Cakes/ Dessert/ Recipes

Chocolate Spice Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Frosting

Yesterday was my brother’s birthday.

For any new readers who don’t know, my brother passed away three years ago when he was just nineteen years old. And I can’t speak for anyone else that has lost a loved one but for me, birthdays are always harder than the actual death anniversary. It’s like, that was their day…you know? Their special, special day that no one could take away.

Yesterday was a good day.

I took an early morning yoga class, visited with a friend, baked this cake and had this cocktail. Every year on this day, my parents visit the hospital that my brother was born at and scatter flowers in the pond out back. That’s their way of remembering….baking a birthday cake is mine.

I’m not going to lie, as I type this post some tears are falling because no matter how many years go by it’s still hard. But instead of that sharp painful grief that made it hard to even breathe during the early days, it’s now manageable. Sure, I miss him and the way things once were, but I don’t dwell in the past. I can’t dwell in the past. Instead, I honor my brother by living my life to the very fullest because I know that’s what he would have wanted anyway.

The recipe for this cake is straight out of Great Grandma’s box as part of the Recipe Box Challenge (substituting the sour milk for buttermilk and the shortening for butter). It’s a simple, old fashioned cake and easy to throw together last minute. I love the spices she calls for—cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg—they pair perfectly with this light and springy chocolate cake.

To make a double layer cake, just double the ingredients below and spread equally between two eight inch cake pans. You’ll probably want to double the frosting, too (more is always better!).

Now go hug someone! Yourself is perfectly acceptable.

Chocolate Spice Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Frosting

makes 1 eight-inch cake

Print this recipe!


1 cup sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup cocoa, sifted

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp cinnamon

for frosting—

2 sticks butter, room temperature

1 box powdered sugar

2 oz semisweet chocolate, melted over a double boiler

pinch of sea salt

1 tsp cinnamon


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an eight-inch cake pan. Set aside.

Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat again.

Combine the sifted (important!) cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices in a large bowl. Add dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk to the butter mixture, beating until well combined.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan and smooth top. Bake for 45 minutes, or until edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let cool completely before frosting.

To make the icing, beat the butter, powdered sugar, cinnamon salt until fluffy. Drizzle in the melted chocolate while the mixer is going and continue to beat on high for another 6-8 minutes, until frosting is very light and fluffy. Smooth frosting over completely cooled cake. Enjoy!


1.5 hours

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  • Freja
    April 11, 2012 at 3:12 am

    I’m a daily reader who rarely comments, but Jenna, this post was just beautiful. Be well.

  • Colleen
    April 11, 2012 at 3:19 am

    I’m also a daily reader who rarely (maybe never) comments. I lost my mom when I was young, and I can say the thing that has helped me the most is to talk about her and to not forget about her. I’m so glad you felt comfortable “talking” with us all and sharing your grief. My mom’s birthday is next month, and I think I’ll be making her this cake!

  • laura
    April 11, 2012 at 3:20 am

    very beautiful post jenna.

  • Katrina
    April 11, 2012 at 3:37 am

    What a pretty cake! Yum!

  • Julia @ Brides Up North
    April 11, 2012 at 3:52 am

    Hug for you from me.

    Julia x

  • Lauren at Keep It Sweet
    April 11, 2012 at 3:59 am

    Wonderful way to honor your brother.

  • mary (sisters running the kitchen)
    April 11, 2012 at 4:10 am

    this cakes looks delicious and it’s a fabulous way to honor your brother. so sweet.

  • Kristen @ notsodomesticated
    April 11, 2012 at 4:26 am

    Hugs to you, Jenna. Thank you for sharing something so personal. 🙂

  • Andrea
    April 11, 2012 at 4:33 am

    A big hug to you Jenna. I can’t imagine how hard this day must be, but it really seems like you’re more at peace. And the cake looks great!

  • Cait's Plate
    April 11, 2012 at 4:36 am

    I agree. My father passed away 4 years ago and his birthday is this Sunday and it’s always a really hard time for my family…definitely harder than the death date.

    Happy birthday to your brother – I’m sure he’s smiling down that you took the time to celebrate his life on his special day.

  • Heather @ Girlyeverafter
    April 11, 2012 at 4:36 am

    What a beautiful way to remember and honor your brother. Beautiful post.

  • The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh
    April 11, 2012 at 4:37 am

    Wonderful post, so touching.

