Having a long list of different family favorite desserts, this Pennsylvania Dutch Chocolate Funny Cake is my absolute number one! I can remember my Grammy making this classic treat for many family get-togethers, church functions, and birthdays—like mine! Funny cake is part fluffy vanilla cake, part buttery, flaky pie crust, with a layer of chocolate in between. It may sound bizarre, but trust me on this one—it's very, very good!
What is a funny cake?
This is a question I get asked a lot whenever the subject of funny cake is brought up in a conversation. The Pennsylvania Dutch Chocolate Funny Cake is a moist, vanilla-flavored cake with a nicely swirled dark, golden brown top, with a gooey layer of chocolate below that's all baked in a homemade buttery flaky pie crust.
Where does the name funny cake come from?
According to Amish history—and from what I've heard—the "funny" comes from having a recipe that contains both a cake and pie together, as well as, when you pour the chocolate over top of the cake and it sinks to the bottom during baking. Whether you find that funny or not, it is VERY good!
how to make chocolate funny cake
This pennsylvania dutch chocolate funny cake treat is broken out into three parts: the homemade buttery, flaky crust, the vanilla cake top layer, and then chocolate bottom layer. When you're ready to assemble the funny cakes, place the pie plates onto a jelly roll pan or baking sheet. This will make it a lot easier moving them to the oven after you've added the cake batter and chocolate.
homemade buttery, flaky pie crust
Making the homemade pie crust is the first part to this chocolate funny cake recipe. If you're planning to purchase store-bought pie crust, then you can skip over this part.
The important thing to always remember when making pie crust is to make sure your butter, vegetable shortening, and water are all VERY COLD! The cold fats—butter and vegetable shortening—is what gives pie crusts that flaky texture, and the ice cold water allows the fats to stay cold and solid.
After you’ve finished making the pie dough, you’ll divide it up into two discs (approximately 1″ thick), then tightly wrap in plastic wrap. Place them in the coldest part of your refrigerator, which is usually the very back for a minimum of 1 hour before using them in this Pennsylvania Dutch Chocolate Funny Cake recipe.
vanilla cake top layer
The vanilla cake part of this recipe is made up of all-purpose flour, baking powder, granulated sugar, vegetable shortening, eggs, vanilla extract, and milk. If you don't have vegetable shortening, you can use butter in its place, but it may alter the texture of the cake. You'll mix this up first, then pour it into the unbaked pie shells.
chocolate bottom layer
The chocolate layer for this funny cake recipe comes together quickly. After making it, you'll pour it over top of the cake layer. During baking, the chocolate will move to the bottom of the funny cake. Don't worry, it won't go through the pie crust!
quick tips for making the best pennsylvania dutch chocolate funny cakes
- You'll need two, 9" pie plates for this recipe. I suggest either these pie plates from USA Pan Bakeware or Pyrex pie plate. For something a little pricier, this beautiful Emile Henry 9" pie dish are worth every penny! Or if you're planning to make a bunch, like I did, you can buy the aluminum pie pans!
- Because this recipe makes two funny cakes, you can either half the recipe and just make one - or - you can make both and give one away to a friend!
- After making the homemade pie crust, it's best to let it chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of one hour before using it for this recipe.
- If making the pie crust from scratch isn't your thing, you can use store-bought!
- I highly recommend placing both funny cakes on a baking sheet or jelly roll pan before adding the batter and chocolate. It really helps when moving them from the counter to the oven!
- I know it totally seems strange, but it's important to remember to pour in the chocolate layer over top of the cake layer. The chocolate will sink to the bottom of the pie during baking. When pouring the chocolate layer over top of the cake layer, I find it easier to use a Pyrex Glass Measuring Cup. This way you can monitor how much of the chocolate you've poured into each.
- If pouring the chocolate over top of the cake top layer sounds weird, you can always pour it into the unbaked pie shell and then add the cake batter. The top of your chocolate funny cake won't have that nice chocolate swirled top though.
recommended pie baking tools
Pennsylvania Dutch Chocolate Funny CakeAuthor:
homemade buttery flaky pie crust (makes 2, 9 inch pie crusts)
top cake layer
bottom chocolate layer
- 1 cup Granulated Sugar
- ⅓ cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- 1 cup Boiling Water
- ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
homemade buttery, flaky pie crust
- In a large mixing bowl and using a pastry blender (or two forks), mix together the all-purpose flour, salt, cold cubed butter, and cold vegetable shortening until you have small pea-size pieces. Some larger pea-size pieces are fine too! You can use a knife to clear out the pastry blender if it gets clogged as you mix everything together.
- Add in the ice cold water 1 tablespoon (tbsp) at a time, using a spatula or your hands until can form a ball and it is no longer crumbly. If there are any crumbly bits, just add the tiniest bit of water so they blend in with the rest of the dough.
- After forming the ball of pie dough, place it on a lightly-floured, clean surface and divide it in half using a pastry cutter. Pat each half into a 1″-1 ½″ thick disc, then double wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place them in the coldest part of your refrigerator (usually the back) for a minimum of 1 hour.
chocolate funny cake
- Adjust the oven rack to the 2nd level mark (just above center) and preheat the oven to 375º F.
- On a well-floured, clean surface, roll out one of the discs of pie dough you made earlier (or unroll if using store-bought) ) and carefully place into the 2, 9″ pie plates. Trim and crimp the edges to your liking, then place it back in the refrigerator as you make the cake and chocolate layers.
- For the top cake layer: In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour and baking powder. Set dry mixture aside.
- Using a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed, cream the granulated sugar and vegetable shortening together until blended. Add in the eggs and vanilla extract, and mix until combined.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low and alternate between adding the dry mixture and milk. Mix together until just combined, then set aside.
- For the bottom chocolate layer: In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Slowly pour in the boiling water and add in the vanilla extract. Stir continuously until unsweetened cocoa powder is fully dissolved.
- Divide and pour the cake batter into the 2 unbaked 9" pie crusts, then divide and pour the chocolate layer over top of each. The chocolate layer sinks to the bottom during baking which then forms the thick chocolatey layer on the bottom. It also gives the top of your funny cake a nice chocolate swirl on top!
- Place the funny cakes in the oven side-by-side and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Mine baked for almost the full 50 minutes. I highly recommend using a x-large baking sheet or jelly roll pan to move the funny cakes into the oven and removing when done. It makes it a lot easier!
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before serving.