The origins of the term “devil’s food” to describe the chocolate cake are extremely difficult, if not impossible to identify. However, even a cursory investigation shows that the devil’s food cake recipes started to appear at least as early as the 1920s. The recipes will vary slightly. There are versions with heaps of cinnamon, versions including a variety of nuts, and quite a few with mashed potatoes. In the end, however, devil’s food cake is really just a chocolate cake that’s more chocolaty than most. This cake is dense and moist without being heavy, and it’s full of rich chocolate flavor imparted by the combination of dark chocolate, dark cocoa powder, and coffee.
PS This recipe makes a great cupcake. If you are adapting it for cupcake use, be sure to reduce the baking time by 25 minutes, keep a watchful eye on the oven, and only fill the cup holders three-quarters of the way full.
For the Devil’s Food Cake
1 ounce good quality dark chocolate (60-72%) broken into a few pieces
1/2 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valhrona)
2/3 cup hot coffee
1/3 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/14 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, softened
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Angel Frosting
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
Make the Devil’s Food Cake
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Butter two 8 inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour.
Place the chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the hot coffee directly over them and whisk until combined.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and mix again for 30 seconds.
Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with chocolate mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
Divide the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 45 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack and let them cool completely. Remove the parchment.
Make the Angel Frosting
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, stir together 1 1/4 cups of the sugar, the corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water. Once the sugar is dissolved, increase the heat to medium high, and clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pot. Heat the mixture, without stirring, to almost soft ball stage ( about 235 degrees F) do not let it go above 235 degrees F.
While you wait for the syrup to reach soft ball stage, whip the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form-do not beat beyond this.
As soon as the sugar mixture reaches the soft-ball stage, remove the pan from the heat.
Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup sugar over the soft peaks of the egg whites and turn the mixer to low. Slowly stream in the hot sugar syrup. Once all the syrup has been added, increase the speed to medium high and beat the icing for about 7 minutes until it is thick and shiny. Add the vanilla and beat again for 10 seconds.
To Assemble the Devil’s Food Cake
Place one cake layer on a serving platter. trim the top to create a flat surface and evenly spread about 1 cup frosting on top. Place the next layer on top, then trim and frost it in the same way. Frost the sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Serve immediately.
Angel frosting tastes best if it is served within 4 hours of being made.
Baked Notes: Even though this recipe uses almost an entire cup of hot coffee., the taste is undetectable in the final dessert. The coffee merely enhances th e chocolate flavor while cutting a little bit of the sweetness. If you want, you can substitute the coffee for 2 teaspoons of instant espresso powder dissolved in 2/3 cup boiling water.
Excerpted from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Copyright © 2010 by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Excerpted by permission of Stewart, Tabori & Chang, an imprint of Abrams. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.