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Some claim the Driskill Hotel is one of the most haunted hotels in the United States. Scary stories scare me, so let’s focus on the fact that the Driskill Hotel’s 1886 Chocolate Cake is haunted with pure deliciousness. This chocolate cake is sweet, decadent, rich, and chocolatey.

The nuts mixed in the chocolate cream frosting gives the cake an inviting crunch. Aromatic cocoa and pecans will waft your kitchen and lure your family members in for a slice. This cake is brownie-like in richness, while being fluffy and light.

It’s so satisfying and decadent that you’ll want to make sure you have enough buttermilk for a second batch.

driskill-hotels-1886-chocolate-cake-round-strawberries-pecans-top-down
Driskill Hotel’s 1886 Chocolate Cake

What Happened In 1886?

According to Wikipedia, United States Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1886, the first federal legislation to protect the rights of African-Americans. President Andrew Johnson vetoes the bill on March 27, and Congress overrides the veto on April 9.

The Civil Rights Act declared that all persons born in the United States are to be citizens, “without distinction of race or color, or previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude.”

Also in 1886, doors opened to the oldest, most luxurious historical hotel of Texas: the Driskill Hotel. If you’re curious, here is the timeline of how the Driskill Hotel came to be.

About the Driskill Hotel

The Driskill Hotel is a Roman-inspired hotel building completed in 1886. It is the oldest operating hotel in Austin and an iconic landmark of Texas hospitality.

The 1886 Cafe was established in 2002 in Austin, Texas, and the cake was created and served there. If you get a chance to visit, you can ask the servers and they will give you the recipe for the 1886 Chocolate Cake.

For now, I’ll save you a trip and give you a copy of the newspaper clipping that my boss shared with me.

This cake also goes by the name of 1886 Chocolate Sheet Cake. Has it actually been around that long? We can ponder over a slice of cake and some ice cold milk.

The Answer To Your Chocolate Cake Cravings?

The Driskill’s 1886 Chocolate Cake is guaranteed to get chocolatey goodness stuck to the roof of your mouth, only to be rescued by a refreshing gulp of cold milk. Yes, it’s that good.

driskill-hotels-1886-chocolate-cake-round-strawberries-pecans-side-slice-milk-glass
A Slice of Driskill Hotel’s 1886 Chocolate Cake with Strawberries and a Glass of Milk

We’ve shared this cake with our co-workers, friends, and families. By popular demand, here is the recipe.

Recipe

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, 2 sticks
  • 2/3 cups water
  • 1/2 heaping cups unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten lightly
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 heaping teaspoon baking soda

For the Icing

  • 1/2 cups unsalted butter
  • 3 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 3-4 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped

Instructions

For the Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add water and cocoa, stir well.
  3. Sift together flour, sugar, and salt, and stir them into the cocoa mixture.
  4. In a large bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and baking soda. Add the chocolate mixture and mix well.
  5. Grease and flour a 9″x13″ cake pan (or jelly roll pan). Gently pour cake mixture in and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. If using a jelly roll pan, bake for 20 minutes. It is ready when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

For the Icing

  1. Optional: Toast pecans for 7-10 minutes at 350 degrees, flipping halfway through.
  2. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and cocoa.
  3. Add the half-and-half, and heat it through. Mix in the remaining ingredients, blend well, and remove the pan from the heat.

Finishing the Cake

  1. While the cake and icing are still warm, gently spoon the icing over the cake. Top with more pecans.
  2. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature, with a side of strawberries and a glass of milk.

Layered Cake Serving Style

The fun alternative I do for this cake, besides making it as traditional sheet cake, is I like to make a 2-layered round cake.

Do this by splitting the batter in half into to 2 8″ cake pans and to create a round cake. I level the 1st cake, then add a thin layer of the icing, then add the 2nd cake, then add a finishing layer of the icing. I use a scale to make sure I put equal amounts of batter in each cake pan.

You can also make these in square pans and cupcake pans too, use your imagination! The icing is very sweet, but if you feel the need to make more, use the recipe above to create as much as you need.

Storage

This recipe keeps for up to four days at room temperature.

To keep for longer, store in air-tight container in your freezer. Thaw before serving.

Microwave for 10 seconds to warm the cake.

The frosting will harden if you leave it out in the pan too long, but you can add a teaspoon of milk and heat it up again to get the liquid consistency needed to pour it over the cake.

The Driskill Hotel’s 1886 Chocolate Cake

4.86 from 7 votes
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Calories 287
Original Austin recipe. Decadent and sweet. Serve with a glass of cold milk.

Equipment

  • 1 cake pan (9"x13") (or jelly roll pan)

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • cups water
  • ½ heaping cups unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (sifted)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs (beaten lightly)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 heaping teaspoon baking soda

For the Icing

  • ½ cups unsalted butter
  • 3 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 3-4 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup pecans (chopped)

Instructions 

For the Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add water and cocoa, stir well.
  • Sift together flour, sugar, and salt, and stir them into the cocoa mixture.
  • In a large bowl, mix the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and baking soda. Add the chocolate mixture and mix well.
  • Grease and flour a 9"x13" cake pan (or jelly roll pan). Gently pour cake mixture in and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. If using a jelly roll pan, bake for 20 minutes. It is ready when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

For the Icing

  • Optional: Toast pecans for 7-10 minutes at 350 degrees, flipping halfway through.
  • In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and cocoa.
  • Add the half-and-half, and heat it through. Mix in the remaining ingredients, blend well, and remove the pan from the heat.

Finishing the Cake

  • While the cake and icing are still warm, gently spoon the icing over the cake. Top with more pecans.
  • Serve the cake warm or at room temperature, with a side of strawberries and a glass of milk.

Notes

This recipe keeps for up to four days at room temperature. 
To keep longer, store in air-tight container in your freezer. Thaw before serving.
Author: denthu
Calories: 287kcal
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cakes, chocolate, most requested

Nutrition

Serving: 1 slice | Calories: 287kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 46mg | Sodium: 128mg | Potassium: 56mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 400IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 1mg

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