There's an easy trick to make a cake black without using any food colouring: black cocoa. Available to buy on Amazon, it's a natural way to turn this moist chocolate cake into a stunning black creation, perfect for Halloween! The chocolate flavour provided by black cocoa powder is similar to an Oreo cookie.
How to use black cocoa powder
Black cocoa incorporates best into cake batter when it's in liquid form. By using a black cocoa and water mixture you'll avoid flecks of black, creating a solid, bold black batter instead. Measure the black cocoa powder into a bowl and add twice the amount of hot water and whisk together. Using hot water helps the black cocoa powder dissolves when you whisk it.
Since everything should be at room temperature when you add it to the cake batter, this will then need time to cool. That's why you should prepare the cocoa powder mixture first. While it cools, start preparing the cake batter.
How to make black cake batter
In a mixer with a beater or paddle attachment, mix butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and creamy. It will take about 2 minutes of your butter is at room temperature. You'll notice the mixture get lighter in colour and also fluffier. Scrape down to the bottom of the bowl once or twice during mixing to make sure no butter is stuck at the bottom.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing on the lowest speed after each one until it's incorporated into the batter, which will take about 30 seconds. Next, add the vanilla and mix on lowest speed for about another 30 seconds.
In a bowl sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add a third of the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and mix on lowest speed until you can't see any clumps of flour in the batter. The batter will be quite thick and will look like this:
Add half of the black cocoa mixture to the mixing bowl and mix on lowest speed to incorporate. Turn the mixer off and scrape down to the bottom of the bowl to mix in any batter that the paddle attachment hasn't reached. Mix again until you don't see streaks of the black cocoa powder mixture.
Add the remaining flour mixture and mix to combine. Make sure you scrape any flour from the sides if t mixing bowl into the batter. Then add the rest of the black cocoa powder mixture, mixing until the batter is smooth.
This is a runny batter, which makes it easy to pour or spoon into pans to bake. The recipe (listed in a printable and Pinnable format below) is for an 8" cake with two layers. If you prefer, after baking and cooling you can divide the cake layers in half horizontally to make four layers.
Bake the black cake layers
Grease the inside base and sides of two 8" pans with butter, oil, or non-stick spray. Divide the batter between the cake pans and bake at 175ºC or 350ºF for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Leave the cakes to cool in their pans for ten minutes. Then use a spatula to loosen cake from the edges of the cake pan and turn the cakes onto a wire cooling rack. Leave them to cool completely before assembling your cake. If you want to make four cake layers, use a serrated knife like a bread knife to divide the layers horizontally.
Make a cake with these black cake layers
Since this cake isn't very sweet it pairs perfectly with my 4 Minute Buttercream. The flavour of the black cocoa cake with vanilla buttercream filling and frosting is similar to an Oreo cookie!
After assembling and frosting this cake you can leave it at room temperature for 3 days or in the fridge for up to a week. If you do refrigerate the cake, leave it at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving it so that it comes to room temperature, when it tastes the best!
After slicing it, to prevent the cake drying out you can cover the cut side of the cake tightly with cling film or Saran Wrap.
Print or pin the recipe below and when you try it, please leave a review to tell me what you think!
Black cocoa gives these moist cake layers a rich chocolate flavour similar to an Oreo cookie!
1 1/2cups hot water
3/4cups black cocoa powder
3/4cups unsalted butter
1 3/4cups white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2cups plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1. In a bowl, whisk together hot water and black cocoa powder until the cocoa has dissolved. Set aside to come to room temperature.
2. In a mixer with a beater attachment, mix butter with sugar on medium speed until pale and creamy, about two minutes. Scrape down to the bottom of the bowl once during mixing to make sure no butter is stuck at the bottom.
3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing on the lowest speed after each addition until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
4. Add vanilla and mix on lowest speed for about 30 seconds to combine.
5. In a bowl sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add a third of the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and mix on lowest speed to incorporate.
6. Add half of the black cocoa mixture to the mixing bowl and mix on lowest speed to incorporate. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, then the remaining black cocoa powder mixture, and then the remaining flour mixture. Mix just until the ingredients are combined.
7. Grease the inside (base and sides) of two 8" pans with non-stick spray, butter or oil. Divide batter between the cake pans.
8. Bake at 175ºC or 350ºF for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
9. Let cakes cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Use a spatula to loosen cake from the edges of the cake pan and then turn onto a wire cooling rack. Leave to cool completely.
You can use salted instead of unsalted butter but if you do, omit the salt.
This recipe works best with plain flour, also called all-purpose flour.
Can I use this recipe for bigger or smaller cakes?
Absolutely! The recipe as written will make two 8" layers, which you can divide in half horizontally to make four layers. You can use the same recipe to bake three or four 6" layers. Adjust the ingredient quantities using the tables below to make different sizes of cakes.
Standard Height Cakes
For standard height cakes of about 4 inches tall, use the ingredients in the quantities listed below and divide the batter into two cake pans.
2-layer 6" cake
2-layer 8" cake
2-layer 10" cake
1 cup 235ml
2 cups 475ml
3 cups 710ml
Black cocoa powder
1/2 cup 45g
1 cup 85g
1 1/2 cups 130g
1/2 cup 114g
1 cup 227g
1 1/2 cups 341g
Sugar (white, granulated or caster)
1 cup and 2 tablespoons 225g
2 1/4 cups 450g
3 1/2 cups 675g
All purpose flour (plain flour)
1 1/3 cups 167g
2 2/3 cups 333g
4 cups 500g
Total weight of batter
Weight of batter per pan for 2 pans
For tall cakes of about 6 inches tall, use the ingredients in the quantities listed below and divide the batter into three cake pans. I find that this makes for the perfect ratio of cake to filling and frosting and it also provides lots of space on the sides of the cake for decorations.