Cakespy: Wellesley Fudge Cake


Jessie Oleson (aka Cakespy) drops by every week to share a delicious dessert recipe. —The Mgmt.

Photographs and original illustrations: Cakespy

Wellesley Fudge cake—a deeply indulgent chocolate cake topped with a slab of thick fudge frosting, the likes of which will stick to your front teeth in the most pleasing way—seems an unlikely sweet to associate with the prim-and-proper ladies of Wellesley (the college featured in that classic feat of cinema Mona Lisa Smile).

You see, the young ladies at all those womens' colleges—Vassar, Smith, and Wellesley—would use the sweet stuff as their excuse to stay up late: candy-making was an acceptable activity, and they would use this time ostensibly to talk about boys and other forbidden subjects. The timing seems to work out: the word "fudge" for a confection showed up as early as the 1890s, and by 1908 the term was commonly used in association with women's colleges. A 1909 cookbook produced by Walter Baker & Co. (producer of Baker's chocolates) includes three different recipes for fudge, each just slightly different and named, respectively, after the three aforementioned women's colleges.

By 1913, fudge and fudge cakes were common on the tea-room menus surrounding the college. Every few decades the cake enjoys a renaissance; a little fussy to make in that it requires a bit of candy-making prowess, it is astoundingly easy to eat.

To taste the famous cake, here's a recipe. Some older recipes are unfrosted; others, which I favor, feature a double dose of chocolate, the base of which is like a cakey brownie, coated with a thick, fudge-like frosting.

A friend passed this recipe on to me; turns out, it's from Cook's Country Blue Ribbon Desserts.

Also: while Dutch-processed cocoa works best in this recipe, it can sometimes be hard to find—or will be prohibitively expensive—in grocery stores. Hershey's Special Dark cocoa works quite well, too.