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Mrs. Shearer's Chocolate Cake

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

This week's historical recipe is from Mrs. John H. Shearer. For those who recognize the name, you may already know the family's importance to Union County history and their continued legacy in Marysville: The Marysville Journal Tribune.

John H. Shearer was publisher of the Tribune, which, according to Shearer descendants (and a pretty fancy plaque by the Tribune clock downtown), was printed right here in Marysville where the Memorial Health Pavilion stands today; yes, when you visited the Union County Farmers Market (at its pre-COVID location) or attended Friday Nights Uptown you were standing on a piece of history! While we are sad to see these old historical landmarks go and be replaced by more modern amenities, we are grateful for the work done by the Union County Historical Society and other organizations in preserving community history in other forms. That's why 100% of the proceeds from the sale of Mrs. Shearer's cake will go to the Union County Historical Society to fund various projects.

Josie Shearer was a prominent recipe contributor to the Centennial Buckeye Cookbook, originally printed and sold in 1876 to raise money for an addition onto the First Congregational Church in Marysville, still located downtown on Sixth Street, across from the courthouse. Not surprisingly, the Marysville Tribune, published by Josie's husband of course, said of the Centennial Buckeye Cookbook: It is "the most complete work of its kind that has ever emanated from the American press... designed to be practical in all its features, and by this end nothing is to be admitted that has not been amply demonstrated to be correct by the best housekeepers of the country." (1) We can't wait to learn more about the "best housekeepers of the country" as our historical recipe project continues; these women are an important part of Union County history!

Our first big surprise came when it occurred to us, this cake is not chocolate, just the topping is! It makes sense to us after a little thought though: Chocolate was an imported luxury item in the mid-1800's meaning it would not have been very widely available or very affordable for the average household of the time. All the different forms of chocolate we have now (cocoa powder, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate bars, chocolate chips...) were not really available. Chocolate took off later in the century, a development signified by the Hershey Company's success in eventually bringing milk chocolate manufacturing to the United States in 1919.

Before offering the cakes for sale, we had to make a few modifications to Mrs. Shearer's recipe to meet Ohio Department of Agriculture regulations regarding refrigeration of egg whites: we ultimately had to replace her tasty meringue frosting with a more stable chocolate-flecked buttercream (see photos below.) Other than that, the cake baked beautifully in a 350-degree oven. 5" layer cakes took about 30 minutes to bake through in greased pans. The result reminded us very much of a golden pound cake, probably due to the extra egg yolks used in the recipe. "The German or French chocolate that comes in little cakes" is not widely available anymore; keep in mind, chocolate isn't much of a luxury item nowadays (thank goodness!) We used our personal favorite chocolate variety - Green & Black's 85% - and shaved it very finely before sprinkling it on top.



Mrs. Shearer's Chocolate Cake will be available for sale at our farm market located at 22102 State Route 739 in Raymond the weekend of June 13. Each 5" layer cake is $10. Cupcake versions will be for sale the weekend of September 12 for $3 each. All proceeds go to the Union County Historical Society. Make sure to stop by and get your Union County Bicentennial Passport stamped!

Have a recipe you'd like to contribute? Feel free to reach out to us at Thanks, fellow local history nerds!

(1) Quote from page xxix in Andrew F. Smith's introduction to the OSU reprint of the Centennial Buckeye Cookbook, which can be purchased here:

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