Devil's Food Cake Layers

devil's food cake
Photo: Johnny Miller
Makes one 9-inch cake and one 11-inch cake

You will need three separate batches of this batter to create the Haunted-House Cake. Do not attempt to make a single large batch.


  • 1 ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons (3 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans

  • ¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, plus more for pans

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water

  • 3 ¾ cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted

  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda

  • ¾ teaspoon coarse salt

  • 2 ¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 5 large eggs, room temperature

  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 11- by-2-inch round cake pan and a 9-by-2- inch round cake pan. Line bottoms with parchment rounds, then butter parchment. Dust pans with cocoa powder, and tap out excess.

  2. Mix cocoa powder and the boiling water in a bowl until smooth. Let cool. Sift together cake flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and scraping sides of bowl as needed.

  3. Whisking constantly, pour milk into cocoa mixture in a slow, steady stream; whisk until smooth. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in three additions, alternating with cocoa-milk mixture, and starting and ending with flour mixture.

  4. Transfer 5 cups batter to the 11-inch pan and 3 cups batter to the 9-inch pan. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer pans to wire racks and let cool completely. Invert cakes onto racks, then remove parchment and re-invert, top sides up. Use a serrated knife to trim top of each cake to make level.

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