Heavenly Vintage Devil’s Food Cake Recipe for Your Next Chocolate Party-Party

Devils Food Cake Slice by the copper lamp Bake This CakeMoist chocolate party cake bring it! Just when you thought the box cake mix thing was getting really good, along comes an old-fashioned homemade vintage cake recipe for a rather decadent and lovely (big) 4-layer party cake filled with mocha madness and smothered in chocolate ganache. Enough dark chocolate punch to bring out the oohs and aahs and maybe even some applause when you haul it out to your friends and family come holiday dessert time. Serving Devils Food Cake at the river house Bake This Cake

Traveling from the city to the country in a few hours time transforms the world around us, shore does. We’re going from palm tree country to the short-grass prairies and ranch lands in the Central Valley of California. The breeze is cold but the fireplace is crackling and the fish in the Merced River are jumpin so, yeah, I’m so loving the chance to get back to my hometown roots at the river house. City to the country Bake This CakeThe holidays are filled with the magic of aromas and twinkling lights and thoughtful gifts and good food. So, although the everyday rush is distracting, I’m going to focus on peace and harmony for the holiday season. What I cherish in my memory banks: working as a team to build a special family meal, holding hands with friends and family around the dinner table and sharing toasts to a lovely meal together. Holiday buffet by the fireplace BakeThisCake My contribution to the holiday buffet (besides the cake) starts up as soon as I arrive at the river house (usually about 2 a.m. while everyone is sleeping and the fireplace is roaring and crackling big time).

Candle Burning Bright at the river house Bake This Cake I make homemade applesauce by peeling and dicing 20 green apples and simmering them a good long time with a little sugar, cinnamon and ginger until they are soft enough to mash.  While that’s simmering, I make some jellied cranberry sauce (without pectin or gelatin) and store it in the fridge overnight. You can find the recipe for the cranberry sauce by clicking HERE. The fruits and spices fill the house — so I imagine that everyone sleeping up in the loft must have sweeter dreams as a result of my late night cooking.Leslie's Homemade Applesauce and Cranberry Sauce Bake This Cake Why do they call it Devil’s Food? It’s a turn of the Century thing. I didn’t get it, really…until I tasted the cake. A wicked and sinful temptress indeed that has held that cake staying-power for well over 100 years! Most culinary historians believe that decadent goodness is the devilish basis for the namesake of this cake. Same for that odd title for rich and lovely deviled eggs, right?   🙂 Okay, it’s also the exact opposite of Angel’s Food Cake (formerly known as “Angel Cake”) that is pure white, of course. Devils and angels and cakes. Oh my!Dessert Buffet with Devils Food Cake and pies Bake This Cake A Little Farm Wife History: We’re gently dipping into the 1931 cookbook, “The Household Searchlight Recipe Book”, (my copy is the 9th edition printing from 1935) published by The Household Magazine from Topeka, Kansas. The recipes in this book were contributed by the magazine readers, the magazine’s 7 “food specialists” who tested recipes and measurements (and added much in the way of cooking instruction) and by magazine advertisers promoting their products (though I don’t see product names mentioned). Searchlight Cookbook LifeForcePhotos for Bake This CakeThis cookbook was specifically created to appeal to farm wives living in towns with a population under 10,000. The copyright was held by Kansas Senator, Arthur Capper, owner and publisher of The Household Magazine (and many other books, magazines, newspapers and radio enterprises), with most of his media endeavors appealing to the farming communities in Kansas. This book was sent out by mail order to women living on farms at a time when women living on ranches and farms were being taught the fundamentals of household management and how to become “household specialists”. Browse through an excellent collection of the magazines at the Library of Congress by clicking >> HERE.

“The kitchen was a laboratory; food preparation was a studied calculation of calorie and nutrient intake; sewing and mending were garment construction; and household management in general revolved around efficiency in time and resource control. These were the sermons to be learned.”  (p. 48 “Linoleum, Better Babies & the Modern Farm Woman, 1890-1930” by Marilyn Irvin Holt, University of Nebraska Press, 1995).

Here is a precious and rather unusual snapshot-type photograph of my own great-grandmother, Ida, taken as she is in process of hanging up the laundry to dry in the sunshine on the ranch. You can see the grain silo on the left and the hens in the background to the right of the windmill tower.

