A truly, sinfully delicious Devil’s Food Cake! Moist, light and just a little fudgy. Perfect for special occasions & easy enough to make whenever!
Deep, rich, extra chocolatey Devil’s Food Cake for all your chocolate cake cravings!
Chocolate cake is my favorite cake. It’s just that simple. I’ve got loads of chocolate cake recipes that I’ve perfected over the last few years/decades for different occasions – like this classic chocolate cake, super fudgy one bowl chocolate cake, chocolate molten cake etc. It would be impossible to pick a favorite. And this devil’s food cake is right up there too!
I developed this recipe a few years ago for my Secret Layer Cakes cookbook. After perfecting my devil’s food cake recipe, I modified it again for my cookbook to include a hidden swirl of cheesecake running through the cake. But I realized that I never actually shared my Devil’s Food Cake recipe on the blog. So here it is! 🙂
Why I love this Devil’s Food Cake recipe
- Deep, luscious chocolate flavor. This is unabashedly a chocolate cake, there’s no mistaking that.
- In contrast to my classic chocolate cake, this devil’s food cake has a moist and slightly fudgier crumb.
- Delightfully light crumb and texture.
- A show stopping, crowd pleasing cake!
- You can make it as a three layer cake, or a more simple two layer cake.
Let’s talk ingredients
Hot coffee – You can use any kind of brewed coffee for this recipe. If you don’t like coffee, then replace it with hot water instead. If you do use coffee, you can use regular brewed coffee to simply enhance the chocolate flavor. OR you can use very strongly brewed coffee to give a lovely hint of coffee to the cake as well.
Sour cream – This ingredient is responsible for keeping the cake moist and tender. The sourness and higher fat content really contribute to the texture of the cake. If you don’t have it, you can absolutely use greek yogurt (but avoid 0% fat yogurt).
Bittersweet chocolate – This devils food cake gets a double dose of chocolate flavor. Cocoa powder AND melted bittersweet chocolate. Bittersweet chocolate has between 65 – 90 % cocoa solids. The higher the percentage, the stronger the chocolate flavor. I like to use 70 – 75% callebaut chocolate for my cake, but any good brand of bittersweet chocolate will do.
Butter – Since this cake has a creamed base, butter and sugar are crucial. I always use unsalted butter for my baking, because I can control the amount of salt I add to my recipe. Also, salted butter has a higher water content than unsalted, and I personally don’t like that for my baked goods. That being said, if you only have salted butter at home, you can absolutely use it. Just make sure to cut back on the salt to about 1/4 tsp.
Eggs – A crucial part in most baking recipes. The yolk adds richness and emulsifies all the ingredients, while the protein in the egg white provides structure. Both components are needed for a rich cake with a beautiful crumb.
Sugar – I use white granulated sugar for this recipe. There is a higher percentage of sugar in the recipe because it plays a huge role in keeping the cake soft. Plus the cake has a lot of chocolate flavor (cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate), and the sugar offsets the bitterness from cocoa powder.
Cocoa powder – I use Dutch cocoa powder for this recipe, because I prefer the flavor of it. But if you can’t find it, then you can use regular cocoa powder. The brand of cocoa powder that I use is Callebaut.
All purpose flour – Also known as plain flour in some parts of the world. This flour, as the name suggests, is great for all purposes. It has about 10 – 11 % protein content (depending on where you live). So it provides good gluten structure, but still keeps the cake tender. If you have cake flour, you can absolutely substitute it (by weight). But DO NOT use bread flour.
Baking soda – Baking soda acts as the chemical leavener in this devil’s food cake recipe. Baking soda is activated in the presence of an acid, and produces CO2. The gas get trapped inside the cake batter (gluten), and raises the cake as it bakes. Baking soda also activates in the presence of heat, so an acid component isn’t always needed. HOWEVER, you get a better reaction with both present. In this cake, the sour cream acts as the acid component.
Vanilla and salt – Both of these ingredients serve to enhance the deep, rich chocolate flavors in the cake. These flavors don’t necessarily stand out in the cake, but they balance the flavors to round off the perfect tasting, chocolatey devil’s food cake.
How to make Devil’s Food Cake
Making the batter
This cake is made in two parts. The first part is to make the chocolate sour cream base, and then cream the butter and sugar together. Later, both these parts are combined together, along with the eggs and flour.
Have all the ingredients measured and ready to go. Apart from the coffee, everything should be at room temperature.
