Cake Slice Bakers: Mile-High Devil’s Food with Brown Sugar Buttercream

by Holly on May 20, 2009

I am back with The Cake Slice Bakers this month, after missing last month’s challenge much to my dismay.  I wasn’t missing this month since this recipe is one of the main reasons I bought Alisa Huntsman’s (which, by the way, if you click on Alisa’s name, you will go to her blog!) book, Sky High:  Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes.
Devil’s Food cake may very well be my favorite – no surprise there since it is chocolate after all. What I truly love about this recipe though (and for that matter most of the recipes in the book) is that it is so unique to any other Devil’s Food I’ve seen or made.
Most of the Devil’s Food recipes I’ve seen use a combination of unsweetened cocoa and melted chocolate, which is truly rich and delicious, but always a bit overwhelming on my ingredients supplies and budgets.  It is awesome to have a beautiful cake, but when it wants to use my cocoa supply, and a good amount of my chocolate supply, it is a bit of a struggle to justify making it.
Happy Day After Devil’s Food Cake Day!  Yes, it’s true, May 19 was National Devil’s Food Cake Day here in the U.S.!
So, in my opinion, the unique thing about this recipe is that it uses only unsweetened cocoa powder – a full cup of it.  Another thing that was different than a lot of recipes I’ve seen is that there was no buttermilk, or any milk for that matter.  Also, no granulated sugar.  The other really unique thing I found with this recipe is that it uses no white sugar, but it did put a large dent in my brown sugar supply!  In fact, the cake uses 3 cups of packed brown sugar!  Since I seriously loooooove brown sugar, this was fine by me!
The other portion of the dent in my brown sugar supply came from the buttercream, which got its slightly tawny, creamy white color from making a sugar syrup using 1 1/4 cups of light brown sugar and only a 1/4 cup of water.  It was a really lovely syrup too!  
To further gild the lily, I used some unsalted imported Irish butter in the buttercream that I had on hand for another project that I was planning (I can get more when I actually get around to it I guess) since all my other unsalted butter was still languishing in the freezer – poor planning on my part!
So, overall, the cake itself, funny enough, was rich, moist, chocolatey and absolutely delicious – when I ate a piece out the refrigerator it actually tasted just like a chocolate ice cream sandwich to me!  I know I will make this recipe many more times.
For my layer cake I used a 14-inch square pan and filled it with about just under 3/4 of the batter.  The remainder of the batter made 12 cupcakes for me, which are now in the freezer for some rainy day when I need a chocolate fix!  I cut the cooled large square into four smaller squares that I then stacked to make my layers.  It made one very tall and irresistible layer cake!
Make sure to check out all the other Devil’s Food Cakes at The Cake Slice Bakers Blogroll!

Mile-High Devil’s Food Cake

From: Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

By Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne

Makes an 8-inch triple layer cake:

  • 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa NOT DUTCHED PROCESSED

  • 1 and ¼ cups of hot water

  • 3 cups of light brown sugar; packed

  • 2 and 2/3 cups cake flour*

  • 1 and ½ teaspoons baking soda

  • ¾ teaspoon of salt

  • 9 ounces of unsalted butter at room temperature [2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons]

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 and ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract

  • ¾ cup of cold water

{*1 cup of cake flour is equal to ¾ cup of flour plus 2 tablespoons of cornstarch}

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and grease the paper as well.

Place the cocoa in a medium bowl and add the hot water. Whisk until smooth and let it cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low blend to combine. Add the butter and the dissolved cocoa. Then raise the mixer to medium speed and beat for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.

In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and cold water until combined. Add this liquid to the batter in three additions scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Divide the batter among the three pans.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a cakes tester inserted into the almost comes out clean. There should be a few crumbs attached still. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes. Then invert and remove parchment paper and cool completely on a wire rack.

Bakers’ choice of: Brown Sugar 7-Minute Frosting or Brown Sugar Buttercream

Brown Sugar 7-Minute Frosting

  • 6 egg whites

  • 1 and ½ cups of brown sugar

  • ¼ cup light corn syrup*

  • 2 tablespoons of water

  • ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar

{*corn syrup can be substituted with equal parts of treacle OR liquid glucose OR light colored honey}

Do not try to make this frosting on a rainy day or if you live in an extremely humid area. The humidity will make it impossible to work with the egg whites.

Place all the egg whites in a bowl and set them aside while you make the syrup.

In a small heavy saucepan, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, and water. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Boil until the syrup reaches 238 degrees F (softball stage) on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from heat.

Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites in the bowl and beat just to combine. With the mixer on medium speed gradually add the syrup in a thin stream taking care not to hit the beaters. Beat until fairly stiff peaks form but the frosting is still spreadable. If the frosting is too stiff it will be hard to work with. Use immediately.

Brown Sugar Buttercream

  • 5 egg whites

  • 1 and ¼ cups of packed brown sugar

  • ¼ cup of water

  • 1 pound of unsalted butter (16 ounces) at room temperature

Place all the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer; set aside.

