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Southern Devil’s Food Cake

Scott Phillips

Servings: eight to ten.

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 chocolate, 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

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 890
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 470
  • Fat (g): 53
  • Saturated Fat (g): 30
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 4.5
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 15
  • Cholesterol (mg): 175
  • Sodium (mg): 440
  • Carbohydrates (g): 98
  • Fiber (g): 6
  • Protein (g): 11


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 8×2-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.


Rate or Review

Reviews (29 reviews)

  • margostanley | 12/05/2020

    This is a really good cake!! It's my go-to chocolate cake. Works well in 9"pans. They are tall 8" layers. Also, reg and mini cupcakes too! 1.5x makes a 10"+6", if you want 2 tiers. Very versatile. You can whip the ganache and spread for frosting. I usually use a white buttercream on the outside, to decorate on. Play around with it and find what works for you. Also, I use TJ's pound+ chocolate. It's Belgian.

  • leafygreenjenn | 05/17/2018

    Great recipe!! Love it. Although in the recipe it calls for 2 8x2” pans. You actually need 3!!

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