Making the chocolate mixture
First step is to make the chocolate mixture on the stove. Heat the coffee on the stove and add the cocoa powder and chocolate. Stir until melted, then stir in the sour cream. Take the mixture off the stove and set aside until needed. It should be warm when it’s being added to the cake batter. Stir in the vanilla to this mixture as well.
Making the batter
Next, cream the butter and sugar. Use your stand mixer, with a paddle attachment, at medium speed. Make sure the butter is pale and fluffy. I also like to add the salt at this point. This allows the salt to dissolve and mix properly along with the sugar.
Next, add the eggs to butter and sugar mix. Add them one at a time, mixing them in before adding the next egg. This should be done at medium speed. Don’t be tempted to increase the speed. It’s also very important not to over-mix the eggs!
Now you can add the cocoa mixture. If the mixture is hot, then add it a little at a time while the stand mixer is running at low speed.
Once the cocoa mixture is added, it’s time to add the flour and baking soda.
Adding the dry ingredients
Make sure to sift and mix the flour and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients in 3 – 4 batches, folding it through between each addition.
I prefer to fold the flour mixture into the batter by hand (with a spatula), because this prevents gluten from being formed. But you can use your stand mixer running on the lowest speed as well, if folding in by hand is too cumbersome.
Baking the cake layers
When the batter is ready, divide it into cake pans. Prep your 8 inch cake pans by lightly buttering the sides of the pans, and a little on the bottom as well. Line the bottom with parchment paper, using the butter to keep it in place. Next, dust the sides with cocoa powder. This prevent the cake from having white streaks on the side.
Divide the batter equally between the cake pans. You can do this by weight (which is what I used to do). But now, I prefer using an ice cream scoop to portion the cake batter into each cake pan.
Make the batter smooth on the surface, and tap the cake pan sharply 2 – 3 times on your kitchen counter. This will remove any air bubbles in the batter.
Then bake the cake layers in a preheated oven (350°F / 180°C). The bake time is around 30 minutes, but I like to make sure the cake is done with the clean toothpick test.
Once the cake is done baking, remove it from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Then flip the cakes out of the pans, onto a cooling wire rack and let it cool completely to room temperature before frosting.
How to store the cake layers for later
If you’re making the cake ahead of time, then you will need to store it properly.
When the cake layers have cooled down completely, wrap each layer in plastic wrap. Make sure it’s completely covered with the wrap (about 2 layers of plastic wrap).
The cake layers can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days when they’re properly wrapped.
If you want to store them for longer, then wrap them in an additional layer of foil, and store in the freezer. The foil will prevent any freezer burn.
Make sure the cake layers aren’t getting squashed in the freezer as well! When you’re ready to use the cake layers, let them defrost at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge.
Which frosting to use?
Now that the cake is done, the next step is to choose a frosting.
Or classic chocolate buttercream frosting to complement this devillishly rich chocolate cake? That’s what I prefer 95% of the time. But with chocolate buttercream, you also have two options.
Classic chocolate buttercream
This American buttercream is sweet and chocolatey. It’s fluffy, yet a little dense compared to classic Swiss meringue buttercream.
This is however the easier and quicker buttercream option.
Chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream
This is my favorite buttercream to pair with this devil’s food cake. Why? because it’s silky smooth, not too sweet, buttery and oh so light! It perfectly complements the slightly fudgy, extra chocolatey cake!
This buttercream does take more effort however, and the process is a little longer. But once you’re familiar with Swiss meringue buttercream, you will find that it’s actually very easy to put together.
Chocolate ganache frosting
This is the most decadent frosting for your devil’s food cake. This is chocolate melted in heavy cream. Then when the ganache has cooled down but still has a spreadable consistency, it can be used as a frosting.
Tips for getting perfect cake layers
Here are some tips to make sure you get the most perfect Devil’s Food Cake. From making the batter, to baking, to frosting and decorating the cake.
Before you start making the cake batter, prepare your cake pans. Butter the sides of the pans. Also butter the bottom of the pan, just enough to be able to hold a parchment paper in place. I prefer to have a fitted parchment paper piece at the bottom of the pan to prevent the cake from sticking (this will also make it much easier to remove the cake from the pan).
Dust the sides of the pan with cocoa powder. Usually buttered cake pans are dusted with flour, but with this devil’s food cake, the flour can create white streaks. This can be avoided by using cocoa powder.
