Red Eye Devil’s Food Cake

This red-eye devil’s food cake has all the requisite ingredients of a hellacious chocolate cake: cocoa, sugar, dark chocolate, a ganache filling, and frosting. And there’s more—the addition of coffee gives the cake a jolt of caffeine and flavor.

A 16-layer red-eye devil's food cake--alternating layer of chocolate cake and chocolate frosting

This Red Eye Devil’s Food cake is a riff on an American classic takes its name from the coffee in the batter. “Like the Red Eye coffee drink in espresso bars that’s punched up with an extra shot of espresso,” explains its creator, former White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses. “Here, coffee gives the chocolate cake a lightly bitter edge that cuts the sweetness of the chocolate. The coffee-enhanced cocoa layers sandwich a surfeit of fudgy, bittersweet ganache. If this is not the ultimate birthday cake, I can’t imagine what is.” Actually, it’s the ultimate cake for any occasion. Including no occasion other than a craving for chocolate cake.–Renee Schettler

Red Eye Devil’s Food Cake

  • Quick Glance
  • (4)
  • 50 M
  • 2 H, 30 M
  • Serves 12
5/5 - 4 reviews
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  • For the chocolate cake
  • For the ganache
  • For decorating and serving


Make the chocolate cakes

Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Position a rack in the center of the oven. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans with unsalted butter. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment or waxed paper rounds and butter the rounds.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt onto a piece of parchment paper or into a large bowl.

Place the cocoa in a small bowl and whisk in the coffee, a little at a time, until smooth.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until fluffy and then beat in the sugar. Mix on high speed until very light and fluffy, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Add the cocoa-coffee mixture and beat to incorporate. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans and bake on the center rack, turning the pans from back to front during the baking, until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out completely clean, about 45 minutes.

Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for about 30 minutes.

Slide a thin knife or offset spatula around the sides of the pans and gently turn them over onto the wire racks to unmold the cakes. Carefully peel the paper rounds from the bottoms and let the cakes to cool completely, at least 30 to 40 minutes more. Cover and refrigerate the layers to make the cake less crumbly and easier to slice when cutting the layers.

Make the ganache

While the cakes cool, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 3 minutes.

Whisk until the cream and chocolate are thoroughly combined and smooth and slightly cooled. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Once the ganache is chilled, whisk just until fluffy.

Assemble the cake

Using a long serrated knife, cut each cake horizontally into 4 thin layers. To do this, place 1 hand flat on top of a cake. Slice into the cake about 1/2 inch from its top and use a sawing motion to slowly move the knife into the cake about 1 inch. Then, still slicing back and forth, turn the cake (counterclockwise if you are right-handed, clockwise if you are left-handed) on the table, going around the circumference of the cake but not cutting into its center. After the first full outer circle is complete, hold the knife level, dig into the cake another inch, and turn the cake again in the same direction. Repeat until you have sliced all the way through the cake. Carefully remove this top layer and repeat to obtain 4 layers from each of the 2 cakes.

Place 1 of the bottom cake layers on a platter or cake stand and spread a thin layer of ganache over the top. Repeat with the rest of the layers. Use some of the remaining ganache to apply a very thin coat on the sides of the cake, giving it a “crumb coat” that seals in the crumbs and prevents them from appearing on the outside of the finished cake. Refrigerate the cake with its crumb coat for 1 hour. Then slather the cake with the remaining ganache.

Sprinkle the chocolate curls on the top of the cake and gently press them against the sides. Voila. Originally published July 29, 2010.

Print RecipeBuy the The Perfect Finish cookbook

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    What You Need To Know About Making This Cake Simpler

    • Before you get all scared off by this chocolate cake’s stunning and slightly imposing countenance, let’s discuss its darn near countless layers. Impressive, are they not? They’re accomplished by slicing two round chocolate cake layers into several layers each. But honestly? The cake tastes just as swell if you forego all the slicing and layering and instead slap one round layer cake on top of the other, slather them with ganache, and call it a day. The chocolate curls are still a nice touch, though, if you ask us. Which you didn’t. But we tend to have an opinion on most things.

    Recipe Testers Reviews

    If you love chocolate, then you’ll love this red eye devil’s food cake. It’s moist and full of great chocolate flavor. Yes, it took time and was labor intensive. But it was so worth the work. It’s a delicious cake and my family loved it!

    Making the chocolate curls as suggested was also a bit of a problem: I tried with a vegetable peeler, and then with a cheese shaver, and nothing worked. Next time, I’ll go back to my old ways of making chocolate curls by melting and spreading a thin layer on waxed paper and then peeling it off in strips.

    I did have a problem with the ganache—it was a bit stiff.

