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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.