Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

Baking with Marlene Dietrich! Here’s Her Easy Chocolate Cake

Looking for a chocolate cake that’s so easy it will have you falling in love again with baking? Here’s a recipe from one of my favorite books, Marlene Dietrich’s ABCs. Which isn’t exactly a cookbook. It’s more like a quiet conversation off in the corner of the room with your impossibly glamorous favorite aunt who you can’t even believe is your mother’s sister—the one the whole family talks about all the time, and not always so nicely.

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But Marlene was a homebody at heart; her lover, Jean Gabin, once complained, “She’s always scrubbing and cleaning!” One night  at the Hollywood Canteen, Van Johnson watched the legendary diva work herself up to something close to ecstasy while washing dishes. When he told her how surprised he was, she growled, “I’m a hausfrau, a cook—not that sequined clown you see on the stage!”

sis-dietrich-hollywoodcanteen1942 sis-dietrich-cooking

Well alrighty then! And just to prove it, here’s her fabulously simple recipe for chocolate cake:

2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup sweetened butter
2/3 cups twice-sifted flour
1 tablespoon rum (plus some for the cook)
1 teaspoon baking powder

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler; remove from heat and add rum, beat in sugar, gently fold in eggs. Then gently fold in flour and baking powder. Pour into a buttered aluminum pie pan; let it rest (so dramatic!) for half an hour. Then bake at 375 for 35 minutes or so. That’s what the recipe says, but I usually take it out as soon as a toothpick comes out clean, which is generally about 30 minutes. The rum for the cook is my own little twist…

Marlene’s book has a few other recipes in it as well. My favorite is the one for moss, which starts out with… moss. Basically you take moss, and add water, and get lots more moss. Hey, Garbo’s not gonna tell you that! Just get the book, though. It’s fabulous. You will find yourself turning to Aunt Marlene over and over again, with burning questions such as what to do with extra egg whites. (Two words: hand treatment.)

Enjoy! Now I must get in touch with my inner Dietrich and scrub the floors…


  1. Not only am I making this cake…I am buying the book!

  2. Joan Feder

    Loved reading about it, can not wait to try it!

  3. I too will be giving this cake a whirl! It sounds like it makes a small one – so perfect! All for me since the hubster doesn’t like cake (he has problems!). Merry Christmas hausfraus!

  4. Reblogged this on Carleigh-Hepburn and commented:

  5. I got my book! Now to make the cake!

  6. paul

    2 squares Unsweetened chocolate being 2 ounces?

    • Yes generally a square is an ounce. If you buy chocolate that is not pre-divided into squares, you’ll have some measuring to do! But it should be two ounces. Enjoy!!


  1. STREAMING SATURDAY! Donat and Dietrich in KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOR—Plus Marlene’s Home Movies! | Sister Celluloid
  2. Dining with Dietrich | BEGUILING HOLLYWOOD

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