KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Devil's Food Cake
Bay Area Bites: culinary rants & raves from bay area foodies and professionals
Previous Posts
Morning Rituals
The Easter Egg
Check, Please! Bay Area: Season 2: Episode 12
Chocolate News
Eating Locally on a Budget
Delicious. A Love Poem
Rhone at Home: Garage Wines
Great Moments in Cinematic Baking
Check, Please! Bay Area: Season 2: Episode 10
Sarticious is Delicious
BAB Guidelines

'Bay Area Bites' is part of KQED's Blog Authors Collaborative. Blog contributors and commentators are solely responsible for their content. If you're interested in writing or contributing to a blog on kqed.org, email us with your idea.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Devil's Food Cake
My favorite story illustrating the inventiveness of fans making requests comes from a Violent Femmes concert. The Violent Femmes made famous a number of songs suggestive or outright sexual in nature. But then they became Born Again Christians and had a hard time loosening up at the few shows they played since this transformation.

One night, after informing the crowd that they would not only not play said famous songs, but they would stop playing altogether if the crowd didn't quiet down, a paper cup landed on stage. Attached to the cup was a plain string.

Do you remember this sound science experiment from elementary school?

A fan deep within the crowd held the other cup. Into it they whispered a request. Through the string was sent the quietest of questions.

Flattered and wowed by the silly, practical, respectful inventiveness of the method, the Violent Femmes played a song they would never have otherwise.

To this end I bring you a recipe, at the bequest of one Eggbeater reader; a chocolate cake for all occasions. I think she was asking for the sister cake to the best yellow cake ever, but this one came to mind.

Devil's Food Cake relies on some very particular science for all that it is and will become. A chocolate cake of deep blackness, moist light crumb and chocolaty perfume, is actually devoid of chocolate proper. It is said that the infamous Red Velvet Cake is really Devil's Food Cake before cocoa was very good. *For this reason, and others soon to be explained, it is of utmost importance that you use alkalized, European cocoa when making this cake. The all natural stuff will produce something that will not be able to be called cake. (It will not rise.)

As I have explained before in other posts about particular recipes, baking is a science reliant upon knowing exactly what role each ingredient plays to create the outcome, the final performance. Devil's Food Cake is about the reaction between acid (cocoa, buttermilk, baking soda, coffee) leaveners (baking soda, baking powder) and heat (temp of the coffee and oven.) The structure, albeit bare and tender, comes from cake flour and the whites in the eggs. Richness is added to the cocoa with butter, a few extra yolks add fat without more butter, which would weigh down the rise.

A little known fact: cocoa has no flavor, no perfume, until introduced to a heat source.

And without further words I give you,


1 C Sugar
12 Tablespoons Cocoa*
3/4 Cup Cake flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 each Egg
2 each Egg Yolks
1/2 Cup Hot Coffee
1/2 Cup Buttermilk
5 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, cubed
Splash Vanilla Extract

1. Preheat oven to 350F Place oven rack in middle of oven.
2. Butter and flour 9" round cake pan or individual ramekins. If you have parchment paper, cut out a circle and place on bottom of buttered pan. Butter and flour over parchment, if using.
3. In one big bowl sift cocoa, sugar, cake flour, baking soda and baking powder. Add salt to this, whisk to achieve a uniform mixture, and create a "well" in center.
4. Brew coffee, measure and drop cubed butter in hot liquid, whisk to melt and combine. (Do not let mixture cool too much.)
5. Pour cracked egg and yolks into well, whisk briefly. Pour in coffee-melted butter mixture, whisk briefly, pour in buttermilk and then whisk thoroughly to incorporate all dries. Attempt to eliminate any lumps. Add splash of vanilla extract.
6. Batter will be very loose, pourable.
7. Pour batter into prepared baking vessel(s) and set on a baking pan. (This insures heat will be better distributed than if you just put the cake pan directly on the rack of the oven.) Set first timer for 20 minutes. At the 20 minute mark, turn pan around, and set timer for another 10-15 minutes. (If you choose not to turn pan around it will most probably rise lopsided.) **Cake is done when skewer or sharp knife inserted in middle comes out clean and/or when sides pull away from pan and middle bounces back to the touch.
8. Cool cake pan on cooling rack until room temperature. Turn cake out to cool more or serve.

**I don't like to say how long a cake will take to bake. It depends on your oven, how long it needs to preheat, how hot your kitchen is, and the weight/material of your cooking vessel(s).

Because Devil's Food Cake is very chocolatey, but almost as light as Angel Food Cake, it can stand to be served with much richer items like ice cream, ganache or mousse. For a foolproof chocolate frosting click here.

Devil's Food Cake tastes good the day it's made, but if you can muster the will power, this recipe tastes even better the next day or a few days later, refigerated. It's the only cake I know that gets better with cold and age. The crumb is denser after a few days in the icebox, but nonetheless delicious.

