EAT OF THE WEEK: Grandma’s Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting


In Asheville, we call it CAAAAKE!!!

Holy fuck, are you kidding me? You guys may or may not already know that 50/Fifty The Art of Dessert is the weekly “food sponsor” for my Food Fan Radio Show, which means that every Tuesday, Chef Mandy Butler whips us up something fancy and fantastic, and her husband Chris swings it by the WPVM 103.7fm recording and broadcasting studios on Wall Street in his delivery van. The snacks and treats that 50/Fifty bring for my guests and me might come in the form of insanely tasty cookies, or super-awesome bourbon chocolate truffles, or… every few weeks… an entire… effing… CAKE! Holy shit sticks. Chef Mandy makes some awesome frickin’ cakes, Yo.

Chef Mandy has styled us out with several cakes in the past, including a delicious carrot cake with cream cheese frosting that may have been the best version of my least favorite kind of cake that I’ve ever had. For real, carrot cake is not usually my jam, but I ate three pieces of the one Chris dropped by the radio station that day.


That carrot cake was real good, but this week Chef Mandy really and truly outdid herself with a cake that came labeled as “Grandma’s Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting,” and, yeah, I… I just about… holy fucking shit… I just about peed myfuckingself. First of all, this amazing cake looked like a Greek statue of a cake, as in: Anatomically perfect in every single way. I dunno know much about math, but the height-to-circumference dimensions of this compact cylinder of sugar, flour, butter, cream, and magic, was like, the golden fucking ratio or something.

This cake looks almost as though it could be carved out of marble, ready to be placed on a pedestal at a museum. – photo by Stu Helm

I first met Chef Mandy & Chris Butler in 2015, at the Asheville Wine and Food Festival’s SWEET event, where I was blown away by the quality and presentation of the truffles, mousse cups, and the other small offerings they had on their table. “The Art of Dessert” isn’t just a name, it’s the approach that Chef Mandy takes to each and every confection she makes. In her able hands, a simple cylinder of chocolate cake, covered in buttercream frosting — no florets, no filigree, no frills — can be one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life.

This is pure artistry in my opinion. A monochromatic palette, a near perfect circle, pleasing abstract gestures that only hint at a pattern, with beautifully subtle use of texture… Minimalism at it delicious best! – photo by Stu Helm

As far as a straight-up description goes: The cake itself was moist, and chocolatey, and sweet, but not too sweet, nor too chocolatey. There were no cloying chunks of chocolate in this baby. Just pure caaake. The texture was slightly dense, yet nice and airy, springy, and pleasantly spongy. It held together nicely on the fork, felt substantial on the tongue, and dissolved on evenly on the palate, with no gritty feeling… all exactly as cake should do. The buttercream frosting was likewise neither too sweet, nor was it cloying. It provided a smooth, melty, dairy accompaniment to the chocolate cake, and — in keeping with Chef Mandy’s subtle touch — the salted caramel flavor did not smack me in the face, nor overpower the cake, but acted rather as a flavor companion, not a coating or competitor. This cake was the absolute bomb in every single way.

So, yeah, whenever I get a text from Chris on a Tuesday morning that says, “Stu, we are caking you up for the radio show!” I get super excited! Aaand I’m not the only one…

As you can see from the pictures below, Chef Joe Scully lervs him some 50/Fifty cakes! – photo by Stu Helm

So, yeah, cake. I eat a lot of it. And since I do, I really only want the highest quality cake available, and in my humble opinion, Chef Mandy Butler at 50/Fifty: The Art of Dessert is not only one of the best cake makers in town, she is as much a visual artist as she is a culinary master. She and Chris do not currently have a “brick and mortar” bakery that the public can visit, but they are available for catering, and they have let me know that they are wanting to get their high-end cakes into downtown restaurants and cafes. If you want some of this cake, or any of their other amazing desserts, look ’em up on line and check ’em out on Facebook.

Station cake. I’ve been known to share. Li’l but. – photo by Stu Helm

In the meantime, this particular masterpiece of modern art — in the form of  Grandma’s Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting — was so effing good, that it stood out as the best things I ate all week, and it is therefore my…


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50/Fifty: The Art of Dessert
“We are a boutique dessert and pastry business serving western North Carolina. Since we make everything to order, appointments are necessary.”
Phone: 828 280 2184


From left: Chef Jacob Sessoms of Table; Chef William Dissen, The Market Place; Chef Steven Goff, Standard Foods; Chef Katie Button, Curate; Chef Joe Scully, Chestnut and Corner Kitchen; Stu Helm; Chef John Fleer, Rhubarb; Chef Karen Donatelli, Donatelli Bakery; Chef Peter Pollay, Posana Cafe; and Chef Matt Dawes, Bull & Beggar./ Photo by STEWART O’SHIELDS for ASHVEGAS.COM

Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.


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1 Comment

Gina May 24, 2017 - 5:39 pm

Sounds like a dream of a cake! I love a great cake, but just found out I’m pre-diabetic. But I’m sure one bite wouldn’t hurt. Lol!

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