Four generations of Louisiana family cooks influenced Annette Landry, including her mother, Gayle Fontenot, above and below left, grandmother Neva Groth, great-grandmother Irene Ducote and great-great-grandmother Celestine Mason.

Imagine a frosted layer cake that tastes exactly like the most delectable fudge candy…and you’ll have a good idea of what makes Neva’s Chocolate Fudge Cake so special.

"My grandmother Neva always made this recipe for my grandfather’s birthday cake," says Louisiana native Annette Landry. "It is a treasured family favorite, and to this day I still have never tasted anything like it in my life!"

Thankfully, Neva Groth taught her granddaughter how to make the scrumptiously out-of-this-world dessert. In fact, a host of family cooks influenced Annette in one way or another, from great-great-grandmother Celestine, to Neva, to her mother Gayle Fontenot.

"I come from a long line of great cooks, so it is no wonder that I love to cook, too," says Annette, who works as a registered nurse in home health when she isn’t dabbling in the wonderful recipes of her forebears. "It is fun reminiscing with my mother about those who were so influential in shaping the cooks we have become and the recipes we hold so dear,

and how food is such an important part of our lives. It is amazing how a recipe or familiar taste or smell can bring back so many memories, especially since my grandparents are no longer with us."

Annette’s husband Stephen, "a Cajun through and through," can also hold his own in the kitchen. "He makes the roux in our family," says Annette. "I gladly give that over to him."

Annette’s specialty is baking--especially with chocolate. Even though she had perfected her mom’s Shrimp Jambalaya by the fifth grade, Annette is happiest whipping together something sweet. "I inherited my grandfather’s addiction for chocolate,” she says. “My love in the kitchen is baking. Something sweet after meals was a tradition growing up in my family."

Annette was raised next door to her grandparents in Hathaway, a small farming community between Lake Charles and Lafayette in southwestern Louisiana, far from the hubbub of New Orleans. Mardi Gras is observed on the prairie where Acadian and Creole cultures mesh, but the annual celebration

is viewed in a much different light there than in the glitter of Bourbon Street. Annette has memories of the Courir du Mardi Gras, where men dressed in "wild costumes" and took part in a ceremonial hunt for ingredients to make a communal gumbo.

Some of these old-time traditions may be disappearing, but cooking remains the centerpiece of family activity just as it was during Annette’s childhood. "All of our family get-togethers are centered around cooking and baking," says Annette. "When I was growing up, all meals were sit-down around the table, and they’re still that way when my mother comes to visit."

A visit today by Gayle--"the most amazing jelly/jam and homemade candy maker I have ever known" says Annette--involves a 90-minute drive from Hathaway to the Landrys’ 1,000-acre sugar cane farm in Jeanerette.

Imagine that, sweet tooth Annette married a sugar cane farmer! "I hit the jackpot," laughs Annette.

We all hit the jackpot with Neva’s Chocolate Fudge Cake.

As told to Jim Smith

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Neva’s Chocolate Fudge Cake

Rich, dense, fudgy, delicious.

  • ¼ lb. unsweetened chocolate squares (4 squares)
  • 2 sticks butter (1 Cup)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 Cups sugar
  • 2 Cups pecans, large pieces, do not finely chop
  • 1 Cup flour
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • 2 sticks butter (1 Cup), room temperature
  • 3-4 TB. milk
  • 1 Cup pecans, large pieces, do not finely chop

Preheat oven to 375°. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Let cool slightly. Stir in the beaten eggs and sugar. Put the pecans in the flour,

toss, and then add to the chocolate mixture. Add the VANILLA, mix until well blended. Pour the batter into 2 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans lined with greased waxed paper. The waxed paper is very important, or the cake will stick!
Place a pan of cool water on the rack under the cake while baking. This is a thin, dense cake and the pan of water helps it cook evenly and the steam from the water helps it stay tender. Be careful when you open the oven door as it will be hot and steamy. Bake at 375° for about 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before carefully removing from the pan to a rack. Cool completely before frosting.

Frosting: Sift the powdered sugar and COCOA over the butter in a medium bowl. Add the VANILLA, then beat until smooth, drizzling the milk in as you go. The icing may not need the final TB. of milk to be smooth. Fold in the pecans. Spread between the cake layers and on top. No need to frost the sides. Refrigerate the cake overnight.
TIP: When serving, cut the pieces smaller than normal cake-size, as this cake is very dense and fudgy!

Prep. time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Yield: 32

Nutritional Information: Servings 32;
Serving Size 1 piece (67g); Calories 320; Calories from fat 190; Total fat 21g; Cholesterol 55mg; Sodium 90mg; Carbohydrate 33g; Dietary Fiber 2g.

Need any spices for this recipe?

Spice Price Quantity
Natural Cocoa Powder 4 oz. bag $3.45
Single Strength Vanilla 4 oz. Bottle $13.99

Gayle’s Shrimp Jambalaya

Super simple and simply super, this recipe from Annette is great for a dinner party. While the jambalaya is in the oven you can visit with your guests.

  • 1 lb. raw, peeled/deveined shrimp
  • 1/4 Cup vegetable oil
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 11/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. CAYENNE PEPPER
  • 1/4 tsp. CAJUN SEASONING
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 Cups water
  • 1 Cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 tsp. PARSLEY FLAKES (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, onion and bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally; do not brown. Add the salt, CAYENNE PEPPER, FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER, CAJUN SEASONING, tomato sauce, water and shrimp. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the uncooked rice and PARSLEY, if desired. Pour into a greased, 2-quart casserole dish. Cover and bake at 350° for 1 hour. Do NOT stir or uncover during baking.

Prep. time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 75 minutes
Serves: 4-6

Nutritional Information: Servings 6;
Serving Size 1 cup (294g); Calories 310; Calories from fat 100; Total fat 11g; Cholesterol 115mg; Sodium 880mg; Carbohydrate 33g; Dietary Fiber 2g.

Need any spices for this recipe?

Spice Price Quantity
Cayenne Red Pepper Powder 1.0 oz. 1/4 cup jar $3.45
Penzeys Freshly Ground Pepper 4oz. bag $4.45
Cajun Style Seasoning 2.1 oz. 1/2 cup jar $7.75
Parsley .1 oz. 1/4 cup jar $2.09