With fluffy layers of chocolate cake in between silky fudge frosting, this devil’s food cake is a sinfully delicious cocoa-based dessert. Topped with chocolate ganache, it’s devilishly chocolatey.
With Halloween right around the corner, this devil’s food cake is a great addition to any spooky party. I’ve been making it for years it because it’s a total crowd-pleaser. The secret ingredient? Cake flour. You won’t believe how fluffy it turns out.
The rich and moist cake layers are sandwiched between dreamy chocolate fudge frosting. Then it’s all drizzled with a smooth ganache. The combination is so decadent that devil’s food might just be king of chocolate cakes with the help of my blended frosting. My kids love it!
Other kinds of frosting and decoration also work with this recipe. My husband and I love it with peanut butter or vanilla frosting for our birthdays. Simply or elegantly decorated, it’s sinfully indulgent and looks great next to my Halloween Gingerbread House.
This devil’s food cake recipe comes from one of my favorite cake cookbooks: “Sky High Baking” by Alisa Huntsman. Both the cake and the frosting recipe are reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books. I added the chocolate ganache for extra flair and took photos to show one of the many ways I love making this cake. 🙂
Why You’ll Love this Chocolate Cake
These three reasons and a bite of cake should be enough for it to become your new favorite dessert:
- Easy. I added as much detail as possible to every step, but it’s actually quite easy to make. You’ll especially love that the fudge frosting is made in the blender .
- Decadent. Chocolate upon chocolate upon chocolate. This cake brings cocoa-desserts to new heights!
- For any occasion. This cake can be dressed up or down by changing the frosting and decoration. Rainbow sprinkles, gold dust, and pumpkin candy toppers can take it from birthday party to Halloween night in a second.
Why is it Called Devil’s Food?
Despite the name, this dessert didn’t get its name from any association with spooky things.
During the 18th century, the words “deviled” and “devilish” were used to describe foods that were extremely rich or chocolatey. Sinfully delicious, the cake was named “devil’s food.”
There are definitely more ingredients in this recipe than in the boxed stuff, but the extra effort is absolutely worth it. Scroll down to the recipe card for exact ingredient amounts.
- Cocoa powder – Use the unsweetened kind, but make sure it’s not dutch-processed or your cake won’t rise. Dutch-process cocoa has been alkalized, meaning it won’t react with baking soda.
- Light brown sugar – Dark brown sugar is a good substitute. Don’t swap it for granulated sugar or confectioners’ sugar. These add too much sweetness while brown sugars give subtle hints of molasses and caramel.
- Cake flour – All-purpose flour won’t work for this recipe because it makes much denser cakes. If you can’t find any cake flour, make it yourself. For every cup of cake flour, use all-purpose. Then remove 2 tbsp and substitute for 2 tbsp of cornstarch. Whisk well and sift the mixture twice.
- Baking soda – No substitute. Please don’t use baking powder because they are not the same thing. Baking soda will only make baked goods rise when it reacts with acidic ingredients, which is why your cocoa powder shouldn’t be alkalized.
- Unsalted butter – Although saltiness always enhances chocolate’s flavor, please refrain from using salted butter. Every brand has its own salt content so it’s hard to tell whether the cake will come out salty. If you’re intent on it, though, leave out the rest of the salt in the recipe.
- Vanilla extract
- Unsweetened chocolate – Make sure it’s a good quality baking bar. I love Hershey’s or Ghirardelli, but feel free to use your favorite.
- Confectioners’ sugar – No substitutes, especially not granulated sugars (white or brown).
- Unsalted butter – This is my go-to because it lets me control the sodium-content in the recipe. However, if you’ve already used salted butter for the cake, please don’t use it for the frosting too.
- Half and half – If you’ve run out, use heavy cream or a mixture of 3/4 cup whole milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream.
- Vanilla extract
- Chocolate bar – Semi-sweet and dark chocolate are my favorite kinds for this cake because their subtle bitterness add loads of depth. They also balance out the sweetness. However, milk chocolate will also make for a delicious cake.
- Unsalted butter
- Chocolate bar – Use a good quality chocolate bar. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a baking chocolate because it’s only for shaving.
How to Make this Devil’s Food Cake
Don’t worry about the number of steps. It’s easier to make than you think! When have you ever heard of frosting made in the blender? It’s a favorite cheat of mine to speed things up.
