Chocolate Birthday Cake: Devil’s Food Cake with Rich Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Has February come and gone already? I’m not sure when that happened, but I have one last birthday post for you (I told you I could really drag out the celebration). In previous years, I have made elaborate cakes exotic flavor combinations, but this year, I kept it simple. One vanilla cake and one chocolate cake. And while I have become more open to vanilla cakes in my 30’s, chocolate is where my heart is and always will be. Is there anything better in the world than a good chocolate cake? I think not. The more chocolatey, the better.

Chocolate Cake-2

After scouring through some old recipe books, I came across a few different recipes in Baking Illustrated. I love making cakes from this book, since it gives a long explanation and the science behind each recipe. I have made the Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake and the Sour Cream Chocolate Cake and loved them both, but I was looking for something richer for my birthday cake. This Devil’s Food recipe boasted “a velvety, more intense chocolate experience” than regular chocolate cakes, so I was sold. I also loved that it made a 3 layer, 8-inch cake, which is my favorite cake profile. Is it weird to have a favorite size for a cake?

The result: exactly what I was craving, and quite possibly my new favorite chocolate cake (sorry, Ina). I paired it with a rich and creamy but not too sweet chocolate buttercream. The frosting recipe that I’ve included makes a lot- enough to crumb coat, frost, and pipe lots of decorations.

Chocolate Birthday Cake: Devil’s Food Cake with Rich Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Yield: One 3 layer 8-inch cake


    For the cake
  • 4 ounces (113 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup (21 grams) Dutch processed cocoa
  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 3/4 cup (92 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (85 grams) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks, 227 grams) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 1/2 cups packed (297 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • For the frosting
  • 2 cups (4 sticks/ 454 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (250 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 (15 ml) teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces (226 grams) bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I used Ghirardelli 60 percent)
  • 2-3 (30-45 ml) tablespoons milk or heavy cream


    For the cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Grease and line 3 8-inch baking pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the chocolate and cocoa. Pour the boiling water over and whisk until combined and smooth. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, sift together the flours, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium high speed until creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat on for an additional 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat the eggs in one at a time, beating for 30 seconds in between each addition.
  6. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat on medium until just combined.
  7. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and the chocolate mixture, alternating between both and starting and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until just combined, but be careful not to overmix.
  8. Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans (I used a kitchen scale for this). Place 1 pan on the upper-middle rack and 2 pans on the lower middle rack and bake for 18-23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Cool the pans on wire racks for about 15 minutes. Use a knife to run around the edge of each pan, invert the cakes onto the wire racks, and cool completely before frosting.
  10. For the frosting:
  11. With an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until light and creamy (about 2-3 minutes).
  12. Add the powdered sugar, mix on low until combined, then beat on medium for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  13. Add in the vanilla and beat to combine.
  14. Gradually add in the melted chocolate and beat on low until smooth. Add in the milk one tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
  15. Assembly
  16. Place one layer of the cake on an 8-inch cake board. Place 1 cup of the frosting on top, and spread evenly with a palette knife. Place the second layer on top of the first, followed by another cup of frosting, and spread evenly.
  17. Place the third layer on top and put a generous scoop of frosting on the top of the cake. Spread evenly across the top of the cake. Work your way around the sides until the entire cake is covered with a thin layer of frosting. I find that a turntable is helpful when frosting a layer cake. Let the crumb coat set in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  18. Once the crumb coat has set, spread a thicker layer of frosting on the top and sides of the crumb coat to create a smooth finish. Use the leftover frosting to pipe onto the cake and top with sprinkles.


The cake layers are thin and rather fragile. I would recommend using a cake lifter to move them.
I’ve cut back significantly on the sugar from the original recipe. It was plenty sweet for me, but if you want a sweeter frosting (or a frosting with a more stiff texture), you can use 3-4 cups powdered sugar.
Cake recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated
Frosting adapted from Magnolia Bakery via


  1. hands down, the PRETTIEST cake I’ve ever ever seen. Simply gorgeous. A layered cake is on my baking list for this month. velvety taste has me sold as well! I love the frosting piping along the edges. Gorgeous! It looks like it’s from a bakery. :)

    1. Thanks, Sally! You always have the sweetest comments.

  2. I’m envious of your baking and decorating skills! That’s one delicious cake that I won’t dare face-planting into. Never :)
    Kiran @ recently posted…Coconut & Date Tea CookiesMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Kiran! I was definitely tempted to face plant into this cake, too!

