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a sliced blaack buttercream cake on a white cake stand with slices on white plates below
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5 from 3 votes

Day of the Dead Black Buttercream Cake

This showstopper Day of the Dead Black Buttercream Cake was inspired by the Dia de los Muertos celebration of remembrance of ancestors and loved ones.  It's perfect for anyone who thinks they can't decorate a cake because there is no difficulty piping involved!
Prep Time2 hrs
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time2 hrs 20 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 16 people
Calories: 692kcal
Author: Amy Nash

Ingredients

White Cake

  • 4 large egg whites room temperature
  • 1 large egg room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
  • 3 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plus 3 tablespoons cake flour*
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 12 Tablespoons butter cubed, room temperature

Black Buttercream

  • 2 cups butter room temperature
  • 7 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 Tablespoons whole milk room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons black gel food coloring

Instructions

For the cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lin the bottoms of three 8-inch round baking pans with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. 
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg whites, egg, buttermilk, and vanilla.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  
  • Add the butter one piece at a time, while the mixer is running on low speed, waiting 10 seconds between each addition. 
  • Once all the butter is added, pour in the buttermilk and egg mixture in 3 batches, mixing on medium-low speed between each addition for about 1 minute and scraping the sides of the bowl.  The batter should be light and fluffy.  Once all of the liquid has been added, fold the batter once or twice to make sure the batter at the bottom of the bowl is getting mixed in and mix for another 20 to 30 seconds more.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the pans.  If you have a kitchen scale, it will be about 16 ounces of batter for each 8-inch round baking pan.  
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean with just a few crumbs attached. 
  • Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes before inverting them onto cooling racks and removing the parchment paper from the bottoms.  Flip the cakes back over and cool completely on the wire racks.    
  • Level the tops of the cakes, if needed, before wrapping each cake layer with plastic wrap and chilling in the freezer for at least an hour before frosting. The cake layers can be made and frozen a few days before assembling a cake if they are wrapped once in plastic wrap.  If you are making them more than 2-3 days in advance, double wrap them in plastic wrap, then wrap in foil and seal in a freezer-safe ziptight bag.  

For the black buttercream

  • In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and light, about four minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle, then add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, salt, and vanilla extract and mix on low speed until the frosting comes together.  Increase the speed to high and beat for two minutes.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the black food coloring.  Beat again for 2 minutes, stopping and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl periodically to make sure the food coloring is evenly distributed.  The frosting will not be dark black at this point but more of a dark gray.  
  • The buttercream recipe can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use it, re-whip with your stand mixer.
  • Transfer the buttercream to an airtight container and stick it in the fridge overnight.  The next day, remove the buttercream from the fridge and let sit on the counter for at least an hour to warm up, then beat it back up in the stand mixer until it is a spreadable texture.  Then before spreading the buttercream on the cake layers, mix it by hand for a couple of minutes with a wooden spoon to get rid of air pockets.  
  • Use the black buttercream between the cake layers and to frost the outside, then decorate with sprinkles, flowers, and other Day of the Dead decorations.

Notes

Alternatively, you can divide the batter between four 6-inch round baking pans, instead of three 8-inch round baking pans if you want a taller cake.  You would want about 12 ounces of batter in each pan when dividing it into 4 layers before baking.
*I almost never have cake flour on hand so I always substitute all-purpose flour and cornstarch with good results.  For this recipe, I used 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour with 7 tablespoons of cornstarch.  
Recipe for the white cake layers from Cake by Courtney.

Nutrition

Calories: 692kcal | Carbohydrates: 96g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 97mg | Sodium: 618mg | Potassium: 164mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 75g | Vitamin A: 1023IU | Calcium: 113mg | Iron: 1mg