Today is National Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake Day

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Give Me Some Chocolate Cake!

We are sucker for chocolate cake.  As a kid, a simple chocolate cake with chocolate frosting was better than a box of ho-hos or a bucket of Hershey bars.  Devil’s food cake was one of the repertoire of cakes we ate for birthdays and special events.

Devil’s food cake is a moist, airy, rich chocolate layer cake.  Devil’s food cake was introduced in the United States in the early 20th century with the recipe in print as early as 1905.  Because of differing recipes and changing ingredient availability over the course of the twentieth century, it is difficult to precisely qualify what distinguishes Devil’s food from the more standard chocolate cake.

The traditional Devil’s food cake was made with shredded beets much the way a carrot cake is made with carrots. The beets added moisture and sweetness to the cake, helping it to be very rich. The red of the beets slightly colors the cake red and due to the richness of the cake it became known as the Devil’s food. The cake was usually paired with a rich chocolate frosting.

Todays’ Devil’s food cake often uses cocoa as opposed to chocolate for the flavor as well as coffee.   The lack of melted chocolate and the addition of coffee is typically what distinguishes a Devil’s food cake from other chocolate cakes, though some recipes call for all, resulting in an even richer chocolate flavor.

Today is National Devil’s Food Cake Day, so we offer you David Lebowitz’ recipe for Devil’s food cake.  According to Mr. Lebowitz, this is his go-to cake for many Parisian celebrations.  You don’t have to be a cake decorator or a pastry chef to replicate this beautiful dessert.  Based on David Lebowitz’ book, The Great Book of Chocolate (April 2004, Ten Speed Press), it does not matter if you use natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder in this recipe.

Devil’s Food Cake



9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup strong coffee (or water)
½ cup whole or low-fat milk


10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup water (or cream)
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter


Adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter two 9″ x 2″ cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper.

To make the cake layers, sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. (If using a standing electric mixer, stop the mixer as necessary to scrape down the sides to be sure everything is getting mixed in.)

Mix together the coffee and milk. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, the add the coffee and milk. Finally stir in the other half of the dry ingredients.

Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.


To make the frosting, melt the chopped chocolate with the water (or cream) in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.

Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk them into the chocolate until completely melted and the ganache is smooth. Cool until spreadable, which may take about 1 hour at room temperature.

To frost the cake:

Run a knife around the inside of each of the cakes which will help release them from the pans. Tilt one cake out of the pan, remove the parchment paper from the bottom and invert it back onto a cake plate. Spread a good-sized layer of icing over the top. Top with the second cake layer and spread the top and sides with the remaining icing as decoratively as you want.

Cake is best the day it is made, although it’s fine the next day. Store at room temperature under a cake dome and be sure to keep cake out of the sun.

Makes one 9-inch cake


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