Devil’s Food Cake with Praline Buttercream and Fudge Frosting

I don’t make cakes terribly often. My wife and I love eating them, but it can take a bit of work, and given how infrequently I make them, the two of us never tire of a good chocolate cake (not that you’ve ever noticed, right?) And since its been a while, here we are again…another chocolate cake, as if anyone could possibly ever get too much chocolate cake.

Now after you get past how evenly I layered my cake (fine, no slice for you, then!), the richness of it can begin to sink in. I went with an old favorite for the cake part: devil’s food. Aside from being chocolatey, it has a really dark, complex taste about it that I always enjoy. Of course, since I’ve made devil’s food cake before, I thought I’d keep things interesting by changing the other components of the cake. In between each layer of cake is a praline buttercream (as in caramelized hazelnut flavored buttercream. I know, control yourself!), inspired by a delicious Daring Baker’s challenge a while back. Outside, the cake is enrobed with a very silky sheet of ganache, the recipe for which which came from one of my favorite bakers.

Altogether, the cake was really rich and seductive to eat (maybe I’m easily seduced?). The praline buttercream was fantastic–I could have eaten it by the bowl full if I had a cardiologist nearby to repair the damage. It wasn’t in your face forward, but still incredibly rich and it brought a great hazelnut essence to the cake (which was a nice complement to the devil’s food) which leaves a wonderful aftertaste. The ganache was also a nice finish–aside from the smooth exterior, it has just the right amount of chocolatey punch and richness that the cake needs to bring it all together. I guess it goes without saying that we enjoyed this cake immensely. 😉

  • Devil’s Food Cake
    • 2.5 cups flour
    • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1.5 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) butter
    • 2 cups dark brown sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 4 eggs
    • 1.5 cups buttermilk
  • Praline Buttercream
    • ~1/3 cup praline paste (I promised you I’d use it all up)
    • 4 egg whites
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1.5 cups (3 sticks) butter
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Ganache
    • 9 oz bitter/semi-sweet chocolate chunks
    • 1 1/8 cup heavy cream
    • 1.5 Tbsp honey
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Devil’s Food Cake

We’ll begin by making the cake since it’ll need time to cool down.

Cream the butter to start the devil's food batter

Let the butter warm up to room temperature (figure 30-60 minutes out of the fridge). Cream it with the paddle in the bowl of a stand mixer before beating in the brown sugar, followed by the vanilla extract and eggs (do each one at a time until totally incorporated).

Devil's food cake batter

Mix all of the remaining dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add a third of the dry mix into the butter mixture, and once that’s mixed in, add half of the buttermilk. Repeat this process: third of dry, half of the buttermilk, and the final third of dry batter. Mix only as much as is necessary to get a homogenous batter.

Fill the cake pan

In a greased and parchment paper lined cake pan, add half of the batter. If you have two cake pans, get them both into action. If not, save half of your batter–you’ll just have to re-use your one pan. Give the pan a good shake to ensure there’s no big air bubbles trapped inside as this is kind of a thick batter.

Bake and let cool down

Finally, bake this at 350°F for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean through the center. Let this cool down for a few minutes before you gently run a knife around the edges of the cake pan to prevent any edges from sticking. Carefully invert the pan to remove the cake, peel off the parchment, and let it cool down for an hour or so.

Praline Buttercream

Whip the egg whites for the buttercream

With the cake baked and cooling down, now onto the buttercream. Be warned, if you don’t have any sort of electric mixer, you better have some serious endurance. Begin by whisking the egg whites on high speed in the bowl of a stand mixer until they get foamy and enter the soft peak stage (so if you pull the whisk out, you get somewhat formed peaks and tufts of egg white, but it collapses on itself).

Beat the egg whites over a double boiler

Once you get this far, set the bowl up over a pot of gently simmering water (a double boiler), ensuring that the bowl containing your egg whites is not actually touching the water (switch bowls if you need to). This is where I switched from my stand mixer to my old trusty hand mixer (since putting the stand mixer on a stovetop seems like an interesting maneuver). Keep whisking the egg whites, slowly adding the sugar over the course of a minute. Pay careful attention during all of this–you want to cook the egg whites without it scrambling and taking on a chunky texture.

Cooked marshmallow-like meringue

Keep on beating the eggs for about 2-3 minutes (~120°F) and ensure that the sugar is dissolved (the egg whites shouldn’t feel grainy). It should look kind of marshmallowy.

Beat the meringue as it cools down until nice and thick

And now, I went back to the stand mixer (so you’re done with the heat/double boiler). Continue to beat the marshmallowy meringue on medium-high speed for about 5-7 minutes as it cools down. Look at how incredibly thick it gets. If you liked marshmallows as a kid, this is a heavenly step right here. Anywho, set this aside for now.

