Grandma Dearden's Devils Food Cake

If I had to come up with just one person that has inspired me in the kitchen, I would have to say it was my Grandma Dearden.  Her birthday was on March 1st.  I naturally had to celebrate this wonderful day and maker her a birthday cake.  She would have been 102 years old.  This is one of the classic desserts grandma always served.  It has naturally remained a family favorite.

We were blessed to have grandma live with us for the last few years of her life.  She passed away when she was 92 in our home.  She was quite the character.  She was always a soft spoken woman who never said anything bad about anyone.  That changed as she got older.  My children loved to hear her stories along with with her new language (considered "trucker talk").  She brightened our home.  The last few years of her life she was on a feeding tube.  I can only imagine how difficult it would be to live in a home filled with the aroma's of food...her favorite foods. 

 I told my children if that ever happened to me, I would hope they'd just shoot me.  The agreed they would in an instant and started to argue over who gets to pull the trigger.  I love those darling little angels.

As March rolls in like a Lion, I pay tribute to a woman who inspired me everyday.  I love you grandma.

Grandma Dearden's Red Devils Food Cake

Lightly butter and flour a 9 x 13-inch.  Or spray with Bakers Joy.  Set aside.

For the cake you will need:  butter, eggs, sugar, cocoa, flour, salt, baking soda and vanilla.

Whoops!  Almost forgot the sour cream and boiling water.

Put softened butter in a large mixing bowl.

Add the sugar and...

cocoa.  I love dutch processed, you can use your favorite.

Cream the butter, sugar and cocoa.

Add the eggs.

Mix well.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again.

Add the sour cream.

Blend together.

Add the salt and baking powder to the flour.

Sift together.  I just give it a whisk.

Add the flour to the sugar/butter mixture and mix just until blended.  If you over mix, the cake could be tough.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again.

The batter should be smooth.

Add the 1 cup of boiling water.

Mix on low speed so the water doesn't splash all over you and your kitchen.

Add the vanilla.

Mix in the vanilla and the batter is now complete.

Piece of cake!

Pour the batter into prepared baking dish.

Place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top springs back when touched.

Remove from oven.

Place on a cooling rack and cool completely before icing.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add softened butter.

Cream the butter for a minute.

Add cocoa.

Add 3 cups of the powdered sugar.

Add the pinch of salt.  You will especially need this if you are using unsalted butter.  Salt just brings out the flavor of chocolate.

Add 4 tablespoons of the milk and mix until creamy and smooth.

Add the vanilla.

Oh wait, I forgot to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Do that now.

Mix until smooth.  Now is the time to check the consistency of the frosting.  If you think it's too thin you could add more powdered sugar OR if you think it's too thick add more milk one tablespoon at a time.

Pout the frosting onto the cooled cake.

Spread with an offset spatula.  This is a great tool to have in the kitchen, by the way.

If you are a pansy and don't like nuts, you can serve your cake now.
(The pansy comment does not refer to anyone with nut allergies)

My son-in-law has allergies to walnuts and cashews.  I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to kill him by giving him these two nuts.  One time he was headed out of town on a business trip and I loaded a sack with goodies for him to munch on as he drove.  I gave him some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies laced with walnuts and a large jar of cashews.  I got a call from my daughter asking me if I was trying to kill her husband.
Pfshhh...NO.  Not yet, we still like him...a lot.

I really hope you're not allergic to nuts.  That is the only excuse I will give you.

The husband that never reads this blog loves nuts BUT not in things.  What's up with that?  However, he quite enjoyed the slice of cake that I gave him and didn't complain about the extremely large amount of walnuts sprinkled over the top.  This is actually one of his favorite desserts.  He's a work in progress - very slow progression I must admit.

I secretly get really annoyed when someone tells me the HATE nuts.  What?  Nuts go with everything.  I seriously had this conversation with my family and we tried to come up with a list of things that nuts DON'T go with.  I think we came up with only a few things. I can't even remember what they were.  Overall we decided nuts go with everything.

Roughly chop the walnuts.

Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

.  I realize this is more than just a sprinkling of walnuts, but I really love nuts.

Go nuts with the nuts

Happy Birthday, Grandma.   Your legacy goes on.  We miss you.

Red Devil's Food Cake

½ cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa, preferable Dutch processed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sour cream
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water

Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans or a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.  Set aside.  Sift together flour, soda and salt.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl cream butter, cocoa and sugar for approx. 3 minutes.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy.  Add sour cream and mix until smooth.  Add flour mixture and mix just until blended.  Slowly add boiling water and beat until smooth.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Invert to a cooling rack to cool.  Bake cupcakes for 18-20 minutes.

 Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
3-4 cups powdered or confectioners sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
pinch of salt
4-6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a mixing bowl, blend butter.  Add cocoa, 3 cups of powdered sugar, salt and 4 tablespoons of milk.  Mix until smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add vanilla.  At this point check for consistency.  If you would like your frosting thicker add the extra powdered sugar.  If it needs to be thinner add more milk.

Spread over cooled cake.  Makes enough frosting for one 9 x 13-inch cake or 24 cup cakes or a 2 layer cake.

Print recipe

I hope you enjoy our families simple cake.  I know it was always baked with love.


