Cake To Share: Best Devil's Food Sheet-Cake

Oh my absolute goodness, friends. It's been so long since I've sat down and been able to share a recipe! When my friend Kevin from work asked if I'd posted anything new in a while I had to reluctantly admit...I had not. Life has just been a landslide: heavy, loud, graceless. Not gonna lie, when I finally sit down on my "weekend" I often have no space for words left within my heart and mind. There are exciting changes amid the negative, vision within the chaos, but it essentially has left me with a distinct lack of time to devote to actually cooking things and photographing them and sharing them here on the blog. Technical glitches mean I've even been quieter on Instagram which, as y'all know, is a place I tend to be overly vocal. But today I've got a recipe for you and I hope it finds a place in your kitchen the way it has in mine.

At work and in life I'm always striving for new flavor combinations, new dish ideas. Can I turn a classic salted caramel on its side and make a miso caramel? How can I incorporate the Middle East into a doughnut? I am now the actual pastry chef at Four Eleven York - something I'm still coming to grips with. Yes, you read that right - amid all the other changes going on I have by default become our restaurant's pastry chef. This definitely freaks me out because let's be real: seven months ago I started out as a totally unprofessional pastry apprentice and whether or not I'm qualified wasn't really considered when they bequeathed the title on me. The question now is, will I be able to handle it with aplomb? I'll try to, certainly. I know that sometimes in life you aren't successful until you have to be. There's a grand instinct in the least of us that will fight to stay alive even when operating far outside the bounds of our normal capacity.

 Suffice it to say, life can be complicated; food doesn't have to be.

I'm learning that there is a time to set aside the miso caramel and the cardamom and rosewater, the sumac and the za'atar and say, "Look, we need to sit down for a second and catch our breath. We need to feel like kids again. We need something to be easy and no-fuss."

Enter this devil's food sheet cake. This is a recipe I found, tweaked, changed, and otherwise made into our own when I first began work at Four Eleven York last summer. Infuriated by a glitchy chocolate cake we had been making, I got the go-ahead to find an alternate, and this cake was discovered. I've never tasted a better, lighter, more moist devil's food cake in my life. It's not overly sweet. It's not ponderously chocolate-y. When cloaked in an avant-garde layer of Italian or Swiss meringue buttercream it becomes something that tastes of childhood. Like what you wanted those Hostess cupcakes to be when they grew up and got curves and learned how to flirt.

Anyhow. I hope you'll make this cake to share with your own friends! It's big and sprawling and baked in a simple half-sheet tray, like the basic rimmed cookie sheet every single kitchen has floating around in that cabinet under the stove or beside the oven. It's become a bit of a tradition for me to bake something on Mondays (my day off), pack them into re-purposed produce boxes, and deliver them around to our friends. A gentle descent into the week, a glide back into the brimstone kettle of the workforce. I don't always eat the cakes myself, but bringing them around to friends or to trade for coffee at my favorite cafe has become an almost-weekly ritual for me. May this cake bless and bring happiness to those people in your own life. Spread cake, not hate. And remember those invigorating words from Winston Churchill, that dauntless old bird:
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." 

Devil's Food Sheet Cake
serves 12-15

10 ounces softened butter
12 ounces granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 ounces all-purpose flour
2 ounces dark cocoa powder
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
12 ounces buttermilk
3 cups vanilla buttercream of choice - I used this recipe

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat together butter and sugar 3-4 minutes until fluffy and pale. Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated. Add vanilla.
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add half of the dry mixture into the butter and sugar, mixing till incorporated. Add buttermilk and mix, then finish with second half of dry ingredients. Mix till incorporated and smooth.
  3. Spray half-sheet tray with nonstick cooking spray, then dust with cocoa powder. Spread batter into pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cake springs back lightly when touched with fingertips. Allow to cool completely, then frost with desired buttercream frosting. Decorate to taste (sprinkles! edible flowers! cookie crumbs!), then cut and enjoy.


  1. You're the actual pastry chef?!?!?!? Congratulations! I have confidence that you'll take on the challenge with aplomb and pizazz, and that if/when you fall flat on your face, you'll pick yourself up, dust off the flour, and try again. Possibly singing "I Have Confidence" while you're at it.