Perfect Dark Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake
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.
5 Tips for Baking a Perfect Devil’s Food Cake.
#1. Dutch Process Cocoa Powder vs 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.
#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, you’d 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.
#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 8 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of oil was the perfect balance for maximum buttery flavor AND a moist, tender crumb.
#4. Two Whole Eggs and Three 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 5 egg yolks and 2 egg whites achieves the perfect balance of a rich, fudgy consistency that isn’t overly dense.
# 5. How to bake perfectly flat, stackable layers.
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.
Let’s talk frosting and filling.
If you’ve been on this blog before, you’ve probably heard me preach about Italian Meringue Buttercream. I am a diehard fan of the stuff. It’s rich, creamy, not too sweet, and gorgeously easy to work with – characteristics I value in frosting.
But, the other fabulous thing about Italian Meringue Buttercream is how versatile it is. Beat in fruit puree, jam or preserves, melted chocolate, caramel or butterscotch sauce, espresso, any kind of extract or liquor, lemon curd, pistachio paste, coconut cream, maple syrup… any flavor you can imagine, many of which would be delicious draped over layers of Devil’s Food Cake.
However. Italian Meringue Buttercream is just the beginning. The variety of cakes you can create from this Devil’s Food Cake Recipe is limited only by your imagination. Here are a few ideas to get you started…
#1. Devil’s Food Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream.
Good Cream Cheese Buttercream should remind you of cheesecake. (Mmmmmmm, cheesecake.)
My all-time favorite recipe for Cream Cheese Buttercream calls for a touch of sour cream, which gives it some extra tang that accentuates the flavor of chocolate. It’s rich and creamy texture pairs particularly well with Carrot Cake, Red Velvet Cake, and of course, Devil’s Food.
#2. 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.
It’s the kind of cake that consumes the attention of all your senses, leaving your face smudged with chocolate while you lick cherries and whipped cream from your fingers in a state of total bliss.
#3. 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.
#4. 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.
Used in this Recipe:
More Great Cake Recipes:
- Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Cream
- Champagne Cake with Champagne and Strawberries Italian Meringue Buttercream
- The BEST Vanilla Cake
- Lemon Blackberry Layer Cake
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. And trust me. Being bad never felt so good.
- 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
- 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
- 1 1/4 cup boiling water
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs + 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare three 8-inch cake pans: Grease each pan with vegetable shortening or butter. Lay an 8-inch circle of parchment paper inside each pan to cover the bottom and grease it lightly with vegetable shortening or butter. Sprinkle a bit of cocoa powder inside each pan and shake it around inside the pan to coat the bottom and sides completely.
- Add the cocoa powder, chopped unsweetened chocolate, and espresso powder to a bowl. Pour the boiling water in and whisk 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, 4-5 minutes. Add the 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 the three egg yolks. Beat until the yolks are fully incorporated into the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.
- 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 60 seconds.
- Add the chocolate and flour mixtures in alternating additions: 1/3 of the flour, 1/2 of the chocolate, 1/3 of the flour, 1/2 of the chocolate, 1/3 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 ingredients and divide the batter between the three cake pans.
- Bake for 30-34 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the cakes comes out without any visible cake batter.
- Remove the cakes from the oven to wire racks. 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.
- Regardless of how you’re filling and frosting your Devil’s Food Cake, freezing the cake layers will make the cake much easier to assemble. Devil’s Food Cake has a very tender crumb – a quality that makes it meltingly delicious, but also makes stacking layers a bit challenging. Freezing the cake layers for at least 1 hour (and up to 3 months) makes assembling layers of Devil’s Food… a piece of cake. 🙂
- If your cake layers have been frozen for more than 1 hour, let the assembled cake sit out at room temperature for 3-4 hours to thaw before serving. After letting the cake thaw at room temperature, refrigerate the cake if you’re not serving it right away.
© Of Batter and Dough. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe. Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Of Batter and Dough.