Devil’s Food Cake

This light, moist, flavorful classic American chocolate cake will be welcome at any dessert table. Though the cake is not as sweet or dense as other varieties of chocolate cakes, the brown sugar blends with the cocoa powder to provide a rich dimension.

This has been a favorite of mine since childhood. Serve it plain with whipped cream and fresh raspberries or with your favorite ice cream, or frost it with Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting and coat it with chopped walnuts.

Devil’s Food Cake is the foundation for Chocolate Gemini.


  • 2 cups (200 grams) sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (50 grams) unsifted cocoa powder
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) lukewarm water
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) buttermilk, room temperature
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (200 grams) light brown sugar, packed

Baking Equipment

One 9-x-13-x-2¼-inch cake pan


Baking Preparations

Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a paper towel, grease the bottom and sides of the pan with solid shortening. Dust generously with all-purpose flour, shake to distribute, tap out excess and insert parchment paper or waxed paper to line the bottom.

Ingredient Preparations

Pour the flour, baking soda and salt in that order into a triple sifter. Sift onto a sheet of waxed paper to distribute the ingredients; set aside.

Place the cocoa in a 1-quart mixing bowl. Add the ½ cup of lukewarm water and whisk to combine; set aside to cool.

Pour the buttermilk, the ½ cup water and the vanilla into a liquid cup measure.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl, and whisk together just to combine the yolks and whites.

Place the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer.

Making the Cake

With the flat beater (paddle), cream the butter on medium speed (#5) for 30 to 45 seconds, or until it is smooth and lighter in color.

Reduce the speed to low (#3), add the sugars (first the granulated, then the brown) in a steady stream. If the machine’s speed is too high, the sugars will dance in the bowl and jump out.

When all the sugar is added, stop the machine and scrape the mixture clinging to the sides of the bowl into the center. The mixture will appear sandy. Increase the speed to medium again and cream until the mixture is light in color, fluffy in texture and appears as one mass instead of as several pieces of sugar (this will take 6 to 7 minutes).

With the mixer still on medium speed, pour in the eggs, cautiously at first, tablespoon by tablespoon, as if you were adding oil when making mayonnaise.

If at any time the mixture appears watery or shiny, stop the flow of eggs, and increase the speed until a smooth, silken appearance returns. Then decrease the speed to medium and resume adding eggs.

Continue to cream, scraping the sides of the bowl at least once, until the mixture appears fluffy and velvety and has increased in volume. (This process, including the addition of eggs, takes about 1 minute. If you take longer, you risk losing the smooth emulsion and therefore lose some volume in the oven.) Stop the machine and spoon in the cooled cocoa mixture, resume at medium speed (#5) and mix just until incorporated. Detach the beater and bowl; tap the beater against the edge of bowl to free the excess.

Using a rubber spatula, stir in one-fourth of the flour mixture. Then add one-third of the buttermilk mixture, stirring to blend together. Repeat this procedure, alternating dry and liquid ingredients, ending with the flour. With each addition, scrape the sides of the bowl and continue mixing until smooth, never adding liquid if any flour is visible.

Baking the Cake

Pour the batter into the pan. With a rubber spatula, spread the batter, working from the center outward and creating a slightly raised ridge around the outer rim.

Bake for 40 to 42 minutes, or until the baked surface springs back slightly when touched lightly in the center, the sides contract from the pan, and a toothpick removed from the center is free of cake.

Cooling the Cake

Place the cake on a rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. With mitts, tilt and rotate pan, gently tapping it on the counter to see if the cake releases from the sides.

If not, or if in doubt, run a small metal spatula or the thin blade of a table knife between the outer cake edge and the metal rim, freeing the sides and allowing air to get under the cake as it is rotated.

Place a cooling rack over the baking pan, invert it onto the rack and carefully lift the pan to remove. Slowly peel off parchment liner, turn it over so that the sticky top side faces up and reposition it on top of the cake. Cover with another rack, invert the layer right side up and remove the original rack. Cool completely.

Storing the Cake

If you plan to use the cake within 24 hours, wrap it in plastic wrap and store it at room temperature.

To freeze, cover the plastic-wrapped package with foil, labeling the contents and date. Freeze for no longer than 2 weeks.