This sinfully dark chocolate Devil's Food Cake is so obscenely rich and fudgy that it elevates chocolate cake to a whole new level of decadence.
Being bad never felt so good.
This is the Only Chocolate Cake Recipe You'll Ever Need
- It's so rich and fudgy that it blurs the line between chocolate cake and brownies.
- It produces layers of cake that bake up perfectly flat and stackable.
- The velvety crumb practically melts in your mouth, and yet...
- It's sturdy enough to stack up to every imaginable filling and frosting.
In other words, this chocolate cake is wicked good and earned the right to be called Devil's Food.
How to Make the Best Devil's Food Cake
#1. Use Dutch Process Cocoa Powder instead of Natural Cocoa Powder.
This is an important difference. Chocolate is naturally acidic, and acidic reactions are a super important thing to understand in baking.
Acid enhances flavors, influences how a cake rises, and affects the cake's consistency. For the most part, you want some acid in your cake. Just not too much.
In chocolate cakes that call for acidic ingredients (like the unsweetened chocolate, baking powder, espresso, brown sugar, and sour cream in this recipe) Dutch processed works best because, unlike natural cocoa powder, it's gone through a process to neutralize its acidity.
In this recipe, using Dutch-processed cocoa powder means we can add enough to get a super rich chocolate flavor without overdoing the amount of acid in the batter.
If your local supermarket is anything like mine, the selection of cocoa powder is super limited. Mine usually carries one brand of Dutch process cocoa powder - Hershey's Special Dark. This brand works perfectly well. You can also find other options online. Besides Hershey's Dark, the brand I use is The Cocoa Trader.
#2. Use Room Temperature Ingredients
In this Devil's Food Cake recipe, as in most cake recipes, you'll notice the words "at room temperature" after the butter, eggs, and sour cream. This is important. Please don't ignore it. At room temperature, eggs and dairy form an emulsion that traps air.
This is a good thing because all that trapped air expands in the oven, producing a fluffy consistency. Without this process, your cake won't rise well and you might end up with something more like a hockey puck than a cake.
Also, room temperature ingredients blend together better. For example, have you ever tried to beat cold butter with sugar? It doesn't really work.
The sugar won't fully incorporate into the butter until the butter is at room temperature. Using room temperature ingredients creates a smooth, fully blended batter that will result in a uniform texture and even baking.
If you manage to plan ahead a bit, simply set the butter, eggs, and sour cream out on the counter a couple of hours before you plan to make your cake. I rarely succeed in this level of pre-planning and so have come up with a few tricks for brining eggs and dairy to room temperature quickly.
#3. Use Butter for Flavor and Oil for Lightness and Moisture
Oil is wonderful in cakes. When compared to butter, cakes baked with oil are loftier, have a more even crumb and stay moist and fresh tasting much longer. Case in point - Olive Oil Cake is moist, flavorful, tender and delicious, and keeps that fresh-from-the-oven texture for days after baking.
Oil is particularly great in chocolate cakes because chocolate tends to dry out a cake. And this cake has a LOT of chocolate.
So, why doesn't this recipe use ALL oil instead of a combination of butter and oil? Flavor. Butter adds flavor.
For this recipe, I found that 5 tablespoons of butter and 5 tablespoons of oil was the perfect balance for maximum buttery flavor AND a moist, tender crumb.
#4. Use Two Whole Eggs and Four Egg Yolks
Eggs create essential structure and stability in cakes. Egg whites are fantastic at trapping air, which helps cakes rise in the oven, giving them a light texture. Yolks are fantastic at binding liquids and fats together, creating an emulsion that results in a super smooth homogenous batter.
Yolks also have a high fat content, contributing to this cake's rich flavor and velvety texture.
In this Devil's Food Cake Recipe, the combination of a total of 6 egg yolks and 2 egg whites achieves the perfect balance of a rich, fudgy consistency that isn't overly dense.
# 5. How to bake flat cake layers that are easy to stack
Sure, you can level off the top of a cake that's dome shaped. But, wouldn't you rather not have to?
If you follow the instructions to use room temperature ingredients in this recipe so that you have a homogenous, smooth batter, you're well on your way to baking well-risen flat cake layers. Baking the layers at 325 degrees will get you the rest of the way there.
Baking at a lower temperature slows down the cake's "spring" - how quickly it rises in the oven. This prevents a dome from forming on the top of the cake layers. If only every problem in life had such a simple solution.
