No Matter Which Recipe You Choose, Wellesley Fudge Cake Is A Sweet Slice of Wellesley’s History

February 5, 2016
A recipe for Wellesley Fudge Cake from Baker's Chocolate Box

Legend has it that College founder Henry Durant once declared, "pies, lies, and doughnuts should never have a place in Wellesley College," so students who wanted a chocolate fix decided to hone their fudge-making and baking skills in secret. The result of these early efforts was a decadent square layer cake topped with a slab of fudge frosting. Over time, local tearooms put the cake on their menus, and Baker’s Chocolate (now owned by Kraft) included the recipe with bars of its baking chocolate.

Our social media pages have been abuzz with comments from fans of Wellesley Fudge Cake—also known as Wellesley Chocolate Cake—since the College's Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts mentioned that surreptitious treat on January 27, National Chocolate Cake Day.

In 2010 Cook’s Country magazine tested several recipes for the labor-intensive cake and developed a modernized version to appeal to a more contemporary palate. Said the magazine, "Nowadays, we’re so accustomed to ramped-up chocolate flavor and silken ganaches (not to mention high-quality chocolate), the cake failed to make the impression it once did."

The Cook's Country testers replaced some of the bar chocolate with cocoa powder bloomed in hot water, in order to deepen its flavor. They also replaced "thick sour milk" with buttermilk to give the cake a hint of tang, and they simplified the frosting. (The Cook’s Country recipe is available online.) Yet for many who love Wellesley and Wellesley Fudge Cake, earlier versions of the recipe, including two from alumnae, are worth the effort.

One Facebook fan noted that she has been making the cake since the 1980s. Another said she wants to try the dessert, though "I have looked all over for Swans Down cake flour but I can’t find any!" (A fellow alumna came to the rescue: "Hannaford's carries it!")

Cherie Tyger, resident director of Wellesley Fresh, said she and her staff first became aware of Wellesley Fudge Cake two or three years ago, when reunion groups contacted them prior to coming to campus for reunion weekend. Though the cake is too time-consuming to make regularly, Tyger, who uses a variation of the Cook’s Country recipe, said, “We have made the cake for special requests from a few student groups and returning alumnae.”

Grateful alumnae appreciate such efforts, as one person remarked on Wellesley’s Facebook page: “At our 45th reunion, the class of ’69 provided this recipe to Claflin Bakery to do a special order, and they delivered a supply to our reunion dorm. It was delicious!”

Another alumna proudly shared a photo of her favorite Fudge Cake, the one she made for her daughter “right before she started her first year at Wellesley.”

Mark your calendar—and choose your preferred recipe—for next year’s National Chocolate Cake Day, January 27. In the meantime, share a Fudge Cake memory with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.