Swans Down Devil's Food Chocolate Cake

April 13, 2016
2 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes three 8-inch layers (or two 9-inch layers)
Author Notes

This is a fantastic chocolate layer cake. It has a deep, rich chocolate flavor but isn't too dense or soft or squishy. It's also not so decadent that you can't pair it with a buttercream frosting. I love it plain, frosted, or served with a scoop of ice cream. It's adapted from an old Swans Down recipe, but I've amped up the chocolate a bit using dark cocoa powder. —Posie (Harwood) Brien

What You'll Need
  • 2/3 cup shortening, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons black cocoa powder or Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional, for more chocolate flavor)
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled
  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F. Butter and flour (or line with parchment paper) your round cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the shortening until soft.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, and espresso powder (if using).
  4. To the shortening, add the flour mixture, 1 cup of milk, and the vanilla. Mix until wet, then beat for 2 minutes on medium speed.
  5. Add the eggs, remaining 1/3 cup of milk, and melted chocolate and beat for another minute, until well-combined.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between all three (or two) pans.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cake just begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the surface springs back when lightly pressed.
  8. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Either serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream, or freeze the layers and then frost. (You don't have to freeze them, but it makes frosting and slicing easier.)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Liz
  • Pat Tiffany
    Pat Tiffany
  • Posie (Harwood) Brien
    Posie (Harwood) Brien
  • Terence

8 Reviews

Liz June 25, 2017
Easy recipe. OK taste. But the texture came out too dense for me. Brownie-like.
Terence January 18, 2017
Can I replace the shortening with butter? If so, how much butter should I replace it with?
Pat T. January 16, 2017
I made this yesterday and loved it. I, however, decided to bake it in a single 9" round pan. Of course, it didn't bake evening all the way thru. I was concerned about the "outer" part getting too done (which it did a little bit), with the interior staying runny. It ended up being like a Lava Cake with a very moist center. Everyone loved it. I noticed your response to Pokemon below and guess that would have been a better approach but I would have ended up with a very flat cake. Any ideas? Or should the center remain moist? (I am glad I tried this recipe and will do it again and take any additional suggestions.) I prefer single layer cakes since I am not big on most frostings. And, I served homemade vanilla ice cream with it. Which everyone also loved. Thanks.
Pokemon November 9, 2016
Can I bake this in a 9 x 13 pan?
Posie (. November 9, 2016
For sure. Don't fill it more than halfway -- you may have extra batter. If so, bake the extra in a muffin tin as cupcakes!
Anum Y. May 6, 2016
Yummm :) I will try to make it soon.
kathy April 20, 2016
Where's the frosting recipe?
Posie (. April 20, 2016