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Nanny’s Black Midnight Cake is a rich and delicious chocolate cake recipe passed down through generations.
We originally shared Nanny’s Black Midnight Cake here on A Family Feast almost five years ago. After making this cake again recently, we decided to take some new photos and re-share this delicious chocolate cake recipe. While the cake photos are new, the photos of the kids in our family are five years old, and those cute little kids are now a lot more grown up!
My husband Jack and his brothers and sisters all have very fond memories of their mother (Nanny to us) baking this delicious Black Midnight Cake – a dark, chocolate layer cake with a rich dark chocolate frosting. It’s perfectly sweet and super moist and light, and if you are a chocolate lover – this is the cake for you!
Jack and his siblings (as well as a few cousins who had an uncanny knack of always showing up for dinner whenever Nanny made this cake for dessert) would fight over who got the biggest piece of cake – it’s so good! Years later, the younger kids in our family all love this cake too.
In fact, a love of cooking seems to run in our family, and we have some budding chefs among most of Nanny’s grandchildren. This past weekend, some of the kids got together at our house to bake Nanny’s black midnight cake, and here are some of the photos from our cooking adventures:
They did a fantastic job baking this cake – don’t you agree? And Nanny loved the cake too – of course!
This black midnight cake recipe is adapted from one originally published in the Betty Crocker Cookbook many years ago with some updates of our own, as well as additional inspiration thanks to the cake recipe on the back of the can of Hershey’s cocoa. We’ve updated it to include some coffee as well as a pinch of cayenne in the batter – both ingredients really enhance the flavor of the chocolate.
P.S. Over the years, we’ve received an occasional reader comment that the cake came out dry when they made this recipe. We’re always sad when our readers don’t see good results from our recipes. And, this recipe in particular has us puzzled because other readers have said their cake is very moist, and our own experience making this recipe has yielded a moist cake as well. Without knowing exactly where things went wrong for some of our readers, our advice is to:
- Make sure that when you measure out the flour (and cocoa) scoop out the flour from your canister with a spoon and place it into your measuring cup. (Scooping out right from the canister can pack the flour down.)
- Watch the baking time. Check after 20 to 25 minutes to see if your cake is done, especially if your oven runs hot, or you are using dark metal cake pans.
For the Cake:
- 2/3 cup dark cocoa powder (we used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder to get that deep dark color)
- 1 pinch cayenne
- 1 cup hot strong brewed coffee
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Butter for greasing the pans
- Cake pan strips for even baking
- Two parchment circles, cut the size of the bottom of your cake pans
- Cocoa for dusting the pans
For the Frosting:
- 1 cup dark cocoa (we used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa to get that deep dark color)
- 4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
To Prepare the Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Soak cake pan strips.
- In a small bowl, dissolve cocoa powder and cayenne with hot brewed coffee and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream oil and sugar until well combined.
- Add eggs and beat until light and creamy, about 1-2 minutes. This process beats air into the mixture. Scrape paddle and bowl and beat once.
- Slowly add in coffee/cocoa mixture, buttermilk and vanilla and beat until batter is smooth. Scrape paddle and bowl and beat once.
- In a separate bowl, sift flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to wet and beat on low speed to incorporate. Scrape down bowl and mix just until all ingredients are combined, do not over mix once flour is in.
- Butter the bottom and sides of two 9-inch cake pans and place a round parchment circle in each. Butter the top of the parchment then sprinkle the whole inside of the parchment and pan with cocoa powder, shaking out excess. Pour batter evenly between two pans and place in center of oven. (note, aluminum baking pans are by far, the best for baking cakes. Non-stick and dark colored pans can change the cake by browning it more than it needs to)
- Place wet cake pan strips around outside edges of both pans.
- Bake 30-35 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Depending on your oven, you may need to rotate cake pans half way through. During our baking, one cake was done in 30 minutes and the second in 32 minutes. Do not over bake.
- Cool pans on wire racks for ten minutes then carefully invert out of pan onto rack to cool further.
To Prepare the Frosting;
- Sift cocoa powder with confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and cocoa powder mixture along with buttermilk and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. Add additional buttermilk or whole milk if frosting is too thick.
- Place a small dollop of frosting on a cake dish to hold the cake from sliding and place one cake on the frosting. Frost the top of that layer. Place the second cake on the first and frost the entire cake, top and sides.
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