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A mini devil's food cake bundt cake showing the bottom and how moist it is with a slight sheen and part of the inner crumb revealed showing how super crazy moist the cake is. .

Super Moist Devil’s Food Cake ( A Vintage Cake Made 100% From Scratch )

This slightly modernized vintage Devil’s Food Cake recipe is 100% made from scratch but is as moist as a boxed cake recipe. It’s rich, super chocolatey, and hands down the most tender (and moist) chocolate cake devil’s food cake I’ve ever eaten. This recipe comes from a vintage cookbook in my 98-year-old Granny’s collection. I made a few updated tweaks to one of the many Devil’s Food Cake recipes in the cookbook and it’s just as easy to whip up by hand using a bowl and a whisk! Try it for yourself, the proof is in the cake batter!

A Vintage Devil’s Food Cake Recipe For any Occasion

As you can see above, I use this super moist chocolate cake recipe for all kinds of desserts. It’s versatile and tough to beat. After researching the seven or so different devil’s food cake recipes in my now 98-year-old Granny’s cookbook, I decided to use one submitted by Mrs. Greer as the inspiration and starting point for this recipe.

I altered it to ensure it would end up being as moist as the boxed Devil’s food cake (it really is), but a little more delicious and wholesome. I added a little baking powder to help with the lift and then substituted half of the butter with oil to ensure it tasted great and was super moist. Lastly, I substituted regular milk for tangy buttermilk which gives this cake great flavor and texture. It’s a five-star chocolate cake recipe thanks to starting with a good foundation, to begin with.

Why We Love This Devil’s Food Cake Recipe 

  • As you can see it’s SO moist it looks like a boxed cake
  • This is a cake that doesn’t need icing or frosting because it’s so good on its own
  • You don’t need to go crazy creaming the butter and sugar together like most cake recipes
  • You can use one bowl and a whisk to stir all the ingredients together
  • It’s the quickest chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever made (and it’s from scratch!)
  • It’s an easy cake recipe for kids who love to bake
  • Espresso and Dutch process cocao give it the acidity it needs for extra lift and intense chocolate flavor

The Best Devil’s Food Cake Ingredients

This super moist chocolate cake recipe uses simple basic pantry staples which makes it convenient to bake any time you need a quick birthday cake or cupcakes for school projects. It’s so good!

  • unsalted butter
  • vegetable oil
  • sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • egg
  • boiling water
  • buttermilk *(sub faux buttermilk see recipe notes)
  • all-purpose flour or 00 flour
  • cocoa powder
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • espresso powder
  • kosher salt

Overview: How to Make Super Moist Classic Devil’s Food Cake

If you’re looking for the convenience and moistness of boxed chocolate cake, but want to make a healthier chocolate cake without preservatives and unpronounceable ingredients, this Devil’s food cake checks off all the boxes! Here’s an overview of how to make chocolate cake from scratch, but you can find the detailed instructions in the recipe card below.

  1. Preheat the oven and butter and flour the cake pans. 
  2. Measure the dry ingredients and whisk to combine.
  3. Prepare the baking soda-water solution. 
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. 
  5. Bake the cakes.
  6. Cooling the cake.

Vintage Devil’s Food Cake recipe step-by-step photos

Vintage Devil’s Food Cake Recipe Tips & FAQ’s

  • Why use a scale versus measuring cups and spoons?  Using a scale to measure ingredients produces more consistently reliable results versus measuring cups. Plus, it makes measuring ingredients quicker and there’s less mess to clean up.

  • What’s the best way to prepare baking pans for baking a cake? To prepare cake pans for baking, spray them with non-stick baking spray (or rub them down with butter ensuring full coverage). Sprinkle pans with flour or cocoa powder (or a 1:1 mixture of the two) and turn the pan while tapping it to ensure the flour/cocoa powder covers the entire pan with a light coating.  Tap the back of the pan over a plate or piece of parchment paper so as not to waste the mixture.  Use the remaining flour/cocoa powder to coat any remaining pans.  This will help ensure the cake does not stick to the pan.  You may also double up and line your pans with parchment paper (bottom) after you have buttered and floured them.

  • Why are room temperature ingredients important in baking?  Room temperature ingredients like eggs, butter, milk, and other dairy ingredients when combined form an emulsion that traps air inside of a mixture. This trapped air expands and rises during the baking process, which ultimately produces fluffier and more tender baked goods. Room temperature ingredients =  tender cake crumb and moist cakes and cupcakes.

  • Should I frost my cake? This cake is so moist that it kind of makes its own glossy ‘icing” as it cools. It’s a cake that really doesn’t need to be frosted or iced in order to be enjoyed. It pairs really well with a scoop of ice cream.

  • Can I make devil’s food cake ahead and freeze it? Yes, you can freeze devil’s food cake. In fact, this cake freezes extremely well and tastes just as great when thawed in the fridge overnight or left at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Devil’s food cake is a great make-ahead cake for get-togethers or dinner parties. You can even frost or ice the cupcakes (or whole cake)with the ganache and then freeze.

