Sour Chocolate Cake

This cinnamony chocolate cake was a staple at the now-closed Half-a-Hill Tavern in Greene County, Missouri, in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. It gets a pleasing tang from vinegar, and a moist, light crumb thanks to shortening in the batter.

Sour Chocolate Cake Sour Chocolate Cake
This cinnamon-y chocolate cake gets a pleasing tang from the addition of vinegar; and a moist, fluffy crumb thanks to shortening.
Yield: serves 10-12

For the Cake

  • 12 cup milk
  • 1 12 tsp. white vinegar
  • 34 cup shortening, plus more for greasing
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 12 cup cocoa powder
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

For the Icing

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 14 cup milk
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter


  1. Make the cake: Mix milk and vinegar in bowl; let sit until slightly curdled, about 10 minutes.
  2. Heat oven to 350°. Grease a 9″x13″ baking dish with shortening. Whisk flour, sugar, cinnamon, and baking soda, in a bowl; make a well in the center. Bring shortening, cocoa powder, butter, and 12 cup water to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan. Cook, whisking constantly, until smooth, 5-7 minutes; let cool slightly. Whisk in milk mixture and eggs. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until a smooth batter forms. Pour batter into greased pan and smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes; let cool.
  3. Make the icing: Whisk confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl. Simmer milk and butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted, 3-4 minutes. Whisk in sugar mixture until smooth. Pour icing over cake; let set completely, about 30 minutes.