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What is Devil's Food Cake?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Devil's food cake is a rich, moist, very intense dark chocolate cake, made in a variety of different ways, depending on the region. As a general rule, the cake is presented as a layer cake, with a rich, fudgy frosting, and the individual layers are springy and flavorful. The origins of devil's food cake can be found in red velvet cake, another type of rich chocolate cake which originated in the American South. The intense flavor of both cakes continues to be enjoyed in the South, and in other parts of the world as well.

The term “deviled” in reference to particularly rich or heavily spiced foods dates back several centuries. In the case of spicy foods, the association with the devil is related to the heat of hell, while rich foods are considered highly tempting and decadent, like the devil himself. Deviled eggs are another example of a devil-related food, and at one time many more spiced foods were called “deviled.”

To make a basic devil's food cake, start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius). Butter two standard sized cake pans, lining the bottoms of the pans with wax paper if you want to prevent the cake from sticking, and buttering the wax paper as well so that it can be easily lifted from the cooled cake.

Scald one and one quarter cups of milk before slowly adding three quarters of a cup cocoa and one third cup white sugar. Stir until the mixture is evenly blended and set aside to cool while you sift together two cups of stirred cake flour, one cup sugar, one and one quarter teaspoons baking soda, and one teaspoon salt. Cream two thirds of a cup of butter and beat the dry ingredients into the butter until just combined before adding three eggs, one teaspoon vanilla extract, and the cocoa mixture. Beat until the batter has no chunks before pouring into the cake pans to bake.

When a toothpick inserted into the devil's food cake comes out clean, typically after around 30-40 minutes of baking, remove the cake to a rack to cool. When the pans are cool enough to handle, turn the cake out, and when the cake is totally cooled, gently peel off the wax paper. Frost the devil's food cake as desired, and serve it immediately or keep it on a covered cake plate to keep it from going stale.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon151514 — On Feb 10, 2011

Derp! Nope. Devil's food (a.k.a., Red Velvet) was actually created in New York, notably the Waldorf Astoria, and is only very faintly chocolate flavored. In fact, authentic devil's food cake (or red velvet) has only a teaspoon of cocoa powder in it.

By doppler — On Nov 05, 2010

@ellaesans - I agree. I have recently found a frosting that goes very well with Devil's Food Cake and it's an egg white based frosting. It takes quite a while to set up - especially if you only have a hand mixer rather than a standing mixer, but is well worth the wait. It is especially great with kids recipes because it dries super shiny.

By empanadas — On Nov 05, 2010

@anon44401 - I really think that a cream cheese frosting goes well with anything. It's a really versatile sort of frosting that you can use in several different aspects. Aside from that, it's really the cream cheese element that makes it easy with cake.

By ellaesans — On Nov 05, 2010

@anon44401 - I think frosting is all about a matter of opinion. Really, a lot of people like to even out the richness of Devil's Food cakes with a lighter frosting like that made from egg whites. A lot of cake recepies will suggest a frosting to go with the cake that you are making.

By anon44401 — On Sep 07, 2009

Surprisingly, a cream cheese frosting is very good on a devil's food cake, as well as a dark cocoa frosting.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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