One-bowl devil’s food layer cake with milk chocolate frosting

This devilish cake is as black as sin, loaded with coffee, chocolate, cocoa, and butterscotchy brown sugar. The acidity of these deliciously dark ingredients provokes an intensely fizzy reaction from the baking soda for a cake that bakes up fluffy and light, without the need to whip or cream the batter—just stir everything together, and you’re done! Paired with mellow Milk Chocolate Frosting, it’s a celebration of chocolate in every form.

One-bowl Devil’s Food Layer Cake With Milk Chocolate Frosting

Makes: one 8-by-4-inch three-layer cake; 16 servings | Active time: about 15 minutes | Downtime: 90 minutes to cool

For the cake:

  • 3 sticks/12oz unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups/12fl oz black coffee, or black tea such as Assam
  • 1 cup/3oz Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups/6oz finely chopped dark chocolate, about 72%
  • 2 cups/16oz light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (half as much if iodized)
  • 6 large eggs, straight from the fridge
  • 3 tablespoons/1 1/2oz egg yolks (from about 3 large eggs)
  • 2 cups/9oz all-purpose flour, such as Gold Medal
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 recipe Milk Chocolate Frosting (See below)

For the frosting:

  • 3 cups | 24 ounces heavy cream
  • 3¾ cups | 20 ounces 35% milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon Diamond Crystal 
kosher salt, or more to taste 
(half as much if iodized)
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350°F/180°C. Line three 8-by-3-inch anodized aluminum cake pans with parchment and grease with pan spray; if you don’t have three pans, the remaining batter can be held at room temperature for up to 90 minutes. (The cakes won’t rise quite as high in 2-inch pans.)
  2. Combine butter and coffee in a 5-quart stainless steel saucier and set over low heat. Once the butter is melted, remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa and chocolate, followed by the brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Mix in the eggs and yolks. Sift in the flour (if using a cup measure, spoon into the cup and level with a knife before sifting) and baking soda. Whisk thoroughly to combine, then divide among the prepared cake pans (about 23 ounces each).
  3. Bake until the cakes are firm, though your finger will leave an impression in the puffy crust, about 30 minutes (or 210°F). A toothpick inserted into the center will emerge with a few crumbs still attached. Cool until no trace of warmth remains, about 90 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the Milk Chocolate Frosting; note that the frosting must be used as soon as it is made.
  5. Loosen the cakes from their pans with a knife, invert onto a wire rack, peel off the parchment, and reinvert. Trim the top crusts from the cakes with a serrated knife (this helps the cakes better absorb moisture from the frosting). Place one layer cut side up on a serving plate. Cover with a cup of the frosting, spreading it into an even layer with the back of a spoon. Repeat with the second and third layers, cut side down. Finish the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting, and coat with cookie crumbs, if you like.
  6. Under a cake dome or an inverted pot, the frosted cake will keep for up to 24 hours at room temperature. After cutting, wrap leftover slices individually and store at room temperature for up to 4 days more.
Mix it up: Chocolate Cherry: Like coffee in the basic recipe, cherry juice takes a backseat to dark chocolate in this recipe, but it adds a fruity brightness, compared to coffee’s earthy depth. It’s a nice way to lighten the cake for summer—especially when paired with pale pink Cherry Almond Buttercream (page 115). Replace the coffee with an equal amount of pure unsweetened tart cherry juice and proceed as directed. Devil’s Food Cupcakes: Line cupcake pans with papers. Fill each with 13/4 ounces of batter, about two-thirds full. Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake emerges with only a few crumbs attached. Makes about 40 cupcakes. German Chocolate: This rustic cake won’t win any beauty pageants, but with chewy coconut, crunchy pecans, and gooey dulce de leche between every layer, it doesn’t have to. Prepare a batch of Quick Condensed Milk according to the Dulce de Leche variation on page 170. Off heat, stir in 8 ounces (2 cups) toasted pecan pieces and 8 ounces (2⅔ cups) sweetened shredded coconut flakes, plus salt to taste. Trim the top crust from each cake and stack on a serving plate with a heaping cup of warm filling spread over each layer, leaving the sides exposed. Serve immediately, or wrap tightly in plastic and store up to 5 days at room temperature. Grasshopper: In place of coffee, steep 6¾ teaspoons loose-leaf peppermint (or 6 individual teabags) with 12 ounces (1½ cups) hot water for 5 minutes; strain and combine with butter as directed. For the chocolate, try one flavored with natural peppermint, such as Endangered Species 72% Forest Mint (do not use mint chocolate candies). In addition to vanilla, add 
¾ teaspoon pure peppermint extract. Reduce salt to ¾ teaspoon, and reduce baking soda to 2¼ teaspoons. Bake as directed. Toasted Marshmallow: Instead of Milk Chocolate Frosting, finish the cake with a batch of Seven-Minute Frosting. After frosting the cake, toast with a small blowtorch (which you can buy on the cheap at the hardware store) to brown and crisp the meringue. Serve immediately. Gluten-Free: Replace the all-purpose flour with 31/4 ounces (3/4 cup) teff flour, 3 ounces (3/4 cup) tapioca flour or arrowroot, 11/2 ounces (1/2 cup) coconut flour, and 11/2 ounces (1/3 cup) white rice flour.
  1. In a 3-quart stainless steel saucier, warm the cream over medium heat. When bubbling hard around the edges, pour over chocolate in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk by hand until smooth, stir in the salt, and set aside until no longer steaming. Cover and refrigerate six hours, or until thick and cold, around 45ºF. Alternatively, cool in a sinkful of ice water, stirring and scraping from time to time with a flexible spatula, about 1 hour. With a whisk attachment, whip on medium-high until thick and silky, with a frosting-like consistency. This can take from 75 to 120 seconds, so watch it closely. Use immediately. Leftovers can be frozen up to 6 months in a pint-sized zip-top bag, then gently warmed to spoon over your favorite desserts.
Mix it up! White Chocolate Vanilla: Split a vanilla bean lengthwise with a paring knife, add to the cream, and bring to a simmer as directed. Remove from heat, cover tightly, and steep up to 4 hours. Remove vanilla pod, scrape the flavorful goo back into the cream, and return to a simmer. Finish with 18 ounces (3 cups) finely chopped white chocolate, such as Cacao Barry’s 34% Zephyr. Due to the added cocoa butter, this version will whip up a little faster.  

This recipe is from Bravetart by Stella Parks. Published by W. W. Norton and Company. 

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