Devils Food Cake with Fluffy White Icing

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Complex

  • Makes one 9 inch 23 cm ) 2-layer cake, about

    12

    servings

Appears in

This is an American classic, and this is about the best recipe I’ve ever come up with for it. A devil’s food cake should be very chocolatey and also very moist, two qualities that don’t often coincide in this type of cake. Using brown sugar here makes all the difference—it makes the cake super moist and also boosts the chocolate flavor. The icing is easy to make as I’ve simplified the method. In the past, it was prepared like a cooked meringue, in which the egg whites are whipped and a hot sugar syrup is poured over them. The method here combines all the ingredients and heats them over boiling water—it’s faster and more reliable.

Ingredients

Cake Batter

  • cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 ounces (75 grams) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • ¾ cup milk or buttermilk

Fluffy White Icing

  • 4 large egg whites
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 1 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • Two 9-inch (23-cm) round cake pans, 2 inches (5 cm) deep, buttered and the bottoms lined with disks of parchment or buttered wax paper cut to fit

Method

  1. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt and stir well to mix.
  3. Combine the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle on medium speed until lightened in color and texture, 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in the cooled chocolate.
  5. Decrease the mixer speed to lowest and add ⅓ of the flour mixture. Stop and scrape down the bowl and paddle.
  6. Beat in half the milk and stop and scrape the bowl and beater.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 adding half of the flour and the remaining milk. Stop and scrape. Beat in the remaining flour mixture.
  8. Increase the speed to medium and beat the batter continuously for 3 minutes.
  9. Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake the layers until they are well risen and feel firm when pressed in the center with a fingertip, 25 to 30 minutes.
  10. Cool in the pans on racks for 5 minutes, then unmold, turn right side up again, and cool completely on racks.
  11. For the icing, half-fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Combine the egg whites, salt, sugar, and corn syrup in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk by hand, just to mix together.
  12. Regulate the heat under the pan of water so that it boils gently and place the bowl on the pan. Whisk gently just to keep the mixture moving until it is hot (about 130°F/55°C) and all the sugar is dissolved. Place the bowl on the mixer with the whisk and whip the icing until it has cooled and become white and fluffy.
  13. Put one of the cake layers rightside up on a cake cardboard or platter. Spoon a little less than half the icing on the layer, using a medium offset metal spatula to spread it evenly and to the edge all around. Invert the second layer on the icing (the smooth bottom of the layer is now on top) and gently press the layer into the icing. Spread the entire outside of the cake with the remaining icing, using the point of the spatula to swirl it all over as opposed to spreading it straight and flat.

Serving

Cut wedges of the cake at the table, using a long, thin-bladed knife. The icing is sticky, so wipe the knife with a wet cloth every time you cut through the cake to avoid tracking crumbs into it.

Storage

Keep the cake under a cake dome at room temperature—plastic wrap or foil will stick to the icing and pull it off the cake.

Variations

Substitute 3 cups of heavy cream whipped with cup sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract for the icing. Sometimes I add a layer of raspberries or sliced banana to the filling. To do this, spread the bottom layer with about ¼ of the whipped cream, then top with 1 cup fresh raspberries or 1 large banana, sliced. Spread another quarter of the whipped cream over the fruit, and finish the cake as directed below.

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