  1. LOVe your blog! I love food and your pictures are so pretty and recipes so tasty. Thanks

  2. Thanks, Jen. You have no idea how much I stress over the photo's.

  3. Um YUM, I am so quitting my diet and making this for some made up holiday because apparently you need an excuse to eat cake... whatever. :)

  4. wow...that looks amazingly delicious! and i love all the pictures!

    great blog - i'm your newest follower
    happy weekend,

  5. That's why I still celebrate grandma's birthday every year. Another excuse to eat cake.

  6. Thanks, Cailen, for being my newest friend. I'm totally checking out your blog. Thanks for passing it on.

  7. I have not been the biggest nut fan. I love peanutbutter everything. But, I have to say, that since trying many of your recipies that use nuts, I have become a fan of using nuts in everything!!

  8. Woohoo! I have a convert! Most people would have excluded them from the recipe. I'm so proud of you.

  9. Such a delicious tribute to ur grandmom! Love such recipes that have been passed on from one generation to the next. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Tried and true recipes are the best especially when they are coupled with memories.

  11. Great step-by-step photos. Grandma's always have the best recipes!! That is so great that you have her recipe and can remember her when you make it. P.S. I love nuts too!

  12. Could you please help me with this query? I wanted to add a cheesecake chocolate swirl effect to this batter instead of the frosting. My idea is to pour the foodcake batter, topped with cheesecake batter, drizzle some melted chocolate on top of that and swirl. Now, if I were to drizzle some melted chocolate onto the cheesecake batter (which in turn would be on top of the foodcake batter) to create a "swirl" effect, would baking it burn the melted chocolate? Or should I mix the melted chocolate with something else? Like heavy cream?

    Novice baker

  13. Hmmm, I have never done that before. I think that the chocolate drizzle would just blend and bake into the cake. I don't think you would notice it in the cake. The cheese cake batter just might work. It's possible the cake would have issues in rising. It might be too heavy and sink. But hey, it's work a try right. That's how new and better recipes are created. Let me know how this works. I'm sure it would be amazing.

  14. More thoughts. The cheesecake batter just might be heavier than the cake batter. If that is the case, then the cheesecake would sink rather than stay on top of the cake batter. I do have a recipe for a chocolate and cream cheese fudge cake. Send me your e-mail address (I won't publish it) I'll send you the recipe and you can see how it is done. Would that help? It's an awesome cake. I tend to have issues with it at my high altitude.

  15. Thank you Janet
    Would LOVE to get my hands on that recipe. May I have your email address? I'll send you an email directly from my account.
    Well I made the devil's food cake as is. Works every time, thank you. But a friend requested for a treat the other day and I make a sponge cake the usual way, added a small portion of creamcheese batter on top (8 ounces worth) and then dropped some melted chocolate on top to swirl it in. How I wish I could send you a picture! It looks fantastic. The cream cheese batter did not sink- perhaps because the batter beneath was a dense spongecake as well. Only thing was that the baking powder and soda was ballooning and pushing the top batter out but thank God, it didn't do any damage. My baking pan was rather accommodating. And the overall baking time went from 40 minutes to an HOUR and 40 minutes.
    Note to self is to always bake in a large pan or bake in smaller quantities.

  16. You are very ambitious. my e-mail is:

    I'll get you the recipe as soon as I receive your email.

  17. Hi Janet, first time here, stumbled from FG. Grandma's tried and tested recipes are like family heirlooms, my late grandmom whom I call ammachi in our language was a wonderful cook and I miss her sooo much. She used to make pineapple skin wine which i have posted in my space. This chocolate cake looks so yummy and a must try for me...happy to follow u for more exciting recipes.

    1. What a wonderful comment. We are so blessed to have Grandmothers.

    2. You live in one of the most beautiful parts of our world. I have only seen pictures of Kerala and can only dream of visiting someday.

  18. I wanted you to know that every time that I read your blog I enjoy every bit of it. The recipes are amazing, your photography is well done and your instructions are so clear. What I like the best, however, is the commentary. It makes me laugh!!

  19. I see a lot of reference in your posts to where you live but nowhere does it say where you do live!

    I am curious as to where you are as you refer to a high altitude and how some recipes (specifically bread) can be influenced.

    Love your recipes. Will try some this weekend. The pics are amazing too.

    1. Oh, I live it Sandy, Utah. Just at the base of the Wasatch Mountains. I have the most beautiful view out my front door of the mountains. Thank you so much for bringing me to this page. Now I want my grandma's chocolate cake with walnuts :)

  20. Hi - I hope you manage to see this in time! I am making this cake on Friday for a family birthday - please could you let me know if the flour used is plain or self raising?

  21. Janet, I ran across your bread recipe a couple weeks ago and just fell in love with it!! Its all I think about (sigh)
    I love baking bread!! TY so much for all your beautiful pictures and now this cake haha, YOUR going to make me gain 10 pounds just looking at it..I love baking cakes..I can't wait to bake this.

    1. HI Jewel, Thank you so much for your comment. I went through 100 lbs of flour in 3 months baking this bread. SERIOUSLY!!! I was giving it to my neighbors so they could gain the 10 lbs. It works with cakes too. I bake a goodie. Take a slice, or two, the beg a neighbor to take it off my hands. I'd rather see it on their hips than mine :)

  22. My sister's favorite was the Devil's food cake recipe that she got from one of her friends. She always talks about it whenever we meet! I’m definitely making this! thanks for sharing!