In this article, I am going to explore the history behind the Devil’s food cake in particular, but first, I will answer the burning question: Which came first, Devil’s Food cake or Angel’s food cake?
In other words, is the Devil’s food cake the chocolate version of Angel’s food? Did someone invent either one intentionally to oppose the other?
Which came first?
Angel’s food cake came first.
Angel’s Food Cake has been around since at least the 1880’s. It was also called simply ‘Angel’s Cake.’
The first recorded recipe for Devil’s Food cake did not appear until 1902.
Is Devil’s Food cake a chocolate version of Angel’s food cake?
Angel’s Food cake is a sponge cake made with no fat and which uses egg whites to fluff the cake up. Devil’s Food cake is a dense, rich, decidedly high-fat chocolate cake.
So, it is not a chocolate version of Angel’s Food cake; it’s too different.
But, why is it called devil’s food cake? Was it named purposely because of the existence of the Angel’s Food cake, because it was so “devilish” in comparison?
Some say yes. And, this may have been part of the reason for the name. But, there was a much more practical reason.
Keep in mind that the word “devil” had already been in use in regards to food. There were already deviled eggs, and Underwood company had already been selling its Deviled Ham for years.
The word ‘deviled’ basically seems to have been used to describe any spiced up or peppery food. Whether this had anything to do with Devil’s Food cake is hard to say.
However, despite cookbooks insisting that a Devil’s Food cake is a specific recipe, and that is richer, darker, more chocolatey than a regular chocolate cake, it really is just a chocolate cake.
Devil’s Food Cake History
When I was a child, my favorite cake, was a chocolate cake. I would ask for chocolate cake on my birthday.
But, to me, a chocolate cake, was a yellow cake with CHOCOLATE FROSTING. You’ll still come across people who call a white or yellow cake with chocolate frosting a chocolate cake.
Even when chocolate became available to bakers, it took a while before it was anything more than a drink, suitable for ‘hot chocolate’ and not much else. There were no smooth melting chocolates available at first.
Then, it found its way into frosting. So, in the late 1800’s a ‘chocolate cake’ was a yellow cake with chocolate frosting!
See, I didn’t make it up, it was a holdover that was still extant where I lived in the rural South.
As cooks began using chocolate in the actual cake batter, they had a problem, especially if they wanted to print the recipe in a cookbook. If a chocolate cake was a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, cooks would be confused by this newfangled chocolate batter cake, and Chocolate Batter Cake is surely not a good name. A new name was needed.
Although we don’t know who first used the name, and although it may have been a play on the already existing Angel’s food cake, the name Devil’s Food was probably born out of practical need.
And, since ‘chocolate cake’ before this had been not so chocolaty, well, this new cake was devilishly rich and chocolaty in comparison.
So, there you have it.