Recipes from The Kitchn

Recipe: Black Cocoa Chocolate Cake

Image Credit: Charli Nowak

Is there such thing as too much chocolate? We think not — so we created a sheet cake that's so dark and chocolatey that it's actually black. The flavor is every chocolate-lover's dream: slightly bitter, rich, and intensely chocolatey. It has just the tiniest hint of sweetness and the same bittersweet flavor you get from a fancy chocolate bar.

So, how did we manage to make a cake with such an intense chocolate flavor? It's all thanks to black cocoa powder.

Image Credit: Charli Nowak

About Black Cocoa Powder

To make black cocoa powder, the cocoa is heavily dutched, meaning that it is treated with an alkaline solution to neutralize its acidity. The result is a dark cocoa powder with a robust chocolate flavor.

Despite its name, black cocoa powder can range in color from deep red to completely black depending on the amount of dutching it goes through. Black cocoa varieties labeled "cocoa noir" or "jet black" provide the darkest color and is what we relied on to achieve the intense color of our cake. This type of black cocoa looks almost like charcoal powder and is commonly used to achieve a striking black color without having to use food dye. (Just think of the outside of an Oreo cookie. This is how they achieve their signature black color.)

Image Credit: Charli Nowak

While black cocoa powder is visually stunning, baking with it can be a bit tricky. For some people, the flavor can be a bit too intense. Most recipes combine it with other cocoa powders or chocolate varieties to balance the flavor. Our frosting recipe does exactly that and pairs it with sweet milk chocolate to balance the bitterness. Black cocoa powder also doesn't react with baking soda the same way other cocoa varieties do, so it's important to add an ingredient with acid (like coffee) or rely on baking powder to achieve your lift.

Once you get used to working with black cocoa powder you may never want to go back to the regular stuff again, and this cake is the perfect recipe to jump all the way into the deep end of black cocoa possibilities.

Image Credit: Charli Nowak

Dark Chocolate Cake

Makes 1 (9x13-inch) cake; serves 12

  • For the frosting:
  • 1 pound

    milk chocolate chips

  • 3 1/2 cups

    heavy cream

  • 1/2 cup

    black cocoa powder

  • 3 tablespoons

    granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    salt

  • For the cake:
  • Butter, for greasing

  • 2 cups

    cake flour, sifted

  • 2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 1 cup

    black cocoa powder, sifted

  • 2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    salt

  • 1 cup

    heavy cream

  • 1/2 cup

    vegetable oil

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1 cup

    hot brewed coffee

  • 1/4 cup

    sprinkles (optional)

Prep the frosting:

Place the chocolate chips in the bowl of a stand mixer and set aside.

Place the cream, cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat and heat, whisking constantly, until the cocoa powder is fully dissolved and the mixture begins to simmer, about 4 minutes. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Refrigerate until very thick, about 2 hours. Meanwhile, make the cake.

Make the cake and assemble:

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Generously coat a 9x13-inch metal baking dish with butter, then line it with parchment paper.

Place the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Place the cream, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl and whisk to combine. Add the cream mixture to flour mixture, then stir with a rubber spatula until smooth. (The mixture will be very thick at this point.) Add the hot coffee and stir until completely smooth. Transfer the batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth into an even layer.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Once cooled, remove the cake from the pan and discard the parchment paper. Trim the top so it's flat. Flip the cake over and gently transfer it back into the pan. (So the top is now the bottom.)

Fit the bowl of chilled frosting onto the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Frost the cake and decorate with sprinkles, if using.

Recipe Notes

Cocoa powder: Depending on the intensity of the black cocoa you use, this cake can range in color from dark chocolate brown to jet black. Dutch-processed cocoa powder can be used in place of black cocoa, but the color will be much lighter.

Storage: Leftover cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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