Looking for the perfect Halloween cake?? Look no further than this black cocoa cake covered in black cocoa buttercream and topped with marshmallow spiderwebs and ghost meringues!
I like making layer cakes over the course of 2 days for the best results! So day 1 I'll make the cake layers and little ghost meringue cookies! Then day 2 I'll make the black cocoa buttercream and assemble/decorate the cake!
You just need a few simple ingredients to make this fun black cocoa layer cake!
- Cake flour - I always use cake flour in my cakes because it makes them super soft and tender, but all purpose flour also works great!
- Black cocoa - Black cocoa is one of my favorite secret ingredients! Black cocoa is just cocoa powder that has been heavily dutched (meaning the acidity has been neutralized), so it gives you a rich black color but doesn't stain! You don't have to use black cocoa powder for this cake, but regular cocoa just won't give you the same fun effect, so I highly recommend it! I like both the King Arthur Flour Black Cocoa or the Modern Mountain Company Black Cocoa!
- Brewed espresso - I like using a small amount of espresso in the cake to help deepen the chocolate flavor! But it's completely optional! Just replace with milk.
- Marshmallows - To make the fun spiderwebs on the side of the cake, you just need melted marshmallows! Store-bought marshmallows work best for this cake!
- Ghost Meringues - These little ghost meringue cookies are the star of the cake! They're adorable and super easy to make!
The complete list of ingredients and amounts is located in the recipe card below.
How to Make Three Layer Cake
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Whisk the flour, black cocoa, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk the melted butter, eggs, sugar, and, vanilla together until combined.
Stir in about half of the flour mixture and the brewed espresso. Then stir in the milk and the remaining flour mixture and mix until fully combined.
Evenly spray each cake pan with an oil based pan spray (I don't recommend butter as the butter solids can cause the cake to stick to the pan).
Pour ⅓ of the batter into each cake pan (they will only be about half full).
Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Place a cooling rack on top of each cake pan and invert. The pan should slide cleanly away.
Let the cakes cool completely to room temperature before trimming.
Once the cakes are fully cooled. Using a sharp bread knife, trim the cakes until the layers are even. Wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap and place in the freezer overnight.
Note: trimming is not always necessary! These cake layers cook up very evenly, so you may not need to trim at all!
Remove cake layers from the freezer. Place the bottom layer of cake on your cake stand and spread about ¼ of the black cocoa buttercream on top and smooth into an even layer.
Then top with the next layer and repeat. Place the final cake layer upside down so that the top of your cake is as even as possible.
Smooth the rest of the buttercream on the top and sides of your cake as desired.
How to Make Marshmallow Spiderwebs
Marshmallow spiderwebs are simple to make but they are super messy!
All you have to do is place the marshmallows in a microwave safe bowl (I prefer glass) and microwave for 10-20 seconds. Note the marshmallows will be very hot! Stir the marshmallows until smooth and let cool for 1-2 minutes until you have a thick, stringy goop that is no longer hot to touch.
There are two options for spreading the marshmallows on the cake:
- Use two forks to pull strings of the melted marshmallow and drizzle around the sides of the black cocoa cake.
- Wearing disposable vinyl gloves, use your hands to spread the marshmallows around the sides.
Just remember, this is messy!
Then top with the little meringue ghost cookies!
How To Get Perfect Cake Layers
There are a few tricks that will help you get perfect, even layers for your black cocoa cake!
First, you need good nonstick cake pans and pan spray. I use three 6×2 inch Fat Daddio’s layer cake pans and I love them!! It's super important to get actual layer cake pans because the sides are perfectly straight! It's a little annoying because this means you can't stack them, but your layers will have perfect sides! With just a tiny bit of pan spray, the cakes just slide right out and never stick! For pan spray, I love both Everbake Pan Spray and Baker's Joy!
Next, is trimming your cake. This can be a little tricky, but it's super easy once you do it a couple times. Let the cakes cool completely to room temperature, then take a large bread knife and very carefully slice off the very top of the cake so that you have a perfectly even layer. I like using a big bread knife because it's sharp, serrated, and long enough to go through the entire layer at one time.
And of course freezing the layers! So after you've let the cake layers cool completely and trimmed them. Wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap in place in the freezer overnight. Don't take them out until right before you start assembling the cake! This allows the frosting to slide on smoothly and prevents any crumbs from getting in the frosting.
Cake Decorating Tips
- I absolutely love my rotating cake stand! I hesitated buying one for a long time, but it really does make getting nice, even frosting so much easier!
- My must have tools for frosting cakes are an offset spatula and an icing smoother. Both are super helpful in achieving that perfect, smooth outside frosting.
- I use a 6 inch cake board to transfer my cakes from the turning caking stand, to the stand I like to photograph with.
