Dark Chocolate Cake

It’s hard to say which is my favorite:  deep, dark chocolate cake with vanilla frosting or tender, intensely vanilla cake with rich, dark chocolate frosting.  I guess I lean toward vanilla cake while my John is all about chocolate cake.  So yin and yang – we really do complete each other!

Since my baby loves chocolate cake with vanilla frosting so much I am always on the hunt for a “new and improved” chocolate cake.  If there is a chocolate cake recipe in any new cookbook I get, I bake it and he lets me know if it’s the new “it” chocolate cake or if it gets the dreaded “meh”.

When I find a recipe I basically like I tinker with it until it sings.  One thing I learned to do with chocolate baked goods is to always add a little coffee “something” (espresso powder, brewed coffee, coffee extract – whichever is most appropriate) to the recipe.  You won’t perceive a distinct coffee flavor, but the “chocolate-ness” of the finished product will be enhanced.

I am cooking my way through the 1950’s edition of the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book, so I naturally had to try the Black Devil’s Food Cake (Black Midnight Cake).  It was lovely, but I made several changes to the ingredients and came up with our very favorite dark, dark chocolate cake of all time.

Here’s the Recipe

  • ¼ cup Hershey’s cocoa (see note below) PLUS
  • ¼ cup black cocoa powder (an intensely flavored Dutch process cocoa)


  • ½ cup good quality Dutch process cocoa (such as Droste or Bensdorp) in place of the 1/4 cup each regular and black cocoas (see note below)
  • 1 cup brewed coffee, hot
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • ¼ cup butter or margarine
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 and grease & flour a 9″ square baking pan.  Whisk together hot coffee and cocoas and allow mixture to cool to room temperature.  Cream shortening, butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time and beat until thoroughly combined, and then blend in the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  With the mixer on low alternately add the coffee and flour mixtures to the creamed butter, beginning with the coffee and ending with the flour (i.e. add ½ the coffee and blend, then ½ the flour, then the remaining coffee, and finally the remaining flour).  After the last addition of flour blend until almost completely combined.

Finish blending the batter by hand with a spatula to ensure cake will be tender (overbeating cake batters develops the gluten in the flour, resulting in tough, rubbery cakes).

Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth top and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs.  Cool in pan 10 minutes and then turn cake out onto cooling rack.  Cool completely before frosting.  I’ll post my recipe for “Buttercream” frosting in a separate post.

Note on cocoa:  I specify Hershey’s cocoa because it won the cocoa taste test at America’s Test Kitchens, and because I’ve used it for ages and it’s wonderful.  If you only have regular cocoa (not Dutch process), that is fine – you will just need to use plain water instead of the coffee or the cake will not rise properly.  For an explanation of why, check out this EXCELLENT primer on the different types of cocoa and how to use them.

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