Have all the ingredients at room temperature (except for the hot coffee). Ingredients that are at room temperature will mix better together. This is especially true for butter and eggs. Softened, room temperature butter creams better, and room temperature eggs emulsify better.
The cocoa powder is bloomed in the hot coffee. This allows the flavors of the cocoa powder to intensify, but also prevents the cocoa powder from drying out the final cake. You can use hot water instead of hot coffee too.
DO NOT overmix the flour. Be careful when folding the flour into the cake batter. I have talked about this previously in other cake posts of mine as well. What I like to do, it is to add the flour in 3 – 4 additions. I fold it in with a spatula, and add the next flour addition just before all the flour has been incorporate from previous additions. This prevents over-mixing, and in turn prevents gluten formation in the flour.
Divide the batter equally, for cake layers that are pretty equal in size. This also ensures the cakes bake evenly. You can do this by measuring the weight of the bowl at the beginning, then again at the end. Then subtract the weight of the bowl from the final weight to find out the weight of the cake batter. This will help you divide the batter equally between pans.
However, I now use a 1/4 cup ice cream scoop to divide cake batter between the pans until I’ve used up all of the batter. It’s an easier method and can be very accurate if you’re consistent with the scoop. You can use any size ice cream scoop you have.
How to tell when the devil’s food cake is done baking.
The easiest method is to use the toothpick test. Insert a clean toothpick into the middle of the cake, and if it’s still clean when pulled out, then the cake is done.
I also like to use the “spring back” method. Gently press the center of the cake with a fingertip. If the cake springs back, then it’s done. The sides of the cake will also start to slightly shrink away from the sides of the pan. However, if it shrinks too much, then the cake has overbaked.
I overbaked the cake and it’s too dry!
Don’t fret! There’s a solution for that… quite literally. Just use a sugar syrup solution to moisten the cakes. This is a very popular technique at bakeries, where they often need to make more sturdy cakes that can be stacked or carved. These tend to be on the drier side, so bakers often lightly soak the cake layers with regular or flavored simple syrup.
Use a coffee simple syrup, or a chocolate simple syrup to enhance the rich chocolate flavors in this devil’s food cake. Or go rogue and use a bourbon simple syrup to add some booziness to the cake as well.
How to stack and frost the cake neatly
I write about this so often, I need to write a separate article. Hopefully soon…
Preparing the cake layers
The cake layers should have nice and flat tops. If they are domed on top however, slice off the domed tops and make the cakes flat.
Place a little bit of frosting on the round cake board that you’re using to build your cake on. Carefully place the first devil’s food cake cake layer on the cake board. Place the bottom layer flat side down to help build a nice flat and even cake. The buttercream on the bottom will help keep the cake in place.
Filling the cake with buttercream
Take about 1 cup of frosting and place it on the cake. Add more or less, to your taste, but always know how much you’re adding.
Evenly spread this frosting on the cake layer. A small offset spatula will handy for this purpose. Top this with the second cake layer. Make sure it’s perfectly centered and even as well. Gently and evenly press the cake to create a flat, even surface.
Repeat with the SAME AMOUNT OF FROSTING. This will help maintain even filling layers and cake layers.
Crumb coating the cake
For the final cake layer on top, turn it upside down and place it with the flat side facing up. This ensures that you have the flattest, smoothest surface on top for your cake.
Use the same frosting to apply a very thin layer of buttercream to completely cover the cake on all sides. This is the crumb coating. This does not need to be neat, or smooth. It just needs to make sure that your cake is straight and level, and it’s filling any gaps between the filling and cake layers, to seal in any loose crumbs.
If you have a cake that is ever so slightly lopsided, and you feel like you can’t fix it, then use this crumb coating layer to fix that as well! Just apply a slightly thicker layer to the lopsided part of the cake and make it even again.
Refrigerate the cake for just a few minutes to “set” the crumb coating. When the crumb coating is “set” and not sticky, you can start applying the final buttercream layer to your devil’s food cake!
Frosting & decorating the cake
Go with smooth sides like I have here by using a straight-edged bench scraper to sweep along the edges of the cake. This will be easier with a rotating cake turntable.
Or go old school with just simple swirls. These are just as beautiful in my opinion. Plus they give a very classic, homemade feel that I love.
Or you can go fancy and pipe rosettes, or other designs onto the side of the cake.
Just for extra kicks and giggles, I added a simple 1:1 chocolate ganache sauce on top of this cake surface. This is completely optional though.