    This red eye devil’s food cake is delicious! I didn’t go through the work of making 4 layers and frosting them all, but the 2 cake layers were absolutely perfect. Not only was it dark, moist, and full of flavor, but the cake settled into flat layers—no slicing off the hump.

    It does take a bit of work, though, with the coffee/cocoa mix, then the creaming and mixing here and there, but the end result is worth it. You’ll never look at a devil’s food box mix again.

    The only problem I had was with the ganache: I couldn’t get it thick enough to spread or hold up to the weight of a layer of cake on top of it. Maybe too much cream? I ended up whipping it and it became mousse-like, but with just enough heft to frost the cake. The flavor was great, though.


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    1. Hi, I was wondering what the texture of the cake is like? The last few times I’ve made cakes they’ve been super moist but also SOOOO dense. I was wondering if this cake was more light (like a cupcake or store-bought cake mix) or denser?

      1. I will try to do a fake answer to see if this does it again. What happens is automatically it will flip to the finder, and something weird will happen.

        Of course, it’s not happening. Why is that? sdfbi4s

    2. I’ve made this recipe about four times, in the process of the fifth, and I love it. This is what true red velvet cake should be like, not the nasty food colored mess that has become so normal. Depending on the cocoa you use you’ll get the most beautiful burgundy color. My only critique is the ganache made isn’t enough to cover all 8 layers and the outside, in my experience, unless making it really really thin which has a tendency to tear the cake layers from the increased friction. But that’s fine because I actually use it to crumb coat the outside and then put a thin layer of Amaretto Cream Cheese frosting (basically just cream cheese frosting with amaretto liqueur in it). I find this really helps cut the extreme chocolatey goodness in a way that makes non chocoholics appreciative. It’s so good I can’t manage to keep a spare slice around to save for a friend.

      1. Lauren, we are always in favor of MORE ganache as opposed to less, so you have our blessing! (Not that you need it…) We so appreciate you taking the time to share your kind and helpful words. Thank you!

    3. You people are evil! Genius, but evil. I can’t get that tower of chocolate deliciousness out of my mind! Will have to bake this asap.
      Helpful hint to get your cake layers to not dome – don’t butter and flour the sides of the cake pan (definitely butter and flour the bottom – or use a circle of parchment paper!) This helps the batter to “creep” much higher up the sides of the pan before it is cooked, which results in less batter in the middle to form a dome. Let the cake cool in the pan, then run a thin spatula around the sides to release the cake. Works every time for me!
      Thanks for sharing all your recipes with us – your chocolate chip cookies are my all-time favorite!

    4. OMG! My husband’s birthday isn’t until September but I’m putting the link to this recipe on my calendar.

      I think he will believe he’s died and gone to Heaven!

    5. I’ve made this cake twice now and both were absolutely fabulous. The first one had the ganache and my second one, a few days ago had peppermint buttercream and peppermint fondant. I’m on my third batch now and I’m wondering what about cupcakes? It’s so moist and lovely and fluffy and can totally picture it making a perfect cupcake, but I’m not sure how long to bake it for. Suggestions?

      1. Oh my, NutMeg, that peppermint buttercream and fondant sounds divine! Most cake recipes can be easily converted to cupcakes. Two 9 inch cake pans will yield between 24 and 36 cupcakes depending on the size of your tins and how deep you fill them. As far as cook times, I would start checking them after 15 minutes. They should take between 15 to 20 minutes.

    6. I’ve tried baking this cake in two 8-inch baking pans, the first one in the oven didn’t rise and had a dome, while the second came out perfect. Can’t get any layer on the first cake, but I cut the dome to level its surface. Cutting the dome was quite a challenge as the cake was crumbly, even though it’s been cooled completely and kept in the fridge for a few hours. I managed to get three layers on the second cake with an old cutting technique I learned from my mom by using a thread instead of a knife.
      I don’t know what went wrong with the first cake, perhaps the temperature of the oven is too high. It tasted so great, and will definitely give it another try to get all the layers with more pans so I can skip cutting the cakes.

    7. Bill, It looks like you like a little cake with your frosting! Gorgeous cake that is, I think an easier way to feed that chocolate caffeine addiction is a bowl of frosting and a double espresso.

    8. Oh my dear goodness, what a beautiful cake if ever I have seen one, and I know it has to be so delicious. Thank you so much for posting this! Kudos!

    9. Que lindo e maravilhoso bolo! Vou faze-lo, muito bom! Obrigado pela receita. Muita luz e paz querido amigo.

      1. Thanks so much, Rosana. It is quite a wonderful cake. Please let us know when you try it, we think you’ll love it.

    10. I needed a ladder to eat it but this cake was wonderful. I only got 3 layers but then I was cutting with dental floss. Maybe I should up my cake slicing game. Terrific recipe.

