cream together the powdered sugar, butter, cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until smooth. Add sufficient amount of hot coffee to make the mixture a smooth, spreadable consistency. Cover layers and sides of cake with frosting. Toast slivered almonds in melted butter. Cool and ice the sides of cake.


(If you are looking for a recipe or can answer a request, write to Julie Rothman, Recipe Finder, and The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278 or email baltsunrecipefinder@gmail.com. If you send in more than one recipe, please put each on a separate piece of paper and be sure to include your name, address and daytime phone number. Important: Name and hometown must accompany recipes in order to be published. Please list the ingredients in order of use, and note the number of servings each recipe makes. Please type or print contributions. Letter and recipes may be edited for clarity.)