Turn of the century farm wife doing laundry on the ranch Leslie Macchiarella

Okay, To the Cake! Slow Food Warning! We’ve got a cake project on our hands here: custard, batter, filling, ganache. It’s all quite easy and fun but put away your briefcase for a while and jack up the tunes because this is a special gift of time for your guests. You can make it a couple days ahead, wrapped well on the counter and frost it up to a day or two prior (likely even longer, but try for as fresh as possible).  It starts with a boiled chocolate custard that is cooled and added to the cake batter, similar to Mrs. Rorer’s 1902 recipe for Devil’s Food Cake (“Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book” by Sarah Tyson Heston Rorer) with a custard “starter”.

Devils Food Cake Tilt Shot River House LifeForcePhotos Bake This Cake

I doubled this recipe for a large gathering and used large cake pans but I’m presenting the “regular” recipe as it appears from the Searchlight book, although I would still suggest slicing each of the 2 regular-sized layers in half horizontally and filling each layer for a very special 4-layer “event”. The only change I made to the original recipe was to substitute unsalted butter for shortening. Okay, I also changed the order of the preparation, but just a tad. Oh, and I left out sifting (cause I’m a lazy sifter). To enhance the flavor of this cake, we used the new highly-concentrated King Arthur Flour’s Pure Vanilla Extract – made with Madagascar bourbon and Tahitian vanilla beans. May I say that it is awesome and really boosts the flavor quotient in this cake!

Devils Food Cake instagram photo Bake This Cake

Instagram photo of Devil’s Food Cake

Tools Needed for Devil’s Food Cake:
Cooking spray or butter and parchment (for lining cake pans)
Medium sauce pot
2 Large bowls (1 for mixing dry ingredients, 1 for the main batter event)
Electric mixer
Small cup or bowl (for fork-beating eggs)
Measuring cups and spoons
Optional but always recommended: Internal instant temperature tool (for checking cake internal temperature)

Ingredients for Devil’s Food Cake:

Cooked Chocolate Custard:
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup milk (2% is fine)
1 large egg

Main batter:
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups cake flour (you can substitute all-purpose flour, though cake flour works best)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup milk (2% is fine)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, fine quality

Directions for Heavenly Vintage Devil’s Food Cake:

Prepare two 9″  cake pans with cooking spray or smeared butter, line them each with parchment, then spray or butter the parchment.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 (reduce to 350 if you’re doubling the recipe) and set the rack to center position.

1. We’ll start with a lovely cooked chocolate custard (try not to sample it too much – cause you need it for the cake!):

In a medium pot, whisk together:
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup milk (2% is fine)
1 large egg

Cook over medium-low heat, stirring almost constantly, until gently darkened and thick (light pudding consistency):

Chocolate Custard Preparation Collage Bake this Cake

Remove the custard from the heat and set it aside while you move to the next stage.
Tip: You will need to stir the custard as it cools from time to time to cool it down and to keep it nice and smooth.

2. Cream the butter and sugar and eggs (in separate stages for extra oomph):

Using an electric mixer, beat on high-speed until light and fluffy (about 2  minutes):
3/4 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)

Beat into the creamed butter on high-speed (about 2 minutes):
1 cup sugar

Beat into the sugar-butter mixture on high-speed until fluffy (about 2 minutes);
2 fork-beaten large eggs

Preparing Batter for Devils Food Cake Bake This Cake

3. Prepare the dry ingredients:

In a large mixing bowl, whisk until fully incorporated:
2 cups cake flour (substitute all-purpose flour, although cake flour works best)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Mixing Dry Ingredients for Devils Food Cake Bake This Cake

4. Blend the dry ingredients into the batter:

On low-speed, blend into the batter, alternating liquid and dry, until thorough blended (about 2 minutes):
the prepared dry ingredients
1/2 cup milk (2% is fine)

Devils Food Recipe Blending Batter with Dry Ingredients and Milk Bake This Cake

5. Blend the cooled chocolate custard and vanilla into the batter:

Using the electric mixer, blend on low-speed until fully incorporated (about 1 to 2 minutes):
the prepared room temperature chocolate custard
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, fine quality

