February 11, 2013

Devil's Food cake

I started celebrating Valentine's Day a little early with - what else - (more) chocolate!  I can't think of a better time to make a deep, dark, luscious chocolate cake than right now.  
The reality is, chocolate is a regular part of my life and I really don't need any excuse to enjoy it.  Every time I stir up a batch of ganache and smell that intoxicating aroma, I hope that I come back in my next life as a chocolatier.  I used Valentine's Day as the special occasion to make this Devil's Food cake.  It was also comfort food ahead of the snow storm we just had.  We ended up with almost a feet of snow but the power stayed on so no complaints!

Now, I don't know about you but my family and I most definitely prefer the "devil's food" over "angel food".  The precise difference between chocolate cake and Devil's Food cake isn't really clear but I do know that we always have room for another good chocolate cake recipe in our repertoire.  So to expand my own chocolate cake repertoire, I made David Lebovitz's Devil's Food Cake, a recipe on his website I've eyed for ages now...you need only a glimpse of that frosting to fall in love!
This cake was easy to make and so easy to eat.  I think it's just a great version of classic Devil's Food cake.  If I'm to compare it to my favorite chocolate layer cake, I'd have to say that one is moister and has a deeper chocolate flavor (I like to eat it plain even without frosting), mainly because that cake has oil - instead of butter - and a solid cup of coffee in it.  This Devil's Food cake has butter, a bit less coffee, and milk in it.  It's likewise moist but has more of a classic, slightly firmer, yet still fluffy, texture to it.  There's a time and place for everything and I really like both.

The frosting on this cake is ganache, my very favorite!  And it pairs really well with this cake.  I opted to use water instead of cream in the ganache since it's already rich enough with a stick and a half of butter in it.  Believe it or not, the cake was surprisingly "light" (in taste and texture, not calories, unfortunately) and certainly not overly sweet.
My favorite part of making a cake, besides the actual making part, is slicing it up and sitting around the table enjoying it with my husband and the little guy (who digs right into the frosting but systematically plows away at the entire slice of cake).  Being together, sitting down, relaxing over good food is one of the best aspects of life.  It could be Valentine's Day or any old day but I love a reason to celebrate.

If you're like me, you might be interested in knowing how this cake batter will look.  This Devil's Food cake starts with butter, and that classic first step of thoroughly creaming the butter and sugar together to create a fluffy cake after baking. 

What you ultimately end up with is a relatively thick, fluffy, and smooth batter.  The consistency is a lot like pudding or frosting.  You'll need to use your rubber spatula or a small offset spatula to spread it around the cake pans.
This cake goes so well with the ganache frosting.  Like I mentioned, I used water instead of cream in the ganache since the recipe already calls for a stick and a half of butter.  If you want to be real devilish and use cream, I say go for it!

It might seem a little strange to add water into the chocolate to melt together since we're constantly being warned about chocolate seizing if it comes into contact with water.  You have nothing to worry about when you add enough water (1/2 cup in this case) with the chocolate; it's the few drips that could accidentally get into your chocolate that can wreck it.

It could be that I just love the look, taste, and smell of ganache but I find it much easier to make than buttercream and, partly because of that, I thought this cake was pretty easy (less labor intensive than other cakes) to put together.
Once the butter is fully incorporated into the ganache, you need to let it cool enough so that it thickens to a spreadable consistency.  The amount of time this takes depends on the temperature in the room.  Mine took about half an hour but it could take longer.  I think you can speed this process up by placing the ganache in the fridge but check on it and stir once in a while to make sure it doesn't harden to much and be difficult to spread.
Enjoy the upcoming Valentine's Day - I hope there's cake involved!


Devil's Food Cake
From David Lebovitz (who I thank for many great recipes)

- One two-layer 9-inch cake -

For the cake:
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Dutch-process)
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup strong coffee (or water; I used coffee)
1/2 cup whole or low-fat milk (I used whole)

For the ganache frosting:
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional that I added)
1/2 cup water (or cream; I used water)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Making the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and adjust oven rack to the middle position.  Butter two 9" x 2" cake pans (or use baking spray) and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Sift the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together into a bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together for about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixer as needed to make sure everything is evenly mixed together.

Mix the coffee and milk together in a measuring cup.  Stir half the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then add the coffee and milk.  Lastly, stir in the remaining dry mixture until just incorporated.

Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans, using a rubber or small offset spatula to smooth and spread it evenly around the pans.  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes come out clean.  Let cake cool for about half an hour in the pans, then turn the cakes out, removing the parchment.  Place cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. 

Making the frosting:  Melt chocolate, instant espresso powder (if using), and water in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water.  Stir until just melted, then remove the bowl from the heat.  Whisk in the pieces of butter, a few at a time, until completely melted and the ganache is smooth.  Let ganache cool until thickened enough to spread.  This can take up to 1 hour at room temperature but keep an eye on it since it could harden too much to spread (you'll need to gently re-warm the mixture if that happens).

To frost the cake, place one layer, right side up, onto a serving plate or cake pedestal.  Tuck a few pieces of parchment paper around the cake to catch any frosting.  Spread a good amount of the ganache (I use more than a third of it) over the top.  Place the second layer over it (I inverted it and used the flat side up) and spread the top and sides with the remaining frosting.  If you want to decorate the cake a bit, you could reserve some of the frosting to pipe using a pastry bag and tip.  Gently remove the parchment paper.

This cake makes up to 12 servings.  David Lebovitz says the cake is best the day it's made but you can store leftovers at room temperature under a cake dome.  I do that and press plastic wrap against the cut edges of the cake.  We thought the cake tasted great up to 2 days after baking (then there were no more...)



  1. This looks so moist and chocolaty! You can't go wrong with David Lebovitz and chocolate. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Wendy! This cake is really great and you are so right: chocolate and David Lebovitz is a sure thing! : )

  3. I love this cake, looks great!



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