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Devil’s Food Cake {Gluten Free, or Not}

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This devil’s food cake is quite honestly the best chocolate cake I have ever had. It has a deep dark chocolate flavour, without being too rich. It manages somehow to be both light and fluffy, and incredibly stable. It is just as suited for tiered or carved cakes as it is for splitting and filling with good ol’ whipped cream.

Devil's food cake with Neapolitan filling
Devil’s food cake, layered with Neapolitan filling – chocolate, strawberry and vanilla Italian meringue buttercream.

Does it work as cupcakes, I hear you ask? It sure does…

Devil's food cake cupcakes

Does it keep well? Yep! As cupcakes, it lasts well for several days, and when baked as a cake- split, filled and covered with ganache and then fondant, you can get a good week out of it, following the three-day bake/ganache/fondant timeline, with several days to eat it after the event.

I use this cake as the base for so many different variations. Switch out some of the flour for ground hazelnuts and add a splash of Frangelico with the coffee, ditto for ground almonds and Amaretto.

You can leave the coffee out if you’re making it for kids (this is my go-to recipe for children’s birthday cakes) and if you prefer a cake with a lighter chocolate taste, use a chocolate that is lower in cocoa solids, or leave out the cocoa powder.

You can also switch the vanilla extract for other flavoured extracts or oils.

Told ya it was versatile, didn’t I?

And even better, this recipe is great with or without gluten. It’s one of the few recipes where even I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the gluten-y and gluten-free versions (and I have a ridiculously sensitive palate.)

The original recipe is from Debbie Brown’s Dream Wedding Cakes book. I’ve adjusted some of the measurements, switched up the sugars and added some cocoa for extra chocolatey-ness, and in the gluten free version I’ve suggested gluten free flours and added Xanthan gum to improve the structure of the cake.

If the cake/s aren’t going to be eaten the same day, or are being used in a layered, decorated cake, they will benefit from a light brush with simple syrup. Before icing cupcakes or filling a cake, brush on some of the syrup with a pastry brush.

Note: A couple of awesome readers have successfully made this recipe using yoghurt instead of sour cream. Reader Adrienne tried it with lactose-free yoghurt and it also worked well.

If you want to use yoghurt, just line a sieve with paper towels, place the sieve over a bowl and pile your yoghurt onto the paper towels. Leave it in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, and some of the excess liquid will drain away, leaving you with super thick yoghurt. Then just use an equal weight of the yoghurt instead of the sour cream.

{Devil's food cake filled with Neapolitan buttercream - Italian meringue buttercream flavoured with vanilla, chocolate and freeze-dried strawberry powder}

Devil’s Food Cake {Gluten Free, or Not}

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cuisine: American
Category: Cake Recipes
Makes: 20 pieces
Cake Size: One 8″ round, 3.5-4″ high cake


  • 225 ml boiling water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons instant coffee powder optional
  • 100 g dark chocolate 50 – 70% cocoa solids
  • 225 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 175 g caster sugar
  • 175 g light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 350 g plain flour* or gluten free flour
  • 1 teaspoon Xanthan gum for gluten free only
  • 1 Tablespoon Dutch cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200 g sour cream


  • Preheat oven to 160°C for cakes, or 180°C for cupcakes.
  • Line the base and sides of an 8" round cake tin with baking paper, or line two 12-hole muffin tins with cupcake papers.
  • Measure the boiling water in a heatproof bowl or jug and stir in the coffee. Break or chop up the dark chocolate into small pieces and add to the water and coffee, stirring until the chocolate melts. Leave to cool.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the flour, Xanthan gum, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if you are using a hand-held mixer), beat the softened butter, caster sugar, brown sugar and vanilla together on medium speed until very light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs one at a time. The mixture may look a little curdled at this stage. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the flour mixture and the chocolate mixture alternately, beating briefly between additions to combine. I usually spoon in the flour with one hand while pouring the chocolate mix in with the other, but you can add them alternately if you find that easier.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the sour cream and mix on low speed until just combined. Pour into the lined cake tin or cupcake papers.
  • Bake for 1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours for an 8” cake, or approximately 18 minutes for cupcakes. The cakes will spring back when touched lightly with a finger, and a skewer inserted into the middle will come out clean.
  • Cupcakes can be removed from the muffin pans straight away, but whole cakes benefit from being left to cool completely in the tin, covered with foil, overnight before turning out.


Adapted from Debbie Brown’s Dream Wedding Cakes
This recipe works well either gluten-free or with wheat flour. When making it gluten free I use my favourite gluten free baking flour blend. If you want to make it with wheat flour then simply omit the Xanthan gum and use regular all-purpose flour.
The gluten free version of this cake will stand up to some light carving for shaped cakes. I recommend chilling it before carving and filling and covering it in chocolate ganache before fondant for stability.

Nutritional Disclaimer: Any nutritional info provided is a computer generated estimate and is intended as a guide only.

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Happy Baking!


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