Oh. My. God. It’s National Devil’s Food Cake Day. I don’t know many people who don’t enjoy a piece of devil’s food cake every now and then. It’s decadent, rich, delicious, and tempting. Hence it’s name. It was considered so sinful that the Devil himself had to have created it. I’m not a huge chocolate fan. I mean, I like chocolate, but I don’t crave it like other people do. I’ll usually take a bag of Doritos over chocolate. But I love me some devil’s food. What I like about it is that it’s chocolatey without being overpoweringly so.
The first devil’s food cake recipe appears in the very early 20th century, around 1900 or 1905. However, some food historians point out that food writer Caroline King mentions devil’s food cake in her 1920s memoir of her childhood in the 1880s.
But what exactly is a Devil’s Food Cake? What makes it different from ordinary chocolate cake? Some sources say that it’s the use of coffee and cocoa, rather than melted chocolate, that distinguishes it. It also tends to be a darker, richer color, perhaps due to the use of baking soda (instead of baking powder), which brings out the cocoa color). Some say that the richer color is merely from using more chocolate (vs. cocoa). Fannie Farmer doubled her chocolate quantity from 2 oz. to 4 oz., thus turning a chocolate cake into a devil’s food cake. In Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer wrote, “When the larger amount of chocolate is used, it is a black, rich Devil’s Food.”
Below is a recipe for Devil’s Food Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream from the January 2001 issue of Gourmet. Life is good.
Devil’s Food Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream
Yield: Makes 10 servings
- 1 cup boiling water
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- Brown sugar buttercream or chocolate sour cream frosting
- Garnish: chocolate curls tipped with gold leaf
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 3 (8- by 2-inch) round cake pans and line bottoms of each with rounds of wax or parchment paper. Butter paper and dust pans with flour, knocking out excess.
Whisk together boiling water and cocoa powder in a bowl until smooth, then whisk in milk and vanilla. 3Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in another bowl.
Beat together butter and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour and cocoa mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture (batter may look curdled).
Divide batter among pans, smoothing tops. Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of pans halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean and layers begin to pull away from sides of pans, 20 to 25 minutes total. Cool layers in pans on racks 10 minutes, then invert onto racks, remove wax paper, and cool completely.
Put 1 cake layer, rounded side up, on a cake plate and spread with about 1 cup buttercream. Top with another cake layer, rounded side up, and spread with another cup buttercream. Top with remaining cake layer and frost top and sides of cake with remaining buttercream.
• Cake layers may be made 2 days ahead of assembling and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature or frozen up to 1 week.
• Cake may be assembled 1 day ahead and chilled in a cake keeper or loosely covered with plastic wrap (use toothpicks to hold wrap away from frosting). Bring to room temperature before serving.
• This batter can be baked in 2 (9- by 1-inch) round cake pans 25 to 30 minutes; in a 13- by 9- by 2-inch pan 35 to 40 minutes; in a 12-cup bundt pan 35 to 40 minutes; or in 24 (1/2-cup) muffin cups 20 to 25 minutes.