Starry Starry Night Chocolate Cake

September 2nd, 2011

OK.  There is a story here.  My Mother was an artist.  She never had any formal training, but her talent was evident from an early age.  I remember as a child loving the smell of linseed oil and the vibrant paint colors on her palette.  She was a typical housewife of the 50’s, but there was never anything typical about her.  She was a joyful person who loved her husband and her two beautiful (excuse the narcissism) children.  But there was always her talent that she could not hide even if she wanted to.  Her art teacher in high school  encouraged her to attend college and hone her exceptional skills.  But she had fallen in love with my Father who was a brave Marine during WW II.  Their life together was one of the most beautiful love stories that I have ever witnessed.  She was happy.  But she was also creative.  Imagine Van Gogh’s painting of Starry Starry Night.  That is what I thought of when I made this cake which is very similar to something my Mother used to make.

My Mother embraced all styles of art but her talent was in realism.  She painted what she saw and wanted it to look as realistic as possible.  I have never seen anyone with a more precise eye to detail than my Mother.  Because I have four of her paintings I can marvel at her brushstrokes and the way she made flat canvases come alive with images.  Her portraits are amazing.   Here are three that are in our living room.  In the case of Andrew Jackson she copied the portrait by Thomas Sully.  I always wondered why she had never completed it, but this was the way Sully had left it.  It is also the image that is on the twenty dollar bill.

The only one of her paintings that I don’t have, that I would love to have, belongs to my Brother Bill.  He has her Hemingway.  It is, in my opinion, a masterpiece and I applaud Bill for grabbing it first.  “Right!”

Mom was also a talented cook.  What I am today I credit to her example.  She cooked food, as she painted, with both creativity and love.  My SIL Barb recently sent me this recipe for chocolate cake.  Barb said  “Do you remember your Mom’s Blackbottom Cupcakes?  This is a cake recipe that is very similar.”  It is a recipe that I’m sure you can find on the internet as a Blackbottom Cake, but I choose to call it Starry Starry Night Cake in honor of my Mom.  She would have appreciated it’s beauty and loved it.


1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. water
1/3 c. oil
1 tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla


1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1 egg
1/3 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 c. chocolate chips

Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda and salt. Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Pour into 9×13 inch greased and floured pan. Combine cream cheese, egg, salt, sugar and chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto batter in pan. Swirl knife through batter to create a ribbon effect.  Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and confectioners’ sugar if desired.  Mom would have sprinkled it with plain sugar.
Printable recipe
I will see you after the holiday weekend.  We have lots of family visiting.  Have a fun and safe holiday.  More recipes are coming from our cookout.

15 responses to “Starry Starry Night Chocolate Cake”

  1. Pondside says:

    Have a great holiday weekend, Penny. I’m making your Teriyaki Chicken in the slow cooker for this evening.

  2. Your Mother was extremely talented…the paintings are beautiful! I also see a resemblance in the two of you. How lucky you were to have such a creative mentor in your life.

    The cake looks wonderful! Do I dare make it??


  3. What an excellent post… love recipes with stories. Delicious looking cake and very fitting for the tile…

    OK, neither Jackie and I can figure out… JFK and Old hickory, but who is the third subject???

    Have a fun weekend and yes, as advised, always say yes when people ask to help!

  4. Penny says:

    Dave, the third painting is of Robert Frost. He read one of his poems at the Kennedy inaugral.

  5. Penny says:

    The cake is as easy as pie. I’ve always wanted to say that. Goes together in a snap.

  6. Penny says:

    Honora, Hope the chicken tastes yummy.

  7. Lyla says:

    This is a hard post to read because I remember your beautiful, creative mother. And I remember your parents together. It was a love story–all your friends thought so. And there’s your mother in all her joyful beauty–it’s just yesterday and yet so long ago. This cake recipe is a treasure–just like the memories you shared. I think you’ve had a starry starry life, Penny. Love.

  8. Lyla says:

    Oh, and I remember Frost reading that poem at the inaugural. Remember the papers blew away and he paused only for a second before finishing it from memory?

  9. Hello Penny! I love the connection with your Mom and you obviously feel so close to her now. The recipe is great and I am going to earmark it for when I need something like this. Thanks so much for posting it. x

  10. Hi Penny! You neglected to mention that mom was a looker too! A real dolly, as my dad might say. Just throwing that in there. Thanks for teh post!


  11. MorganLBobik says:

    Hi Aunt Penny! Thank you for sharing this recipe, and the wonderful story about grandma 🙂 She was a wonderful artist/cook! I’m going to make this cake tomorrow for the family, dad is smoking a turkey on the grill, so this cake will be perfect for the cookout. Hope you and the family are having a wonderful Labor Day Weekend, miss you all and love you-Morgan

  12. Cathy says:

    What a beautiful post, Penny. You mother is lovely and sounds like an exceptionally talented woman. You are very lucky to have several of her paintings and I think your name for her cake is perfect.

  13. Kat says:

    Enjoyed learning more about your Mother. She was very talented. Love the JFK painting. The cake does remind one of Starry,Starry Night!

  14. Barbara says:

    Loved the story about your talented mother, Penny. Are you an artist as well? She was a beauty as well and it sounds as though you had a wonderful warm childhood.
    That’s a perfect name for this recipe…you’re right, it really does look like the Van Gogh.

  15. Nice to honor your mother and her memory with the cake you baked.

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