One of my all time favorites, this is my moist, fudgy, and completely from-scratch chocolate cake recipe. It comes together in one bowl and pairs well with any frosting! Recipe includes a how-to video!
Why You’ll Love This Chocolate Cake Recipe
- One bowl recipe! We’re keeping it super simple here today, just like my yellow cake and my spice cake recipes!
- Basic ingredients. All-purpose flour, natural cocoa powder, and buttermilk (or my easy buttermilk substitute!) are as complicated as this gets.
- No mixer needed! While I often use my stand mixer to make this cake, mixing by hand is absolutely an option here.
- Adaptable: you can make a hefty two layer 8” cake or 9” cake, or you can do a 3-layer cake–instructions for this are in the printable recipe below!
- Very little chance of over-mixing. I use a version of the reverse creaming method, which means it’s highly unlikely (but not impossible!) to over-mix this batter.
A long-time favorite recipe
This chocolate cake recipe is not new to the blog. I originally published it several 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 recipe (not as bad as my macarons, but close!)!
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 and my Ding Dong 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!).
What You Need
Each ingredient in this chocolate cake recipe was carefully chosen to make for a moist and flavorful chocolate cake recipe.
- Buttermilk gives this cake depth of flavor and keeps it soft and moist. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can use my easy buttermilk substitute in a pinch–but real buttermilk is best!
- Oil and butter give us a moist cake with great flavor. This combination is especially important if you need to refrigerate your chocolate cake (which could dry out your cake). I originally used canola or vegetable oil in this recipe, but have learned avocado oil works just as well and this is my current go-to.
- An extra egg yolk contributes to the tender, fudgy, melt-in-your-mouth crumb. If you don’t want to waste your leftover egg white, save it to make some candied almonds.
- Cocoa powder. It’s important that you stick with natural cocoa powder here, since we are only using baking soda. Using dutch process cocoa could cause rising issues in this recipe.
- Hot water/coffee will “bloom” your cocoa powder, fully developing its flavor. Note that using coffee won’t make your chocolate cake taste like coffee, but it will enhance the chocolate taste even more than plain hot water would. On the other hand, if you really like coffee and want a coffee flavor, you can always frost this cake with my coffee frosting (I actually like to use the variation in that recipe to make a mocha frosting with this cake)!
SAM’S TIP: The best way to keep chocolate cake (or, any cake) moist is to 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.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Chocolate Cake
- Whisk the dry ingredients and sugars together in a large bowl.
- Stir in the butter and oil. The batter will be stiff at this stage–this is totally normal, just make sure all the dry ingredients are moistened.
- Add the eggs, extra yolk, and vanilla, then scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure everything is combining nicely.
- Gradually stir in the buttermilk. The batter will still be pretty thick here, but it will get a lot thinner with the next step!
- Pour in the hot coffee/water–slowly and carefully since it is very hot! I recommend scraping your bowl again at this stage just to make sure nothing is hiding on the bottom or sides. It’s important that the batter be smooth and uniform so that it bakes evenly.
- Divide the batter into your pans and bake. I love using parchment circles on the bottom of my pans (in addition to greasing/flouring them) to ensure there will be no sticking when it’s time to remove the cakes from the pans.
- Cool the cakes in their pans for a few minutes, then invert to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Level your cakes if needed/desired. This is entirely optional, and most of the time this cake bakes up pretty level for me! Here is the inexpensive cake leveler I like to use.
- Frosting with your favorite frosting and decorate as desired. I have a post on how to decorate a cake if you need help with this step (but you can see I kept things pretty simple here).
SAM’S TIP: A crumb coating is always a good idea! To do this, apply a thin, even layer of frosting to catch all of your crumbs and then place the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes. Remove and finish frosting for a crumb-free finish!
Frequently Asked Questions
I typically use my favorite chocolate frosting; however my chocolate fudge frosting works just as well (and that’s what I used in the photos here!). The fudge frosting is thicker, richer and, well, fudgier, while the “favorite” frosting is lighter, sweeter, and more buttercream-esque.
I included a few additional ideas below if you are looking for more. Chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream, coffee frosting, or even Oreo frosting would also be good…so many options!
You absolutely can, but my preference for cupcakes is my easy chocolate cupcake recipe instead; it yields a light, springy texture that just suits the cupcake form so well.
However, if you want to make this cake as cupcakes, know you’ll get approximately 24 cupcakes. Fill your liners ⅔ of the way full and bake for 16-18 minutes.
I perfected this recipe years ago, before I’d developed weight standards for using a kitchen scale across my website. Back then, I would measure everything into my measuring cups and then I would check those measurements on the scale and record them. As I’ve developed a standard, I’ve updated my older recipes to reflect that standard. Weights are the most accurate, so I have kept the weight the same but updated the cup measurement to reflect the standard.
This recipe has already earned lots 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!).
The BEST Chocolate Cake Recipe
- 1 ⅔ cup (208 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (200 g) light brown sugar firmly packed
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- ¾ cup (75 g) natural cocoa powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter melted
- ½ cup (118 ml) neutral cooking oil (use avocado, canola, or vegetable oil)
- 2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup (236 ml) buttermilk
- ½ cup (118 ml) hot coffee or hot water
- 1 batch chocolate frosting see note
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and prepare two 8" round cake pans by lining the bottoms with parchment paper and lightly greasing and flouring the sides. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) stir together flour, sugars, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined.1 ⅔ cup (208 g) all-purpose flour, 1 cup (200 g) light brown sugar, 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar, ¾ cup (75 g) natural cocoa powder, 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda, ¾ teaspoon salt
- Add melted butter and oil, stir well. Batter may be thick, this is fine, just stir until all of the dry ingredients are moistened.½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, ½ cup (118 ml) neutral cooking oil
- Add eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and stir until well combined. Pause occasionally to scrape sides and bottom of bowl.2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Gradually add buttermilk and stir well.1 cup (236 ml) buttermilk
- Add hot coffee or water, stirring carefully until ingredients are well-combined (be sure to scrape sides and bottom of bowl to ensure batter is uniform).½ cup (118 ml) hot coffee or hot water
- Evenly divide batter between prepared pans. Transfer to center rack of 350F (175C) and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or with moist crumbs.
- Allow to cool for 15 minutes before inverting onto cooling rack to cool completely before frosting with your favorite frosting (I recommend the one linked in the recipe above, or one of my favorites linked in the notes below!).1 batch chocolate frosting
FrostingIn the video I used my favorite chocolate frosting (linked in the recipe card) but for the photos in this post I used my chocolate fudge frosting (I love both of these options!). Here are some other frostings that work really well with this cake:
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
- Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Peanut Butter Frosting
- Coffee Frosting
StoringStore in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
FreezingYou can freeze the completely cooled layers by wrapping them very well with plastic wrap and then freezing. You can also freeze the fully frosted cake. To do this, place your cake in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes or until the frosting is firm. Remove it, wrap very well with plastic wrap, and freeze for up to a month.
Different sized pansTwo 9″ pans: Cakes will need to bake for less time, start checking at 27-30 minutes. Please keep in mind that if your pans are dark-colored the cake may need less time to bake. Three 8″ pans: Bake approximately 23-26 minutes. Three 9″ pans. Cake layers will be quite thin. Bake approximately 20-23 minutes.
CupcakesYou’ll get about 24 cupcakes, evenly divide into two lined 12-count cupcake tins and bake for 17-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Gluten-freeReaders have commented that they have successfully made this recipe by substituting Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 baking flour for the flour called for in this recipe.
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.