Ina Garten's Devil's Food Cake

August 29, 2016
8 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes one 9-inch 4-layer cake; serves 12 to 16
Author Notes

This cake is a showstopper! I bake the cakes one day and make the buttercream and assemble the cakes the next so it is not too daunting. I adore the combination of moist chocolate cake and lighter-than-air buttercream.

Reprinted from Cooking for Jeffrey. Copyright © 2016 by Ina Garten. Photographs by Quentin Bacon. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC. —Food52

What You'll Need
  • For the cake:
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Pernigotti
  • 3/4 cup hot brewed coffee or espresso
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Coffee Meringue Buttercream (recipe follows)
  • Chocolate espresso beans (for decoration)
  • For the coffee meringue buttercream:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds (6 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup coffee liqueur, such as Kahlúa
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. For the cake:
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9 × 2-inch round cake pans, line them with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pans. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. On low speed, add the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla and beat until well mixed, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Whisk the cocoa powder and hot coffee together in a small bowl. With the mixer on low, add it into the batter.
  5. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture to the batter, then all the sour cream, then the remaining flour mixture, mixing each addition until combined. With a rubber spatula, fold the batter until it is well mixed.
  6. Divide the batter equally between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, turn out onto a baking rack, and cool completely.
  7. To frost the cakes, slice them in half horizontally with a long, thin knife. Place the bottom of the first cake, cut side up, on a flat serving plate and spread a thin layer of buttercream on the top only (not the sides) with a palette knife. Place the top of the first cake, cut side down, on top and thinly frost the top only. Next, place the top layer of the second cake on top, cut side up, and thinly frost. Finally, place the bottom layer of the second cake, bottom side up (so the top of the cake is flat). Frost the top and sides of the cake.
  8. Heat a palette knife or frosting spatula in hot water, shake off any excess water, and use it to smooth the buttercream on the sides and the top of the cake. Continue heating the palette knife and shaking off the excess water, until the buttercream is smooth. (A revolving cake stand will make it easier.) If there is extra buttercream, fill a pastry bag with it to decorate. Garnish with the chocolate espresso beans.
  1. For the coffee meringue buttercream:
  2. Combine the sugar and 2⁄3 cup of water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the sugar dissolves, uncover the pan and place a candy thermometer in the syrup. Cook over high heat until the thermometer registers exactly 240 degrees. (Don’t stir!)
  3. Meanwhile, place the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until they form stiff peaks.
  4. Carefully pour the syrup into a 2-cup glass measuring cup. With the mixer still on high, very slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites in a thin, steady stream. Leave the mixer on high for about 1 hour (trust me!), until the mixture is completely at room temperature. (If the mixture isn’t absolutely at room temperature, the butter will melt and deflate the egg whites!)
  5. With the mixer on medium, add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time. If the butter starts to melt, stop and wait for the mixture to cool. With the mixer on low, add the coffee liqueur and vanilla. Do not refrigerate; frost the cake while the buttercream is at room temperature.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • ashleyamore
  • Carol Skeer Diamond
    Carol Skeer Diamond
  • Trishington
  • Shefali Caylin T
    Shefali Caylin T
  • tesstraylor

