Six Layer Chocolate Cake with Caramel Icing

This multi-layer confection is designed for special occasions.

This cake is by far the most requested dessert at Chef and the Farmer, and although it appears on the menu only a few months every year, our staff bubbles with excitement every time it returns. Kim Adams, our pastry chef, developed the 10-layer spectacle years ago to fill our menu’s need for a killer chocolate dessert, and despite many attempts, I don’t think we’ve ever topped its moist almost sticky layers glazed in caramel. 

We started with the idea of an old school caramel cake, a showpiece type of confection made up of sometimes more than 15 very thin white layers. This dessert was meant for church auctions or noteworthy birthdays—it’s not everyday stuff. I remembered the caramel icing glazed each layer and hardened over top almost like magic shell. It was toothache-sweet and unforgettable. Since a toothache is not the last impression I want people to leave Chef and the Farmer with, we decided to temper the sweetness with chocolate—not super-sweet chocolate, but a deep, rich bitter one.

For baking cake layers, the convection bake setting on your oven is the best for ensuring they come out evenly.  A lot of people have convection settings on their oven and they don’t even know what they do. The convection setting means that there is a fan in the back of your oven that circulates heat all throughout the cavity while you bake or roast something. The convection setting allows you to cook things a little faster and more evenly than just a regular, thermal oven that radiates heat from the top and the bottom only. The constant air circulation of the convection setting allows the center cake layers to cook through without the edges drying out; making them perfect every time. 


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Six Layer Chocolate Cake with Caramel Icing

"This dessert was meant for church auctions or noteworthy birthdays—it’s not everyday stuff." - Vivian Howard

Servings: 8



Cocoa Syrup:

2 cups granulated sugar

4 cups hot water

2 tablespoons cocoa powder


Chocolate Filling:

1 ½ cups heavy cream

12 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate

3 tablespoons light corn syrup

4 ½ tablespoons butter


Caramel Frosting:

2 ½ cups light brown sugar

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons corn syrup

2 teaspoons lemon juice

8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter, room temperature


Devil’s Food Cake:

4 cups sugar

½ pound butter, room temperature

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup cocoa powder

4 ½ cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups boiling water


For the syrup:

Whisk all ingredients together until dissolved. Refrigerate syrup if you are not planning on making the rest of the cake immediately.

For the filling:

Heat cream until it just begins to boil. Meanwhile, put all other ingredients into a bowl. Pour hot cream over top and let it sit for one minute, then stir until smooth. This can also be held in the refrigerator if not being used immediately.

For the frosting:

Combine brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and corn syrup in a large saucepan to prevent mixture from bubbling up and boiling over. Heat mixture until it is boiling rapidly and allow it to boil for one to two minutes. Remove from heat and pour into the bowl of your stand mixer (or mixing bowl if you are using a hand mixer). Add lemon juice and mix with the whisk attachment on low speed. Gradually add butter a little at a time until it is fully incorporated. Then, change the speed to high and whip until it looks like icing. It should be thick and shiny.

For the cake:

A good rule of thumb when you’re using the convection setting on your oven is to be sure to set the oven temperature 25 degrees lower than what the recipe calls for. Keep the bake time the same.

Preheat oven to 350°F (or 325°F when using the convection setting). Put sugar and room temperature butter in the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a mixing bowl if using a hand mixer). Using the paddle attachment, cream sugar and butter on medium speed until it is blended together and smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in the buttermilk and add to the mixture. Add cocoa, flour, baking powder, salt, and water. Pour evenly into three cake pans that have been greased with butter or a non-stick spray such as Baker’s Joy. Place on the middle rack of your oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake. Once the cakes have cooled slightly, run a butter knife or offset spatula around the edge and turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack or clean towel to cool completely. Once the three cakes have cooled, use a long, serrated knife to divide each layer in half at its equator, similarly to how you would cut a bagel. This should leave you with six round layers, which are all the same thickness. 

Assembling the Cake:

Before beginning the assembly, allow your cocoa syrup and chocolate fudge to come to room temperature (if they have been refrigerated). Gently warm caramel icing in a sauce pan so that it will be a manageable consistency. Place your first layer of cake on a platter or cake stand. Using a pastry brush, gently apply a moderate amount of the syrup to the top of the layer. Next, add chocolate fudge and spread it evenly using an offset spatula. Add the second layer of cake and make sure it is situated evenly. Repeat the same process with the cocoa syrup, but this time spoon on some of the caramel frosting and spread it evenly. Repeat process, alternating the chocolate fudge and caramel frosting, until you get to the last layer. As long as you have put the layers and fillings in the correct order, the last layer should be topped with the remaining caramel icing. Pour it over the center of the cake and allow it to cascade down the sides.


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