This deep and rich black velvet cake is the perfect dessert for Halloween. Its dark color is made using black cocoa, giving it a unique flavor unlike any other chocolate cake. Each layer is super moist and smothered in silky black cocoa buttercream, splattered with starry white food coloring, and topped with flying paper bats. You can dress it up or down, whether you’re making it for Halloween or just want a simple black velvet cake.
What is black velvet cake?
Black velvet cake is somewhere between a rich and moist red velvet cake and a deep, dark chocolate cake. The process of making it is very similar to red velvet cake, as it calls for a smaller amount of cocoa powder than a traditional chocolate cake but uses vinegar and buttermilk to create a really tender and light texture.
And the texture of black velvet cake is just that. It’s incredibly rich and moist, but without being too dense or heavy like chocolate cake can sometimes be.
The flavor is also very unique. Black cocoa powder is used to create the gorgeous dark color, giving it a really intense look and flavor. Black cocoa is heavily alkalized, which neutralizes its acidity. This treatment gives it a very dark color and a lower fat content. Traditional cocoa powder has a fat content around 20%, whereas black cocoa powder hits at about 10%.
Because of this, black cocoa powder has a very unique flavor that is deeper than dark chocolate. But it’s not bitter at all. It’s actually very smooth, but helps mellow out the sweetness of the cake.
Where to find black cocoa powder
It’s rare to find black cocoa powder in stores. That’s why I prefer to buy it online and I have the best luck with Amazon. I used this black cocoa powder and it worked very well. You may also be able to find it in specialty health food stores.
Black cocoa powder alternatives
If you don’t have time to wait for shipping, you could also use dutch processed cocoa powder. It’s slightly sweeter and lighter in color than black cocoa powder, but will yield the exact same texture. I find mine at Sprouts, World Market, or Whole Foods.
Tips for baking a soft and moist Halloween cake
The best part about this recipe is that it’s an oil-based cake. That means you can mix the entire cake by hand and it stays incredibly moist for days. To make sure it turns out just right, here are a few tips to follow:
- Allow your chilled ingredients to reach room temperature before mixing into the batter. This will give you a really smooth batter that bakes evenly.
- Don’t over-measure your dry ingredients. If you don’t have a food scale, always spoon your dry ingredients into a measuring cup and level it off with a flat edge. If you scoop directly into the flour or cocoa powder, this compacts it into the cup, leaving you with way too much.
- Careful not to over mix. As soon as the batter comes together, stop mixing. This will give you a tender and light cake, whereas over mixing will give you a tough and dense cake.
- Evenly distribute your batter into each cake pan. Try to get them as equal as possible. Otherwise, some layers will need to take longer to bake than others, or you’ll have a layer that will sink in the middle because it was over filled.
- Use cake strips if you have them. It’s not mandatory, but I always recommend using cake strips as they yield a very even bake all the way through to the center of the cake.
- Allow the cakes to cool completely before decorating. Let them chill for about an hour until they’re completely cooled all the way through. If you try decorating with a cake that’s even slightly warm, the buttercream will melt and the layers will slide all over the place.
How to decorate your cake for Halloween
Here comes the best part, the Halloween cake decorations! Of course, you can always just frost the cake and leave it at that, especially if you aren’t making this for Halloween. But if you choose to make these starry night bat decorations, here’s how to do so:
- Once the entire cake is frosting, place it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to partially set. You want the frosting to firm up enough to hold the cake together, but it should still be a bit tacky to allow the sprinkles to adhere.
- In a small dish, combine your white food coloring with a touch of water. Thinning it out makes a much more even splatter on the cake. Using a small and flat paint brush (one that’s clean and has never been used for paint), dip the tip into the food coloring. Don’t saturate the brush, as this will give you very large droplets on the cake. If you’re hesitant, smear some buttercream onto a plate and practice the splatter on there first. When you’re ready, hold the brush about an inch away from the side of the cake. Run your finger along the edge of the brush to flick the food coloring onto the cake. Repeat this process all around the cake.
- Next, take tiny pinches of the white sprinkles and toss them against the sides of the cake in a small but quick motion. Work with small pinches to prevent the sprinkles from rolling all around your kitchen. If they’re still going everywhere, place a large rimmed baking sheet under the cake to help catch the dropped sprinkles.
- Finally, stick in the bats. Using fine floral wire, cut 6 pieces about 6-7 inches in length. Stick the bats to the very end and then make a small loop at the other end (like how you attach a hook to a tree ornament). This loop prevents the bats from sagging to the side or sliding straight into the cake. Place the bats on top of the cake at staggered heights.
Now it’s time to slice and enjoy! If you plan on serving the cake at a later day, stop after the sprinkles and place the bats right before you’re ready to serve the cake. Otherwise, it’s more difficult to store the cake in the refrigerator with the bats sticking out of the top.
Cake I make this cake gluten free?
Although I haven’t tested it, I recommend replacing the flour with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 baking flour. If you prefer not to not risk it, I highly recommend baking the chocolate cake from my toasted coconut gluten free chocolate cake. Using dark chocolate cocoa powder, as the recipe suggests, will still give you a dark cake.
For more halloween dessert recipes, check out my:
- Full Moon Brownie Cupcakes
- Leftover Halloween Candy Cookie Bars
- Snickers Chocolate Caramel Tart
- Cookies & Cream Brownie Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Make sure to tag me @butternutbakery on Instagram and comment below if you make this Black Velvet Cake. To pin this recipe and save it for later, you can use the button on the recipe card or on any of the photos above. Happy baking!Print