Appalachia Appalachian Food Ghosts - Haints - Spooky

Devils Food Cake

Red Devil's Food Cake

The article on The Straight Dope Website that started me on the deviled food journey had this to say about Devil’s Food Cake:

“A recipe for devil’s food cake first appeared in a 1902 American cookbook called Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book (references 14, 16). However, in memoirs written in the early 1900s, a food writer named Caroline King wrote that her family was making devil’s food cake in the 1880s– the Food Timeline Website reprints the original recipe and commentary if you’re interested in making it yourself (references 13, 15). Since this was written some time after the fact, it’s debatable whether it’s the true origin.

The “devil” in devil’s food most likely refers to the cake’s “sinful” nature, or possibly the fact that it is quite heavy relative to angel food cake. Another possibility arises from the fact that early versions of the cake were red in color. According to Linda Stradley of “Linda’s Culinary Dictionary” fame:

Devils food cake is usually thought of in terms of dark chocolate, but originally it was red. This was thought to be due to a chemical reaction between early varieties of cocoa and baking soda, which also gave the cake a soapy taste. Today cooks, using modern processed cocoa, sometimes add a touch of red food coloring to bring back the authentic color.

And in fact an alternative name for devil’s food cake is “red devil’s cake.”


One of my favorite Appalachian cookbooks, More Than Moonshine written by Sidney Saylor Farr has a recipe titled Mother Farr’s Red Devil’s Food Cake. Sidney Saylor Farr collected the recipe from her mother-n-law, Mrs. Farr, who lived in Western NC.

Mother Farr’s Red Devil’s Food Cake by Sidney Saylor Farr

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon red food coloring
  • 4 tablespoons hot coffee
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Recipe for red devils food cake

Preheat oven to 350; cream sugar and shortening thoroughly.

Add beaten eggs and mix well.

The best devils food cake

Mix together: cocoa, red food coloring, and coffee; add to sugar mixture-blend well.

Sift together: flour, baking soda and salt.

Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk and vanilla-mixing well.

I used two 9 inch cake pans, but you could use whatever size you wanted to. Instead of greasing and flouring the pans I lined them with parchment paper. Bake for 25 minutes-or till done. Time may vary depending on your oven and what pans you choose.

Cream cheese icing

While the cake bakes, you can whip up a bowl of basic cream cheese icing. I used this recipe, which calls for two 8 oz packs of cream cheese, 1/4 cup milk, 1 stick of softened butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and 4 cups of powdered sugar.

Mix everything, but powdered sugar together-then gradually add powdered sugar until mixture is smooth and creamy. The icing recipe tasted great, but made way too much for my cake.

Chatter's red devil's food cake

I’m going with the theory that it’s called devil’s food cake because it tastes so good that it’s almost sinful.



  1. History of Cakes, by Linda Stradley (2004), /History/CakeHistory.htm (refernce 14)
  2. Apicus . “The Straight Dope: What’s up with “deviled” eggs, ham, etc.?.” The Straight Dope – Fighting Ignorance Since 1973. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2013. <>.
  3. “Sidney Saylor Farr Publications.” Silver Creek Writers Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2013. <
  4. The Food Timeline Website (reference 13 and 16)
  5. Victorian Cakes: A Reminiscence With Recipes, by Caroline B. King, with an introduction by Jill Gardner (1986), p. 35-6 (reference 15)


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  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    October 18, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Looks pretty yummy! Thank you for another great recipe! As for the original version, I love cake but I sure wouldn’t want any cake that tastes like soap!

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    October 17, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    Looks yummy. For years, our paternal Grandmother scratch made our favorite cakes for our birthdays. Grandad had to have dessert with his dinner so there was usually either a scratch made cake or pie there, although I don’t know how she kept them handy, cause several of her sons including our dad visited her daily, and they liked dessert too.
    I’ve seen on tv where instead of greasing and flouring their chocolate cake pans, they use butter and cocoa powder to do it which is a great idea cause it won’t leave that white flour all over your pretty chocolate cake.
    Prayers everyone has a wonderful week, and a safe one too.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2016 at 11:09 am

    That looks alot like Chatter’s Red Velvet Cake, but whether it’s Red or Dark, I bet it’s good. I make mine from a box, and bunt style using Duncan Hinze and the Classic Chocolate Icing. I think it’s best while still warm…Ken

  • Reply
    mary Lou McKillip
    October 17, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Tipper, this looks scrumpdellielecious.
    Mary Lou McKillip

  • Reply
    October 17, 2016 at 9:44 am

    My mother never baked devil’s food cakes, but I love them. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 17, 2016 at 9:06 am

    I suspect angel food cake was first (Ps. 78:25) and was white. Then when someone baked something very different, whether by accident or design, the name was a natural. And, as it still done, enhancing the difference with dark chocolate and red coloring was consistent. Part of the ‘devilishness’ though is being so good as to entice one to eat more than is good for them. Alas, reckon we can all relate to that.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 17, 2016 at 8:19 am

    That really does look good, Tip! The wet batter does look like blood.
    As I was reading the icing recipe I thought a pound of cream cheese was a lot.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 17, 2016 at 8:03 am

    What ever the reason for the name it is one of my favorites

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