Online Recipe Book

Pinwheel Cake

The Whimsical Bakehouse, by Kaye Hansen and Liv Hansen, c. 2002, page 84
One 8" four-layer cake; 6 cups of batter
Prep info
2 hrs to bring things to room temp + 20 min prep + 25 min bake + 20 min cool
Prep time
Not set
Cook time
3 hours, 5 minutes
Time required
3 hours, 5 minutes
Oven preheat
Desserts - Misc


  • 2 c Flour (Cake)
  • 1.5 c Sugar (Granulated)
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 4 oz butter (unsalted) (softened)
  • 1 c evaporated milk
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs (large)
  • 1/4 c evaporated milk
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate (melted and cooled)
  • 1 oz semisweet chocolate (melted and cooled)


Grease two 8"x3" round pans.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Have all ingredients at room temperature.

Sift into the bowl of an electric mixer the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add to the mixing bowl the butter, 1 cup evaporated milk, and vanilla; beat on low speed with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes.

Add the eggs, remaining evaporated milk, and unsweetened chocolate; continue to mix on low speed for 1.5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, have ready the semisweet chocolate.

Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans.  Drizzle the melted semisweet chocolate over the batter in each pan.  Using a paring knife, cake tester, or toothpick, make a circular pattern in the batter.  This will create the pinwheel effect.

Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Cool the cakes on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes before turning them out of their pans.  Cool completely, before filling and icing.

Cut each cake layer in half horizontally (I recommend using thread to do this).  Place the bottom layer on a cardboard round  or cake plate.  If you are filling the cake, spread one third of the filling evenly on the bottom layer.  Top with a second layer and repeat with the remaining filling and layers, with a pinwheel design on top.


Notes from source: My mother claimed to have found the recipe on the back of a chocolate box; whatever its origins, it was a beloved birthday tradition for her entire family.  In contrast to the Chocolate Butter Cake ( ), this cake is light in color.  We like it filled with a chocolate buttercream ( ), and though my mother served it un-iced, allowing the baked-in swirl of chocolate to reflect the cake's simplicity, you can certainly ice it and add any number of the other designs.

SJ Note 20 March 2010: This was the agreeable cake of the four we tried this night.  I'm still not completely pleased with it, so my chocolate cake quest continues, but this wasn't too dry, and was flavorful enough.  And that pinwheel design really does look cool.  It kept decently enough, too, the cut cake with frosting at room temperature.  It only started going a bit stale on day 4 under those circumstances.