    I can totally relate. We just had the 11 yr anniversary of my grandpa’s passing and it feels like ‘where did the time go?’ and yet some days I feel like he’s still here just off of vacation somewhere.

  • Anne P
    April 11, 2012 at 4:43 am

    Thinking of you. xo

  • Molly @ RDexposed
    April 11, 2012 at 4:44 am

    Love the striped candle!
    Stay strong, stay happy!

  • Kellie @ Blackboard Kitchen
    April 11, 2012 at 4:58 am

    Really sweet post, Jenna. The love you have for your brother and your parents is so clear. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Angela
    April 11, 2012 at 4:59 am

    What a beautiful post Jenna. Blessings to you and your family. xo

  • Annie @ What's Annie Making?
    April 11, 2012 at 4:59 am

    Big hugs to you Jenna! What a great way to celebrate your brother’s life. Thank you for sharing.

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat
    April 11, 2012 at 5:00 am

    Beautiful post Jenna. I can’t say I’ve ever been through an experience similar to yours, but I can only imagine how difficult it is. Sending a big hug your way. 🙂

  • Kellyo
    April 11, 2012 at 5:00 am


  • katie @KatieDid
    April 11, 2012 at 5:01 am

    beautiful cake, and a nice way to honor your brother.

  • Melissa
    April 11, 2012 at 5:02 am

    Jenna, how touching! What an awesome reminder to make sure we don’t take a moment for granted with the ones we love. You are such a beautiful person<3

  • Gina G
    April 11, 2012 at 5:07 am

    Beautiful Jenna.<3

  • Erin
    April 11, 2012 at 5:23 am

    I started reading your blog a week before his passing, and i’ve never let go. Your strength and love for life inspire me everyday. As long as you blog, I’ll be reading. And i’ll surely make this cake, and hug my loved ones.

  • Ellen
    April 11, 2012 at 5:30 am

    Hugs and love to you! I know your brother would be happy that you’re still celebrating his life and living yours to the fullest! Take care,

  • Maura
    April 11, 2012 at 5:32 am

    Beautiful, Jenna. Your strength and passion for life never ceases to inspire me. Thank you so much for sharing. My thoughts and prayers are with you & your family today.

  • Lisa
    April 11, 2012 at 5:36 am

    Give yourself a hug from me
    Beautiful cake

  • brandi
    April 11, 2012 at 5:39 am

    I don’t comment often, but I’ve been reading since before it happened and remember reading through it all.

    This is a beautiful way to remember him and celebrate the time you had. I do the same for one of my best friends that I lost years ago

  • Julie @ Table for Two
    April 11, 2012 at 5:41 am

    Aw, Jenna. *Hugs* this was a beautiful post and a great way to remember him and celebrate his life.

  • Betsy
    April 11, 2012 at 5:42 am

    I too am a longtime reader who rarely (perhaps never) has commented. This post is just beautiful Jenna. Having lost a number of family members in the last five years, I too can attest to how hard birthdays are. Thank you for sharing your beautiful, hopeful thougts, and thi recipe. I’ll be sure to try it soon!

  • chelsea
    April 11, 2012 at 5:45 am

    I lost my Dad and Brother on the same day different reasons four years ago (almost to the day)
    My hear goes out to you- thank you for sharing.
    On the anniversary of their deaths I usually have a milkshake (my dad died very quickly of cancer and decided to have a milkshake couple days before he died…he never had one before since he was the picture of health….) anyways..thanks for this post

  • britt
    April 11, 2012 at 5:46 am

    stay strong. prayers your way.

  • Sally @ Spontaneous Hausfrau
    April 11, 2012 at 5:48 am

    What a poignant post – thank you for sharing this with us. Wishing you lots of peace on this day.

  • Neha
    April 11, 2012 at 6:19 am

    Beautiful post. My thoughts and prayers are with you!

  • Margarita
    April 11, 2012 at 6:35 am

    You are sweet and strong and I admire your love for life. Your brother will always be smiling down on you. This cake looks like a delight!

  • jessicaisbaking
    April 11, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Sending you hugs on your brother’s birthday. What a fitting way to remember his day! Beautiful post.

  • DessertForTwo
    April 11, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Aww, Jenna, wish I could hug you. Thinking about you.

    This cake sounds fabulous.

  • Alex @ our snacks
    April 11, 2012 at 6:40 am

    thanks for sharing 🙂 no better combo than yoga, optimism & chocolate cake

  • Kristen @ Popcorn on the Stove
    April 11, 2012 at 6:42 am

    Beautiful post – thank you for sharing this and the cake recipe with us 🙂

  • Rachel @ The Avid Appetite
    April 11, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Beautiful post! And a wonderful tribute.