Labels: , , , ,



Blogger Amy Sherman said...

This recipe is tortuous during Passover! But thanks for explaining red velvet cake, I never got why a whole bottle of food coloring was added to the batter.

p.s. I'm glad I saw the Violent Femmes back when they were still heathens. They weren't quite devilishly good but fun nonetheless.

4/09/2007 8:24 AM

Blogger shuna fish lydon said...


Yes, sorry. A commenter on eggbeater told me this morning:
"Reform Jews will break Passover on Monday evening April 9, 2007. Israeli, Conservative, and Orthodox Jews will break Passover on Tuesday evening, April 10, 2007."

Well soon, my dear, soon...

4/09/2007 8:48 AM

Blogger ~M said...

Actually, Israel breaks Passover a day earlier than everywhere else (with the notable exception of Rosh Hashannah (Jewish New Year), Israel celebrates one day less of many holidays). You can see here a list of the end dates for in Israel versus outside of Israel.

Shuna: Do you have any experience with gluten-free flours? If so, I would like to hear about it! Thanks!

4/09/2007 1:12 PM

Blogger Anita said...

Hmm, I have some buttermilk sitting in the fridge that needs a recipe. :D

4/10/2007 11:53 AM

Blogger shuna fish lydon said...


thanks for the clarification on Passover in Israel.

As for gluten free baking I am far from an expert. Try searching around the sites of these two prolific writers,

Heidi, http://101cookbooks.com/
Shauna http://glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com/

Good luck!

4/10/2007 1:34 PM

Blogger joanna said...

This has been the birthday cake of the month le my cake-eating circle of friends And my sister made it last night for my bro-in-law’s bday tomorrow. She made it purposefully ahead of time, per your comments on how much better it is on the 2nd or 3rd day. Just wanted to let you know the recipe did NOT fall upon deaf ears – we’ve been getting a good deal of mileage out of it up here. Thanks for answering my request!lexi

4/24/2007 1:58 PM

Anonymous tastegoblet said...

I made these twice alrede in the space of one week! Thanks for sharing a lovely recipe.. I love that the cake is not too sweet, which means I can pair it with richer, sweeter frostings without worry.

6/17/2007 12:00 AM

Anonymous Gara said...

I made a test run of this cake and it was amazing (even if I fudged the acid balance a bit...) I'll be making 2 layers of it for my mom's birthday, she's a real chocoholic. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

6/17/2008 11:16 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home

Locate CP Restaurants:
Check, Please! Google Map
KQED Food Sites
Check, Please! Bay Area
Jacques Pépin Celebrates!
Jacques Pépin:
Fast Food My Way
Jacques Pépin:
The Apprentice
Jacques Pépin:
The Complete Pépin
KQED Wine Club
KQED.org Cooking
Weir Cooking in the City
Tasty Food Sites
Chowhound SF
Eat Local Challenge
Edible San Francisco
Food Network
Food Talk
Group Recipes
Hungry Magazine
Leite's Culinaria
Mighty Foods
NPR: Food
Om Organics
Serious Eats
SFGate: Food
SFGate: Wine
SF Station: Restaurants
Slow Food SF
Top Chef
Wikimedia Commons: Food & Drink
Yahoo! Food
Yelp: Reviews
Tangy Food Blogs
101 Cookbooks
A Full Belly
Accidental Hedonist
An Obsession with Food
Anna's Cool Finds
Becks & Posh
Between Meals
Bunny Foot
Butter Pig
Cellar Rat
Chez Pim
Chocolate & Zucchini
Confessions of a
Restaurant Whore
Cooking For Engineers
Cooking with Amy
Cucina Testa Rossa
Culinary Muse
Denise's Kitchen
Eater SF
Feed & Supply
Food Blog S'cool
Food Musings
Food Porn Watch
I'm Mad and I Eat
In Praise of Sardines
Knife's Edge
Life Begins at 30
Love and Cooking
Mental Masala
Moveable Feast
Organic Day
Passionate Eater
San Francisco Gourmet
SF City Eats
Simply Recipes
The Amateur Gourmet
The Ethicurean
The Food Section
The Grub Report
The Petite Pig
The Wine Makers Wife
Vin Divine
Wandering Spoon
Well Fed Network
Word Eater
World on a Plate
Yummy Chow
Search BAB

