This black velvet cake is made with one-bowl chocolate cake and fluffy chocolate-hazelnut buttercream! It’s rich, moist, pitch black, and the ultimate Halloween party dessert. Even better, it comes together super quickly and doesn’t use food coloring. It’s a chocolate lover’s dream cake!

Black velvet cake with witch decorations on a marble and wood cake stand next to slices of cake and candles with a grey and dark green background.

Ok, how excited are we for Halloween?! It’s one of my favorite holidays so I’m actually pretty bummed that spooky season is coming to an end. We spent all weekend dressing up and going to all the Halloween parties and events with our friends. I dressed up as a kitty, drank a bit too much gin (oops), roller skated, ate tacos, and danced to a lot of emo music. It was the coolest!

But maybe the best part was, after coming home and scrubbing way to much makeup off my face, I’d get in my sweats and settle down with a slice of black velvet cake while watching New Girl re-runs. Here’s the thing. The only cure for being absolutely exhausted but needing to work off some booze is a big old slice of chocolate cake. It soaks everything up and you only have a tiny headache in the morning. But it’s totally worth it for chocolate bliss. Plus, you feel a little spooky cause it’s black velvet which is real festive. Anyways, you need to make it for your Halloween parties. It’s a total showstopper, everyone will love it!

What is black velvet cake?

Ok we need to chat about this cake because it’s one of my new favorites! Black velvet cake is right in-between red velvet cake and a super rich, midnight chocolate cake. It’s made very similarly to classic red velvet and even has buttermilk to give us that light, moist texture. But, it doesn’t have any food coloring and we’re using more cocoa powder than typical red velvet. The cake isn’t quite as dense or rich as regular chocolate cake. It’s amazing!

Black cocoa is the secret to this gorgeous dessert. Because it’s heavily alkalized, it’s less acidic and has less fat than the cocoa powder you’d find in most American grocery stores. The result is a cake that’s perfectly sweet, with a deep chocolate (but not bitter) flavor. Almost like an Oreo. Trust me, I’m not a huge fan of chocolate and this black velvet is one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever eaten!

Ingredients for chocolate cake in grey and white bowls on a grey counter.

The ingredients

  • Black cocoa – this is the key ingredient to getting a naturally-colored black cake!
  • Buttermilk – this will give us that light, tender crumb. I typically make my own. To make buttermilk, just add 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Then, add whole milk up until the 1 cup fill line. Whisk with a fork and let it sit for 10 minutes before you add it to the recipe.
  • Chocolate hazelnut spread – for the frosting! Nutella is the most common, but I’ve found some artisan brands that would be delicious too.
  • Baking basics – sugar, canola oil, eggs, vanilla extract, all-purpose flour, baking soda, unsalted butter, powdered sugar, Kosher salt, and whole milk.

Where can I find black cocoa powder?

Black cocoa powder is a specialty ingredient that usually isn’t sold in-stores. Typically, I just order it off of Amazon to keep things easy. I used this brand which worked perfectly and tasted amazing. Depending on where you live, you might be able to find black cocoa in specialty food stores!

Alternatives to black cocoa

If you don’t have time to order black cocoa, you can use either Dutch-processed or regular cocoa instead. I would go with Dutch-processed because it’s more similar to the black version. The color won’t be as dark but it will still have the same taste and texture! You can usually find Dutch-processed cocoa powder at Sprouts, Whole Foods, or World Market. Also, if you want to get the black color, you can always add food-coloring (natural if possible so it doesn’t affect the taste)!

How to make this Halloween cake

Black velvet cake is a dream situation if you like a super easy, quick, one-bowl situation. This cake is foolproof and super un-fussy. I’ve seriously been making it for 10 years and it comes out super delicious every single time!

The cake

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, buttermilk, canola oil, eggs, and vanilla extract.
  2. Next, add the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir just until the batter forms.
  3. Then, divide the batter between 3 prepared 6-inch cake pans. Bake just until an inserted toothpick has a few moist crumbs on it. Let the cakes cool completely.

