I consider this the perfect recipe for devil's food cake because the layers come out springy and have an intense chocolate taste that is not too sweet. I tested many different recipes for devil's food cake, and many of them were surprisingly light in both chocolate flavor and color. This one, though, reminds me of the 1950s layer cakes sold at country fairs, bakeries, drugstores, and diners. It is made by the two-stage method, and I think it is what cake mixes try to emulate.
1-1/2 cups (7 ounces) cake flour
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F (175°C). Lightly grease and flour two 8 x 1.5-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment or greased and floured waxed paper circles. Tap out excess flour.
Sift the flour with the cocoa, baking soda, and salt twice into a mixing bowl. Add the vegetable shortening to the sifted ingredients. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat for 1 minute, or until the ingredients are combined and the fat is broken down into small pieces. Add the sugar and blend with a fork until combined.
Drizzle 1/2 the milk into the flour and beat on low speed for 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Combine the remaining milk with the eggs and vanilla and, with the beaters running on low speed, slowly add this to the batter in three additions. Scrape down the beaters and sides of the bowl and beat for 1 minute longer or until velvety smooth.
Transfer the batter (it will be runny) to the prepared pans. Rap the pans sharply a couple of times on the counter to break up any large air bubbles. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake begins to shrink from the sides of the pan and a tester inserted in the center comes out dry.
Remove the cakes from the oven and cool them in their pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Run a table knife or a spatula around the cakes to loosen them from the sides of the pan so they don't tear as they shrink during cooling. Finish cooling the cakes to room temperature in their pans.
Unmold and peel off the paper circles just before frosting, and frost when the layers are completely cool.
Yield: Makes one 8-inch, 2- or 4-layer cake, Serves 12
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