      1. Hah! I am grinning and imagining you climbing a ladder leaned against the cake, Maureen. An alternative to slicing the cake, if you’ve got a morning or afternoon to hang around the house, is to bake super skinny cakes, using just 1/6 or so of the batter for each cake. Clearly the timing will be less, and you’ll be moving pans in and out of the oven, but it saves you from having to slice, and it also makes for easier frosting since you don’t need to deal with all the crumbs that ensue from slicing. Anyways, lovely to hear how much you loved this, thanks so much for saying so. Look forward to hearing what you make next….

    11. Hi, the cake is delicious. (But you already knew that.) When I made the 9-inch layers, the cake domed and needed to be evened out, and I didn’t see how I could get 4 layers out of it, even with a cake slicer. I could only get 3 layers. Even if it had domed a little less–and I think this cake will need some leveling, no matter what I do to minimize doming–I don’t see how to cut what remains in four. My first thought is to transfer the batter to an 8-inch pan so as to get a higher cake and more slices. Do you think that would work? I’ve read that moving to a 8-inch cake pan can negatively affect texture and am unsure.

      Alternatively, I guess I could make 1 1/2 times the recipe, i.e., an extra 9-inch layer and use some of it to arrive at 8 layers total.

      I am now wondering if the cake pictured here was made via this second alternative – the cake looks terrific, of course, but some layers, like the very top one, are quite thick, the bottom ones quite thin, and the middle ones intermediate. Unless the cake slices are stacked out of order, I can’t figure out how that is from two 9 inch layers – as the bottom four slices add up to much less thickness than the top four slices…..and I’m wondering now if whoever produced the cake in the picture had the same problem I did and landed up slicing 3 cakes? (I intend no insult here, just trying to grasp how this cake is best made.)

      1. Our testers were able to sneak four layers out of a 9-inch cake, AJ. I think you could, as you suggest, try the batter in 8-inch cake pans as well. Or you could take a cue from this lovely chocolate torte recipe and simply bake a number of super skinny layer cakes, thereby dispensing with having to slice the cakes evenly. Sorry you had a little trickiness, here’s hoping it goes easier next time around….do let us know which tactic you take.

      2. aj, I believe part of the difference in the cake layers in the picture is a result of them not being reassembled in the order they were cut, but rather in an order that created a level cake. I often do that when baking cakes.

        Regarding a doming cake, I’d suggest cake strips. I use them all the time, and they make a huge difference. All that extra batter will be distributed evenly around the pan, making for a higher layer.

        Last, always make sure you thoroughly cream the butter and sugar as well as beat the batter for the full time. That creates structure as well as incorporating air into the batter, making for a fuller cake.

    12. I’ve made this three times from the book and was online looking for a fix because my cakes sink terribly in the middle and I only get three layers per pan as a result. I see this one says 2 cups of coffee = 16 ounces, instead of 2 cups of coffee = 8 ounces, as in the book, so I’ll try that and hope it fixes my problem. I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the science of baking to know if that’s my problem. I find the ganache with milk chocolate comes out more whipped creamy, with bittersweet it was thick as cold butter–I think I’ll try a mix this time. For chocolate curls you just need super good expensive chocolate; I get some real ribbons with Valrhona!

      1. I questioned the amount of coffee too, since the book says 8 oz. Turns out that’s a typo or something and 16 oz is correct. Maybe that will help.

      2. Hi Julie,

        Have you had a problem with your cakes collapsing before? Sometimes, baking issues are just a matter of checking your oven temperature or buying a new batch of baking powder and baking soda. Usually, a cake will collapse when the batter in the center has not firmed up- either due to decreased cook temperatures or cook times. I would purchase an oven thermometer to confirm the calibration of your oven and use that cake tester to double check the readiness.

        Hope this helps


    13. I made this for a co-worker’s birthday. I was a little concerned about slicing the cakes into 4 layers each, but it went really well. I must have put a little too much ganache in between the layers though, because there wasn’t enough to cover the sides. And it was rather runny. So I made some more, slightly thicker, to cover the sides, and it was all good.
      This was a show stopper, and really delicious too. It’s a keeper!

    14. I simply must try this recipe! It looks super yummy. I actually use coffee in several of my recipes and it definitely helps bring out fantastic flavor. I love your site too :)

      1. Jessica, you want it to be room temperature, otherwise it could affect the texture of the other ingredients, especially the butter and eggs. In fact, I always have all my baking ingredients sit out at room temp.

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