- The best thing about this black cocoa layer cake is that the frosting doesn't have to be perfect because you'll cover it with the melted marshmallows!
Tips for the Best Baked Goods
Use room temperature ingredients! Always make sure ingredients like butter, eggs, milk, yogurt, etc. are at room temperature before baking (unless the recipe indicates otherwise)! This ensures they'll incorporate into the batter more easily and leads to overall better texture. Remove all ingredients from the fridge 30 minutes to an hour before baking for best results.
Measure your flour correctly! It's most accurate to use a kitchen scale, but if you're measuring by volume you want to spoon and level! Fluff up the flour a bit with a spoon, and then spoon flour into the measuring cup. Once it's overflowing, use the back of a knife to level it off. Don't ever pack flour into the measuring cup or you'll end up with way too much! Improperly measured flour can lead to dry, dense baked goods. [Measure cocoa powder the same way!]
Use an oven thermometer! Just because your oven says it's 350, doesn't mean it is! If you oven hasn't been calibrated recently, it can be as much as 30 degrees off, which will negatively affect all baked goods from cakes to macarons! An oven thermometer is the easiest/cheapest way to ensure your oven is always at the proper temperature.
Make sure you baking powder is fresh! Baking powder is important for helping baked goods rise properly, but it has a relatively short shelf life once opened, so it's one of the few items I never buy in bulk! To test if your baking powder is still fresh, add a small amount to boiling water. If it bubbles it's still good to use, but if not it's time to toss it!
Yes!! The chocolate cake layers can be made and frozen up to a month in advance! Wrap the layers indivuvally with plastic wrap, and then seal in a freezer safe bag for the best results.
This recipe is designed for 3 six inch cake pans. But it will also work with 2 eight inch cake pans.
Tips for Success!
For best results I always recommend using weight measurements (especially when baking) because it's the most accurate. Kitchen scales are super affordable and also reduce the number of dishes you have to do! However, all my recipes also include US customary measurements for convince. Use this chart to convert measurements for common ingredients!
Substitutions: In all my recipes, I've included substitutions that I know will work, but I cannot guarantee results if you substitute ingredients that I have not recommended. [For example, granulated sugar and honey are indeed both sweeteners but they have very different properties so they can not always be swapped 1:1. Using honey in a cookie recipe that calls for granulated sugar will yield a giant mess.] In the recipe card you'll find links to the specific ingredients/brands that I use.
A note on salt: I almost exclusively use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt because it's the best all-purpose salt for cooking and baking. If you're not using kosher salt, consult this handy guide for a conversion chart! When in doubt, if you're using table salt just reduce the amount by half for baked goods. When cooking, I prefer to under-salt because you can always add more! If you've over-salted, adding a little bit of acid (like lemon juice) can help.
More Halloween Recipes
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Black Cocoa Halloween Layer Cake
Black Cocoa Frosting
- 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup black cocoa powder
- 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 cup marshmallows, melted
- ghost meringue cookies
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Whisk the flour, black cocoa, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the melted butter, eggs, sugar, and, vanilla together until combined.
- Stir in about half of the flour mixture and the brewed espresso. Then stir in the milk and the remaining flour mixture and mix until fully combined.
- Evenly spray each cake pan with an oil based pan spray (I don't recommend butter as the butter solids can cause the cake to stick to the pan).
- Pour ⅓ of the batter into each cake pan (they will only be about half full).
- Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Place a cooling rack on top of each cake pan and invert. The pan should slide cleanly away.
- Once the cakes are fully cooled. Using a sharp bread knife, trim the cakes until the layers are even. Wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap and place in the freezer overnight.
Black Cocoa Buttercream
- In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the room temperature butter and powdered sugar until smooth.
- Add in the black cocoa powder and milk until fully combined.
- Beat the frosting on high for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy.
- All you have to do is place the marshmallows in a microwave safe bowl (I prefer glass) and microwave for 10-20 seconds. Note the marshmallows will be very hot! Stir the marshmallows until smooth and let cool for 1-2 minutes until you have a thick, stringy goop that is no longer hot to touch.
- Remove cake layers from the freezer. Place the bottom layer of cake on your cake stand and spread about ¼ of the black cocoa buttercream on top and smooth into an even layer.
- Then top with the next layer and repeat. Place the final cake layer upside down so that the top of your cake is as even as possible.
- Smooth the rest of the buttercream on the top and sides of your cake as desired.
- Use two forks to pull strings of the melted marshmallow and drizzle around the sides of the black cocoa cake. (Or wearing disposable vinyl gloves, use your hands to spread the marshmallows around the sides).
- Then top with the little meringue ghost cookies!
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.