Devil’s Food Layer Cake

January 19, 2011

When the going gets tough, the tough bake layer cakes. That’s how the saying goes, right? Not only do the tough bake layer cakes, they bake them for the first time. That’s right, this is my first layer cake. Please don’t judge me? Please?

Of course, instead of going with a simple cake and some sure-fire butter cream frosting, I decided to make devil’s food cake with “angel” frosting. The cakes themselves weren’t difficult to put together, and I would even venture to say they were fun to make. You melt the chocolate pieces with hot coffee. How cool is that?!

The frosting, on the other hand…  It was a gooey and sticky and slightly brown in color because of a wonky candy thermometer. Constructing the cake was a project, but cleaning up all the extraneous frosting that got EVERYWHERE was double the work of making both the cake and frosting.

Final thoughts? Despite it all, I love making layer cakes!! Even if the sticky frosting appears everywhere for the next two days and even if it takes me 30 minutes to level the cake because I can’t level properly, I can’t wait to make more! I can’t wait to practice, and decorate, and construct, until layer caking becomes less of a project and more of a catharsis. It felt good to see and eat and enjoy the final product, and it’ll be even better when the process ceases to be traumatizing.

PS- I promise to branch out these next few weeks and bake from other sources. Though I can’t imagine being bored with the book, there are those out there who must crave something new.

Devil’s Food Cake

(Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations. I’m surprised no one has emailed me about copyright infringement because of how many recipes I post from this book. I just love it so much, that’s it, honestly!)


1 oz dark chocolate, broken up into smallish pieces

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2/3 cup hot coffee

1/3 cup milk

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon table salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (if using light brown, add a tablespoon of molasses to make dark brown sugar)

½ cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter two 8 inch round cake pans, and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, buttering the paper as well. Coat the inside of each pan with flour, making sure to shake out any excess flour.

2. In a medium size bowl that can stand up to a bit of heat, add the broken pieces of chocolate and the cocoa powder, then pour the hot coffee over the mixture. Whisk until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is combined. Add the milk, and whisk again to combine. Set aside.

3. In another medium size bowl, sift the rest of the dry ingredients (flour, leavening agent, and salt). Set aside.

4. Using a stand mixer, preferably, cream the butter and both sugars until the mixture is fluffy, about three minutes on medium high speed. Add the eggs one at a time, slowing the speed down until the egg is just incorporated, then turning the speed back up to medium high to beat the mixture between each addition.

5. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated evenly, and add the vanilla extract to the creamed mixture, beating to combine.

6. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the chocolate mixture, making sure to begin and end with the flour mixture. I usually do this step by hand with a sturdy wooden spoon in order to ensure all my ingredients are incorporated.

7. Pour the batter into each pan, dividing it equally. Smooth the tops with a spatula or wooden spoon.

8. Bake the pans in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking time. One of my pans baked in the 35 minutes, and the other one took the full 40, so it varies depending on your oven.

9. After removing the pans from the oven, let the cakes cool in the pans for 45 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack. When they are cool, remove the parchment paper.

Angel Frosting

(Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations)

A candy thermometer is strongly advised for the completion of this recipe!


5 large egg whites, room temperature

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

¼ cup water

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, if you are lucky enough to have some!)


1. Place room temperature egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and get the whisk attachment. If you are not using a stand mixer, get ready for some serious whisking action.

2. In a medium saucepan, stir together 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar, corn syrup, and water over low heat.

3. When the sugar is dissolved (the mixture will appear to be almost translucent, as opposed to when you first start stirring), clip the candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan and turn the heat to medium-high. Let the mixture simmer, without stirring, until the thermometer reaches 235 degrees F. Not any higher! My sugar mixture browned a bit, and methinks the heat on the burner was too high.

4. While you are waiting for the sugar to reach the right temperature, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Be careful not to over-whip the whites.

5. Pour the sugar over the egg whites once they are at soft peaks.

6. Whipping the egg whites on low speed, slowly add the hot syrup. When the syrup has been added, whip the entire mixture for about 7 minutes, until the icing appears thick and glossy.

7. Finally, add the vanilla and beat just until the extract is incorporated.

Cake assembly!

1. Turn one of the cooled cake rounds onto a flat surface and make sure the cake is level. Scoop a cup of icing over it and spread evenly (a little difficult, because this icing is sticky).

2. Place the other cake round on top, leveling it to ensure an even surface. Plop another cup of icing and spread evenly.

3. Use the rest of the icing to cover the sides of the cake.

The authors recommend serving the cake immediately, and the icing is best eaten within four hours. The cake will last overnight at room temperature in an airtight container, but it kind of loses its shape.

Obligatory bite-out-of-baked-good photo.

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