This cake is rich, moist, and delicious—the kind of chocolate cake you dream about when you’re pouring yourself a glass of milk. Donald developed this cake recipe two decades ago when he was the pastry chef for the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.
As he tells it, “Every hotel pastry chef gets beat up over three things: muffins for the morning breakfast, American-style cookies, and a classic chocolate cake. Sean Loeffel, the food and beverage director at the hotel, had a clear idea of the chocolate cake he wanted me to make. For two months, I made chocolate cakes—every kind of chocolate cake you can imagine—but none of them worked for Sean. Finally, he brought in a cake that his mother had made, and I understood immediately what he wanted (and wished he’d brought in her cake two months earlier).
Sean’s mom had 8 or 10 children and a bazillion grandchildren, so she’s the grandma that this cake is named for. I tweaked her recipe, using really high-quality chocolate. As soon as I began making it, this cake took off. It became the cake of choice for the many, many weddings held at the Four Seasons. It was the most-requested item for room service. This cake crowns when baked so we would slice off the domed top, save it, and make another dessert—a chocolate pudding cake—by mixing the crumbs of the cutoff tops with a chocolate custard. That dessert also developed a devoted following.
Pastry chef friends from other hotels would call me, complaining about their own chocolate cake trauma, and I would e-mail them this recipe (telling them not to say where they’d gotten it). Without fail, I’d get an e-mail back a few days later singing the praises of this cake.”
It’s not overstating it to say Donald has made this cake thousands and thousands of times. If you love chocolate cake, this recipe is the one you’ll be passing down to your own grandchildren—if they’re lucky.