The Devil's Food Cake Recipe That Everyone Should Have

The Classic Cake Recipe Everyone Should Know How To Make
Yuki Sugiura/Martha Stewart Living

There are cake recipes, and then there are cake recipes -- the kind your grandma passes down to you, which you either cling to with great secrecy or share with those you love dearly. But in the world of devil's food cake, mediocre recipes abound, and great ones are hard to come by.

So we got a little excited when we opened the October issue of Martha Stewart Living, in which Stewart and her test kitchen presents an epically rich version of the classic. It's "infused with melted chocolate (in addition to the usual cocoa powder) and sour cream to create a richer chocolate flavor and help it stay moist."

Though most of us don't fully understand the difference between devil's food cake and chocolate cake, and no one really knows where devil's food cake got its name, we know one thing for sure -- you've got to bake this right now.

Devil's Food Cake

  • Active time: 40 minutes
  • Total time: 3 hours, 45 minutes
  • Serves: 16

There's no single standard frosting for a devil's food cake, but Stewart suggests using chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream (see recipe below). If you want something sweeter and fluffier, try a seven-minute frosting, or for something super chocolatey, try whipped chocolate ganache.

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 6 1/4 cups Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream (see recipe below)
Prepare pan and ingredients
Yuki Sugiura
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment rounds; butter parchment. Stir together boiling water, cocoa, and chocolate in a bowl. Let cool 10 minutes. Whisk together flour, baking powder and soda, and salt in another bowl.
Make batter
Yuki Sugiura
In a mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in vanilla, then chocolate mixture. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture in two additions, alternating with sour cream, until just combined.
Transfer to pans and bake
Yuki Sugiura
Divide batter evenly between prepared pans, smoothing tops with an offset spatula. Bake until a tester inserted in centers comes out with moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.
Trim tops
Yuki Sugiura
Let cakes cool in pans on a wire rack 20 minutes. Turn out onto rack, top-sides up; let cool completely. With a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes so they're level.
Sandwich frosting with layers
Yuki Sugiura
Line the edges of a cake stand or plate with strips of parchment. Place one cake layer on stand, trimmed-side up, and spread 1 1/2 cups buttercream evenly over top. Top with remaining cake layer, trimmed-side down.
Frost cake
Yuki Sugiura
Spread a thin layer of buttercream over top and sides. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes (this ensures a crumb-free finish). Spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides. Cake can be stored in refrigerator up to 1 day; bring to room temperature before serving.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • Active time: 15 minutes
  • Total time: 25 minutes
  • Makes: 6 1/4 cups (enough to frost one 9-inch layer cake)


  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled


Whisk together sugar and egg whites in a heatproof mixing bowl. Place over a pot of simmering water; whisk constantly until sugar is completely dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. With an electric mixer, whisk on high speed until cool (test by touching bottom of bowl), 7 to 10 minutes.

Change to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-high speed, add butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, until combined. Beat in chocolate.

Martha Stewart Living

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