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Devil’s Food Cake

Mark Davidson

Yield: Yields two 8-inch round cakes or 2 dozen cupcakes

Devil’s food cake is a great go-to recipe for birthday cakes and cupcakes, and the flavor appeals to adults and kids alike. Pair it with vanilla buttercream for a classic chocolate/vanilla combination, or layer in a salted caramel filling or blackberry cabernet buttercream for a more sophisticated flavor profile. This recipe scales well to produce multi-tiered cakes: to make a 6-inch tier, halve the recipe and bake it in two 6-inch pans. To make a 10-inch tier, scale the recipe up to 1-1/2 times the batter, and bake it in two 10-inch pans.

This recipe is excerpted from Great Cake Decorating. Read our review.


  • Cooking spray
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
  • 8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2-1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch processed
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt


  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Spray two 8-inch round pans with cooking spray and flour them. (If making cupcakes, line 24 standard-sized muffin cups with paper liners.)
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer), beat the butter, dark brown sugar, and granulated sugar together at medium speed until fluffy and lighter in color, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure there are no butter lumps, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the eggs one at a time until completely combined.
  • Put the cocoa powder in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour in 2 cups of hot tap water and whisk to dissolve the cocoa powder. Whisk in the milk and set aside.
  • In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • Slowly add about one-third of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. Continue adding the dry and wet ingredients one-third at a time, alternating between the two and ending with the dry ingredients, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  • Divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared cake pans (or muffin tins) and bake, rotating the pans’ positions halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 25 to 30 minutes (15 to 18 minutes for cupcakes).
  • Transfer the cakes to a rack to cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. To invert, run a knife or thin metal spatula around the edge of one cake to help loosen it. Invert the cake onto a plate. Remove the cake pan. Place a cake plate on top of the cake, and invert it again so the cake plate is on the bottom. Repeat for the other cake. Transfer cupcakes to a rack to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before turning them out onto a plate or countertop.
  • Let the cakes cool completely before frosting or storing.

Make Ahead Tips

Once cool, the unfrosted cakes can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Cupcakes are best when frosted and served the day they’re baked.


The key ingredient is obviously the cocoa powder, so be sure to use the best quality you can find. Dutch-processed cocoa will yield the best results.


Rate or Review

Reviews (2 reviews)

  • DFJP | 04/14/2016

    I have to agree with the previous reviewer that felt this cake was too large for the required pans. Having read their review I used 3" deep, 8" rounds and the cake was fine for that size. However, following that I made the Vanilla Chiffon and, following the directions I halved the recipe to fit two 3" deep, 6" rounds. The batter for the vanilla cake was about half the amount that was really needed for the pans and I have ended up with what will be a VERY small top tier! We haven't eaten the cakes yet, so I can't comment on their texture. However, I would strongly suggest that a parchment liner for the pans be used.

  • cdwilliams | 12/19/2015

    There is no way that this recipe was tested for a home cook. The batter nearly overflowed my Kitchen Aid mixer, coming to within 1/2" of the top, and barely fit in two 9" (not 8" as the recipe calls for) cake pans. It overflowed and made a huge mess in my oven.I count on Fine Cooking recipes to work, and am very disappointed that my son's 21st b-day cake is such a mess. When I saw the list of ingredients, I should have used my good common sense (8 eggs for two 8" layers??) but sadly I did not.This cake would have worked well if baked in four 8" pans - if only I'd had them!Added 12/20: Erin Gardner was kind enough to respond to my email. She says that the cake needs to be made using tall 8" pans so that each cake can be made into two layers. She tested the cake today and confirmed it works. I'll revise my 2* rating once I've purchased new cake pans!

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