How to Make Chocolate Funny Cake
Part cake, part pie, all-around delicious. Jennifer Switzer of Beyond the Butter shares the recipe for this silly-sounding dessert with a sweet backstory.
We all have that one recipe that whisks us back to childhood at a mere mention. The one you can taste—even smell—just by thinking of it, and suddenly your mind is flooded with the memories that come with that very special food. For Jennifer Switzer, it’s her grammy’s Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cake.
When her grandma passed away in 2010, Jennifer was overcome with sadness. Holding the handwritten cards with the recipes for the beloved sweets she adored growing up, she knew she couldn’t let these family traditions be forgotten. That’s how her blog was born. “For years I had an idea to create a baking blog centered around the recipes Grammy made for everyone in the family—recipes that have given me truly great memories of childhood and beyond.”
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By 2018, Jennifer had become comfortable enough with her baking skills that she decided it was time to share her treasured recipes with the rest of the world. Her blog, Beyond the Butter, is a place for desserts that are uncomplicated but delicious, whether they’re straight from Grammy’s recipe box or Jennifer’s original ideas. “If it has a kazillion steps, that’s not something I’m going to make,” said Jennifer. “And Grammy was the same way. She liked things that were simple, but that tasted wonderful.” Even the three-layered Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cake is made with fewer than a dozen ingredients. What makes it so “funny?” Well, it’s kind of a difficult dessert to categorize.
What Is a Funny Cake?
A light vanilla cake is baked in a pie crust, with a fudgy chocolate layer that sinks from the top to settle below the cake as it bakes. It’s a curious kind of dessert, for sure, but with charming simplicity. And though Grammy liked to keep things straightforward, she was still a stickler. The first time Jennifer made funny cake for her, she said it was “good, but the crust wasn’t quite right.” Since then, Jennifer has perfected the technique for baking up a golden, flaky crust.
Her best tip for worry-free pie crust sticks to Grammy’s theme of undemanding but delectable: use store-bought! “Homemade pie crust is awesome, but I understand that people don’t always like to make it—or have the time.” Sure, the funny cake seems like a dessert, but Jennifer grants permission to eat it whenever you want. “My pop-pop always ate it for breakfast, so I would eat it at breakfast, too.”
Whether you eat it for breakfast, dessert, or sometime in between, we won’t judge. Now roll up those sleeves and get started on your own!
How to Make Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cake
Here’s what you need to make Jennifer’s favorite funny cake:
For the crust:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup cold shortening, cubed
- 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 6 to 8 Tbsp. ice water
For the cake layer:
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 cup whole milk
For the chocolate layer:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup baking cocoa
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
This recipe makes two pies, so enjoy one and give one to a friend (along with the recipe).
Step 1: Make Your Pastry Dough
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In a large bowl, mix flour and salt; cut in shortening and butter until crumbly. Gradually add ice water, tossing with a fork until dough holds together when pressed. Divide dough in half. Shape each into a disk. Wrap; refrigerate for at least an hour or up to overnight.
If you like, you can use a premade pie crust to cut down on prep time.
Step 2: Roll It Out
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On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough to an eighth-inch-thick circle; transfer to a nine-inch deep-dish pie plate. Trim crust to a half-inch beyond rim of plate; flute edge. Repeat with remaining dough. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
Jennifer’s tip: Chill the dough all the way through. If the dough is as cool as possible, the pie crust won’t slide down the pan or shrink.
Step 3: Make Your Cake Batter
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Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, beat shortening and sugar until crumbly. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour and baking powder; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Divide batter between pie plates.
Jennifer’s tip: Place both funny cakes on a baking sheet or jelly roll pan before adding the cake batter and chocolate. It will help keep spillage down when moving them from the counter to the oven.
Step 4: Pour on the Chocolate
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For the chocolate layer, in a small bowl, combine sugar and cocoa. Whisk in boiling water and vanilla until sugar is dissolved. Pour over cake layers.
Step 5: Bake It Up!
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When you pull it from the oven, you’ll see the chocolate layer has “flipped” to the bottom! How fun is that? The result is a fluffy cake with just a hint of sweetness sitting atop a rich, chocolatey layer and a flaky, golden crust. Slice it up and share your own sweet memories.