Blending Chocolate Custard and Vanilla into Devils Food Batter Bake this Cake

6. Divide and conquer:

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, smooth the batter and bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Dividing Batter and Spreading in pans for baking Devils Food Bake This Cake

The cakes are done when the center springs back when pressed slightly at top center, the sides of the cake separate from the edges of the pan and a toothpick test comes out clean (or the internal temperature is about 210 degrees).
Tip: If you double this recipe and use larger cake pans, reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes to an internal temperature of about 210. You can see how many times I pricked this cake with toothpicks to be certain of a fully cooked center (remember, these were the double-wide cakes). 🙂

Devils Food Cakes Hot from the oven Bake This Cake

Cool the cakes thoroughly on a wire rack before frosting (at least 45 minutes). Trim any humps from the top of the cakes to make them level.

Getting Ready to Fill and Frost: I notice the 1902 recipe suggests chopped nuts in the filling (which sounds delicious to me) so feel free to sprinkle  chopped walnuts or pecans onto the filling layers if you would like to honor an older version of this cake. Just be sure to mix the nuts into the filling before spreading or press them into the filling if you sprinkle them to keep the cake layers “connected” when served.

Slice each cake in half horizontally to achieve 4 layers.

It comes in handy to have the nice long river house bar right at the kitchen area to spread out these lovely sliced cakes like soldiers all in a row.

Devils Food Cakes in a row on the bar Bake This Cake

Fudge Buttercream Filling:

A possible filling for the 3 awesome layers of chocolate cake: Fudge Buttercream Frosting: Melt 6 squares dark unsweetened chocolate with 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter(1/2 cube). Stir to cool. Combine the room temperature chocolate with: 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar (whisked well or sifted), 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (fine quality), approximately 1/2 cup of heavy cream (adjusted  to achieve a thick consistency). Fold into this mixture 1 cup of whipped cream and beat until well blended.

Chocolate Mocha Filling Prep BakeThis CakeOptional for extra rich cake:   Baste the cake with a tiny bit of simple syrup. Boil 1 cup of water with 1/2 cup of sugar for a few minutes over medium heat. Dot or pat the warm syrup over the cut side of each layer with a brush.

Basting and filling Devil's Food Cake Bake This Cake

Flip the top layer of cake over so that the smooth bottom shows for the top of the cake. Here’s a photo of the filled cake waiting for the top coat of ganache.

Filled Unfrosted Devils Food Cakee Bake This Cake

iPhone photo of the unfrosted cake

Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache:

Special Note: In order to achieve a super smooth outer ganache layer, normally the cake would be pre-frosted with a light layer of frosting (“crumb coated”), then chilled before drizzling with ganache. However, because we’re aiming for that vintage not-so-perfect old-fashioned Grandma style of cake, we skipped the crumb coat. But if you want perfectly smooth cake sides, then carefully trim away any imperfections of the outer edges with a bread-style serrated knife, pre-frost the cake with a light coating of chocolate or plain buttercream frosting, chill it for 30 minutes or more, then drizzle your ganache over the cake and smooth the top and sides with a hot knife dipped in hot water. You’ll get a super smooth outer layer.

Devils Food Cake slice iphone BakeThisCake

Melt 1 cup high-quality bittersweet chocolate with 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate. While the chocolate is still hot, whisk in 1-1/2 cups of sour cream and stir until a thick and luscious smooth consistency is achieved. While still warm, drizzle over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides, smoothing it with a long straight-edged knife.  (Note: The Italian aperitif in the photo below is not part of the recipe…just part of the champagne toasts of the cake watchers.)

Prepping Chocolate Ganache Bake This Cake

I’m such a messy ganache pourer. But it’s so fun to play with warm drizzling chocolate. Wow!

Pouring ganach on Devils Food Cake photo by LifeForcePhotos for Bake This Cake

Here’s one of my brothers holding that champagne cocktail I was telling you about (just a splash of Aperol in a glass of champagne).  And here’s cheers to you dears! Best of all for the holidays and the upcoming New Year!

Champagne Toast at the River House Bake This Cake

River House Holiday Table Collage Bake This Cake

Sister’s strawberry rhubarb pie, the gathering table, brother’s roasted turkey

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