Perfect Devil's Food Cake
Recipe type: dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12
Perfect Devil's Food Cake from Cooks' Illustrated
  • 8 oz. (2 quarter pound sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 4 oz. (4 squares) good quality unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 4 Tbsp. good quality cocoa powder
  • 1¼ cups boiling water
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup cake flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 3-4 cups of your favorite frosting
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three, 8″ or 9″ round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with waxed or parchment paper and grease the paper. Set aside until ready to use.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy and light in color, about 5 minutes. (Don’t skimp on this step.)
  3. Chop the unsweetened chocolate. Measure out the cocoa. Add the boiling water, let sit for a few minutes, then whisk until smooth.
  4. Sift the dry ingredients three times over a piece of waxed paper and set aside until ready to use.
  5. After the creamed mixture is light and fluffy, scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.
  6. Crack eggs into a small bowl. Add them one at a time, beating well after each egg. Add vanilla and sour cream. Beat to combine.
  7. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the liquid chocolate, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
  8. Turn off the mixer after the last addition and fold the rest of the flour in with a large silicone spatula, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl so no streaks of creamed or dry ingredients are visible.
  9. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the center of the cake springs back a little and a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Cool for about 10 minutes in the pan after you remove them from the oven. Loosen the sides with a thin knife so the cakes don’t crack as they cool. Place the semi-cooled cakes on a baking rack to finish cooling.
  11. Cooled layers can be wrapped tightly and frozen until ready to use. Or kept at room temperature for up to one day, wrapped tightly to prevent drying out.
  12. Fill, frost, and decorate as desired.
Recipe by Cafe Johnsonia at