Ultimate Chocolate Cake

July 31, 2019
36 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

I’ve been making cakes and pies in the Food52 offices since 2014, and couldn’t be happier that they asked me to develop a new cake to celebrate their 10th birthday. This cake is chocolate, plus chocolate, with a little chocolate (I don’t use the word ultimate lightly). It’s impressive to look at it - but more importantly, it’s so, so delicious, just like these last 10 years have been. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe is featured in I’ve Been Baking Cakes at Food52 for 10 Years. This One Might Be My Favorite —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Ultimate Chocolate Cake
  • Prep time 2 hours
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Makes one 4-layer, 8-inch cake
  • Devil's food cake
  • 1 ½ cups (128 g) unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably dark or black cocoa powder, plus more for coating pans
  • 1 cup (242 g) boiling water
  • 1 ¼ cups (285 g) whole milk
  • 9 ounces (255 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups (595 g) granulated sugar
  • 5 large (284 g) eggs
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (361 g) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon (3 g) fine sea salt
  • Chocolate custard filling
  • 2 ½ cups (605 g) whole milk
  • ½ cup (121 g) heavy cream
  • 4 ounces (113 g) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 4 ounces (113 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup (198 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (37 g) cornstarch
  • large pinch fine sea salt
  • 2 large (42 g) egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons (10 g) vanilla extract
  • Whipped ganache
  • 12 ounces (340 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 ¼ cup (282 g) heavy cream
  • 1 recipe Basic Chocolate Glaze (
  • chocolate sprinkles, as needed for finishing
In This Recipe
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 8 inch cake pans with nonstick spray, then add cocoa powder and tap around until the pan is well coated.
  2. Place the 1 ½ cups (128 g) cocoa powder in a medium, heat-proof bowl. Whisk in the boiling water until fully combined. Stir in the milk and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-low speed until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Scrape the bowl well. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add one third of the mixture to the mixer and mix on low speed to combine. Add half of the cocoa/milk mixture and mix to incorporate. Repeat, alternating between the dry and wet ingredients, until both are fully incorporated and the batter is smooth.
  5. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. While the cakes cool, make the filling: in a medium pot, heat the milk, cream, and chocolate over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate has fully melted. Turn the heat up to medium and bring the mixture until it’s just barely simmering.
  7. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a medium heatproof bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks until well combined.
  8. When the chocolate mixture has come to a bare simmer, pour about half of it into the egg yolk mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Then pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan and cook the pudding over low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula until it gets very thick and a few large bubbles break the surface. Stir in the butter and vanilla until well combined.
  9. Pour the mixture onto a sheet tray, or into a shallow bowl or casserole dish. Cover directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until totally chilled.
  10. Make the whipped ganache: place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small pot, then pour it over the chocolate. Stir until the mixture is smooth, then let it cool to room temperature (don’t let it set until it is totally firm).
  11. Transfer the ganache to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip on medium high speed until lightened in color, 2-3 minutes. Scrape the bowl well and whip again to make sure the ganache is fully aerated. Transfer half of the ganache to a disposable piping bag (or a large zip-top bag). Cut a ½ inch opening in the end, or fit with a large round tip.
  12. Assemble the cake: use a serrated knife to divide each cake evenly into two pieces. Place one half on a cake turntable, cake stand, or platter. Pipe a ring of icing around the outer edge of the cake layer. Scoop 1/3 of the pudding mixture inside (don’t let it rise over the ganache ring around the outside), and spread into an even layer. Place another cake layer on top. Repeat this process until you’ve used all of the pudding and cake layers.
  13. Use the remaining whipped ganache and/or custard to do a thin crumb coat all around the outside of the cake. Chill the assembled cake for 15-30 minutes.
  14. Spoon or pour the glaze all over the top, letting it drip down the sides. After the glaze sets, you can pipe the remaining whipped ganache in dots (or switch to a star tip - whatever!) on the top of the cake, then finish with sprinkles.

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I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, The Book on Pie, is out on November 10th, 2020.