  • Laura
    April 11, 2012 at 6:49 am

    what a great way to celebrate your brother… thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Kelly
    April 11, 2012 at 6:54 am

    I don’t comment often but am a daily, devoted reader. What a beautiful tribute to your brother. Sending many hugs on this birthday.

  • Sabrina
    April 11, 2012 at 6:57 am

    Thinking of you Jenna.

  • Hilary
    April 11, 2012 at 7:00 am

    Jenna, I lost my Dad suddenly about a year and half ago. I know exactly what you mean about the pain of grief. It’s hard to manage some days. This post was beautiful and brought me to tears.

  • Kelli H (Made in Sonoma)
    April 11, 2012 at 7:11 am

    What a great way to celebrate him!

  • Kelly
    April 11, 2012 at 7:13 am

    I was reading your blog at the time your brother passed away, I rember thinking how devastating it must have been for your family. Your brother would be proud of how you are living your life to the fullest. If I recall correctly – I think he would have liked you to bake chocolate chip cookies for his birthday and lots of them 🙂

  • Erin
    April 11, 2012 at 7:13 am

    I have been reading since before your brother’s passing, and following your journey. My heart aches for you… Your post was beautiful, and I am certain your brother is smiling down on you, so proud of his sister. Sending hugs and prayers to you and your family… <3

  • Maria
    April 11, 2012 at 7:26 am

    You are such a wonderful person and this was such a beautiful post. I am glad that you were able to celebrate your brother.

  • Heather
    April 11, 2012 at 7:26 am

    jenna, every year i read about this i sit here and cry because although i don’t know what it’s like to lose a sibling, i know what it’s like to lose someone you love way too early. i’m glad to hear that it’s becoming more bearable for you now, but most importantly that you’re living your life to the fullest!

  • Laurie Jamieson
    April 11, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Having a brother that died when he was just 21, I can totally relate to the birthday feeling. I think that is the hardest day. My parents still grieve like it was yesterday. My sister and I honor his memory by placing some flowers on his grave and making sure that her daughter (my niece) whom didn’t know her Uncle knows him by us retelling some growing up stories. BTW, tears are also pouring down my face.
    Take care.

  • Susan
    April 11, 2012 at 7:28 am

    I am a longtime reader and my heart always goes out to you this time of year. I too lost a brother who was much too young and his birthday is always the hardest day of the year for me. Will be thinking of you this day.

  • Cait H.
    April 11, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Been reading for a long time – beautiful post. And delicious cake. Sounds like you honored him by having a wonderful day. xoxo

  • Ali @ Around the VeggieTable
    April 11, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Such a sweet post–I’m so sorry about your brother. I think living your life to the fullest is a beautiful way to honor him.

  • Nicole
    April 11, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Sending warm thoughts, love and light your way today.

  • Megan {Country Cleaver}
    April 11, 2012 at 7:41 am

    What a great way to remember your brother and I think I can speak for many who are sending virtual hugs your way today.

  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen
    April 11, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Hugs to you. Beautiful post.

  • amy walters, aDESIGNdock
    April 11, 2012 at 7:44 am

    What a beautiful cake. So appropriate that it’s from your Grandma’s recipe collection. Thinking of you and your family Jenna. xo

  • Corina
    April 11, 2012 at 7:46 am

    This is a lovely way to remember your brother and I’m sure it’s a delicious cake with all the spices as well as chocolate.

  • Becky
    April 11, 2012 at 7:49 am


    I think a birthday cake is a beautiful way to honor your brother. I hope that you feel God’s loving arms holding you in your grief. I know it gets easier to go on but the pain never completely goes away. I’m glad your great-grandma was there for you too with her amazing recipes. Much love to you and your family during this difficult time!

  • Lisa Thiele | WithStyleGrace
    April 11, 2012 at 7:51 am

    I’m so sorry so for your loss, Jenna. This is a beautiful and I’m sure delicious cake to celebrate him! Sending my love.

  • Leah
    April 11, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Thank you so much for this post Jenna. I lost my brother, too, almost six years ago, and I am learning everyday to honor his spirit and to really live and love well. Your blog is so inspiring and I always look forward to reading your new posts. Much love!