The frosting

  1. In a bowl, beat the butter and chocolate-hazelnut spread until smooth. Add the black cocoa and mix just until combined.
  2. Next, add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until a thick buttercream forms. Add a pinch of salt and a few tablespoons of milk until you get your desired texture.
  3. Whip the buttercream for 2-3 minutes until it’s nice and fluffy. The buttercream will get lighter when you beat it, but don’t worry. It will get darker the longer it sits!

Assemble the cake

  1. If necessary, level the domes off the top of the cake layers. Stack the cake, spreading an even layer of buttercream in-between each cake round.
  2. Next, frost the outside of the cake using an offset spatula or butter knife. If you want smooth sides, use a bench scraper to even out the frosting.
  3. Add decorations if desired. Slice and enjoy with coffee or milk!

Storing, freezing, & make-ahead

To store the leftover cake, wrap it well and let it sit at room-temperature for 2-3 days. After a few days, it’ll start to get stale. Try not to place the cake in the fridge or it’ll dry out!

If you want to freeze the cake, just wrap the unfrosted cake rounds well with plastic or beeswax wrap and set them in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 2 months. The frosting can be made and refrigerated up to 5 days in advance. Let it come to room-temperature before you frost the cake.

The cake itself can be made a day in advance! If you need longer, I would recommend just freezing the layers and frosting them the day before you want to serve the cake.

Decoration ideas

When it comes to decorating cakes, I love an easy option which is why I went with these cute witches! Of course, you can get as crazy with it as you’d like. Or, if you’re not making this for Halloween, you can just frost and leave it as-is. Here’s some of my favorite ways to decorate a Halloween black velvet cake!

  • Paper witches – I found these paper witches on Etsy and then just taped them to pieces of thin wire. Then, I bent them around and stuck them in randomly for a fun effect!
  • Sprinkles – Halloween sprinkles on the sides would be so cute.
  • Shimmer powder – another way to add a little spookiness. Edible shimmer powder would be gorgeous on the outside of this cake.
  • Piping – use a piping bag and tips to add some cool frosting designs.
A black velvet cake with witch decorations on a marble cake stand next to a black linen, cake server, and candles with a grey and green backdrop.

Helpful tools

You don’t need anything fancy to make this cake, but I definitely love having some tools on hand to make it easier!

  • 6-inch cake pans – you’ll need 3 cake pans, or you can make the layers in batches. You could also bake two 8-inch cake layers.
  • Parchment paper – lining the bottom of the cake pans is the best way to keep the cakes from sticking!
  • Bread knife – for leveling the cakes.
  • Offset spatula – to frost the cake. A butter knife will work too!
  • Bench scraper – this is my favorite tool for smoothing the outside of the cake.

A cupcake option

If you don’t want to slice and serve a cake, black velvet cupcakes are super easy! This recipe will make about 16 standard cupcakes. One batch of frosting will make enough to add a generous swirl to the tops of the cupcakes. If you want a thin layer of frosting, you can halve the buttercream recipe instead!

Can I make this cake gluten-free?

Totally! If you want a gluten-free cake option, just use a 1-to-1 gluten-free flour substitution. My personal favorite is Cup4Cup but any 1-to-1 substitution will work. Most chocolate-hazelnut spreads are gluten-free but I would check just in case!

Is this a high altitude recipe?

If you’ve been here for a while, you might know that many of my cake recipes are high altitude friendly! This is surprisingly one of my only non-high altitude recipes that still works here in Reno, which sits at about 4,500 feet. If you are at 4,500 feet or less, I wouldn’t adjust anything. The cake will still come out perfectly! If you live above 4,500 feet, you may need to play around with the baking soda a bit. Start by using 3/4-1 teaspoon and go down as necessary.

