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Devil's food cake on a white cake stand

Devil’s Food Cake

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One of the most delicious, traditional chocolate cakes, this Devil’s Food Cake is dark, rich, and iced with a to die for chocolate buttercream frosting.

Super moist and fluffy, this 4 layer chocolate cake was an enormous hit with my family. We were practically wrestling with each other for the last slice! It’s one of the best chocolate cake recipes I have ever made.

Slice of Devil's Food Cake on a white plate with berries and mint

A Celebratory Devil’s Food Cake 

I was planning to make beef tenderloin for yesterday’s Beef Checkoff post, so decided to invite Tom, our oldest, over for dinner, to celebrate his birthday 20 days early. A fabulous chocolate birthday cake was definitely in order.

Being the wise guy that he is, Tom posted a photo of said cake to Instagram with this comment: My birthday cake 20 days early because my parents are bad at calendars. Or maybe it’s for Pearl Harbor Day, I dunnoThe best response:  You can be bad at calendars when you’re that fabulous at baking. 

Tom does have nice friends. But there was definitely a rational reason for the premature b-day bash. We will be boarding an early flight (yawn) to LA on the morning of his birthday…and most likely eating Christmas leftovers from the day before, so if he wanted a day all about him, this was the best I could do! I don’t think he had a single complaint.

Slice of  Devil's Food Cake on a white dessert plate with a red handled fork with cake stand in the background

 

How to Make a 4 Layer Chocolate Cake

This cake sure fits the bill! I baked up two layers, sliced them in half, then topped each with a rich chocolate buttercream frosting.  PRO-Tip: To cut the layers in half, I inserted toothpicks around the perimeter of the cake, a little more than halfway down the sides. This helped guide my knife as I cut the layers in half. Maybe not my best effort but it definitely helps!

I normally can leave sweets alone, but this cake is probably one of the best chocolate cake recipes I’ve made in years. Even Katie ate her fair share. When the whole family loves one dish, especially one dessert, it’s noteworthy. This cake needs a pedestal…it’s earned it.

Devil's food cake on a white cake stand

 

What is Devil’s Food Cake?

According to The Food Lover’s Companion, it’s a dark, dense baked chocolate item. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the airy, white angel food cakeWith cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate and extra baking soda or leaveners, this cake is richer, darker, and fluffier than other chocolate cakes.

Where did it get its name?

In the early 1900s, cakes were often given fancy names, but there’s only speculation on how a devil’s food cake got its name. One thought was that the dark rich color was totally opposite of an angel food cake, playing off the angel and devil opposition. Or that it was “devilishly” rich compared with other chocolate cake options!

Is a Red Velvet Cake a Devil’s Food Cake?

Although a red velvet cake has cocoa powder as one of its ingredients, it’s red hue is quite different from a deep, dark brown of a Devil’s food cake. Plus red velvet is frosted with vanilla buttercream or cream cheese frosting instead of chocolate buttercream.
But adding red coloring to a devil’s food cake would make it into a red velvet cake, albeit one with a more muted red appearance.

Tips for Frosting a Layer Cake

  • Start the process even before baking by making each layer the same height. You can do this by weighing the batter in the pans or checking the depth of the batter with a ruler or even a toothpick.
  • Make sure you have enough frosting. This recipe for frosting adds a thin coating between the layers. If you keep this as a two-layer cake, the frosting will be thicker.
  • Real Simple suggests putting a dab of frosting on the cake stand to secure the bottom layer.
  • Next tuck strips of parchment or wax paper under the perimeter of the cake. This will help keep the cake stand or plate clean.
  • Start with the first layer, flat side down. Eyeball the frosting and add just enough to make a relatively thin layer across the surface to the edges. Use an offset spatula to spread.
  • Repeat with the remaining layers, saving enough to frost the sides. Use your offset spatula or even a bench scraper to smooth or make a textured pattern with the frosting.
Devil's Food Cake photo and text collage

More Layer Cake Recipes

Typically reserved for birthdays at our house, a layer cake is worthy of any celebration. Though chocolate seems to be most requested at our house, it’s nice to shake things up from time to time!

This cake recipe was first shared in December 2014 for son Tom’s birthday. Photos and text were updated in 2020 after Nick’s birthday!

Slice of Devil's Food Cake on a white plate with berries and mint

Devil's Food Cake

A terrific celebratory cake you can make with 2 or 4 layers sandwiched with rich chocolate buttercream frosting.

Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield 12 servings

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk

For the frosting:

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until fluffy. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Switch to the paddle attachment and add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk to butter mixture, mixing just until smooth. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl partway through the mixing time. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  4. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Then slice each piece in half horizontally if you plan to make a 4 layer cake or leave them whole for a standard 2 layer cake.
  5. When the cake is cool, make the frosting. Melt the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Stir in the cocoa powder. Alternatively add part of the powdered sugar and part of the milk, beating to spreading consistency. Use immediately or cover and store in the refrigerator.

Notes

Cake recipe adapted from Hershey's.

To make a buttermilk substitute, simply add a tablespoon of lemon juice or a neutral vinegar like white or cider to a one-cup liquid measuring cup. Fill the cup with milk to the one cup mark. Stir and let rest for a few minutes while the mixture thickens. Measure and use as directed. If you need more than one cup, repeat.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 632Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 101mgSodium: 449mgCarbohydrates: 88gFiber: 2gSugar: 67gProtein: 7g

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