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Black Velvet Cake

Red velvet is such a classic cake flavor. Not only is it delicious, it’s also stunning! 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.

image of a slice of black velvet cake on a plate

The Power of Black Cocoa

One of my favorite ingredients is black cocoa. It’s not the most common ingredient, and sadly it’s hard to find in grocery stores.

I like to order a big tub of Wincrest black cocoa powder on Amazon.

image of a container of black cocoa

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 and the frosting black! It’s kind of like magic. Maybe black magic?

image of black dark chocolate frosting that's been mixed in a large glass bowl

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!!

image of a black velvet cake batter being poured into a round cake pan

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 reputation of a velvet cake recipe, it uses buttermilk.

Buttermilk is a key ingredient! Some people try to use regular milk in place of buttermilk, but I don’t recommend doing that with this recipe.

image of a black velvet cake layer that's been leveled with a serrated knife

Black Gel Food Coloring

I love making colorful cakes with a bit of gel food coloring, but this cake batter is already so dark from the black cocoa powder it really doesn’t need any artificial food coloring.

However, if you use dark cocoa powder instead of black cocoa you may want to add a squirt of black 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 excuse 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 use it to frost a layer cake like this.

I made this cake around Halloween and wanted to match my frosting to the color of my cake. I used my deep black frosting recipe to give the cake a wonderfully spooky vibe!

image of black buttercream frosting that's being mixed in a kitchen aid

It can be difficult to make a deep black frosting. If you’re struggled to get the color right, here are all of my tips and tricks for making super dark black frosting.

Tips for Making This Black Velvet Cake

  • Try to get your hands on some black cocoa for this recipe– it’s delicious and totally worth it!
  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better! Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level). Or better yet, use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Level your room temperature or thawed cake layers with a serrated knife to make them easier to stack.
  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake. It makes it so much easier to stack and frost them!
image of a black velvet layer cake that's been frosted with a delicious black dark chocolate buttercream

Making This Black Velvet Cake in Advance and Storage Tips

Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and makes it more approachable.

You can also make the frosting ahead of time or save any leftover frosting. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.

Just be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to make it nice and smooth again. This cake can last in the fridge for up to a week.

image of a slice of black velvet cake on a plate

Let Me Know What You Think

If you try this black velvet cake recipe, I’d love to hear what you think! Please leave a rating below and comment below.

Don’t forget to tag me @chelsweets and use #chelsweets on social media so I can see your amazing creations!

Note: I updated this recipe in May 2022 to made the texture a bit more tender. If you want the original recipe, please email [email protected]

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Yield: 20

Black Velvet Cake

image of a black velvet layer cake that's been frosted with a delicious black dark chocolate buttercream

This black velvet cake recipe is a total show stopper! It's moist, packed with chocolate flavor, and naturally colored with dark cocoa powder!!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

Black Velvet Cake Recipe

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (260g)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (400g)
  • 3/4 cup black cocoa powder, sifted (75g)
  • 2 tsp baking powder (8g)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda (9g)
  • 1 tsp salt (6g)
  • 1 cup hot water (240g)
  • 2 tsp instant espresso of coffee (5g)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (240g)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (110g)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature (112g)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (8g)

Black Dark Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups (or 4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (452g)
  • 1 cup black cocoa powder, sifted (100g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)
  • 1/2 tsp fine table salt (3g)
  • 5 cups powdered sugar (625g)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, room temperature (180g)
  • 1 1/3 cups dark chocolate chips, melted and cooled (230g)