Make the Cakes
- Prep your tools. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Then grease the pans with PAM non-stick baking spray. Grab some parchment paper and use scissors to cut out circles the same size as the cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a parchment circle. This will prevent any sticking when un-molding the cakes.
- Make the cocoa-mixture. Whisk the cocoa powder with hot water until completely combined. Don’t use room-temperature water, otherwise they’ll be harder to incorporate. Cocoa powder’s natural fats dilute faster in hot water.
- Mix the dry ingredients. Combine the brown sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. You can use a whisk or the mixer for this step.
- Beat. Add the butter and cocoa-mixure to the dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.
- Whisk the eggs. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla and cold water until well combined.
- Fold the egg-mixture in. Add the whisked eggs to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides. Don’t over-mix, so it’s okay if a few small lumps remain.
- Divide the batter. Evenly divide the batter among the prepared cake pans. Use a spoon or spatula to help you smooth out the tops.
- Bake. Pop the cakes into the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.
- Cool. Let cool in the pans for 15-20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks and carefully peel off the parchment paper. Let cool completely or pop the cakes into the freezer for 30 minutes to bring the temperature down even quicker.
Make the Fudge Frosting
- Melt the chocolate. Fill a pot with water until it’s 3/4 full. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat so it simmers. Place a heat-proof bowl that’s the same size or even wider than the pot on top. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Add the chocolate and half-and-half into the bowl. Stir continuously until the chocolate has completely melted and you get an even mixture. Don’t let any water from the pot or your spatula jump into the bowl. Moisture makes chocolate seize and separate into a grainy mixture. Remove from the heat and set it aside.
- Blend the frosting. Sift the confectioners’ sugar to remove any lumps. Then place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
Assemble and Decorate
- Add the frosting. Place one cake layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or a serving plate. Cover it with about 2/3 cup of frosting. Repeat with the next layer.
- Frost the cake. Add a thin layer of frosting all over the cake and refrigerate it for 30 minutes. This will be your “crumb-coat.” Once it’s cold, cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting, reserving some to pipe swirls on top.
- Make the ganache. Melt the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Let cool until just slightly warm but still pourable, then drizzle over the frosted cake. Make sure it has cooled enough or the ganache will melt the frosting. Once you drizzle it, let it cool completely before piping any decorations on the cake.
- Add swirls. Transfer your reserved frosting to a piping bag with your preferred tip. Pipe on top of the cooled ganache in your desired pattern.
- Add chocolate shavings. Using a cheese grater with large holes, roughy grate your chocolate. Sprinkle it on top of the cake. Slice and enjoy.
Tips for Success
Pro home-baker or not, these tips will nudge you in the right direction for the perfect devil’s food cake:
- Use an oven thermometer. Sometimes the dial and real internal temperature don’t line up, causing lots of potential baking fails. To avoid this, use an oven thermometer and make sure your oven is at the right temperature.
- Use light-colored pans. Darker pans absorb more heat and often bake cakes unevenly, resulting in burned edges with raw centers. If possible, try to use silver, light gray, or even rose-gold pans.
- Add a crumb-coat. After layering the cake, add a thin layer of frosting all around the top and sides. Doing so will freeze any loose crumbs in place that may make your frosting look lumpy when you’re decorating. After applying the crumb-coat, pop the cake into the fridge for 30 minutes so that the frosting firms up and then continue decorating as usual. Your outer frosting layer will look extra smooth.
- Sift the cocoa powder. Due to cocoa powder’s natural fats, it tends to clump together. Get rid of these lumps by sifting it.
- Don’t over-mix. There’s no point in using cake flour for a fluffy, tender cake if you’re going to develop the flour’s gluten by over-mixing the batter. Use a wooden or silicone spatula to gently bring the batter together until it’s just combined.
- Use room-temperature eggs. Although some recipes call for cold eggs, the temperature shock in the batter will make it harder to incorporate them evenly into the batter. If you forgot to take them out of the fridge, place them in a bowl and cover them with lukewarm water for 15 minutes.
- Use orange extract. It won’t be your typical devil’s food cake but it’s the perfect combination of flavors when you’re looking to impress your family or guests. You can find it in the baking aisle of most supermarkets or even online. Make sure it’s edible orange extract, not a beauty-grade essential oil. Use it instead of the vanilla extract in the recipe.
