Make Sanders bumpy cake and other Midwest munchies in your own kitchen

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
A version of Sanders Bumpy Cake is featured in the new cookbook "Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland" by Shauna Sever .

With its dense and moist cake, striped with thick rows of white, vanilla buttercream frosting and sheltered in a glossy, chocolate fudge topping, Sanders Bumpy Cake has long been the unofficial dessert of Metro Detroit. 

Celebrated up and down throughout the confectionery's 100-plus-year history, the beloved bumpy cake is one of 125 recipes featured in Shauna Sever's forthcoming book, "Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland." 

The chocolate treat joins other Rust Belt favorites, such as Ohio shaker lemon pie, paczki, Danish kringle, frosted snickerdoodle bars and another Michigan favorite, pasties. The new cookbook, which is due out Oct. 22, includes instructions on how to make the smoky cheddar-crusted Cornish meat pies. 

"There’s just so much more variety than people realize about the Midwest," said Sever, who will visit Zingerman's in Ann Arbor for two events next month. "People think of the Midwest as being this homogeneous flyover country where there’s not lot of variation, and the truth of it is every state or every little city or little town has different recipes that are important to the people there."

"Midwest Made" cookbook by Shauna Sever comes out Oct. 22 and features a recipe for Sanders Bumpy Cake, plus pasties, paczki and other regional favorites.

While you can order Sanders Bumpy Cake online to just about anywhere (it's $24.99 and up including shipping), not all fans can get this at the local grocery store. Sever said making a dessert that is typically store-bought can present challenges. 

"It's so important to people," she said of the iconic cake. "It’s kind of what deep dish (pizza) is to Chicago. Those things that you just associate with a place and people have very strong opinions about."

As someone who didn't grow up in Metro Detroit, Sever sees the beauty of bumpy cake from an outsider's perspective. 

"It really is very specific to the Midwest, especially to Michigan," she said. "So it’s fun, I think, to take something that’s so actually beautiful — visually a cross-section of it so unique-looking — and I think people are really drawn to it for that reason because there’s really nothing else like it. 

Sever will be in Ann Arbor next week hosting a small class on how to make bumpy cake and other recipes from her book. The class is Nov. 7 at Zingerman's Bake!, a hands-on teaching bakery. 

The author and baker, who has also written a cookbook on marshmallows and another dedicated to vanilla, will also kick off a new event series for Zingerman's, a cookbook club, the morning of Nov. 8. 

Sever was nice enough to share her bumpy cake recipe with our readers. She said the part of the cake-making process people may have the most trouble with is the fudge frosting. 

"It's tricky because people think of frosting as one way, but what you’re really doing here is making a pour-able fudge. If you can think about it in terms of candy-making —although candy-making sometimes scares people — if you can think of it in that way it’s actually much easier."

She says to get a candy thermometer to make sure the fudge is at the appropriate temperature. Another tip: freeze the cake after piping the buttercream so it doesn't melt when you ice the cake with the warm, liquid fudge.

Twitter: @melodybaetens

"Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland"

by Shauna Sever

Running Press

Out Oct. 22

Midwestern Baking with Shauna Sever

Learn how to make bumpy cake, Nebraska runzas and taffy apple salad

6-8:30 p.m. Nov. 7


3723 Plaza, Ann Arbor 


Cookbook Club with 'Midwest Made'

Watch Sever demonstrate how to make Danish Kringle, sample the finished product and chat about the book

9-11 a.m. Nov. 8


3723 Plaza, Ann Arbor 


Bake! is a hands-on, teaching bakery next door to Zingerman's Bakehouse in Ann Arbor.

Chocolate Bumpy Cake

Reprinted with permission from Midwest Made by Shauna Sever, Running Press

Serves 15 to 20


Nonstick cooking spray for pan 

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup/ unsweetened cocoa powder*

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature

1/2 cup hot brewed coffee or hot water

1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Vanilla buttercream:

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at cool room temperature

Fudge icing:

1 cup unsalted butter, divided

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk

1/3 cup dark corn syrup

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

*My first choice here is a half-and-half mix of regular Dutch-processed and black cocoa powders, for dynamite color and flavor. But if all you have is natural cocoa, that will work, too.

Prepare the cake: Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch light-colored metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, coffee, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients in the dry. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: In a 2- to 2 1/2- quart saucepan, whisk together the granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer and let cool completely. Beating with the paddle attachment on medium speed, beat in 1 tablespoon of butter at a time. Increasing the speed to medium-high, beat until light and fluffy and resembling whipped cream, about 5 minutes.

When the cake has cooled completely, load the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a 1-inch large round tip. Pipe nine 9-inch lines crosswise over the cake, 1 inch apart. Freeze until the filling is solid, at least 30 minutes.

When the filling is solid, keep the cake in the freezer while you prepare the icing: In a 2- to 2 1/2- quart saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the butter and the sugar, buttermilk, corn syrup, cocoa powder, and salt. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and cook until the mixture reaches 235°F, no higher. Whisk in the remaining butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Stir in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, whisking until the icing is smooth. Remove the cake from the freezer. 

Immediately pour the icing in waterfall-like ribbons over the surface of the cake. If needed, gently rewarm any icing clinging to the pan, and pour it again. Freeze the cake until the icing is set, about 15 minutes, or refrigerate until ready to serve. Store any leftovers tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.