Who doesn’t love a hefty slice of dark chocolate cake? This one has an appropriately diabolical twist: a hint of ancho chile powder for warmth and complexity, but that won’t light anyone’s tongue on fire (chileheads can add a teaspoon of cayenne). Spread the layers with sweetened whipped cream or buttercream and sliced strawberries; top with toasted almonds. For something more traditional, get Ina Garten’s Devil’s Food Cake recipe.

  • Yield: 2 (9-inch) cake layers
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr
  • Active: 25 mins

Ingredients (13)

  • 3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature, plus more for coating the pans and parchment
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs


  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with a circle of parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment and dust with flour; tap the side of the pans on the countertop to dislodge any excess flour.
  3. Whisk the cocoa powder into the boiling water until smooth.
  4. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and whisk to combine.
  5. Onto a piece of parchment, sift together the measured flour, baking soda, salt, ancho chile powder, and, if using, cayenne.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the measured butter with the white and brown sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  7. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times while beating.
  8. On low speed, add half the dry ingredients, all of the cocoa mixture, and the remaining dry ingredients, beating after each addition until combined.
  9. Divide the batter between the prepared pans (you can make sure they’re divided evenly by using a scale to weigh them).
  10. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
  11. Let cool in the pans on wire racks for about 10 minutes, then invert the cakes onto the racks, peel off the parchment, and let cool before frosting.

Variations: • To make a plain devil’s food cake, omit the ancho chile powder and optional cayenne. • To make a chocolate-mocha cake, omit the ancho chile powder and optional cayenne. Substitute hot coffee or espresso for the boiling water. • To make a chocolate chocolate-chip cake, omit the ancho chile powder and optional cayenne. Stir in 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips along with the last addition of the flour mixture.