Important note about baking temperature: Most of us are baking with ovens that are not 100% accurate when it comes to temperature. It's totally worth it to invest in an oven thermometer that will tell you what temperature your oven actually is.
What Kind of Frosting Goes Best with Devil's Food Cake?
These 5 buttercream recipes are my favorite kinds of frosting to use with Devil's Food Cake:
- White Chocolate Ganache Buttercream: tastes like the inside of a really good chocolate truffle.
- Quick Chocolate Buttercream: because chocolate on chocolate is always a good idea
- Classic American Buttercream: for when chocolate on chocolate is more than you can deal with
- Italian Meringue Buttercream: because it goes with EVERYTHING
- Cream Cheese Buttercream: a classic, creamy choice with just the right amount of tang
Cakes that begin with this Devil's Food Recipe:
- Black Forest Cake. Every bite of this Black Forest Cake is loaded with creamy chocolate and juicy cherries. Three deep, dark, rich and chocolaty Devil's Food cakes are doused with cherry liquor, layered with sweetened vanilla whipped cream and tart Morello cherries, and topped with dark chocolate ganache.
- German Chocolate Cake. This German Chocolate Cake is all about rich chocolate fudge cake, warm caramel filling with toasted pecans and sweet coconut, and milk chocolate ganache.
- German Chocolate Cupcakes. Dark Chocolate Devil’s Food Cupcakes topped with a generous spoonful of rich, caramel German Chocolate topping packed with toasted pecans and coconut, and covered in a drizzle of chocolate ganache.
- Blackout Chocolate Cake. If there's a way to pack more chocolate into this cake, I don't know what it is. Three layers of rich Devil's Food Cake are layered with Chocolate Pastry Cream and then covered in a thick layer of chocolate ganache. It's a chocolate lover's wet dream. Yes. I just said that.
- Double Chocolate Cupcakes with Amaretto Pastry Cream and Almond Pralines. These chocolate cupcakes are filled with Amaretto Pastry Cream, frosted with whipped chocolate ganache and topped with almond pralines. Because if you’re going to eat a cupcake, it should be an amazing cupcake.
Devil's Food Cake is a Building Block Recipe
Building block recipes are tried-and-true recipes that I consider foundational to great home baking. They are the kind of recipes I come back to over and over again, sometimes baking them as is, but often using them as a jumping off point to create something new. > Scroll through all Building Block recipes.
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #ofbatteranddough on Instagram.
- ½ cup dutch process cocoa powder
- 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, very finely chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon table salt (1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt)
- 5 tablespoon salted butter
- 5 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
- 1 ½ cups light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup sour cream (full fat)
- If baking a layer cake: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and grease and flour two or three 8 or 9-inch round cake pans, lining the bottoms with parchment paper. (Here's how to grease and flour pans and line them with parchment paper.) If baking cupcakes, heat oven to 400 degrees, lightly spray the top of two cupcake pans with non-stick spray, and line the cavities with paper liners.
- Add the cocoa powder, finely chopped unsweetened chocolate, and espresso powder to a bowl. Pour in the boiling water and stir until smooth. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, oil, and light brown sugar, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a time or two, until it looks fluffy and lightened in color, at least 5-6 minutes.
- Add the 2 whole eggs one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add two of the egg yolks. Beat until the yolks are fully incorporated into the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining two egg yolks. Beat until fully incorporated.
- Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until the batter is smooth and homogenous, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary, about 30 seconds.
- Add the chocolate and flour mixtures in alternating additions: ⅓ of the flour, ½ of the chocolate, ⅓ of the flour, ½ of the chocolate, ⅓ of the flour. After each addition, beat on low speed just long enough to barely incorporate. Be careful to not over beat. Give the batter one final stir with a spatula to fully incorporate all the ingredients. Divide the batter between the cake pans - OR distribute among paper lined cupcake pans.
- Bake round cake layers for 33-43 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the cakes comes out without any visible cake batter. (Three layers will take close to 33 minutes. Two layers will take close to 43 minutes.) Bake cupcakes for 5 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees (keep the oven door closed) and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the cupcakes comes out without any visible cake batter.
- Remove the cakes or cupcakes from the oven. Allow the cakes to rest in their pans for 5 minutes, then gently flip the cakes out onto the wire racks and allow to cool completely. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan until sturdy enough to lift out with your fingers.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 slice of cake, unfrosted
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 250Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 95mgSodium: 349mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 2gSugar: 17gProtein: 6g