  3. What a gorgeous layered cake! So rich and chocolatey. Your piping skills are incredible too Natasha :)
    Aimee @ ShugarySweets recently posted…Chocolate Mint Pretzel BitesMy Profile

    1. Thank you, Aimee!

  4. This looks to die for! Wish I could reach through my computer screen with a fork!
    Krystle(Baking Beauty) recently posted…New Milani EyeshadowsMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Krystal! If only that were possible!

  5. I can’t even believe you MADE THIS. It’s total cake perfection! Bakery quality. Like, wedding cake quality bakery cake quality. STUNNING!
    Averie @ Averie Cooks recently posted…Soft and Puffy Peanut Butter Coconut Oil CookiesMy Profile

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Averie!

  6. That is a gorgeous cake! The photos are stunning!
    Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust recently posted…Mint Chocolate Chip Popcorn TreatsMy Profile

    1. Thank you, Dorothy!

  7. I’m going to have to agree with Averie–that cake looks like total bakery quality. Reminds me a lot of Costco’s all-american chocolate cake which just so happens to be my FAVORITE CAKE OF ALL TIME. Except the last time I got it, when it totally didn’t live up to my expectations! I will definitely have to give this a whirl once I get the hang of frosting cakes and see if it lives up to the Costco cake in my dreams :) (I’m sure it’s actually much better)
    Erika recently posted…Raspberry Walnut Coffee Cake (vegan, gluten-free)My Profile

    1. Thanks, Erika! I’ve never had Costco’s cake, but this is currently my favorite cake (and frosting). You should definitely try it! My bf keeps asking when I’m going to make it again.

  8. wow , you are quite the baker. this looks amazing… such professional work. you should really look into selling your cakes, you will do amazing!
    Honey What’s Cooking recently posted…Sightseeing in Playa del Carmen | Riviera Maya, MexicoMy Profile

    1. Thanks! I do sell them locally, so if you know of anyone looking for a cake in Dallas, send them my way!

  9. Hi! I made this cake yesterday. It tasted great, but was very dense. I only had enough batter for 2 layers, also. I read and reread the directions and amounts. Is it really only 3/4 cup of flour and 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar? It seemed like it needed more flour. I would love to try this again, I just want to make sure I am doing it right. Thanks!

    1. Hi Tammy, you are right! I left out an ingredient, but have updated it. The cake calls for 3/4 cup regular flour plus 3/4 cup cake flour. I hope you try it again, and let me know how it turns out!

  10. I spent a good amount of time just looking through your photos. Everything looks sooooo good!!!! I just started baking about a month ago so i’m looking forward to being able to create things as beautiful as what you’ve created! :)
    Kym recently posted…Bacon Wrapped BananasMy Profile

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Kym!

  11. Your cake is picture perfect! I am always looking for “the best” moist, very chocolaty cake recipe. They are often too heavy like a pound cake or too light and fluffy for me. The texture of your cake appears to be just what I am looking for. Thanks!
    Wendy recently posted…Marbled Chocolate Chunk CookiesMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Wendy! I hope you try it. It really is one of my favorites!

  12. Came across this recipe just now……looks fantastic….will surely try it….do visit my space too…

  13. I just wanted to confirm that this cake is AMAZING! I originally made the version from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook in 2010, then noticed at that they had increased the butter, decreased the cocoa powder, changed from light to dark brown sugar, and changed from all-purpose flour to half all-purpose and half cake flour. Last night I made the new version, and it was sooooooooooo good. Actually I made it into their Chocolate Turtle Cake (Cook’s Country magazine October/November 2010). Highly recommended!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Sonya. Chocolate Turtle Cake sounds amazing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge