Jessie Sheehan's Devil's Food Sheet Cake from The Vintage Baker
By Elana Iaciofano • May 03, 2019
I'm not sure what kid doesn't have memories of mixing up a box cake mix, after school or on the weekends, with mom supervising. Licking the spatula (even though now we know you're not supposed to...) and trying not to eat all the frosting while waiting not-so patiently for the cake to bake.
Ah, childhood! We were so innocent... so easily amused and impressed! Not so, in the big grown up world. When was the last time you had a box cake? Or a cake for that matter? Feeling like you might want to break out the whisk and oven mitts? Well, don't even think about reaching for one of those boxed cake mixes.
Jessie Sheehan is the author of The Vintage Baker, published by Chronicle Books. Her recipe for devil's food cake is inspired by the boxed cakes of yore, but....BETTER. And when I say better, I mean WAY better. Imagine what real cocoa, espresso powder, and honest to goodness olive oil (oh yes) could do to one of those tired mixes. And let's not forget the seven minute icing that is just the right amount of sweetness and softness.
If you were one of those kids that made cake mixes, you might remember using vegetable oil to pull it all together. In Jessie's cake, we use our own Colavita Olive Oil. It's perfect for baking, if you didn't know. Any time you use really good quality ingredients, it bumps up the quality of the end product, right? Using the best olive oil (Colavita) in this is no exception. It helps the cake retain its moistness and texture, giving you a most satisying bite.
This cake is the rich, chocolately, delicious dessert of your childhood dreams come true, and I recommend you make it. To support you in this culinary adventure, Jessie has graciously allowed us to share the recipe here. But before you break out your measuring cups and preheat the oven, we want to encourage you to make MORE of Jessie's sweet treats (with Colavita Olive Oil whenever possible, of course). To aid you in this, we are giving away a copy of her book and one bottle of our best for baking olive oil.
For a chance to win a copy of The Vintage Baker and a bottle of Colavita Olive Oil:
- Post in the comments section below by May 8, 2019. Tell us something about cake. (Don't forget to leave your Instagram handle in your comment so we can contact you!)
- Follow us on Instagram here.
- Follow Jessie on Instagram here.
Winners will be notified by Friday, May 9, 2019.
For the cake:
- 1¾ cups [245 g] all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup [60 g] Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 cup [200 g] packed dark brown sugar
- 1 cup [200 g] granulated sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1¾ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp table salt
- 1 egg
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup [120 ml] Colavita Olive Oil
- 1 cup [240 ml] buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1 cup [240 ml] boiling water
- 1 Tbsp espresso powder
For the Sea Foam Frosting:
- 3 egg whites
- 1 cup plus 6 Tbsp [280 g] packed light brown sugar
- 1½ tsp light corn syrup
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- Dash of table salt
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Blue and green sanding sugar for decorating
To make the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C]. Grease a 13-by-9- by-2-in [33-by-23-by-5-cm] pan with nonstick cooking spray or softened butter, line with parchment paper, and grease again.
- Add the flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on low speed until well combined.
- In a small bowl, add the egg, egg yolks, vanilla, oil, and buttermilk and whisk until combined. With the mixer on medium-low speed, slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Beat until incorporated, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
- In a small bowl, combine the boiling water and espresso powder and add to the batter in the mixer bowl. Mix again on medium speed for 30 seconds, until smooth. The batter will be quite thin.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 to 28 minutes, rotating at the halfway point. The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a moist crumb or two. Let cool completely in the pan. The cake can be made 1 day ahead and kept tightly wrapped in plastic wrap on the counter.
To make the frosting:
- Place a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water over medium high heat. Do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water. Add the egg whites, brown sugar, corn syrup, cream of tartar, salt, and 5 tablespoons [75 ml] water. Using an electric hand mixer, beat the egg white mixture on high speed until stiff and glossy, about 7 minutes. Remove the bowl from the saucepan of hot water, add the vanilla, and continue beating for another 2 minutes.
- Generously frost the cake and sprinkle the top with sanding sugar. The frosted cake is best served within a few hours. The frosting dries and loses its “foamy” fluffiness pretty quickly but the cake can be kept, lightly covered, at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Reprinted from The Vintage Baker by Jessie Sheehan with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018.