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Southern Devil’s Food Cake

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Serves eight to ten.

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 103

This four-layer Southern classic is made with cocoa powder, not chocolate, with a generous spoonful of mayonnaise in the batter to keep the cake moist and rich. A simple, luscious ganache of semisweet chcoolate, cream, and butter does double duty as filling and frosting.

For the Ganache
  • 1 lb. semisweet chocolate (preferably 58% cacao), finely chopped
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened
For the Cake
  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pans
  • 8 oz. (1-3/4 cups) all-purpose flour; more for the pans
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2-1/4 oz. (3/4 cup) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1-1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk, preferably low fat, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
Make the Ganache

Put the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour the hot cream directly over the chocolate and let it sit without stirring for 5 minutes. Using a whisk, stir in the center of the mixture in a small, tight circular motion until fully combined. Add the butter and stir until it is fully incorporated. Put a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ganache and set aside at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Make the Cake

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 8x2-inch round cake pans and line each with a parchment round. Butter the parchment, dust with flour, and tap out any excess.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated before adding the next

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder onto a piece of parchment. Add the salt to the dry ingredients after sifting.

Using the parchment as a chute, add one-quarter of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add about 1/2 cup of the buttermilk and mix on low speed until incorporated. Continue to alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk, mixing until incorporated after each addition and stopping to scrape the bowl and beater as necessary. Using a whisk, fold the mayonnaise into the batter.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean and the sides of the cake have begun to pull away from the pan slightly, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack and remove the pans and parchment. Cool the cakes completely. 

Assemble the Cake

With a serrated knife, cut each cake in half horizontally. Put one of the base layers on a cake plate and tuck strips of waxed paper under the cake to keep the plate clean while icing the cake.

Top the cake with about 1/3 cup of the ganache, spreading it evenly over the top. Add another cake layer, top with ganache, and repeat until the last layer is in place.

Spread a thin layer of ganache over the top and sides of the cake and refrigerate for 15 minutes to seal in any crumbs. Spread the remaining ganache over the top and sides. Remove the waxed paper.

Make Ahead Tips

The cake layers may be baked 1 day ahead; wrap well and store at room temperature. The filled and frosted cake may be refrigerated, covered, for up to 2 days. Return to room temperature 2 hours before serving.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 890; Fat (g): fat g 53; Fat Calories (kcal): 470; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 30; Protein (g): protein g 11; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 15; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 98; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 4.5; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 440; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 175; Fiber (g): fiber g 6;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Best Devil's Food cake. Better than any box. Moist, delicate and delicious.

Made this for a dinner party and it was an absolute hit! The cake is incredibly moist and tender and it has a lovely chocolate-y flavour. Make sure to use high-quality chocolate, as it really makes a difference.

With a good chocolate for the ganache and also for the cake, this cake is a crowd pleaser. What I do not like is that it is too moist and crumbles at the slightest touch. When I tried to overturn the cake format he pan, it breaks into pieces! I have trouble handling it during cutting to slices and also frosting them as there are too much crumble. The cake is too soft for my handling. Any one has the seam problem or is just me?

This is such a yummy cake which I've made several times since the recipe has been out. I prefer to frost it with a cream cheese frosting, which I think enhances the chocolate and cuts the sweetness.

This is a great recipe and is my go-to chocolate cake. I've not made the frosting in a while though. Does anyone know, can you pipe this ganache/frosting?

Fabulous! A bit time consuming but well worth it!

Absolutely delicious!!! I love David Guas. I used Callebaut's 60% bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder for the ganache and the cake! Read my full review here http://fridayswithcoco.blogspot.com/2012/04/southern-devils-food-cake.html

Moist, light & coco-licious; this is a phenomenal cake. The recipe is a breeze, and I could eat the ganache like pudding. I used Ghirardelli for coco powder and the ganache. Also, I only have 9 inch cake pans so my cakes were too short to divide horizontally and I didn't have any extra batter. Make this cake if you want a winner at your dinner table.

The batter mixed up beautifully and as other reviews have stated, it makes a lot! It is very important that you use 8x2 pans (like a springform pan, with the deep sides) for it to not overflow. I did not have enough pans so divided it evenly among 3- 8x1 round pans. I did find the cake a bit sweet for my liking. I did not use the ganache this time, just a chocolate buttercream frosting. It is a lovely cake.

This was a great cake. I agree with the other person about it being too much cake batter. I made 6 cupcakes with the extra. Next time I am going to use a 9" pan. The ganache was great. It does take an extra day but was worth the wait. I used 68% bitter sweet chocolate and was great. even my kids loved it. I will make this again, again and again.

I love this cake, and don't find it time consuming at all. But then, I don't use the Ganache called for in the recipe (I use a frosting from America's test kitchen). I bake the cake in three 8" pans, and have had no volume issues. I bake the layers for about 22 minutes. The cake itself is incredibly moist - I've even been known to eat it without frosting (which for me, is almost unheard of). The chocolate flavor is deep without being overwhelming - is good for adults and kids.

love it

Delicious. I brushed Kahlua on the cake layers and added a little Kahlua to the ganache. Everyone loved it!

This was an incredibly simple recipe and a real crowd pleaser. My favorite part was the icing--couldn't be easier and it was so easy to spread! I could only find 60% cocoa chocolate so I added about a tablespoon of sugar to the icing after it was all blended. I also added a tablespoon of brandy. I made no changes to the cake recipe. I had no problem with extra batter, but it didn't rise as much as I expected. Still, this recipe will go into the "favorites" collection.

Such a great recipe. My friends loved it

We found the cake alone rather bitter. It may be the cocoa, I can't seem to find it labelled as dutch processed or not. Some people loved the extra bitter, others didn't.

This cake is a star! Took it to work and it was gone in a flash. Had no issues with batter volume, as initial reviewer had. Put a big note on my printout to make the ganache a day ahead. Also used MagiCake strips on the pans to avoid the dome and wastage. This is a definite keeper for my chocolate-loving friends.

Fabulous cake. A friend made it for mutual birthdays, and I invested in two new cake pans and made it for another friend's 80th birthday party. Delicious, takes a little time, but worth every moment end every calorie.I'd give it five forks plus.

Rich, moist and delicious. Plenty of ganache for the whole cake. A perfect chocolate cake recipe. Read my whole review at: http://themomchef.blogspot.com/2010/03/southern-devils-food-cake-from-fine.html

Awesome cake. Easy to make. Tasted great. Instructions were clear and reliable. Thanks!

I made the ganache a day ahead and let it sit at room temperature. The cake fits perfectly with lots of room to spare into two 9" round cake pans. I let the cake firm up a day in the fridge before cutting in half. To continue with the theme of "low fat",I substituted one cup of SPLENDA (brown sugar blend for the two cups of brown sugar) This cake is delicious and looks so professional. Needless to say, my Company asked for seconds.

This recipe is so very yummy; a huge hit with our family and guests alike! This recipe is also easy as pie (or in this case, cake), and with the exception of waiting for the ganache to set, came together very quickly. I did not have a problem with overflow noted in a previous post...the batter fit in two 8inch pans with room to spare! AWESOME!!

While there is no doubt this recipe is delicious, it is very time consuming to make. One major downfall, the batter created more than could fit in two 8 x 2in. round cake pans. It spilled over onto the heating elements in my oven. I would recommend cutting the measurements down a bit, or using three cake pans to make an extra tall cake. Was a big hit with my husband, though we've dubbed it the "Two Day Devil Cake."

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