Hands down, this is the BEST Chocolate Cake Recipe. It’s moist and tender with a special ingredient that really brings out the chocolate flavor in each bite.
Skip the box cake mix, once you make this decadent chocolate cake from scratch you’ll be hooked. Looking for a vanilla cake? Try this homemade vanilla cake recipe!
Nothing says, “I Love You” more than a big slice of homemade chocolate cake.
My family loves this moist and tender cake with the light and fluffy chocolate buttercream frosting between each layer. Let me show you just how easy it actually is to bake.
Homemade Chocolate Cake Recipe
Don’t be intimidated by the thought of baking a triple layered chocolate cake from scratch. It’s actually quite easy to do, and once you’ve taken your first bite, you’ll feel like an accomplished baker.
Chocolate Cake Ingredients
Let me walk you through the ingredients you’ll need in order to bake a chocolate cake. As always, you can find the full printable recipe card below.
- All-Purpose Flour
- Cocoa Powder – use a good quality, Dutch Processed or unsweetened (more info below)
- Baking Powder – for extra rise
- Baking Soda – when mixed with buttermilk creates an irresistible tender cake
- Buttermilk – gives the cake added moisture, rise and flavor
- Espresso Powder – essential for the best chocolate flavor (see below for more info)
- Vanilla Extract
- Vegetable Oil – you can sub with canola oil if needed
PRO TIP: Using higher quality ingredients when baking will make all the difference in the final baked product. So don’t skimp if you can help it.
How To Bake a Chocolate Cake
The main thing when it comes to a chocolate cake is bringing out the chocolate flavor. Sometimes it seems like the flavor of chocolate can get lost in the flour and sugar, but not with this recipe!
By using a dutch processed cocoa powder and a hint of espresso powder, you’ll be amazed at the rich chocolate flavor this cake boasts.
Combine Dry Ingredients
In a medium bowl combine the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt) and whisk them together, then set the mixture aside.
Combine the espresso powder, vanilla extract and buttermilk in a separate measuring cup and whisk together. Set this aside for later use.
Combine Wet Ingredients
In the bowl of your stand mixer (or you can use a large bowl and a hand mixer), combine the vegetable oil and sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. You’ll want the sugar to be mostly dissolved into the oil.
Add Eggs 1 at a Time
Break one egg at a time into the sugar mixture and whisk or beat until it’s evenly combined between each egg. Make sure to scrap down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
Combine Wet and Dry
At this point you should have three separate containers filled with ingredients- the dry ingredients, the wet ingredients and the buttermilk mixture.
We’re going to alternate adding the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then mix.
Now add in half of the buttermilk mixture to the cake batter and beat until incorporated.
Repeat by adding in the remaining dry ingredients and mix, then the last of the buttermilk mixture and mix.
Divide Chocolate Cake Batter
Once your chocolate cake batter is prepared, you’ll want to divide it into three prepared 8″ inch round cake pans.
How To Prepare Cake Pans
Bake Chocolate Cakes
Bake the chocolate cakes in a 350 degree F. preheated oven for 28 to 32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before removing them from the pan and letting them cool completely on a wire rack.
While the cakes are cooling, you can whip up an delicious batch of my homemade chocolate frosting.
Homemade Chocolate Frosting
A rich chocolate cake is only complete with a light and fluffy chocolate frosting to compliment it. It’s a match made in heaven.
Chocolate Frosting Ingredients
Here’s what you’ll need in order to make a homemade chocolate frosting for this chocolate cake recipe.
- Butter – unsalted and softened to room temperature
- Powdered Sugar
- Cocoa Powder – dutch process as well
- Salt – to enhance the chocolate flavor
- Vanilla Extract
- Heavy Cream – to give it a light and fluffy texture
How To Make Chocolate Frosting
Frosting is actually VERY easy to make. Once you make it from scratch, and taste the difference, you’ll never want to buy the stuff from a tub again.
Combine Butter and Powdered Sugar
Start by combining the softened butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla extract to a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Begin on a low speed to prevent the mixture from overflowing from the bowl.
Gradually increase the speed until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.
Mix in Heavy Cream
Add in the heavy cream and continue to beat the frosting until it becomes light and fluffy. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
PRO TIP: The chocolate frosting should be light enough to easily spread, like a smooth peanut butter texture. If it’s too thick, add in more heavy cream. If it’s too thin, add in more powdered sugar.