Tip for slicing and serving the cake
You can slice the cake into triangle cake slices. This will serve 8 generously, or 10 – 12 people with thinner slices.
Another popular way to cut the cake (for a bigger crowd), is to slice the round cake into 1 x 2 inch cake portions. See the image here for how to cut the cake in this manner.
A devillishly rich, luscious chocolate cake that will serve any and all of your chocolate cake cravings, with plenty to spare! The cake is moist, but not dense at all. It’s packed with chocolate flavor, and has a beautiful crumb.
A fantastic chocolate cake for any occasion! And I guarantee you’ll be using any excuse for a devil’s food cake worthy occasion. 🙂
Devil’s Food Cake Recipe
- ¾ cup Dutch cocoa powder
3 oz. Spoon and level method (Please see notes)
- 1 cup hot coffee you can also use hot water instead
- 4 oz bittersweet chocolate
- ½ cup sour cream straight from the fridge is fine
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
Devil’s food cake batter
- 14 oz unsalted butter softened (3 ½ sticks)
- 16 oz white sugar 2 ¼ cups
- 6 large eggs at room temperature
- 9 oz flour 2 ⅛ cups, measured by spoon and level method, please see notes
- 2 tsp baking soda reduce to 1.5 tsp if making 2 layers
Chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream or American Chocolate Buttercream for an easier option
- 1 ½ cup egg whites about 10 - 12 egg whites
- 3 ¾ cups white sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 sticks unsalted butter at about 60°F / 16°C and cut into cubes
- 18 oz bittersweet chocolate
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1.5 tsp coffee extract or a generous ½ tsp instant coffee (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C. Line the bottom of three 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper, and butter and dust the sides with cocoa powder. Set aside until needed.
- Place the hot coffee, cocoa powder and chocolate in a small saucepan. Heat this mixture while stirring to melt the chocolate and cocoa powder in the coffee. Once you have a smooth mixture and all the chocolate is melted, remove the saucepan from the heat. It does not need to come to a boil.
- Add the salt, sour cream and vanilla and whisk them in until smooth. Set aside until needed.
Devil’s food cake batter
- Place the softened butter and white sugar in the mixing bowl of your stand mixer. With the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until you have a light, fluffy, creamy butter-sugar mix. This can take a few minutes on medium high speed, depending on how cold the butter was at the beginning. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all the butter is mixing well.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, at medium speed. Add the next egg as soon as the previous one is mixed through. Don’t over-beat the eggs (approximately 30 seconds per egg). Scrape down the sides of the bowl half way through.
- Once the eggs are added, add the cocoa mixture. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- In a separate bowl, sift the flour and baking soda together. Add this to the batter in 2 - 3 additions and fold the flour into the wet ingredients. Do not over-mix. Only mix until the flour is mixed in and there are no lumps.
- Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans. You can either measure this by weight, or use an ice cream scoop or measuring cup to divide the batter evenly.
- Tap the cake pan against the countertop 2 - 3 times to remove any air bubbles and to evenly distribute the batter.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 25 - 35 minutes. The cake is done when a clean toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. The cake will also pull slightly away from the sides of the pan.
- Remove the cake pans from the oven and let them sit for about 5 minutes to cool down slightly. Then turn them out onto a cooling wire rack to cool completely.
- While the cake is baking. make chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream according to the recipe here, with the ingredient amounts listed above. This will be more than enough to generously fill and frost the cake and to decorate.
- To go with the easier option, you can make 3 batches of this simple American chocolate buttercream instead.
Filling and frosting the cake
- Place a cake board on a decorating stand (or plate). Place a little buttercream on the cake board, and then place a cake layer on top of that. This buttercream will help secure the bottom cake layer to the board.
- Add about 1 cup of frosting (or as much or as little as you want) and spread it evenly on the surface of the cake layer. Place the second layer on top of that. Repeat with the same amount of frosting.
- Place the third layer on top (with the flat side facing up). Apply a thin layer of frosting to cover the whole cake. This thin layer is the crumb coating.
- Place the cake in the fridge or in a cool place in your house for a few minutes, to help set the crumb coating.
- Once the crumb coating is set, apply a generous layer of frosting. Create swirls for a rustic look, or use a frosting scraper to create smooth sides. Use a spatula to make the frosting on top smooth as well.
- Pipe a frosting border along the edge of the cake on top (optional). The cake is now ready to be served.