A rich, moist, classic, and completely from-scratch homemade Chocolate Cake Recipe! Surprisingly simple, this cake is fudgy and full of decadent chocolate flavor (thanks to key ingredients like buttermilk and brown sugar). I like to frost this cake with a silky chocolate buttercream, but include other frosting options for you in the recipe!
The Only Homemade Chocolate Cake Recipe You’ll Ever Need
This chocolate cake is not new to the blog. I originally published it over two years ago after a ton of trial and error… a ton. In fact, it took me almost 5 months of failed cakes and frustration to perfect this homemade chocolate cake recipe.
And after many, many, many disappointing cakes, it was clear from the first fudgy forkful that this one was a winner. In fact, it’s one of my proudest creations on the blog to-date, and I even used it as the base for my German Chocolate Cake.
Today I’m bringing it back with more notes and helpful tips, but the recipe remains unchanged (because there’s no need to mess with perfection!). This chocolate cake has already earned a fair number of 5 star ratings, but I’d love to hear what you think! Leave me a comment and a rating once you try it out (please!).
Frosting: So Many Choices!
I frosted this cake with my favorite, silky smooth chocolate frosting. In my opinion a good chocolate cake needs a good (decadent) chocolate frosting, and this one is it. Chocolate lovers… you can thank me later.
However, if you’re looking for something a little different I included a few other options in the recipe. Two of my favorite options would be my Cream Cheese Frosting or Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Or maybe the Peanut Butter Frosting (because peanut butter and chocolate!) or Oreo frosting… so many options!
How to Make Chocolate Cake Moist
Each ingredient in this chocolate cake recipe was carefully chosen to make for a moist chocolate cake.
- Buttermilk gives this cake a great flavor but also keeps it soft and moist. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can use my easy buttermilk substitute instead.
- A blend of butter and oil gives us a cake with great flavor that’s also moist. Don’t substitute the oil for butter or your cake will come out dry, and don’t substitute the butter for oil or you’ll lose some of that great butter flavor!
- An extra egg yolk contributes to the tender, melt-in-your-mouth crumb.
- Brown sugar combined with white granulated sugar is also key. The molasses in the brown sugar adds to the flavor and, surprise, makes the cake moist.
Another way to keep this chocolate cake moist is to take care that you do not over-bake it. Make sure that your oven temperature isn’t running hotter than it is leading you to believe (I keep two thermometers in my oven to make sure the temperature is accurate), as an oven that’s too hot will over-bake your cake in your hurry and it will come out dry and crumbly.
How to Make Chocolate Cake
Chocolate cake really doesn’t get much easier than this. I’ll often use my stand mixer to make this batter, but doing it by hand is absolutely an option. Simply:
- Whisk together your dry ingredients (including your sugar and brown sugar).
- Add wet ingredients (minus hot coffee) and stir until well-combined. OK now once wet and dry ingredients are combined you can add your hot coffee. Stir carefully (don’t splash yourself!) and make sure all ingredients are well-combined.
- Pour into two round cake pans that have been lightly greased and floured (or sprayed with baking spray) and make sure you line the bottoms with parchment paper first! Your cakes will never stick if you follow this step!
- Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
When checking to see that my chocolate cake is finished baking, I do the “toothpick test” mentioned above.
However, I really look for the toothpick to come out with a few moist crumbs (not with wet batter, they should distinctly be crumbs) and not to come out completely clean. The cake will continue to bake in its pans while it’s cooling, so if the toothpick comes out completely clean then you run the risk of the cake over-baking and drying out while it’s cooling. We want a moist chocolate cake, so look for crumbs!
Do I have to use Coffee in this Recipe?
No, actually you can use hot water instead. However, it is important that you use a hot liquid, whether coffee or water. The reason for this is that the hot water will “bloom” your cocoa powder, fully developing the chocolate flavor in this cake.
Now here’s why I recommend using coffee: It won’t make your cake taste like coffee but it will enhance the chocolate flavor. Since I’m not actually a coffee drinker I keep a jar of instant coffee in my house specifically for this chocolate cake recipe — I just dissolve a teaspoon of instant coffee into hot water before adding it to my batter.
For a strong coffee flavor, frost the cake with my coffee frosting, instead.
Can I use this recipe to make Cupcakes?
You can, but I’ve found that this chocolate cake recipe is so moist that the cupcakes sometimes try to just fall apart, and you really need a fork to eat them. Because of this, if you’re looking for a good chocolate cupcake recipe I really recommend trying my easy chocolate cupcake recipe instead.
If you still want to make cupcakes, this recipe will make about 22-24 cupcakes. Fill each cupcake liner no more than ⅔ of the way full and bake on 350F (175C) for 16-18 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, they’re incredible, just make sure to keep a fork handy 😉
Can I substitute Self Rising Flour or Cake Flour?
I do not recommend substituting self rising flour for this recipe. Self rising flour contains baking powder and salt and this recipe already has its leaveners and salt accounted for. I can’t guarantee results if you try the cake this way.
As for cake flour, I’ve never used it with this chocolate cake because it simply has never been necessary and I don’t often keep cake flour on hand. I specifically developed this recipe to work with all purpose flour and deliver a soft, moist, and stable but not at all dry crumb. If you try it with cake flour I’d love to hear how it works for you, though!
Can I Freeze This Chocolate Cake?
Yes, you can freeze the layers (after they’ve cooled completely) by wrapping them very well with plastic wrap and then freezing. The cake may also be frozen after it’s frosted. To do this I would place your cake in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes or until the frosting is firm, remove it and wrap very well and then return to the freezer. This cake may be frozen for up to a month.
More Cake Recipes to Try:
Enjoy! I’d love to hear how this recipe works for you!
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The BEST Chocolate Cake Recipe
- 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour (205g)
- 1 cup brown sugar packed (200g)
- 1 cup sugar (200g)
- ¾ cup natural cocoa powder (I do not recommend substituting Dutch processed) (75g)
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted (113g)
- ½ cup canola oil (may substitute vegetable oil) (118ml)
- 2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk room temperature preferred
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk¹ (236ml)
- ½ cup hot coffee² (or 1 teaspoon instant coffee dissolved into ½ cup hot water) (118ml)
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and prepare two deep 8" round cake pans⁴ by lining the bottoms with parchment paper and lightly greasing and flouring the sides. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, whisk together flour, sugars, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Add melted butter and oil, stir well.
- Add eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Pause occasionally to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl.
- Stir in vanilla extract. Gradually add buttermilk and stir well.
- Add hot coffee, stirring until ingredients are well-combined (be sure to scrape sides and bottom of bowl again).
- Evenly divide batter between prepared pans. Bake on 350F (175C) for 35-40 minutes (toothpick inserted in center should come out with moist crumbs).
- Allow to cool for 15 minutes before inverting onto cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate chips at 15 second intervals, stirring between intervals, until chips are completely melted. Set aside and allow to cool slightly (about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally).
- Cream room temperature butter with an electric mixer. Stir in slightly cooled chocolate and beat well.
- Gradually add sugar, scraping down the sides and bottom of bowl occasionally.
- Sprinkle in salt and vanilla extract, stir well.
- Gradually add heavy cream, increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute.
- Spread a thick layer of frosting over the top of one cake round and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips. Top with second cake round and evenly frost cake. Slice and serve.
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
- Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Peanut Butter Frosting
- Vanilla Frosting
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
Recipe originally published 02/27/2017.