  • Ana
    April 11, 2012 at 8:24 am

    I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my dad nine years ago and you’re right, the grief gets more tolerable but it never goes away. You honor your brother by living your life to the fullest! The cake looks delicious.

  • Sabrina @ Radioactive Runner
    April 11, 2012 at 8:27 am

    You have such a good attitude…
    and this cake looks delicious!!

  • Jodi
    April 11, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Your parents have a beautiful way of remembering your brother!

    Question about the cake though ~ Does this small 8 in inch cake really have 2 sticks of butter in it? That’s seems like alot.

    • jenna
      April 11, 2012 at 8:31 am

      yep, it does!

  • Averie @ Averie Cooks
    April 11, 2012 at 8:43 am

    I am sorry that yesterday was a bittersweet day…sounds like you made the best of it but still, so incredibly hard and I am so sorry for your loss Jenna.

    The cake sounds incredible. I made some spice cake bars with cream cheese that I’m going to be posting soon. Wish I would have put cocoa powder in them. Great idea!

  • Andrea @ The Skinny Chronicles
    April 11, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Your brother was very lucky to have you in his life! Obviously you were (are) super sister! Love love love! And big hugs!

  • Elisabeth
    April 11, 2012 at 8:46 am

    The cake looks beautiful & delicious! Thinking about you today 🙂

  • Laura @ She Eats Well
    April 11, 2012 at 8:48 am

    I think baking a cake is a wonderful tradition for you to honor. I think baking is so therapeutic, cooking too. Your brother, I’m sure, is proud of you Jenna! Lovely post.

  • Em (Wine and Butter)
    April 11, 2012 at 8:52 am

    I think one of the best quotes I ever heard about loss is that you never accept it per se… you just learn to live with it. I love that you have also found a tradition to honour it … and also with a simple family recipe. Lots of love to your and your family.

  • Lauren
    April 11, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Beautiful post. Beautiful way to celebrate your brother.

  • Jen
    April 11, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Jenna, I was a reader way back then when your brother passed. I cried when I read the post, and I still think of you and your family every single April. I didn’t remember that his birthday was the same month, but I’m so happy things are getting easier and that you are living your life to the fullest. As you said, that’s how John would have wanted it.

  • Liz
    April 11, 2012 at 9:00 am

    This looks SO good! Yumm.

  • Beverly
    April 11, 2012 at 9:23 am

    I actually stumbled across your blog by way of Fitnessista three years ago…she was sending virtual hugs in your time of sorrow and linked to your blog. I’ve been a loyal reader ever since. Jenna, it’s been an honor to witness you evolve as you’ve journeyed through the many chapters of your life. Thank you for sharing your sweet spirit!

  • Nicole
    April 11, 2012 at 9:43 am

    I have read your blog every day for about a year and I read your past posts to catch up on things I missed, including posts about your brother. My heart goes out to you for being such a beautiful person and living your amazing life like as you said, he would have wanted. Thanks for sharing everything you share!

  • Tami
    April 11, 2012 at 10:14 am

    How muchis a box of confectionary sugar

    I am going on 20 years of the passing of my brother ….sometimes it’s even harder now than it was when it was just a few years ago…you start to forget things, the little things

  • Joanna
    April 11, 2012 at 10:23 am

    I really liked your post. I lost my father 8 weeks ago who was quite young and we just had our first Easter without him. It’s so easy to think of the sad things. I really like your idea of celebrating their birthday even though the loved one is gone. His birthday is in October. I will celebrate his birthday and bake a cake too :). Thanks for the idea and your hopeful inspiration on such a sad situation.

    • Jenn
      April 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      I’m sorry for you Joanna. That was a thoughtful comment and wishing you the best at this time.

      Special post Jenna. You are strong both physically and mentally!

  • sana
    April 11, 2012 at 10:26 am

    🙂 I will always be amazed by your strength, I have no idea what it is like to lose someone close to be but I do know that it can’t be easy.

  • Angela @ Happy Fit Mama
    April 11, 2012 at 10:32 am

    I love celebrating the day someone came into this world. After all, if that didn’t happen you wouldn’t have so many wonderful memories.

    Your way of baking a cake for your brother is beautiful!

    Consider a virtual hug being sent your way right now!

  • Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe
    April 11, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Beautiful post Jenna. What a lovely (and tasty) way to remember your brother.

  • Lisa
    April 11, 2012 at 11:16 am

    This post was touching, and you are brave to share such personal memories with your readers. What a beautiful way to honor your brother.