In a heavy medium saucepan combine the sugar and water. Cook over medium heat stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then bring to a boil without stirring and cook until the syrup reaches 238 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Begin beating the egg whites on medium low speed. Slowly pour in the syrup making sure not to hit the beater. Increase the mixer speed to medium high and beat until the meringue has cooled to body temperature.

With the mixer on med-low add 1-2 tablespoons of butter at a time. When all the butter has been added increase the mixer’s speed to medium and beat until the mixture looks curdled or separated. Continue to beat until the icing comes together again looking like soft smooth whipped butter.

Assembling the cake:

Place one layer flat side down and cover it with 2/3 cup of the frosting. Top with second layer and repeat process. Top with third layer and frost the sides of the cake.

Bakers Notes:

A cake topped with the meringue frosting is the best eaten the day it’s made. It does not do well in the fridge.

If you choose the buttercream frosting you can keep it in the fridge for 3 days. Make sure to allow the cake to come to room temperature for 1 to 1 ½ hours before slicing. Otherwise the frosting will be hard and heavy.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Monica H May 20, 2009 at 6:33 am

Your cake looks wonderful and it has me craving anothe slice, but sadly it’s all gone 🙁

This cake was SO good!

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Kate - Aapplemint May 20, 2009 at 11:41 am

Definately a stunning cake. Dark layers f chocolate sandwiched with lovely cream …yummy !!

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Katrina May 20, 2009 at 12:11 pm

WOW–what a cake! Looks awesome.

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steph- whisk/spoon May 20, 2009 at 12:27 pm

looks so good! all those ingredients did not go to waste!

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Jo May 20, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Beautifully done and great job. Love the frosting and it all looks so neat and pretty.

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Shari@Whisk: a food blog May 20, 2009 at 4:07 pm

This looks absolutely amazing! What a great special treat cake this would be! Great job!

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Tracey May 20, 2009 at 4:34 pm

This cake looks so fantastic! It’s absolutely gorgeous.

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alisa huntsman May 20, 2009 at 6:01 pm

thanks so much for the kind words. this is one of my favorite cakes in the book too! how can you not love chocolate? it has been so much fun looking at all of the blogs from the cake slice bakers, i actually look forward to the 20th of each month!

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pinkstripes May 20, 2009 at 7:29 pm

Wow! It looks delicious. How can it not be?

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Debbie May 20, 2009 at 8:18 pm

I am going to try the “square cake stack” like you did! Love that look.

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Sallie My Sister's Kitchen May 20, 2009 at 9:34 pm

I was given a blog award and asked to pass it on to 15 other bloggers. I love your blog, especially the cakes( I might seriously have to buy this sky high cake book) and wanted to pass one along to you. You can get your award at mysisterskitchen2009.blogspot.com. If you can, pass it along to 15 other bloggers. Thanks again for all the great recipes.

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symphonious sweets May 20, 2009 at 11:24 pm

wow 4 layers! I can barley keep three from sliding! Your cake looks beautiful!

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Engineer Baker May 21, 2009 at 3:52 am

All that brown sugar – it’s gotta be good. I love brown sugar. But a whole cup of cocoa powder? Wow! Looks gorgeous.

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Carol Peterman May 21, 2009 at 4:34 am

How beautiful! How can it be Devil’s Food Cake without buttermilk or milk? Very interesting. I like cakes made with cocoa powder, and I bet the brown sugar added a nice warm rich flavor.

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Caroline May 21, 2009 at 5:52 am

WOW four layers, looks great!
And great idea about freezing some for later, I’m going to do that from now on since you never know when you get a chocolate cake craving. 🙂

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The Food Librarian May 21, 2009 at 2:00 pm

This is soooo sky high! It looks lovely!

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Si May 22, 2009 at 1:47 am

Holly this looks yummy. I bought this cookbook a while back, but haven’t taken the time to make anything out of it- yet…this may be the first recipe I try. How long did it take you start to finish? love the description of the cake tasting like an ice cream sandwich. beautiful too!

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Alwayzbakin May 22, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Looks Yummy! Chocolate cake is my favorite. I will have to try this one since I have the cookbook.

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Madam Chow May 22, 2009 at 7:42 pm

This IS an interesting recipe. What brand of cocoa did you use?

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The Bahens May 22, 2009 at 10:49 pm

I love the square cake! Very pretty!

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Manggy May 23, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Oh WOW, Holly, that looks so dreamy!!! Can I come over and pick up what’s left in the freezer? 😉

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TeaLady May 25, 2009 at 2:31 pm

I completely forgot about cake slice this month. Wish I hadn’t. Yours looks lovely. **SIGH** four layers of chocolate heaven.

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Moogie May 25, 2009 at 3:14 pm

TeaLady is absolutely correct, Chocolate Heaven is what you’ve created. Great job!

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