Cakes as we know them developed in the 19th century. Prior to that, they were mostly sweetened bread-like desserts which often contained honey, nuts, or fruit baked inside. In the earlier part of the 1800's, cakes were mostly white or yellow. Chocolate wasn't a very common ingredient until the latter half of the century when people began adding shavings to their desserts.
Here is a recipe I found from the 1800's from Windham County's website, which lists real recipes printed in newspapers. I've not tried it myself, but the cake Lynette Ellis baked in my story The Lawmen of Clayton County: Athena Creek would have been similar to this.
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of butter
1 one heaping cup of flour
1 teaspoon of cream tartar sifted in flour
1/2 teaspoon of soda dissolved in a tablespoonful of sweet milk.
Icing: whites of 3 eggs beaten to a stiff froth, 1 cup of sugar (pulverized), 3 tablespoons of grated chocolate, and vanilla to taste.
Bake the cake in jelly-cake tins in three layers. Spread the mixture between and on top. Eat within thirty-six hours after baking.
Author, Historical Fiction
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