  • Stephie @ Eat Your Heart Out
    April 11, 2012 at 11:25 am

    I think baking a cake is a lovely way to remember your brother. Hugs sent your way.

  • Meghan
    April 11, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Hi Jenna,

    I read you every day and love everything you do; my friends are sick of hearing about it, but everyone loves eating your recipes! 😉 I have never commented before, but just wanted to let you know that am thinking of you today. I witnessed the sudden (and like your brother’s, violent and preventable) death of one of my best friends this past November, and I’m already dreading her upcoming birthday in June. This post has helped me think of some ideas on how to honor her that day. Your previous posts about your brother’s death were also a huge help to me during those first few dark days after Nancy passed away; thank you for being so candid with strangers on what is really a food blog. The truth is, food is a huge part of life, so of course it makes sense to entwine the two, but not too many writers can do it in such a natural way. Thank you so much, and hopefully you can gain some peace in knowing how much you have helped strangers by sharing your pain.

  • Ashley @ Hudson on the Potomac
    April 11, 2012 at 11:30 am

    What a beautiful post, Jenna. Sending warm wishes your way.

  • Raya
    April 11, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I’ve been reading your blog since before your brother passed away, and just wanted to send my thoughts out to you on this day. Thanks for sharing Jenna! <3

  • Adrianna from A Cozy Kitchen
    April 11, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Beautiful cake. Sending much love your way, Jenna! xx

  • Sarah
    April 11, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Thinking of you, sweetie. <3

  • Taylor @ Nuts for Apples
    April 11, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Beautiful post & beautiful cake as always! Think of it as a “slice of heaven” from your brother <3

  • Kelsi @kelsiB13
    April 11, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Agreed. My late fiance’s birthday is always the hardest for me. And I always make a trip to Johnny Carino’s because he was obsessed with their chicken parm!

  • Denise @ Creative Kitchen
    April 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm


    I haven’t commented in awhile, but I still keep up with reading your blog. Yours was one of the very first blogs I started reading regularly back in summer 2009….can’t believe that was almost 3 years ago. We have family in Vero (I live in South FL), so that connection was always there.

    I’m sorry for your loss, and am so glad you’ve found a way to remember your brother. I know how hard it must be, but you’re right in that he would want you to live your life to the fullest. I’m sure he’s SUPER proud of all you’ve accomplished!! 😉

  • mary @ minutespermile
    April 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Food is best when it’s for someone special. Thanks for the post.

  • Karen Momany
    April 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks for sharing that part of your life that is fragile…continue to grow and heal…

  • Lily O'Dare
    April 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Thinking of John, you, and your family. Love and prayers to you all. I’m sure he is smiling down on you and super proud.

    And, I want to bake this cake!

  • Frances
    April 11, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    This cake sound delicious with all the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and all spice. Your picture looks like I can eat it off the page! I think this is a fabulous way to honor your brother. I am the youngest of 15 children (same parents) and being that I am in my mid sixties I have more loved ones on the other side than here. I have inherited my families recipes especially my one older sister who was like a mother to me. I often use her recipes and the ones that are written out in her handwriting are precious to me. Food is a great way to remember the ones we love and to pass a piece of ourselves onto the future generations through our children, nieces and nephews.

  • Juliana Walters
    April 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Thank you for sharing! The cake looks delightful!

  • Full-Flavored Life
    April 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    What a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing.

  • Alison (Fueling for Fitness)
    April 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    This post gave me chills while I read it. Such a beautiful tribute, and such beautiful words. I’m so glad you had a great day. You’re right, it’s what he would have wanted. 🙂

  • Mel
    April 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Feeling for you Jenna! Glad you had a lovely day, I’m sure that’s the way you’re brother would’ve wanted it.

  • Erin @ Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts
    April 11, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    I have tears in my eyes just reading this. So glad you can honor his memory every year. So sorry for your loss.

  • Jessica Mine
    April 11, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    This post fills my heart with so much joy, Jenna. That’s beautiful that your parents do that! Thank you so much for sharing. I love and miss you dearly <3

  • elise
    April 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    i think what you said about not dwelling on the past and living your life to the fullest in honor of him is the most wonderful way you could celebrate his life.

  • Lisa
    April 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    That was a very touching, and wonderfully written post. Thank you for sharing with all of us readers- and for reminding us that life is precious.