I was skeptical at first as to why espresso powder would be added to a chocolate cake? I’m not a fan of the coffee flavor and I was keen to just leave it out entirely. However, after testing this recipe with and without the addition of espresso powder, it was clear that the espresso powder added an enhanced chocolate flavor to the final baked cake that took it to the next level.
Was there a coffee flavor to the chocolate cake? Not at all! We’re only adding 1 tiny teaspoon for the entire three layers of cake, so it’s not overpowering.
You can easily find the little jar of espresso powder for baking in the baking aisle of most grocery stores. If your store doesn’t carry it, you can also purchase some online. It’s very affordable and definitely worth it in my opinion.
Cocoa Powder – Unsweetened Or Dutch Processed?
When it comes to baking a chocolate cake, which cocoa powder are you supposed to use? Unsweetened cocoa powder or Dutch processed cocoa powder? What’s the difference?
I’m glad you asked! There is a science behind how these cocoa powders are made and how they will react with other ingredients in a recipe.
Dutch processed cocoa powder is neutral in it’s acidity, meaning it will not react (or add any rise) with the buttermilk on it’s own. It’s usually paired with a baking powder as it’s the leavening agent in baked goods. The flavor of a Dutch processed cocoa powder is rich and reminiscent of a dark chocolate (think slightly bitter), but in order to achieve this flavor profile we will need to add more acidity (baking soda) to the mix.
Unsweetened natural cocoa powder is more acidic on it’s own, meaning when paired with buttermilk and baking soda it gives extra rise to baked goods. It can also lead to a very enhanced and an almost extra bitter chocolate flavor.
It all comes down to personal preference on which cocoa powder you prefer, but I suggest giving the dutch processed a try!
Make Ahead and Storage
One of the best things about baking this chocolate cake is that the chocolate cake layers will freeze very nicely. This means you can bake the cake layers ahead of time, wrap them up in plastic wrap and freeze them for up to 5 months!
The chocolate frosting can also be made ahead. However, it’s best to store the frosting separate from the cake in the fridge for up to 7 days. Let the frosting sit on the counter for about 30 minutes, then beat again with a hand mixer until it’s light and fluffy and spreadable again.
The frosted cake can be stored at room temperature, covered for up to 4 days. You can store it in the fridge, covered, for up to 7 days.
This is my favorite cake storage container. It’s perfect for being able to travel with the cake too!
2 Layers, Cupcakes, Sheet Cake and more
This chocolate cake recipe is baked up into three 8″ rounds, but you can easily modify the recipe to create two larger 9 or 10″ rounds, cupcakes, a 9×13″ cake or even a sheet cake!
- 2 x 9″ or 10″ rounds – bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Cupcakes – bake for 15 – 22 minutes (makes 32 cupcakes)
- 9×13″ cake – bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
- Sheet cake – bake for 23-27 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center come out clean.
I will be honest with you. I’m not usually a chocolate cake fan because most recipes I’ve tried are just too rich for my taste. This chocolate cake recipe is by far my favorite because it’s the perfect amount of chocolate taste, it’s super easy to bake and it’s soft and tender.
More Chocolate Cake Recipes
Over the years I’ve created a slew of chocolate cake recipes, from extra indulgent to quick and easy mug cakes. Here are some more recipes you definitely need to try…
- Black Forest Texas Sheet Cake
- Dulce de Leche Chocolate Cake
- Chocolate Lava Mug Cake
- The Best Fudge Brownies
I can’t wait for you to give this simple chocolate cake recipe a try. I know you’re going to love it as much as we do!
Best Chocolate Cake Recipe
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 3 (8") round cake pans with parchment paper or spray with baking spray and set aside.
- In a medium bowl combine the all purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then whisk together. Set aside.
- In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, espresso powder and vanilla extract until dissolved. Set aside.
- In a separate large bowl (or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment) combine the vegetable oil and sugar use a beat for about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
- Alternate adding in the dry ingredients and the buttermilk mixture to the sugar mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Once the cake batter is combined, divide it among the 3 prepared cake pans.
- Bake the cakes for 28 to 32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, before inverting onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
For The Chocolate Frosting
- While the cakes are cooling, whip up the quick chocolate frosting. Add the softened butter to a bowl along with the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla extract to a large bowl or stand mixer.
- If using a stand mixer, attach the paddle attachment. Start on low speed to combine the frosting ingredients. It will be dry and crumbly at first.
- Gradually pour in the heavy cream and continue beating until the frosting starts to come together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for an additional 90 seconds, until it's light and fluffy.
- If the frosting is too thick, add more heavy cream. If it's too thin, add more powdered sugar.