You know German chocolate cake by its coconut-pecan topping, and a deep maroon color is a telltale sign that you’re about to bite into some red velvet. But what’s the deal with devil’s food cake? It sure looks and smells like any ol’ chocolate cake, though one bite can reveal some subtle differences in taste and texture. While we’re on the subject of sweet, similar foods, what’s the difference between light and dark brown sugar?
Enough bakers have put their own spins on cake recipes that there’s no single approved recipe for chocolate cake or for devil’s food cake, but there are some general rules of thumb that separate the two.
Devil’s food cake recipes traditionally call for cocoa powder—and plenty of it—which eventually gets mixed with oil, as well as baking soda, which helps give it that extra-fluffy texture you won’t always find in a run-of-the-mill chocolate cake. Another key difference: These recipes usually call for less butter and milk in the batter than ones for chocolate cake do, as they could steal some thunder from that chocolatey flavor. The result is an ultra-rich chocolate taste that’s less sweet yet simply heavenly—er, devilishly good—though it’s up to you to decide if it’s as good as this cake recipe that’s been pinned 230,000 times.
Chocolate cake recipes, on the other hand, tend to have more flexibility (like this sweet and salty Chocolate Spice Cake with Caramel Icing), but they don’t always aim for a powerfully chocolatey flavor or the same moistness. Recipes often call for melted baking chocolate, often milk chocolate, sometimes mixed with cocoa powder, to get the flavor just right. They also typically rely on butter, which has the benefit of adding flavor at the expense of fluffy texture.
And while you can top a chocolate cake with just about any frosting your heart desires (we recommend this Moist Chocolate Cake with vanilla frosting!), most devil’s food cakes are paired with an equally sinful chocolate frosting, like this Devil’s Food Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting.
And at the end of the day, what one baker calls a chocolate cake might be deemed devil’s food by another recipe developer—but as long as it tastes good, we won’t say no to a slice. Now that you know the difference between these two delicious desserts, clear up the difference between 9 more easy-to-confuse food pairs.