Zoë François, creator of the site zoebakes.com, is one on my favorite bakers because she is a master at combining technical perfection with artistry, and her recipes are always written with meticulous detail as well as a good deal of passion. Here’s one of my favorite recipes from her lovely new book, Zoë Bakes Cakes (Ten Speed Press, 2021). According to Zoë, “This ideal everyday cake is a sweet treat for kids hopping off the bus after an exciting day at school, although those who wander in, ragged from a long day of adulting, may appreciate this cake even more.” She adds, “That little bit of saltiness from peanuts enhances all the deep dark decadence of the devil’s food cake.” We couldn’t agree more – the combination is downright irresistible. Note: the devil’s food cake is made in a 9 x 4-inch Pullman loaf pan, which is taller and less wide than a standard 9 x 5-inch pan, and allows for a slightly more dramatic presentation. You can buy the pan here.
Makes about 10 servings
Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake
- 2 1⁄3 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 ⁄3 cup (50 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder (sifted if lumpy)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1⁄4 cups (300 milliliters) hot strong coffee
- 2 tablespoons rum or brandy
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) buttermilk
- 1⁄2 cup (120 milliliters) mild-flavored oil (such as vegetable oil)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dark Chocolate Ganache:
- 2/3 cup (158 milliliters) heavy whipping cream
- 3 ounces (151 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Peanut Butter Whipped Cream:
- ½ cup (130 grams) peanut butter
- 2 cups (473 milliliters) heavy whipping cream, divided
- 1 to 2 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1⁄3 cup (40 grams) crushed salted peanuts
Make the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Generously grease a 9 by 4-inch (23 by 10 cm) Pullman pan, then line it with greased parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined. In a small bowl, stir together the coffee and rum.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla until well combined. Add the egg mixture and half the coffee-rum to the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon until smooth. Slowly add the remaining coffee-rum and whisk until totally blended and smooth. The batter will be quite thin.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter several times to release excess air bubbles. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Let the cake cool completely before removing from the pan and inverting onto a serving plate.
Make the ganache:
- In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm the cream until just simmering. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate. Swirl the pan to make sure all of the chocolate is submerged in the hot cream. Let sit for 3 minutes and then gently stir until smooth.
- You want the ganache to be thick enough to coat, but still pourable; if necessary, warm it slightly over a double boiler to get it to the correct consistency.
Make the Peanut Butter Whipped Cream:
- In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the peanut butter with 1⁄2 cup (120 milliliters) of the whipping cream. Pour into a container, mix in the remaining 1 1⁄2 cups (360 milliliters) of the whipping cream, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the cream, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla and beat on medium speed (you read that right) until just thick—it will start to leave marks from the whisk in the cream.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using the whisk attachment, continue whipping by hand for several seconds until the cream reaches the desired consistency; this way, you can ensure the mixer won’t take it too far. The whipped cream is best used right away.
Assemble the cake:
- Place the cake on a serving plate. Pile the whipped cream evenly on top of the cake and, using a metal decorating spatula, smooth, swiping the sides with the blade to create right angles, so it creates a tall rectangle.
- Pour the ganache over the top of the cake, starting in the center and stopping just as it drips over the edge. Sprinkle the peanuts over the top while the ganache is still wet. Refrigerate the cake until the ganache sets, about 30 minutes, then serve right away.
Reprinted from Zoe Bakes Cakes. Copyright © 2021 by Zoë François. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House.