Pixelated Crumb

Three Layer Chocolate Cake With Marshmallow Frosting

Three Layer Chocolate Cake with Marshmallow Frosting

My dad’s birthday is only six days after mine and when I was growing up that meant that we always had two cakes at our big family birthday parties. There was one for me that was usually yellow Duncan Hines with chocolate frosting and then his, which was always, always a chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting. It’s his absolute favorite, and I have to say with good reason. It is one tasty cake.

Beating Marshmallow Frosting

There was a moment of crisis one year when my mom discovered that the mix she used to make the frosting was discontinued. We looked up a recipe for marshmallow frosting (known more traditionally as seven minute frosting – read the instructions and you’ll understand why) and I volunteered to make it. What a mistake. I found myself standing over a hot stove trying to whip the whites by hand over a pot of boiling water. It took forever and I had to trade off with my mom a couple of times. It was tedious and I wasn’t so sure I wanted to sign up for that again. But you know what? That’s why I registered for an electric hand mixer.

Marshmallow Frosting on Chocolate Cake

The electric handheld is certainly not my favorite kitchen utensil because I tend to make a mess and get frustrated with it. Sometimes I whip cream by hand simply because I don’t want to bother with the electric hand held and my KitchenAid Pro stand mixer is so heavy to lug out that it’s not worth it for small jobs. But oh what a difference the hand mixer makes for a job like this! The stove is still hot, but all you have to do is hold the mixer and it does all the hard work (ok, I have to admit I haven’t been to the gym in a little while and I got a little tired just holding the mixer…).

Spreading Marshmallow Frosting on Chocolate Cake

I’ve wanted to make this cake for my dad for a long time, so I was super excited that he was going to be in Boston for his birthday this year. The problem was that I kind of ran out of time to make it. First I didn’t have all the ingredients and then when I went out and got what I thought were all the ingredients I needed, I ran out of time. At 10:30 the night before his birthday, I found myself looking at the clock and trying to calculate what time I would be taking the cakes out of the oven and how long it would take for them to cool enough for me to throw them in the freezer, all the while keeping in mind that were meeting my parents at 9:15 the next morning to go to Sturbridge Village for the day. I went back and forth and back and forth and then finally admitted defeat and went to bed around midnight.

Spreading Marshmallow Frosting on Chocolate Cake

I awoke early the next morning thinking about how I hadn’t made the cake and what if something happened and this was my last chance to make him this cake I had been waiting so long to make for him (I inherited my Dad’s incredible aptitude for worrying). I would never be able to live with myself. There was no way I would be able to fall asleep again, so I decided I had just enough time to get up and make him the cake. I did not, however, calculate the 50 minutes it took me to get out of bed to actually start making the cake. And it wasn’t until I had weighed the flour and sugar that I realized I didn’t have nearly enough cocoa powder. Ugh. How did I let that slip? I stole a quick glance at the clock, decided there was no going back at this point and ran to the grocery store.

Chocolate Cake with Marshmallow Frosting

In the end, we were only half an hour late meeting my parents, the cakes were only slightly messed up from being taken out of the pans too early, and I was only slightly exhausted. What mattered most was that my dad absolutely loved the cake. Everyone did (except for Joseph who liked it just fine but doesn’t really like marshmallows and therefore doesn’t know what he’s talking about). They raved. They gushed. My dad sheepishly asked for more the next afternoon. It was absolutely 100% worth stressing out about and getting up at 6 am on a Sunday. All the same, I recommend you make this at a more reasonable time. No matter when you make it, you will be so very glad you did.

Chocolate Cake with Marshmallow Frosting

Three Layer Chocolate Cake with Marshmallow Frosting

Cake adapted from Gourmet via Smitten Kitchen Frosting also adapted from Gourmet via Smitten Kitchen

While this cake is so fantastic that you're going to want to make it for all your friends, just make sure they come to you because this cake doesn't travel very well. The frosting is a little slippery, so your cake may start to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It would probably be fine going across town (as long as your car is cool and it's out of the sunlight and you don't go over any bumps), but I wouldn't recommend taking it on a road trip. You shouldn't have any trouble getting the people to come to you if you make this.

I recommend planning better than I did this time around and make the cake layers at least the day before and freeze them (that way you're ahead of the game and the fragile layers are much easier to deal with). You can make the frosting four hours in advance and refrigerate if necessary, or just make it when you're ready to frost the cake. While the frosting will hold up a couple of days in the fridge, your best bet is to make the frosting and frost it the day you are serving it. The cake MUST be completely cool when you frost it.

Does the chocolate cake look familiar? That's because it's my favorite recipe and you may have seen it on Pixelated Crumb with ganache and raspberry sauce and with white cream cheese frosting.


For Chocolate Cake Layers

  • 3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
  • 1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla

For Marshmallow Frosting (Seven Minute Frosting)

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt


Make the Chocolate Cake Layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 300F and butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment and butter the paper.
  2. Finely chop the chocolate and place in a medium-sized nonreactive bowl. Pour the hot coffee over the chocolate and let the mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
  3. In a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add the sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.
  4. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes.
  5. Cool the layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove parchment paper and cool the layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature, or can be frozen for several days.
  6. Before frosting the cake, use a large serrated knife and carefully level off the top of each layer so they are completely flat.

Make the Marshmallow Frosting (Seven Minute Frosting)

  1. Combine all of the frosting ingredients in a large, nonreactive bowl (metal or glass) set over a saucepan of simmering water (keep in mind that the frosting grows considerably as you beat it, so you really do want a good sized bowl!). Beat with a handheld electric mixer at high speed until the frosting is thick and fluffy, about 7 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat until slightly cooled. Use frosting the day it is made and keep cake refrigerated until shortly before serving (allow the cake to warm up just slightly).