The ultimate devil’s food cake (or any cake, for that matter) to me is the legendary Bill Knapp’s Chocolate Cake.

Bill Knapp’s was a regional chain in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana when I was growing up, and on your birthday you got a free slice of their unbelievable chocolate cake. The cake was light and fluffy, and the frosting was thick and rich with tons chocolate flavor. You could get a slice anytime of course, not just on your birthday, and one of their signature desserts was a slice of this cake floating in a pool of chocolate syrup, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I remember my dad and I both ordering it and smiling at each other across the table as we dug in. I think they also had a vanilla cake, but I don’t know a single person who has ever had a serving of it. Bill Knapp’s restaurant closed its doors for the last time in 2002, but they sold their recipes to a local commercial bakery, so there are a few retail outlets in the Midwest where you can score a birthday cake, you lucky dogs. Or you could hand over big bucks to have it shipped overnight in dry ice, which I may or may not have done at

I scoured the internet for copycat recipes and came up with nothing except the same recipe over and over, which called for the frosting to be made with almost an entire bottle of Karo syrup. I tried it, for science, and you should NOT try it.  I’m offended by the recipe, to be honest.

So maybe I can’t get a slice of the real thing anytime I want, but this devil’s food cake with milk chocolate frosting is pretty darn close, and maybe once a year I’ll spring for the genuine article, just for old times’ sake.

Devil’s Food Cake

I box Devil’s Food Cake Mix (I used Duncan Hines)
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and mix on low for 1 minute, until everything is well incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and mix for another 2 minutes on medium. Transfer to baking pan(s). Follow directions on the box for baking time.

Milk Chocolate Frosting

4 Hershey Bars, chopped
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup heavy cream
Pinch of kosher salt

Melt Hershey bars in the microwave, 20 or 30 seconds at a time, mixing in between, until completely melted. Set aside to cool.  Place butter in the bowl of a mixer and beat on low until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl and add powdered sugar. Beat on low and scrape down the sides once completely incorporated. While the mixer is on low, add the cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and add the cooled chocolate as the mixer runs on low. Add a pinch of kosher salt. Once everything is uniformly combined, turn up the mixer speed to medium for 2 minutes. Frost cake as desired.

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