22 Reviews

Shama January 31, 2022
I do not follow Bare Foot Contessa. Her recipes are full of fat & too much sweet, she cooks like old village ladies. America had the Best Gourmet Chef The silver palate best friends who have left the world. In the last two years my cooking style is completely Gordon Ramasay, so creative, so gourmet & disruptive and yes I have some special Silver palate favs too. Guys Gordon is global and he is a class act, Barefoot is a old fashion has been & dated for now
cindydsmnd June 5, 2022
Everyone has an opinion and You can get your point across without the meanness
tesstraylor January 15, 2023
One does not one cook from only one source nor does the world need another non-professional food critic. If you as an individual don’t care for her work, then source recipes from others and leave the meanness at the door. These kinds of comments lessen you.
Steven W. July 4, 2023
Because Gordon doesn't ever use butter or fat or sugar.
exo121 July 6, 2023
It's a baking dessert recipe. The entire purpose is to create something over the top. Go away. Last I checked Gordon isn't known for his cakes.
Julie January 31, 2022
Is one slice really 20K calories! I added the recipe to My Fitness Pal app and it came to 20,220 calories!
That being said…the recipe is sensational! My Kitchen Aid stood up to the test of one hour on the frosting. It was PERFECT! The Kahula flavor and extra tsp. of vanilla in the frosting so delicious. The texture is amazing! The egg whites and sugar/syrup filled the mixture and fell at about 20 minutes into the hour, but it all came to life in the end.
The chocolate cake is so light and rich with chocolate flavor. This was fun to make and I would do it again, but not too soon. Is it really 20,220 calories?! Dear Julia…
Shama November 6, 2020
I respect & really admire her and have a collection of her books. I am finding that with fame come attitude but self actualized coaches & leaders can refrain from attitude. Cooking for Jeffery is a good book many successes but some frustrations points. Some instructions are poor & confusing. The excess use of butter and sugar is not essential . I have traveled & lived outside America & able to create delicious dishes and deserts from many parts of Europe SE Asia, & many EMEA regions. The Devil cake intrigued me to make but unfortunately I do not have luxury of time, this is not a recipe for busy professional females & her response time is unbelievable. I baked the cake and put it in the fridge so now i will use JC's Italian meringue buttercream. Yes the over use of butter is too much. She needs to stop selling this kind of recipes that promote extensive calories & promote excessive calories. The Silver Palate books series still are classic. Ina Please understand our country has many health issues, good food is great but moderation is not a bad thing. Thank you & Cheers
liliana November 6, 2020
Right on Shama
Shama November 7, 2020
Thank you liliana, I like facts & honesty and no offense, appreciate your support. One Quick question I have the set of red & blue of Julia's and I have successfully baked all her cakes but I avoid frosting, or fillings I use her glazes. The Italian meringue buttercream you recommend hopefully should be in the books I have but is this recipe simple or two time consuming. Thanks & Buon weekend, Cheers Shama
liliana November 7, 2020
Dear Shama, buttercreams are always a bit demanding. Most require cooking sugar syrup to be carefully poured in a thin stream over beaten eggs. The egg component may vary.
All yolk (which I avoid), a combination of whole eggs with yolks, or all egg white. (the French meringue recipe)
But the result is FULLY worth the effort. Far above the North American overly sweet icing-sugar stuff.
I also have a recipe without eggs from a patisserie in Montreal now closed. A different but interesting texture. How would you like me to send the recipes as I think it too much to post here? But do look at the Food 52 buttercream recipe.
liliana August 9, 2020
Julia Child's Italian meringue buttercream is the way to go.
Tante C. April 28, 2018
Italian buttercream does not require an hour to cool. It usually takes 8-10 min max on high before it's cool enough to add the butter, You can feel the bowl. Chop the sticks of butter into cubes keep refrigerated until ready to use. Keeping the mixer on high makes it easier to add them gradually to the egg whites. If the frosting starts to separate don't panic. Keep beating on high until it reincorporated. After butter is added continue beating for 3-4 minutes. I make Italian buttercream for my part time business and have been making it for years. My instructor was a pastry chef from Sprinkles Cupcakes. The first time I made it it deflated and I threw it out. Since then I have had no problems, just keep beating. Or better still read up on Italian Buttercream recipes, it's worth it!
ashleyamore December 1, 2017
The second time I made this recipe, my KitchenAid mixer didn't stand up to the 1 hr of high-speed mixing required to cool the meringue. Sadly, the hinge came out, the top fell, and the whisk attachment broke into 8 different pieces. (And my kitchen looks ready for the season, as it is spattered with meringue.) All this to say, next time I'll wrap my bowl in a cool towel and watch the mixer like a hawk. But I won't stop making this recipe, no sir.
Shama July 6, 2023
Chefs and cooks have to always move with time and fashion and direction of the world .Ina Garten is not a bad cook she is okay and a good has been . Te Silver Palate partnership and later when the partnership dissolved, they published books based on their international tasting and palate. . Silver Palate Books were disruptive in American cuisine and te two best friends rocked NY. I have all their addition and when you taste their chocolate cakes it has flavor of the European deserts no excessive butter dripping. These two ladies showed America how simple food with a little e shift from SOP ordinary veges or fish got an uplift and tasted extra ordinary. Iana is a decent cook and yes she has a place in Paris but her eating is not the french style she eats indulges in heavy foods
Michelle April 29, 2017
I left mine in for more than an hour and the egg whites deflated immediately. I live at altitude and wonder if this isn't a factor???
Carol S. November 5, 2016
There are 7292 calories in 9 sticks of Butter.
although I'm just saying....
won't stop me from making it, but that is a LOT of butter!!!!
Lady V. July 21, 2021
Which brings the caloric intake to close to 1000 calories/serving in butter fat alone (you know, the kind of fat that clogs your arteries and causes heart attacks) without even taking the eggs, sour cream and sugar into consideration. Good job with those obesity rates America! Not sure how Jeffrey's still seemingly healthy after being on her "diet" for 40-some years
Debbie November 4, 2016
If I frost the cake one day before, should I put it in the fridge?
Trishington October 28, 2016
Like Sophia Henkel says, you can place ice packs or even chilled, wet tea towels around the base of the mixing bowl the speed up the cooling of the frosting. It's totally worth it for the resulting texture of this kind of frosting.
Shefali C. October 28, 2016
Are we supposed to leave the mixer running on high for 1 whole hour while the sugar syrup and egg white mixture beat up? That seems awfully long ...Im not sure if my kitchen-aid mixer will stand up to that (or my ears lol)
Sophia H. October 28, 2016
I have made this kind of buttercream before, yes, it can sometimes that this long or close to it and I have a kitchenaid one way to shorten the fine is if toy can plastic baggies of ice below the bowl, I have done this as well, but you're mixer will be ok.
Sophia H. October 28, 2016
Shorten the time!