Devil’s Food Cake

slice of devil's food cake
Devil’s Food Cake (riff on Alton Brown)

As a child, my favorite cake was caramel-iced, white three-layer cake.

I’ve never been a big fan of chocolate cake; it seems like it’s always dry. Chocolate icing, maybe. Alton Brown has now put a big dent into my prejudice against chocolate cake.

If you’re a fan of chocolate cake, try this from-scratch Devil’s Food Cake and the boxed cake mix version won’t ever make it to your pantry again. Not a chocolate cake fan? I challenge you to give this a whirl – it could very well surprise you!



  • 9×13 inch metal pan
  • parchment paper
  • nonstick spray

By weight [1]

  • 4 ounces Dutch cocoa [2]
  • 10.5 ounces dark brown sugar
  • 5.5 ounces all purpose flour
  • 4 ounces cake flour
  • 4.5 ounces sour cream, room temperature

By volume

  • 1 shot of espresso + boiling water to equal one cup liquid
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (I use Mazolla)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature


Preheat oven to 325 with rack in the center of the oven.

Spray a 13 by 9-inch metal pan with nonstick spray. Line the pan with parchment paper so that it hangs over the sides of the pan; you will use the paper to lift the cake out of the pan to cool. Cut the paper longer than you think you’ll need (trust me on this) and place it so that the paper curves down, not up. Also spray the parchment with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Chocolate/espresso water mixture
Chocolate/espresso water mixture

Put the cocoa in a heat-proof container that is large enough to contain all liquid ingredients; add the boiling espresso/water mixture. Whisk to mix and set aside.

Combine dry ingredients (sugar, flours, baking soda and salt) in the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment.

Whisk the wet ingredients (oil, sour cream, vanilla, eggs and egg yolks) in a pourable container.

Add the oil mixture to the cocoa/water mixture and whisk gently to combine.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture. (Alton Brown says 30 seconds). Continue to beat on low speed for another 30 seconds; stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Continue to beat on low speed until the batter is smooth, 10 to 15 seconds. Do not over beat!

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cake springs back when pressed and reaches an internal temperature of 205 degrees F, 25 to 35 minutes. (In my oven, it was 28 minutes.)

Place the pan on a cooling rack for 30 minutes. Then lift the cake from the pan and cool another hour before frosting.

Chocolate frosting

ingredients for chocolate icing
All that’s missing is the salt!

This is not an overly sweet frosting.

  • 5.5 ounces butter, room temperature
  • 1 ounce mayonaise
  • 3 ounces chocolate chips, melted [3]
  • 8 ounces powdered sugar
  • pinch of Kosher salt

Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter and mayonnaise on high until light and fluffy (3 to 4 minutes).

With the mixer on low, slowly add the melted chocolate. Continue mixing on low speed until all of the chocolate is incorporated, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Turn off the mixer and add one-third of the sugar. Mix on low to combine, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat until all of the sugar has been incorporated. Add the salt and continue to beat until the frosting is smooth and lightens slightly in color, 2 to 3 minutes.

Devil's Food Cake
Ready to eat!

The frosting can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 hours. It can be refrigerated for up to a week, but will need to be brought back to room temperature to use.

[1] This was my first use of a digital scale to measure ingredients (ours came from Costco) for a cake. I prefer it, especially for ingredients like brown sugar. How tightly packed is tightly packed, for example.

[2] Dutch process cocoa may not be easily found in your local grocery. We like Droste Cocoa which is imported from Holland. [What is dutch process chocolate?]

[3] I used a 50-50 mixture of Ghirardelli semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate chips.
Ghirardelli chips

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.