Work the butter into the meringue to make the buttercream

While all of this is going on, you had all of the butter out of the fridge coming to room temperature, right (for like 30-60 minutes)? Good. In a clean mixing bowl, cream the butter (yes, its a lot) with the paddle attachment for a good minute or so until its nice and smooth. The way I see it, this won’t be clogging your arteries, so much as lubricating them. See? Buttercream is good for you!

Now, drop the mixing speed to low-medium and add the meringue in roughly 1-2 tablespoons at a time over the course of a minute. Splash in the vanilla extract, let it mix for another 30 seconds, and you’re done. Transfer this to the fridge for 10-15 minutes before you try to do anything with it (or you’ll melt the butter!).

Forming the praline paste

Now the buttercream you made is just a plain old buttercream. To give it the praline flavor, we need praline paste. I’ve covered making this before and its quite simple. Toast the (shelled) hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes. Then rub the hell out of them to shed as much papery coating off as you can. In a saucepan, melt the sugar down into caramel (figure 10 minutes of medium-high heat) without stirring. Once totally caramel in color, drop the heat to low and add the hazelnuts in and give things a stir so all the nuts get coated.

Hazelnut praline finely ground into a powder

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and carefully pour the contents of the pan out onto the paper so that its spread out a bit. Give this some time to cool down, as right now, you’d get a very nice burn touching that. Once cool, grind this down into a powder in your food processor and store in an airtight container. Don’t refrigerate the leftovers.

Now to work it into the buttercream. Using your mixer, beat half of the buttercream into the praline paste. Finally, add the remaining buttercream and beat it briefly on medium low speed for as little as is necessary. Now let the buttercream rest in the fridge. Unbelt your pants and lick your fingers and bowls clean–buttercream is good stuff!


Ganache is a simple thing to make. The real variation from one recipe to the next is actually quite small, but the difference in the end result can be remarkable. For instance, you could make it frosting-like or a bit firmer. In this case, the ganache is a bit thinner–more glaze-like. This allows it to settle on the cake quite nicely–almost giving a perfectly smooth, shiny surface on your cake, free of any errant tufts or blemishes. Gravity does the work for you.

Prepare the ganache

So before gravity, time for you to do your part. Put the chocolate chunks in a bowl. Warm the honey and cream in a saucepan on low heat until it gently boils, at which point, you should pour it over the chocolate. Don’t touch anything for a minute and then give things a stir until the chocolate melts nicely into the cream.

Stir in the vanilla extract. Let this cool down a bit more towards room temperature as things are a bit too liquidy for you to work with right now (if you cheat and put it in the fridge, just keep an eye on things–if you leave it in too long, it will firm up and won’t be spreadable!).


Finally, time to bring all of these components together.

Cake assembly: spread some buttercream over the cake layers

At this point, we have two cakes baked. With a long serrated knife, carefully cut each of these in half using a gentle sawing motion (so that you have four layers total). Do your best to keep things even and level or things will look funny later…like in my photos. 😉 Be careful handling these layers so that they don’t fall apart–I used my two widest spatulas. Worst case, use buttercream like glue to repair any damage later. Nobody will be upset about getting extra, and if they are, more cake for you.

My not so pretty cake stacking

With your layers cut, spread buttercream as evenly as you can on three of the layers. Do your best to keep things level and don’t spread the buttercream right up to the edge of the cake since it will spread itself a bit more once you stack things. On that note, carefully stack the buttercreamed layers of cake followed by the uncreamed cake. Don’t worry if things get messy on the outside. Just smooth it out a bit.

Have a slice of cake

With the cake all stacked and the ganache ready to go, pour some ganache on top of the cake. Spread it in a circular motion from the center of the cake outwards and let it dribble over the edge of the cake. Repeat this process, smoothing out the side of the cake as necessary (you’ll find you won’t have to fuss over the very top of the cake though as that will in all likelihood, pretty much smooth itself out rather nicely). If the ganache pours too freely, give it some more time in the fridge since it won’t do you much good if it just pools at the base of the cake rather than clinging to the sides.

Now that everything is put together, let your cake rest in the fridge so it can settle in a bit. Finally, carefully cut yourself a slice and enjoy!

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35 Responses to “Devil’s Food Cake with Praline Buttercream and Fudge Frosting”

  1. Meeta Says:

    you are going to kill me with this one!

  2. noble pig Says:

    Holy wowzer…my tummy just jumped. You have no idea what I would do for a slice of this right now!

