Top | Tender at the Bone

Devil's Food Cake

(recipe, Ruth Reichl)

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People love desserts even when they're bad. And so I learned to bake, appreciating the alchemy that can turn flour, water, chocolate, and butter into devil's food cake and make it disappear in a flash.


    Devil's food cake
    1. 1 cup milk
    2. ¾ cup cocoa
    3. ⅓ cup white sugar
    4. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    5. 1 cup brown sugar
    6. 3 eggs
    7. ¼ cup sour cream
    8. 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    9. 2 cups sifted cake flour
    10. 1½ tsp. baking soda
    11. ½ tsp. salt
    Seven-minute frosting
    1. 4 egg whites
    2. 1½ cups sugar
    3. ¼ cup water
    4. 1 tsp. cream of tartar
    5. ⅛ tsp. salt
    6. 1 tsp. vanilla extract


    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
    2. Heat the milk in a small pan until bubbles begin to appear around the edges. Remove from the heat.
    3. Mix the cocoa and white sugar together in a small bowl and slowly beat in the warm milk. Let cool.
    4. Cream the butter with the brown sugar. Beat in the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla. Add the cocoa mixture.
    5. Mix the remaining dry ingredients together and gently blend into the butter mixture. Do not overbeat.
    6. Turn the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake shrinks slightly from the sides of the pans and springs back when touched gently in the center. Cool on a rack for a few minutes, then turn out of the pans onto the rack. Let cool completely before frosting.
    7. To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar, water, cream of tartar, and salt in the top pan of a double boiler. Set the pan over simmering water and beat with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes, or until soft peaks form.
    8. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Keep beating until frosting is stiff enough to spread. Use immediately. It looks like a lot, but use it all; it is enough to fill and frost the sides and top of the cake.