Devil’s Food Cake

I love making birthday cakes, even when I can't eat them
I love birthday cakes, even when I can’t eat them

Why Did I Make This?

Rachel was organising a surprise birthday party for her flatmate Deb.  I think I probably offered to make the cake so Rachel had less things to organise.

What planning did I do?

I decided to make Devil’s Food Cake because I had recently bought Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen book and wanted to try out her recipe.  I’m a bit obsessed with Devil’s Food Cake.  A Devil’s Food Cake was the last chocolate cake that I remember eating before migraine kicked in at puberty.  For special occasions my stepfather used to bring Devil’s Food Cake from a bakery somewhere in South London.  It was a great wheel of a cake with smooth dark chocolate frosting flat as a black mirror.  When the cake was cut the frosting was about a quarter of an inch thick over a single  3 or 4 inch wedge of cake.  The cake was just as dark as the frosting, much more dark chocolate than sweet.  My Mum used to serve it with whipped cream.  It was so rich you needed cream with every bite to cut the chocolate bitterness.

Once I started getting migraines I couldn’t eat this cake without needing a day in bed in the dark.  But I never stopped cooking chocolate cake for other people and I’ve always looked for a recipe that would replicate the depth of gooey chocolate I remembered from my last chocolate cake.

I learned that the frosting on my dream chocolate cake was ganache in my twenties, when I made a Time Life Recipe for a Sicilian cassata which used an expresso and a pound of butter painstakingly whipped into the chocolate (1 cm cube at a time).   But I never found a recipe with the right kind of cake.  Most English chocolate cake recipes are too dry or spongey.  I tried flour-less chocolate cakes and they weren’t right.  The Devil’s Food Cake I remembered had enough structure to hold itself up, flour-less chocolate cakes can’t do that . The chocolate cupcakes from How To Be A Domestic Goddess come close to the gooeyness of my memory. So I had high hopes for Nigella’s recipe.

Nigella’s recipe serves 10 -12 with 2 layers filled and covered with ganache.  I increased the recipe 50% and made a third layer.  I vacillated about whether to increase the amount of ganache because my experience with Nigella’s dark chocolate cupcakes was that the recipe made twice as much ganache as could ever be needed to cover the cupcakes.  In the end I decided to make the extra amount of ganache.

What did I buy?

  • 450 grams 70% cocoa solids chocolate (I think it was Lindt).  I had to buy this because my husband always eats any spare chocolate.
  • A bottle of bubbles to bribe my husband into helping me when the chocolate smell  became to intense

What did I use?

I always have a full pantry so I had all these things.

  • 3 x 20 cm cake pans
  • Flour, eggs, dark brown muscovado sugar, butter, vanilla essence, cocoa powder, caster sugar, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.

How did it turn out?

Devils Food Cake

Completed Devil’s Food Cake ready for transport to the surprise party

I think it worked pretty well.  My oven at the time was very fierce but I watched the baking closely and the cakes seemed quite soft, perhaps not as dark as I was hoping.

The ganache behaved well and didn’t seize. Nigella’s recipe makes it very clear that you need an hour for the ganache to set before it will cover the cake.  The extra amount took more than an hour to cool.  But in the end it was beautifully shiny, dark as my memory, darker even than the pictures in Nigella’s book.

I swirled my icing, Nigella says “You can go for a smooth look, but I never do and probably couldn’t.” and I have similar skill levels.

I loved the way the cake reflected the light of the candles.

I don’t know where Rachel got the candles but they were spectacular.

When the cake was cut I thought it probably wasn’t as dark and moist as my dream memory cake.  I don’t have a picture to illustrate a slice because it disappeared pretty quickly.

I think the solution to getting a really soft Devil’s Food Cake is to use a US recipe.  I made Nigella’s cake just before I converted to using recipes from the internet.  It took me a long time to trust recipes on the internet.  I worried that they would be unreliable.  Next time someone wants a Devil’s food cake I’ll probably try a Southern recipe, perhaps one with mayonnaise as the pictures of those cakes on Pinterest do seem to have the right level of gooeyness.

Southern Devil’s Food Cake with just a little mayonnaise

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