  • Michelle
    April 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    what a beautiful and touching post, jenna. my thoughts are with you and your family 🙂

  • Urban Wife
    April 11, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Another beautiful ode to the memory of your brother’s life, Jenna. May God’s peace continue healing you and your family over the years. p.s. This cake looks amazing!! 🙂

  • Emily @ Life on Food
    April 11, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    I don’t think these days will ever get easier but there are plenty of joyous memories as well. I love that you still celebrate his life and what a great tribute this cake is for his special day.

  • Jess
    April 11, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    <3 So much love to you and your family!

  • Tori d
    April 11, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    My grandma dies a little over a year ago and her birthday is May 4, so I am going to make her your Date Nut Cupcakes with Butterscotch Chip Frosting since her favorite thing in the world was Butterscotch candies!

  • Shannon
    April 11, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Beautiful and touching post, Jenna!

  • Becky
    April 11, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Beautiful cake for a beautiful story Jenna. You are an inspiration. Hugs, Becky

  • Sara
    April 11, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Thanks for sharing, unfortunately I can very much relate. I like the birthday cake ritual. My family has gotten together on the anniversary of my sister’s birthdays, although we haven’t yet established real traditions. The first one was very very raw and the last one turned into an emergency vet fiasco involving dogs and rodent poison. Everyone was OK in the end, so I guess distraction was for the best.

  • Sweet Tooth | Heather Bakes
    April 11, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    […] also fighting off the urge to make this cake, right this minute. Which is sad because I’m already eating […]

  • John
    April 11, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    What a beautiful post! Your brother would have loved that cake!!
    I love you-Dad!

  • Jaclyn
    April 12, 2012 at 12:07 am

    I’ve read from (almost) the beginning and I still remember the night he died. Even though I have never met you, him, your family…it really hit me hard. I felt like i “knew” you and I can still remember standing in the bathroom reading that post “for John” on my phone.. I was a sophomore on a Fraternity cruise that night -probably hiding from my date – and that post really, really affected me. I’m so sorry for your loss, I’m sure it never gets easier in some ways, but I totally agree – you living life is what he would want. And baking cakes.
    Take care , thinking of you today <3

  • Nicole
    April 12, 2012 at 1:04 am

    wonderful that you found your OWN way to celebrate your brother. thanks for sharing.

  • lauren
    April 12, 2012 at 6:03 am

    My dad passed away 2.5 years ago – I agree; the birthday is so much harder than the anniversary of his death. Thinking of you and your family.

  • Bakeaholic
    April 12, 2012 at 6:04 am

    A very sweet tribute to your brother and how perfect to make a cake to honor him using your great grandma’s special recipe.


  • anita
    April 12, 2012 at 6:20 am

    A great post, thanks for sharing.

  • Kelly
    April 12, 2012 at 6:29 am

    I’ve just recently discovered your blog and I love all your recipes. This post was beautiful – thank you so much for sharing. It’s inspiring to read and whenever I make this cake I will definitely think of your story. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe!

  • kyla
    April 12, 2012 at 7:33 am

    You are so strong and seem like a lovely woman. We, your readers, are incredibly proud of you.

  • Xiomara @ parkesdale
    April 12, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve just recently found your blog and already think you are an amazing person.

  • Jen @ The Scrumptious Pumpkin
    April 12, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Thanks for sharing this amazing story and recipe! 🙂

  • Dawn (HealthySDLiving)
    April 12, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Thank you for sharing. I lost my mother 7 years ago and I know what you mean that birthdays are harder than other days. I too try not to dwell and have been able to take my moments, be sad and miss her but celebrate life, the time I have left and how she would have wanted me to celebrate it.

    The cake looks amazing.

  • Nicole
    April 12, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Thoughts and prayers to you and your family….

  • Nicole
    April 12, 2012 at 10:03 am

    I’m a long time reader, and remember reading about your brothers passing. Celebrating your brother’s life is exactly what he would have wanted you and your family to do. Thoughts and prayers are with you all.

  • Charlotte Marie
    April 12, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Thinking of you today. Beautiful post.

  • Tammy @ Palm Trees and Manatees
    April 12, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Thinking of you and your family with love today.

  • Shelby
    April 12, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Jenna, your cake was delicious and I am so thankful that you shared it with us. While I enjoy the last slice , I send you a hug and wish you and your family well during this hard time. Love you!

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  • Kat @ Journey to 100
    April 12, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks for sharing the recipe and a little bit of your life. I’m thinking of you and your family! *Hugs*

  • erin @WELL in L.A.
    April 12, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Hugs! Such a beautiful, moving tribute.
    Enjoy the birthday cake and family time.