  3. dp Says:

    I’m generally not a big chocolate eater, except chocolate cake, and this is giving me a craving big time!

  4. Aparna Says:

    I saw your post title and was just thiking that this is like the DB stuff we make!
    Yes, that buttercream was quite something. :)
    I love the smooth finish on your cake. I don’t know about cake, but i don’t think one can have too much of chocolate.

  5. nina Says:

    Oh Mike you really went all the way with this one, didn’t you?? Looks amazing and I can only imagine the taste!

  6. Ginny Says:

    Well, that is just down right delicious! I love it! :)

  7. ruhama Says:

    Aw, man, Mike! You have just expanded my cake list–I need more friends with birthdays to get through the myriad of cake recipes I have lined up… This looks great!

  8. brilynn Says:

    I like the sounds of that praline buttercream… or maybe it’s just buttercream in general… Mmmmm butter!

  9. Bren Says:

    ganache, buttercream? what are you trying to do to me!!?! LOVE THIS! I bet you that mint chocolate ganache I was giving away would have worked well!! :) hmmmm

  10. Bren Says:

    oh, and I AM going to make this!

  11. Bellini Valli Says:

    So tempting Mike.!!!!!!

  12. Lo! Says:

    I don’t know, Mike — I think you had me at “praline buttercream”… yum!

    This is a resolution-breaker for sure.

  13. Peter Says:

    Mike, I have a feeeling you’ve made this before. I’ thinking about 9 months ago, for your wife – it seduced her and now she’s expecting.

    The power of food! lol

  14. Heather Says:

    mmmm. that buttercream sounds delicious! and the fudge, too :)

  15. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) Says:

    If I were served this cake in a restaurant, I’d be thrilled — it looks simply delicious!

  16. Hélène Says:

    You are killing a chocolate lover here. This is nuts. With the praline, I would be in heaven.

  17. Aran Says:

    this looks luscious!

  18. aforkfulofspaghetti Says:

    Could this be any more naughty? No, I thought not…

    Erm, can I have a piece, please?

  19. grace Says:

    far, far, far and away my favorite part of this is that buttercream. good lord above. fantastic cake, mike–i’m not kidding when i say that it’d be impossible to pass up.

  20. Mary Says:

    I wish I had a slice of your decadent looking cake! Ok, wiping the drool from my keyboard now!

  21. Paula Says:

    Oh I am sooo making this cake! It looks simply divine:)

  22. pam Says:

    Okay, where do you live? Really. I’m coming over.

  23. Sandie Says:

    Devil’s Food Cake with Praline Buttercream? Send me the leftovers!! Seriously Mike, this cake sounds delicious. It’s the perfect treat to whip up when winter starts getting to you (well, to the rest of us that is, who are not lucky enough to be living in warm, sunny Florida)!

  24. Sara Says:

    This looks like the perfect dessert. I don’t make layer cakes very often, but I may have to try this one sooner rather than later!

  25. jonathan Says:


    are you really trying to make me fat? because it is going to work. that looks amazing

  26. Lynn Says:

    Too much chocolate cake? I’m not sure I understand what those words mean. I’m sure there couldn’t be too much of this amazing cake. It’s breathtaking!

  27. Jude Says:

    The layering looks fine to me.. Even looks intentional :)

  28. the caked crusader Says:

    Cake looks wonderful. Love the praline too.
    My only criticism – and I think I’ve told you off for this before – is why is the slice soooooo small???
    I think I’ll cut my own slice if that’s ok?!!!

  29. clumbsycookie Says:

    You are so right! There is no such thing as to much chocolate cake. Great way to tweak the DB challenge from a while back! I remember doing that cake also and I bet the chocolate cake went wonderful with that buttercream! Is that last piece for me?

  30. joanne at frutto della passione Says:

    That looks amazing! Lot’s of work but well worth it.

  31. Nicisme Says:

    Just the word ‘praline’ gave me goose bumps, this looks fabulous!

  32. Holler Says:

    You are killing me here Mike! That sounds incredible, especially with the praline buttercream 😛

  33. Orange Party Cake from Mike's Table Says:

    […] Devil’s Food Cake with Praline Buttercream and Fudge Frosting […]

  34. Coffee and Vanilla Says:

    This cake looks beautiful! I love combination of flavours as well :)

  35. just me in texas Says:

    hi….i make and sell tamales and some of my friends have asked for me to make chocolate cake to sell also. so last week i found this cake and made it. using a few vaiations of my own. i added orange essance to it. and candied yams as the filling. instead of ganache i used the prailine buttercream on the outside as frosting. well….my friends were all very happy with the results. and asked for more. that week i sold more cake than tamales.

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