When I asked my sister what kind of birthday cake she’d like, she said, “surprise me.” She was turning 16, and I wanted to do something a little bit special for her. I looked through several cookbooks for inspiration, but for some reason, I kept coming back to Dorie Greenspan’s Devil’s Food White Out Cake, the one gracing the cover of ‘Baking From My Home To Yours’. A rich and dark Devil’s Food cake covered with fluffy snow-white marshmallow frosting and topped with yet more cake? It was meant to be.
You may notice that my cake has only two layers. Yes, because I don’t own an 8-inch cake pan, I baked this in a 9-inch one, which meant that the cakes were just a little to thin to cut them in half again for a third layer. Nevertheless, this cake was absolutely delicious.
I think the secret to a really great chocolate cake is buttermilk. At least that is the common factor in all of the best chocolate cakes I’ve made in recent times. The cake was moist and rich but became beautifully fudgy in texture after being in the fridge. The icing was a nice balance to the cake, it was sweet without being too rich, and gorgeously fluffy.
Beth helped me decorate it, by sprinkling the cake crumbs over the top and sides of the cake. She absolutely loved it, which is the most important thing. And I loved making her smile. At 16 years old, she’s already considerably taller than me. She has a big personality but an even bigger heart and I love her to bits. Happy Birthday Beth, my little-big sister.
Devil’s Food White Out Cake
Recipe from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
• 1 1/3 cups plain flour
• ½ cup cocoa powder
• ¾ teaspoons baking soda
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 150g butter, room temperature
• ½ cup (packed) brown sugar
• ½ cup sugar
• 3 large eggs, room temperature
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 55g dark chocolate, melted and cooled
• ½ cup buttermilk or whole milk, room temperature
• ½ cup boiling water
• 115g dark chocolate, finely chopped
Filling and Frosting
• 4 egg whites
• 1 cup sugar
• ¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1 cup water
• 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Butter two 8-inch round cake pans, and line with non-stick baking paper.
2. To make the cake, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugars and continue to beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, and then add the vanilla extract.
3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the melted chocolate. When fully incorporated, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. At this point the batter will be thick, like frosting.
4. Mix in the boiling water on low speed, then with a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl and stir in the chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly between the baking pans and smooth the tops with the spatula.
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pans at the halfway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the center will come out clean. Transfer the cake pans to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then remove from the pans and cool to room temperature.
6. When you are ready to fill and frost the cake, inspect the layers, level them off and cut each cake in half horizontally using a long serrated knife. Set 3 layers aside and crumble the fourth layer. Set the crumbs aside.
7. To make the frosting, put the egg whites in a clean dry mixer bowl. Have a candy thermometer at hand. Put the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a medium size saucepan and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes. Uncover and allow to syrup to boil until it reaches 117ºC (242ºF) on the candy thermometer.
8. While the syrup is cooking, start beating the eggs. If the whites form firm, shiny peaks before the syrup reaches temperature, reduce the mixer speed to love and keep mixing the whites until the syrup catches up. With the mixer at medium speed, and standing back slightly, carefully pour in the hot syrup between the beaters and the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and keep beating until the egg whites are room temperature, about 5 minutes. It should be smooth, shiny and marshmallowy.
9. To assemble, place the bottom layer cut side up on a cake plate. Using a long metal icing spatula, cover generously with frosting. Top with a second layer, cut side up and frost it. Finish with the third layer, cut side down and frost the sides and top of the cake. Then cover the entire cake with the chocolate cake crumbs, gently pressing into the filling with your fingers. Refrigerate the cake for about 1 hour before serving.