  • Amanda
    April 12, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Your post touched my heart. I know what you mean about birthdays. Tomorrow, I am going to my brother’s for a visit, and am making this cake for him. We can remember our parents, and “toast” them with a slice….they would’ve loved this cake 🙂

    • jenna
      April 12, 2012 at 5:31 pm

      that’s beautiful, amanda! thank you 🙂

  • Kimberly (Sketch the Ebb and Flow)
    April 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Baking one of your great-grandma’s recipes for your brother’s birthday is a wonderful tribute! Beautiful post, Jenna.

  • Mo
    April 12, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    My heart and all of my prayers go out to you. He would be so proud of you!! You’re so successful and beautiful, have a good day today filled with lots of leftover cake.

  • Kiran @
    April 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    I am so so sorry for your loss Jenna — time flies by, but the pain lingers. xoxo

  • Victoria
    April 12, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    I’m a new reader, and really enjoy reading. However, this post hit home more than anything. I lost my brother very unexpectedly 2.5 years ago. We have ice cream cake on his birthday as that was his favorite.

  • Amanda
    April 12, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    I have read your blog for the past few years and rarely comment but this was a beautiful post about your brother – my thoughts are with you and your family!

  • Sarah
    April 12, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    I remember when that happened, can’t believe it has been three years. I love the way that you all remembered your brother’s birthday. My mom and I were just talking about how we should celebrate the birthdays of those we have lost instead of always dreading the day that we lost them every year. Love and prayers to you and your family!

  • Janssen
    April 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    This looks so amazing! What a sweet way to celebrate your brother – I lost mine twelve years ago and I know just what you mean about birthdays.

  • Lindsay
    April 12, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    What an eloquently written post. I remember when your brother passed back in ’09, and I remember when you got your “in memory of” tattoo. I remember how you celebrated that first birthday of his after his death, and I remember how you wrote so thoughtfully and lovingly of your little brother who, so unexpectedly, passed away that one year prior. It’s always a breath of fresh air to read how you cope with his passing–how you are so open and honest with yourself, as well as with us…your readers.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you on this day (and every day) and I thank you for sharing your life–your story–with all of us readers on a daily basis.

    Happy Birthday John, Happy Birthday.

  • Kat
    April 12, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    I barely ever comment …but am a faithful reader. Thinking about you on this difficult day. Xo. -Kat

  • rebecca
    April 13, 2012 at 4:54 am

    I don’t usually comment – and I just read this post now – but thank you for sharing your story and my prayers are with you and your family. I have been reading your blog since February 2008 even though I almost never comment and really admire you and the strength you’ve shown over the last few years.

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  • Nicole of Raspberry Stethoscope
    April 13, 2012 at 10:25 am

    I think that I will bake a cake for my mom on her birthday this year, as well. She died Jan 5, 2011, and last May, I certainly was still too much in grief mode to “celebrate” her life and birthday since it had only been 4 mos.

  • Moni Meals
    April 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Thanks for sharing Jenna. You are amazing. 🙂

  • nicole
    April 13, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    I’ve just found your blog and am really enjoying it. I was so touched my this post as I have had quite a few loved ones pass in the last few years. This cake recipe looked so good, I kept thinking about it all week. I decided my little son and I should make it today, it’s very rainy in L.A. It was a wonderful mom-toddler moment as we licked spoons together and this created a very happy memory for us. Take care.

  • Meghan
    April 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Hey Jenna,
    I lost my dad 2.5 years ago after a short battle with cancer. we celebrate his birthday every year with a burger down at the Muni, just a he would have liked. Good for you for living your life to the fullest!

  • Julie
    April 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I just made this cake for my husband and me for dessert tonight. We will raise our forks in a toast to our siblings, who even though they have driven us crazy over the years, are still our first friends, and we will celebrate their lives. Thank you for the reminder that we always need to tell the people that we love that we do indeed love them. May God bless you as you and your family go through this month.

  • Deborah
    April 14, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    What a perfect way to honor your brother’s memory. Such a touching post!

  • Tiff
    April 15, 2012 at 3:57 am

    I’m a new reader and haven’t commented before, but this post really tugged at my heartstrings. In April 2009 my brother, also 19 at the time, was shot in a drive-by shooting. By some miracle my brother survived it; if the entry point was a centimeter to the right or left, we would’ve lost him. It was a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time combined with senseless gun violence from an unidentified shooter who still hasn’t been caught.