Recommended Tools

Instructions

Black Velvet Cake Layers

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 175 C. Line and grease three, eight-inch cake pans, or four, seven-inch pans.
  2. Combine 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 cups sugar, 3/4 cup black cocoa powder, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1 tsp of salt in a large bowl. Whisk together until combined.
  3. In a separate, medium-sized bowl, add 1 cup of hot water and 2 tsp instant espresso or coffee. Stir until dissolved.
  4. Add in 1 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup oil, 2 eggs and 2 tsp vanilla extract into the instant espresso mixture. Give the mixture a quick stir to combine the ingredients.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix by hand until fully incorporated. The batter will be on the thin side, but that’s the consistency you're after!
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans, and bake for about 24-27 minutes. I like to use a kitchen scale to weigh the pans. It makes sure each pan has the exact same amount of batter and helps the cake layers bake up to be the same height.
  7. Remove the cake layers from the oven and let them cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. Gently run an offset spatula around the rim of the cake pans to loosen them, then flip them into wire racks to finish cooling.
  8. Once cooled, use a serrated knife to level the top of each cake layer. If you make these in advance, wrap and freeze them at this point.

Black Dark Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  1. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment until smooth. 
  2. Add in the sifted black cocoa, vanilla extract, and salt, and mix on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  3. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar. Halfway through, add in the heavy cream to make the frosting easier to mix.
  4. Mix in the cooled, melted dark chocolate on a low speed until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the desired consistency is reached.
  5. If you want the buttercream to be a darker shade of black, min in a squirt of black gel food coloring. Then cover with plastic wrap to prevent crusting and set aside.

Assembling This Black Velvet Cake

  1. 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.
  2. Add an even layer of buttercream between each cake layer with a large offset spatula.
  3. Add a thin coat of frosting around the cake, fully covering the cake layers.
  4. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (30 minutes) or freezer (10 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  5. Add a second, thicker layer of frosting to the cake, and smooth using a bench scraper. Then decorate as desired and enjoy!

Notes

Note: I updated this recipe in May 2022 to made the texture a bit more tender. If you want the original recipe, please email [email protected]

Tips for Making the Best Black Velvet Cake

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better! Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure your cake flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level). Or better yet, use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Mix your cake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will ensure your cake layers are tender and fluffy.
  • Use a scale to weigh your cake pans as you fill them. Make sure each pan has the same amount of batter will make your cake layers bake to the same height and bake more evenly.
  • Bang your cake pans on the counter before putting it in the oven. This brings any air bubbles that are trapped in the batter to the surface.
  • Level your room temperature or thawed cake layers with a serrated knife to make them easier to stack.
  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake and before adding the simple syrup. It makes it so much easier to stack and frost them!

Making this Black Velvet Cake in Advance and Storage Tips

  • Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and makes it more approachable.
  • Make your chocolate frosting ahead of time or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.
  • This frosting can also be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months! Just be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to make it nice and smooth again.
  • A frosted cake can last in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for a month. The buttercream locks in the moisture and keeps the cake fresh and delicious!

Nutrition Information

Yield

20

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 520Total Fat 18gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 40mgSodium 395mgCarbohydrates 84gFiber 5gSugar 59gProtein 7g

Anna

Sunday 23rd of January 2022

I'm going to make this cake. Is it OK to use vanilla extract? If so, how much? I didn't notice vanilla in the ingredients. Thank you.

Sade

Wednesday 13th of October 2021

Hi Chelsea I was wondering if this recipe would work with 3 6inch cake pans. If so what do you recommend for cook time

Thanks

Rachel

Friday 8th of October 2021

Just a tip, if you don't have buttermilk on hand, squeeze some lemon juice into whole milk (or a pinch of citric acid if you have it). It gives it the acidity that buttermilk has and works great in a pinch.

Arpana Gupta

Monday 30th of August 2021

What is the substitute of eggs. Would love to try this cake

kmtravis

Tuesday 6th of July 2021

I am looking at this recipe and very interested in trying it. But when I looked at the icing you mentioned a cream cheese buttercream, but when I look down in the ingredients there is no cream cheese listed? How is it a cream cheese buttercream if there is no cream cheese? (Or did I miss something lol) Also I love how you turn it black. The gel and black Cocoa is genius!! Please help!! Thanks.

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