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Moist Devil's Food Cake

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Great swoops of glossy frosting make this a wonderfully exuberant cake with a dark backdrop for birthday candles. But this cake is just as suitable for afternoon snacks or a Sunday supper.

  • Yield: Makes one 8-inch round layer cake

Source: Martha Stewart Living, May 1997

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans
  • 3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, plus more for pans
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • Mrs. Milman's Chocolate Frosting

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange two racks in center of oven. Butter three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans; line bottoms with parchment. Dust bottoms and sides of pans with cocoa powder; tap out any excess. Sift cocoa into a medium bowl, and whisk in boiling water. Set aside to cool.

  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on low speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides twice. Beat in vanilla. Drizzle in eggs, a little at a time, beating between each addition until the batter is no longer slick, scraping down the sides twice.

  3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk milk into reserved cocoa mixture. With mixer on low speed, alternately add flour and cocoa mixtures to the batter, a little of each at a time, starting and ending with flour mixture.

  4. Divide batter evenly among the three prepared pans. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center of each layer comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans for even baking. Transfer layers to wire racks; let cool, 15 minutes. Turn out cakes, and return to racks, tops up, until completely cool.

  5. Remove parchment from bottoms of cakes. Reserve the prettiest layer for the top. Place one cake layer on a serving platter; spread 1 1/2 cups chocolate frosting over the top. Add the second cake layer, and spread with another 1 1/2 cups frosting. Top with third cake layer. Cover outside of cake with the remaining 3 cups frosting. Serve.

Cook's Notes

The cake keeps well for several days stored on the counter: Cover with plastic wrap or a glass dome to keep the cake from drying out.

Reviews Add a comment

  • MS12513363
    16 APR, 2017
    So disappointed!! The flavor of the cake was nice, not too sweets however, it was extremely dry. I'm an experienced cook/baker and can't believe how dry it was. I always rely on Martha for my baking as it's usually a foolproof recipe, sadly this one did not live up to my expectations
    Reply
  • ALR8332828DW
    7 MAY, 2016
    This recipe makes a very fine-structured, tender, not-too-sweet cake but I would not call it moist or "Devil's Food." It is definitely best suited to a round layer cake so that the filling can break up the cake texture and most surfaces are close to the icing. I rated it with 3 stars because the directions are good enough and my adult friends were complimentary of the product but, sadly, this was not the the hit of my son's bday party, as I had hoped, as it was not moist or chocolate-y enough.
    Reply
  • rityvallegmail
    13 JAN, 2016
    What is the measure of the pan?
    Reply
  • marilyncohn
    18 NOV, 2015
    I made this cake for my adult daughters birthday, in two 10" pans, and it worked out extremely well. I baked it at night, and I made the frosting while the cake was baking. It was too late, and the frosting did not cool and thicken in time. I left the frosting in the refrigerator all night. It thickened, but had a rough texture. It tasted fine, though. Since the cake lasts very well on the counter wrapped in plastic, next time, I'll make the cake one day, and the frosting the next day.
    Reply
  • linda82953
    22 MAR, 2015
    Goodness me! I spent my Saturday cake baking and icing stirring. The cake looks awesome but I did have trouble with the icing. Put it in the freezer overnight and it only thickened a little bit more. To frost the cake, I poured the icing between the layers. Poured some on the top. No possible way to even attempt the sides. I have one half of the icing left. Such a shame as I was hoping for the cake in the recipe photo. I won't be discouraged. I'll try it again. If Mrs. M can do it, so can I!
    Reply
  • svaret
    25 AUG, 2014
    This recipe is great. Don't be put off by comments below. Follow the recipe, let the dairy come to room temperature before starting, and watch carefully for doneness. The result is a rich cake, and it looks lovely when frosted. It is definitely on the heavy side, but my crowd of 10 adults loved it. And, it keeps well assembled and on the counter, covered, for a few nights.
    Reply
  • svaret
    23 AUG, 2014
    Recipe notes: The cocoa powder should be measured then sifted. When mixed with the water, the cocoa powder will form a thick paste that is then cooled and mixed with the milk; I suggest doing this a bit in advance as it's a tad challenging to mix into the milk.
    Reply
  • sinda 20
    14 MAY, 2014
    True to the title and most reviews here, this cake is MOIST! after extreme browsing and experimenting for months, i've finally gotten the best chocolate cake recipe. Registered just so that i can leave a praise for this recipe. It is also fairly chocolaty so if you've chocolate cravings, this along with the frosting should go down very well.
    Reply
  • Adrienne C
    31 JAN, 2014
    I have made this cake countless times... It is a very time consuming cake, but if you follow the steps it is well worth the efforts! The cake has always turned out moist. The frosting tastes amazing but I have had trouble with getting it to set properly. I have had to refrigerate it and beat it to get it to set. The first time i made this cake was with a hand mixer - I invested in a kitchen aid! I get rave reviews whenever I make this cake. Plan on making it for my birthday!
    Reply
  • Karen Teles
    20 JAN, 2014
    This is a time taker cake, but I do not agree with the reviews that said it didnt work, Im a chef for many years and I simply love to bake, unfortunately I cant bake chocolate cakes, but this is the only one I can do it. Including the frosting. Baking is a science and as long as you complete all the tasks the way the recipe tells you theres nothing to worry about. Its a delicious cake and its the only one I dare to sell it to my friends.
    Reply