Gerry Frank’s World’s Best Chocolate Cake

Gerry Frank, fourth generation of the Pacific Northwest department store Meier & Frank family, has long had a sweet tooth. When Frank’s close friend Senator Mark Hatfield first ran for governor of Oregon in 1959, he made a plan to ensure chocoholic Frank would forever be in chocolate. “Hatfield said, “If I win, I’m going to have you appointed as the cake taster at the Oregon State Fair,” Frank remembers. Hatfield won the race and Gerry’s been tasting cakes ever since—about 2,050 of them, to be exact. Typically, there are about 30 to 50 cakes entered at the Oregon State Fair each year, although there have been as few as three in 1959, and as many as 123 in 1984. “I take two bites of each cake,” says Frank, who downs Pepto Bismal to help him make it through the competition. Of all the cakes he’s judged, this adaptation of an early winner is Frank’s favorite. For another Frank-family favorite, look for the Summer Girl Soda.

Makes one nine-inch cake (10 to 12 servings)

Cake Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Frosting Ingredients

  • 1 6-oz pkg, semi-sweet chocolate chips (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • Bowl of ice


  1. Make cake: Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour two, 9-inch cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment or waxed paper cut into circles. Butter and flour paper as well. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder cocoa and salt. Set aside. Cream butter with electric mixture. Gradually add sugar and beat at medium speed for 1 minute. Add eggs, one at a time, beating a minute after each addition. Gradually add water and vanilla; beat one minute more. Do not over beat. With mixer on low speed, alternately add flour and buttermilk, beating between additions just until flour no longer show. Continue until all are incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pans and tap to settle. Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes for 10 minutes before inverting onto wire racks. Cool completely before frosting.
  2. Make frosting: Combine chocolate chips, whipping cream and butter in double boiler over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in powdered sugar. In a bowl set over ice, beat icing with wire whisk until frosting holds its shape, about 10 minutes.

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