    Your brother and his story reminds me of mine, and it brings a tear to my eye because I am so sorry for everything you and your family had to go through. I have hope that you will all be reunited one day.

    Thank you for the post and I will be trying out the cake.

  • Claire
    April 18, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    This cake was so good I’m going to make it again! Thank you!

  • Emelie
    April 24, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    Dear Jenna,
    I never comment on things but tonight I was searching for something to bake tomorrow and I came across your beautiful words. I too lost my brother at age 19. For me it has been nearly 14 years but somedays it is still so fresh in my mind and my heart. Each year the sting will lessen some but the pain I think never leaves you. It hasn’t left me and continues to impact my life in many ways but not all are negative. I love more and appreciate the relationships I have with others in a new way. Hearing your story made me feel that we are not alone in this world and I wanted to be sure to reach out to you. Tomorrow I will bake this cake for my children in memory of your brother and mine. Sincerely….

  • rach
    April 28, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Made the cake – absolutely delicious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The kitchen smelled sooooo good while it was baking, and the icing was to die for. I did add a little buttermilk and cream cheese to the frosting, though. I gave half to my neighbours and they said it was the best cake they’ve ever had.

  • Daman
    April 30, 2012 at 8:53 am

    hi jenna, how much icing sugar do i use?

  • Daman
    April 30, 2012 at 8:59 am

    also Jenna, i only have 9 inch cake pans, how would i make it work or should i just buy an 8inch pan? thanks!

    • jenna
      April 30, 2012 at 9:22 am

      Nope—use your 9 inch pan…it will work great!

  • Daman
    April 30, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Thanks. How many cups of icing sugar?

    • jenna
      April 30, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      about two cups!

  • Daman
    May 2, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Hi jenna finally going go start baking but I don’t have the semi sweet chocolate. Can I sub cocoa?how much?

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  • Dahlila
    December 23, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Would be nice to know what MEASUREMENTS to use…..

  • candice
    December 27, 2012 at 9:25 am

    How much is 2 sticks of butter? In tbsp? This cake looks awesome, and its my first cake so I’m freaking out! Also what size/ounces is a box of powdered sugar?

    • jenna
      December 27, 2012 at 9:47 am

      Two sticks of butter is 16 tablespoons. And the box of powered sugar is 16 oz 🙂

  • summer
    February 10, 2014 at 6:56 am

    Hi Jenna,
    I plan on baking your delicious sounding cake for my husband’s birthday in a few days. Do you think the frosting recipe makes enough to cover the sides of the cake too? I plan to do 2 layers and double the entire recipe as mentioned.

    • jenna
      February 10, 2014 at 8:45 am

      I think you’d be fine!

      • Sumner
        February 16, 2014 at 12:28 pm

        I doubled everything, made two cakes, iced the top and sides of both, and had about a cup of icing left. Everyone at the 25 person party fawned over it! And hubby said it was better than his Mexican chocolate groom`s cake from our wedding :).

        We also made our own lettering like this:

        Thank you for sharing this with us 🙂

  • Mary Miller
    May 16, 2014 at 4:50 am

    I really love this cake recipe, and so do all of my friends!!! I used dark chocolate for the icing and added a dash of nutmeg too and it turned out rather tasty ^-^! Thanks a bunch for sharing this and all of your other recipes!!

  • trish
    September 16, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    Just in case someone comes back for the recipe, I want to add my experience. I made this a couple of years ago and stuck with the one, 8-inch pan and ended up with cake all over the bottom of my oven. I tried it again and divided it into two, 8-inch pans, and it’s perfect. I don’t know how you can fit all that batter into one pan without it spilling over!

    • Katya
      February 24, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      I echo Trish’s sentiments. I actually just made this. Ironically, I chose it as I didn’t have any chocolate cake recipe with so many spices in it but mostly because the recipe called for a single 8-inch cake pan. When I read the ingredient amounts, it seemed unlikely that it would fit into such a small pan. I quickly perused the comments and thankfully read yours Trish. I decided to bake it in a 10-inch springform instead and I’m glad I did. It rose quite a bit and is a big cake. I didn’t add heaping teaspoons of the leaveners either and I used two large eggs (not the extra large variety).

      Initially, I was concerned about how much it rose since it was made for someone who has a strong dislike for high cakes but much to my delight and his, he loved the cake. I didn’t make the frosting since he doesn’t like it.

      Thanks for the recipe.

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