For as long as I can remember, Christmas recipes meant cookie recipes and specialty pastries like nut roll, not so much traditional dessert recipes like cakes or pies. Once our family is done feasting on Christmas Eve (seven fishes and 13 dishes!) and Christmas Day, the last thing anyone wants is a heavy dessert. We usually make coffee and unwrap a few platters with a selection of cookies that have been baked. Sometimes, however, my dad’s family celebrates Christmas a few days early or the weekend before, when I’m always more than ready to welcome dessert into my belly. There were a few years when my aunt would bring this “ho ho” cake for the occasion. It had been quite a few years since we had it and I’m not sure what made me think of it, but I placed a call to my grandma a few weeks ago asking her to hunt down the recipe. She dug it up in an old church cookbook from decades ago. Finding it was both a blessing and a curse. The cake is quite possibly the best cake I’ve had in years; however, I ate at least one piece every single day for a solid week. I’m still trying to figure out how this is a bad thing.
This cake is a phenomenal recreation of all the flavors that make Ho Ho snack cakes so irresistible. A basic chocolate cake (I used a Dark Chocolate Fudge variety) is topped with a fluffy white frosting, and then a chocolate icing. My aunt mentioned that she sometimes makes the cake like a traditional roll cake… turn out the chocolate cake and roll up (same process as my Angel Food Cake Roll), then once cool spread the filling all over it, and roll back up. Finally, cover the outside with the chocolate icing. It looks like one big Ho Ho! My guess is that it’s more popular during the holidays because people assimilate the “ho ho” name with the “ho ho ho” associated with Santa Claus at Christmas. Whatever the reason, I don’t need an excuse to down plate after plate of ridiculously delicious chocolate cake.
I like keeping the cake baked in the jelly roll pan myself. It makes it much, much easier to steal a corner here and a corner there (ahem). You can serve this cake at room temperature or cold, straight from the refrigerator. I preferred it cold myself, but my mom and Chief Culinary Consultant both preferred it at room temperature. This cake was a serious magic act – for how much we ate it, it lasted a mysteriously long time. It will definitely feed a crowd, which makes it perfect for a holiday gathering. I’ll be making it again this weekend and bringing it to my grandparents’ on Sunday. I’m secretly hoping there are leftovers so I can bring some home with me! ;-)
Make the Cake: Mix together the cake mix as directed on package and bake in a 10x15-inch jelly roll pan, greased and/or floured, as instructed on the box. Cool to room temperature.
Make the Filling: Meanwhile, combine the milk and flour in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of pudding, about 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside and cool to room temperature.
Cream together the sugar, butter and shortening on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the cooled flour/milk mixture and beat on high for 7 minutes. Spread on the cooled cake and refrigerate until set.
Make the Icing: In a large bowl, mix together all of the icing ingredients on medium-high speed until creamy and smooth. Spread over the filling on the cake and serve. Cover leftovers with plastic wrap and refrigerate.