Recipe tips & tricks

  • Use black cocoa powder for the best flavor and texture. If you have time to hunt it down, I would highly recommend getting your hands on some!
  • Bring the ingredients to room-temperature before you start making this recipe. It will help everything mix together evenly and get a smooth batter.
  • Measure the flour and cocoa powder by fluffing it with a fork, scooping it into a measuring cup, and leveling it off (without packing it in). This will keep you from over-measuring and getting a dry cake!
  • Don’t over-mix the cake or it’ll come out tough and dry. Whisk it just until the batter comes together.
  • Use a bread knife to level the domes off of the baked cakes. This will get you those nice, even, pretty layers.
  • Chill the cake rounds for 20-30 minutes in the freezer before assembling the cakes. Since this cake is so light and moist, it’s a bit crumbly. Freezing the rounds will make it sooo much easier to frost the black velvet cake.
  • Use a piping bag to pipe an even layer of frosting in-between each cake round. Then, just use your offset spatula or butter knife to fill in the gaps.
A slice of black velvet cake on a green counter next to a black linen, cake stand, and candles.

More Halloween treats

Pumpkin Millionaire’s Shortbread
Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats with Pretzels & Dark Chocolate
Pumpkin Sage Cake with Brown Sugar Icing
Baked Apple Cider Donuts with Cardamom Sugar
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Masala Chai Buttercream

If you make this recipe, I would love it if you left a star rating and review! I read every single comment and love hearing what you think about my recipes. Thank you for supporting Sunday Table!


A slice of black velvet cake on a green table next to a cake stand, black linen, and candles.
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Halloween Black Velvet Cake

Yield: 8 slices
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 55 mins
This is one of my favorite cakes to make for Halloween (or any special occasion!). It's made with a moist, one-bowl chocolate cake and simple chocolate-hazelnut buttercream. This recipe is easy, light, fluffy, and totally gorgeous. It's the best black velvet cake ever!

Ingredients

Black Velvet Cake

  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 2/3 c canola oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 c black cocoa powder

Chocolate-Hazelnut Buttercream

  • 1 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 c chocolate-hazelnut spread
  • 4 c powdered sugar
  • 1/2 c black cocoa powder
  • 3-4 Tbs whole milk, plus more as needed
  • Pinch of Kosher salt

Equipment

  • 3 6-inch cake pans

Instructions 

Black Velvet Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease three 6-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, buttermilk, canola oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until smooth. Then, add the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Whisk just until the batter forms – don't over-mix!
  • Divide the batter evenly between the 3 cake pans (if you're using a scale, each should have about 315g of batter). Smooth with an offset spatula. Place the cake pans on a sheet pan.
  • Bake the cakes for 22-23 minutes, until an inserted toothpick has just a few moist crumbs on it. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 5 minutes. Then, use a knife to loosen the cakes from the sides of the pans. Carefully flip the cakes out of the pans and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Buttercream

  • In a large bowl, beat the butter and chocolate-hazelnut spread until it's light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the cocoa powder and mix until smooth.
  • Next, mix in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until a thick frosting forms. Add a pinch of salt and 3 Tablespoons of milk. Continue adding milk, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until you reach your desired texture. (The buttercream should be thick but spreadable.)
  • Whip the buttercream for 2-3 minutes until it's fluffy. Set aside.

Assembly

  • Using a serrated bread knife, cut the domes off of the tops of the cakes.
  • Place one cake round on a plate or cake stand. Spread a thick layer of frosting on top. Top with another cake round, add frosting to the second layer, and top with the third cake round until you have a three layer cake.
  • Frost the outside of the cake and use a bench scraper to smooth out the sides. Decorate as desired. Slice and enjoy with hot coffee or milk!

Notes

To make buttermilk, add 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Fill with whole milk up to the 8 ounce line. Whisk with a fork and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
You can also make a 2-layer 8-inch cake if you’d prefer.
This cake will make 8 thick or 12-16 thin slices.
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Serving: 1slice, Calories: 785kcal, Carbohydrates: 83.5g, Protein: 8.3g, Fat: 49.9g, Saturated Fat: 22.7g, Cholesterol: 104mg, Sodium: 569mg, Potassium: 450mg, Fiber: 4.8g, Sugar: 58g, Calcium: 92mg, Iron: 4mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @sundaytable.co on Instagram!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day – I Put a Spell on You by CCR