  • Why is Devil’s Food Cake called devil’s food cake? According to most food scholars, Devil’s food cake was invented in the United States somewhere around the end of the 1800s or early 1900s.  One of the first recipes for Devil’s Food Cake uses melted baking chocolate instead of cocoa powder and can be found in print as early as the 1900s. It’s believed that Devil’s food cake gets its name from being the total opposite of Angel Food Cake which was very popular in the Victorian era.  But it’s also likely to have been so named because of the ingredients that give this cake an intensely rich flavor and a super moist crumb that are pretty decadent (and some thought devilishly good).

  • What makes Devil’s Food Cake different from regular chocolate cake?  Devil’s Food Cake is simply a richer more chocolatey cocoa version of chocolate cake.  This can be attributed partly to the espresso added to enhance the chocolate flavor, the addition of baking powder and baking soda in this recipe, and a hot liquid (sometimes coffee was used), but I use hot water.  All of these elements provide a very moist tender crumb that isn’t typically matched by a regular chocolate cake. Also, Devil’s Food Cake almost always uses Dutch-process cocoa powder only versus using a combination of cocoa powder and melted baking chocolate like many regular chocolate cakes.

  • Why do you need to gently incorporate the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients?   Stirring the dry and wet ingredients in cake batter too much or too aggressively can activate the gluten in the flour too much. This can ruin your otherwise perfect cake crumb by making it dense.  If the wet and dry ingredients are incorporated gently and just until it’s all well combined (and no more), you’ll end up with a lighter crumb allowing your cake to be very moist and spongy.

  • Don’t overbeat the frosting ingredients or you will end up with a gritty texture.  Beat the egg white mixture just until you have stiff peaks.  A good way to check for the right consistency is to turn the bowl upside down and when the frosting will not slide or fall out, it’s ready. Another good way to know if egg whites are properly stiff is when the peaks will stand upright on a whisk without falling back into themselves.


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A mini devil's food cake bundt cake showing the bottom and how moist it is with a slight sheen and part of the inner crumb revealed showing how super crazy moist the cake is. .

Best Devil’s Food Cake (a Vintage Cake Recipe)

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  • Author: Kelly
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: One 8-inch double layer cake, or 20-24 cupcakes 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian


This slightly enhanced vintage Devil’s Food Cake recipe is a keeper! It’s rich, super chocolatey, and is hands down the most tender (and moist) Devil’s Food Cake I’ve ever eaten.  This recipe comes from a vintage cookbook in my 98-year-old Granny’s collection. Plus, it’s just as easy to make without a mixer as it is with a handheld or stand mixer. This is my go-to chocolate cake.  


  • 5 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature (75g)
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil (grapeseed, canola, or vegetable) (75g)
  • 2 cups sugar (400g)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (20g)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature (100g)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water (118g)
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature (250g) **(sub faux-buttermilk, see recipe notes)
  • 2 cups all-purpose or 00 flour (240g)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (50g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (4g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (4g)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder (4g)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (6g)

*I use 00 flour when I’m in Italy, and the weight of different flours varies based on the humidity content and absorption potential of the flour you’re working with. Just be sure to use the ‘scoop and level’ method to measure your flour into measuring cups and spoons and the recipe works perfectly every time.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/176°C  and prep the cake pans. Heat the oven and butter or spray two 8-inch aluminum cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. Lightly flour the pans making sure to cover the inside well. Tap out any remaining flour. Line the bottoms of the cake pans with parchment paper and set aside until ready to fill. 
  2. Prepare the dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, cocoa powder, espresso, baking powder, and salt and whisk well to combine and set aside.
  3. Prepare the baking soda-water solution. Boil the water (or microwave it until very hot), add the baking soda, and stir until dissolved, set aside.
  4. Prepare the wet ingredients. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or in a large mixing bowl using a whisk), beat the butter, oil, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy approximately 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice while mixing to ensure all ingredients are well incorporated. Add the eggs and whisk just until incorporated. Add the buttermilk and baking soda-water mixture and mix just until combined.
  5. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and use a rubber spatula or whisk to gently combine everything until no flour streaks remain. *After combining everything you should still have some visible lumps and that’s exactly what you want.
  6. Portion and bake the cakes. Split the cake batter evenly between two 8-inch cake pans. Tap the filled cake pans on the counter a couple of times to remove any air bubbles. Bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester (or toothpick) inserted into the middle comes out clean and the tops are just set and slightly springy when touched. 
  7. Cool the cakes. Remove the cakes from the oven and place them onto a cooling rack for 15 to 20 minutes to slightly cool and then gently remove the cakes from the pans to finish cooling directly on the wire rack. When cakes are completely cooled, they may be frosted.  Enjoy!


  • If you don’t have buttermilk, make your own by simply squeezing 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice (or white vinegar) into a liquid measuring cup then add the milk until you reach one total cup of liquid. Stir the mixture and set aside for 10-15 minutes at room temperature.  The mixture will thicken and might even curdle a bit and that’s normal.
  • If you don’t have espresso, substitute instant coffee or omit it altogether, or use hot coffee to replace the hot water that gets mixed with the baking soda.
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Cakes + Tortes
  • Method: Oven Bake
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size: 1 slice
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