- Get a head-start. There’s nothing worse than being in a rush but needing the cakes to cool down fully before frosting. To avoid any disasters, I recommend baking the cakes the day before your event. When they get to room-temperature, store the cake layers in an airtight-container at room temperature. That way you only have to worry about decorating the next day.
Luckily, the lines are very clear between what a devil’s food cake is and what it’s not. Hopefully, the answers to these questions will help clarify any doubts.
What does devil’s food taste like?
It’s like biting into fluffy chocolate clouds with velvety fudge frosting, drizzled with ganache. With cocoa being the star ingredient, devil’s food is an enriched version of regular chocolate cake. Lots of butter and eggs contribute to its moist, tender crumb.
What is the difference between Angel food and Devil’s food?
First and foremost, angel food cake tends to be white or yellow, not chocolate. After that, their most notorious difference is their raising agent. Devil’s food cake relies on baking soda reacting with cocoa powder, while angel food cake uses whipped egg whites.
What’s the difference between Devil’s food and red velvet?
While they’re both cocoa-based cakes, devil’s food is much fluffier than red velvet because it uses cake flour. Using water also ensures ultra chocolate-indulgence because none of the liquids take away from the flavor like in red velvet. The buttermilk or vinegar usually used in red velvet usually give the cake a subtle tanginess, unlike the full-on chocolate flavor of devil’s food cake.
How to Store this Cake
As long as it’s away from the sunlight or other sources of heat, this cake can be left out at room-temperature for up to 5 days. If it starts to get too warm, the butter in the frosting will soften and your cake will collapse.
Refrigerating it will make the cake last for up to a week. Place the slices in airtight containers so there’s no transfer of odors. A cake dome is a great option for refrigerating the entire cake, but don’t worry if you don’t have one.
Let the cake come to room-temperature before eating, though. Cold devil’s food will seem greasier and denser because the butter is solidified.
Can I Freeze Extra Slices?
Place the slices, preferably standing upward, on a tray lined with parchment paper. Freeze for 3 hours and then wrap each piece in cling film. Transfer to a freezer-friendly bag or container and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, just leave the slices on the counter until they come to room-temperature.
More Fun Cakes to Make
Devil’s Food Cake
Devils Food Cake
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, not Dutch Process
- 1 ¼ cup hot water
- 3 cups light brown sugar, packed
- 2 ⅔ cups cake flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- ¾ teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 9 oz, at room temperature
- 3 large eggs
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¾ cups cold water
Instant Fudge Frosting
- 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
- 4 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
- 3 sticks unsalted butter, 12 oz, at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons half and half
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 oz chocolate
- 1 oz unsalted butter
- Good quality chocolate bar, for shaving on top, optional
- Prep your tools. Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter the bottoms and sides for two 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper and grease the paper with PAM.
- Make the chocolate mixture. Place the cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Add the hot water and whisk until smooth. Let cool to room temperature.
- Combine dry ingredients. In a large mixer bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, blend to mix.
- Beat. Add the butter and dissolved cocoa. Beat briefly to blend. Then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Add liquid ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla and cold water until blended. Add this liquid to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides well and mixing only to incorporate between additions.
- Bake. Divide the batter among the prepared cake pans. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost clean, with just a few crumbs sticking to the pick.
- Cool. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper lines and let cool completely.
- Make the fudge frosting. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to incorporate. Then process until the frosting is smooth. That's it!
- Assemble the cake. To assemble your cake, place one cake layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or a serving plate. Cover it with about 2/3 cup of frosting. Repeat with the next layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake, reserving some frosting to pipe swirls on top (if you want, you can also just use all the frosting at this stage). You can use the back of a palette knife or the back of a spoon to make swirls in the frosting too.
- Make the ganache. In a small saucepan combine the chocolate and butter and melt over low heat. Let cool until just slightly warm but still pourable, then drizzle over the frosted cake as desired.
- Add frosting swirls. If you want to add swirls of frosting on top of the ganache, add your reserved frosting to a piping bag with your desired tip. Pipe on top of the cooled ganache in your desired pattern.
- Add chocolate shavings. Using a cheese grater with large holes, roughy grate your chocolate and sprinkle it on top of the cake. You can also use finely chopped chocolate, or chocolate sprinkles.