Eye Candy: Food Photos
BAB on flickr.com
Join Flickr for free and share your photos with the Bay Area Bites and Beyond group pool.
Food Books
The Moosewood Cookbook
by Mollie Katzen
Baking: From My Home to Yours
by Dorie Greenspan
Grand Livre de Cuisine: Alain Ducasse's Desserts and Pastries
by Alain Ducasse, Frederic Robertmison
The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking and Entertaining
by Cheryl Alters Jamison, Bill Jamison
Tasty: Get Great Food on the Table Every Day
by Roy Finamore
Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way
by Lorna Sass
The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa
by Marcus Samuelsson
Michael Mina: The Cookbook
by Michael Mina, Photographer: Karl Petzktle
What to Eat
by Marion Nestle
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan
Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate
by John Scharffenberger, Robert Steinberg
Romancing the Vine: Life, Love, and Transformation in the Vineyards of Barolo
by Alan Tardi
What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea -- Even Water -- Based on Expert Advice from America's Best Sommeliers
by Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, Michael Sofronski
The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners
by Matt Lee, Ted Lee
Bread Matters: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking Your Own
by Andrew Whitley
Coloring the Seasons: A Cook's Guide
by Allegra McEvedy
All-new Complete Cooking Light Cookbook
by Anne C. Cain
Modern Garde Manger
by Robert B. Garlough
The Spice and Herb Bible
by Ian Hemphill, Kate Hemphill
The Improvisational Cook
by Sally Schneider
Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children
by Ann Cooper, Lisa M. Holmes
Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia
by James Oseland
My Life in France
by Julia Child, Alex Prud'Homme
A Passion for Ice Cream: 95 Recipes for Fabulous Desserts
by Emily Luchett, Sheri Giblin (photographer)
Au Pied De Cochon -- The Album
by Martin Picard
Memories of Philippine Kitchens
by Amy Besa, Romy Dorotan
Simple Chinese Cooking
by Kylie Kwong
An Invitation to Indian Cooking
by Madhur Jaffrey
Hungry Planet
by Peter Menzel, Faith D'Aluisio
Sunday Suppers at Lucques : Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table
by Suzanne Goin, Teri Gelber
Simple Soirees: Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties
by Peggy Knickerbocker, Christopher Hirsheimer (Photographer)
The Cook's Book
by Jill Norman
Molto Italiano : 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home
by Mario Batali
Nobu Now
by Nobuyuki Matsuhisa
Cheese : A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best
by Max Mccalman, David Gibbons
Bones : Recipes, History, and Lore
by Jennifer McLagan
Whiskey : The Definitive World Guide
by Michael Jackson
The New American Cooking
by Joan Nathan
by Lisa Yockelson
Easy Entertaining: Everything You Need to Know About Having Parties at Home
by Darina Allen
Cooking at De Gustibus: Celebrating 25 Years of Culinary Innovation
by Arlene Feltman Sailhac
Dough: Simple Contemporary Breads
by Richard Bertinet
Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor
by Michael Recchiuti, Fran Gage, Maren Caruso
The Food Substitutions Bible: More Than 5,000 Substitutions for Ingredients, Equipment And Techniques
by David Joachim
Recipes: A Collection for the Modern Cook
by Susan Spungen
Spices of Life: Simple and Delicious Recipes for Great Health
by Nina Simonds
Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent
by Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid
Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light
by Mort Rosenblum
Vegetable Love: A Book for Cooks
by Barbara Kafka, Christopher Styler
A History of Wine in America: From Prohibition to the Present
by Thomas Pinney
Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years Of Food And Art
by Tom Gilliland, Miguel Ravago, Virginia B. Wood
Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South
by Marcie Cohen Ferris
Washoku: Recipes From The Japanese Home Kitchen
by Elizabeth Andoh, Leigh Beisch
Weir Cooking in the City: More than 125 Recipes and Inspiring Ideas for Relaxed Entertaining
by Joanne Weir
Rick Stein's Complete Seafood
by Rick Stein
The Great Scandinavian Baking Book
by Beatrice A. Ojakangas
Serena, Food & Stories: Feeding Friends Every Hour of the Day
by Serena Bass
John Ash: Cooking One on One: Private Lessons in Simple, Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher
by John Ash
The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook: Eating Well for Better Health
by Donald Hensrud, M.D., Jennifer Nelson, R.D. & Mayo Clinic Staff
Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions
by Fernando and Marlene Divina
The Provence Cookbook
by Patricia Wells
Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World
by Gil Marks
Last Chance to Eat: The Fate of Taste in a Fast Food World
by Gina Mallet
by Thomas Keller
A Blessing of Bread: The Many Rich Traditions of Jewish Bread Baking Around the World
by Maggie Glezer
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
by Molly Stevens
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
by Harold McGee
Entertaining: Inspired Menus For Cooking with Family and Friends
by George Dolese
The Breath of a Wok: Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore
by Grace Young, Alan Richardson
Cooking New American: How to Cook the Food You Love to Eat
by Fine Cooking Magazine
The Japanese Kitchen: A Book of Essential Ingredients with 200 Authentic Recipes
by Kimiko Barber
Arthur Schwartz's New York City Food: An Opinionated History and More Than 100 Legendary Recipes
by Arthur Schwartz
Poet of the Appetites: The Lives and Loves of M.F.K. Fisher
by Joan Reardon
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes
by Jeffrey Hamelman
Everyday Dining with Wine
by Andrea Immer
Copyright © 2005-2008 KQED. All rights reserved.