Red velvet is such a classic cake flavor. Not only is it delicious, it’s also stunning! There’s something so satisfying about cutting into a red velvet cake and seeing that gorgeous, vibrant color.
With October upon us once again, I wanted to put a fun and spooky spin on this beloved cake flavor by making a black velvet cake!
The Power of Black Cocoa
One of my favorite ingredients is black cocoa. It’s not the most common ingredient, and sadly you can’t find it in grocery stores. I order wincrest black cocoa powder on amazon, and usually get a pretty massive tub (I go through it a lot faster than you’d think).
Black cocoa has a slightly higher pH than dutch-processed cocoa (8 vs.7), and is much less acidic than natural baking cocoa (5-6).
The best comparison of how it tastes is to think of the bittersweet, chocolaty taste of an Oreo cookie! It’s absolutely delicious.
Black cocoa has a beautifully dark color, which naturally colors this cake batter black! It’s kind of like magic. Maybe black magic?
If you’re in a pinch or don’t like ordering things online, you can always use dark cocoa powder in its place. Hershey makes a dark cocoa powder that you can find at most grocery stores!
It tastes slightly different, but will give a similar end result of delicious chocolate flavor and a deep color.
Chocolate Cake vs. Black Velvet
At this point in time you might be thinking, if we’re using THAT much cocoa in this recipe, isn’t it just a chocolate cake?
And to be fair, you’re right! Most red velvet cake recipes call for 1 or 2 Tbsp of cocoa powder, which you can barely taste once it bakes up!
But the reason so little cocoa powder is used is because you want the batter to be bright red. Adding more cocoa powder would make it creepy red-brown color.
On the other hand, white velvet cake recipes don’t use any cocoa! So I figure if some velvet recipes use less, this one can use more!!
In my mind, the most notable characteristics of a red velvet cake are its color, moisture, and tangy flavor.
In this recipe, we’ve got the color covered thanks to the black cocoa. To make sure this cake lives up to the moist and delicious standards of a velvet cake recipe, it uses buttermilk.
Buttermilk is a key ingredient, and you want to be sure you use it! Some people try to use regular milk in place of buttermilk, because they have it on hand. Please don’t do that with this recipe 🙂
Black Gel Food Coloring
I love making colorful cakes, and use gel food coloring to make a lot of my vibrant colored frosting and cake layers! However, this cake batter is already so dark from the black cocoa powder, I usually don’t add any black gel food coloring.
If you use dark cocoa powder instead of black cocoa though, you may want to add a squirt of gel food coloring to make sure your cake layers are black.
Picking The Right Frosting
If you’re making a black velvet cake, you might want to frost it with cream cheese frosting to stay true to the classic combination. I fully support that decision, or really any reason to use cream cheese frosting.
My cream cheese buttercream has the delicious tang of cream cheese, but is sturdy like my classic American buttercream. This means you can easily pipe big swirls on you cupcakes, or stack and frost a big layer cake.
However, I made this cake around Halloween, and decided to match my frosting to the color of my cake. I used black and red frosting to give the inside of the cake a wonderfully spooky vibe!
Black frosting can be a bit tricky, and if you’ve struggled making it, here are all of my tips and tricks for making super dark, black frosting.
Tips for Making This Black Velvet Cake:
- Be sure to mix your cake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated; this will ensure your cake layers are tender and fluffy
- Try to get your hands on some black cocoa for this recipe– it’s delicious and totally worth it!
- Be sure you are properly measuring your flour! Spoon fluffed flour into a measuring cup, and level with knife. Or even better, use a kitchen scale 🙂
- Use a serrated knife to level your cake layers once they’re fully cooled, to make it easier to assemble and frost your cake
- You can make these cake layers in advance!
Let Me Know What You Think!
If you try this black velvet cake, I’d love to hear what think of it! Please leave a rating, and let me know your thoughts by sharing a comment 🙂
Black Velvet Cake Ingredients
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (390 grams)
- 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar (500 grams)
- 1 tsp salt (6 grams)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (6 grams)
- 1 tsp baking soda (6 grams)
- 4 large eggs, room temp (224 grams)
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp (2 sticks, 226 grams)
- 1 cup hot water (237 grams)
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temp (240 grams)
- 1 cup black cocoa (100 grams)
Black Buttercream Frosting
- 2 cups (or 4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (452 grams)
- 6 cups powdered sugar (750 grams)
- 1 1/3 cups of melted dark chocolate, cooled (232 grams, 8 oz.)
- 1 cup black cocoa, sifted (100 grams)
- 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (115 grams)
Chocolate Cake Layers
- Begin by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line four seven-inch or three eight 8-inch pans with parchment rounds, and spray with non-stick spray.
- Add the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix on high for 1 minute with a whisk attachment. The mixture should become light in color.
- Add in the eggs, one at a time. Then add baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix on high for another minute.
- In a separate bowl, combine the cup of hot water, and cup of buttermilk. Pour in the cup of black cocoa, and whisk until no clumps remain.
- Next, add 1 cup of flour into the butter/egg mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, to ensure the flour is fully incorporated.
- Pour in half of the buttermilk/cocoa mixture, and gently pulse the mixture to incorporate the liquid (if you don't, you'll end up splattering the cocoa mixture all over you kitchen!)
- Mix in the 2nd cup of flour, at a low speed. Pour in the remaining buttermilk/cocoa mixture, and again gently pulse, then mix on low until fully combined.
- Add in the last cup of flour, and mix on low until the flour is incorporated.
- Evenly divide between the prepared pans. I like to use a kitchen scale to ensure each pan has exactly the same amount of batter.
- Bake for 32-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Allow layers to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the edge of the pans to help separate the layers from the pans.
- Place the pans in the freezer for about 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers from the pans.
- Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers, and then frost as desired.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- While the cake layers bake and cool, make the chocolate buttercream frosting.
- Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth.
- Add in the sifted cocoa, and mix on low until the cocoa is fully incorporated, and no clumps remain.
- Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
- Mix in the cooled, melted chocolate.
- Once fully mixed, add in the salt.
- Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.
- If the frosting is too thick, add an extra Tbsp of heavy cream. If it's too thin, add in another 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.
- Stir by hand with a rubber spatula for a couple minutes to get the frosting SUPER smooth.
To Assemble The Cake:
- Stack and frost cake layers on a greaseproof cake board, using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board.
- Add an even layer of chocolate buttercream between each cake layer.
- Apply a thin coat of frosting around the the cake, to fully cover the cake layers. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (10 minutes) or freezer (5 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
- Add a second, thicker layer of frosting to the cake, and smooth using a bench scraper. Then decorate as desired!
These cake layers can be made in advance!! Learn more about how far in advance they can be made, and how to properly wrap them in my post on how to make cake layers ahead of time.
This buttercream can also be made in advance!! I highly recommend making it ahead of time to make the decoration of a cake less stressful and more fun. It keeps in the fridge for several weeks, if stored in an airtight container.
When you're ready to use the chilled buttercream, remove it from the fridge a few hours in advance (or overnight) and allow it to come to room temperature. Give it a good stir with a rubber spatula or your kitchen aid, to get rid of any air bubbles that may have formed. Once the buttercream is smooth again, it's ready to use!
Amount Per Serving Calories 450Total Fat 16gSaturated Fat 9gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 61mgSodium 274mgCarbohydrates 73gFiber 3gSugar 54gProtein 5g