This decadent chocolate cake is the only recipe you need. It’s moist and fudgy with a delicious chocolate flavor and can be adapted to a variety of pan sizes. Make it as a layer cake and decorate with chocolate frosting for the ultimate chocolate dessert
*This recipe was originally posted April, 2016 and updated May 18, 2021 with a slightly updated recipe, new photos & recipe tips**
The Perfect Chocolate Cake
This double chocolate cake is everything you could want. It’s:
- Extremely moist
- Slathered with creamy chocolate frosting
- Made with easy, everyday ingredients
- Rich without being sickeningly sweet
It’s the quintessential celebration cake for true chocolate lovers. It’s the perfect dessert that looks impressive and tastes even better.
The recipe is adapted from the famous Hershey’s chocolate cake recipe. The Hershey’s recipe uses pantry ingredients – which I love – and is extremely tender. However, I find it can get a little too sweet and sometimes it’s so moist that it’s almost sticky or gummy. Therefore, I’ve slightly increased the other dry ingredients to balance out the sugar, and slightly decreased the amount of liquid to ensure it’s not too moist.
While all the ingredients in this cake are important, there’s a few that I get asked a lot of questions about:
- Oil. In this recipe, we’re using oil instead of butter because it keeps the cake tender and the cake stays moist for much longer than if using butter. Butter adds flavor to vanilla cake, but in chocolate cake, we don’t need the flavor from butter. So, oil is the way to go.
- Buttermilk is key for making this cake extra tender with a soft cake crumb. In the recipe notes, I’ve included a substitution you can use with vinegar and milk.
- Hot coffee intensifies the chocolate flavor. The heat helps the cocoa “bloom” – which means that the flavor intensifies. The original Hershey’s recipe uses boiling water, but I find hot coffee works even better. Don’t worry – you won’t taste it at all.
Making the Batter
The batter is made in 4 simple steps:
- Whisk together the dry ingredients
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
- Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. At this point, the batter will be quite thick.
- Then carefully whisk hot coffee into the batter. It will be quite thin at this point.
You can either do this process by hand using a metal whisk, or with an electric mixer on a low speed.
Cake Pan Sizes for Chocolate Cake
- Two 8-inch cake pans will bake for 35-40 minutes at 350F degrees. This is what I used and what is pictured. If using 8-inch round pans, ensure that the sides are at least 2.5 inches (about 5 cm) tall – otherwise, they will overflow.
- Three 8-inch cake pans will bake for 30-35 minutes at 350F degrees.
- Two 9-inch cake pans will bake for 30-35 minutes at 350F degrees.
- A 9×13 inch rectangle cake pan will bake for 35-40 minutes. Grease the pan and lightly dust with cocoa powder. Divide the frosting recipe in half.
- For cupcakes – I recommend this recipe.
Note: You can see in the photo above that my cake pans have very high sides (this is needed if using two 8-inch round pans). I also used cake strips, which help the cakes to bake with a flat tops. If you have cake strips, feel free to use them. But don’t feel the need to go out and buy them if you don’t bake layer cakes regularly. See my note below about assembling the cake.
Assembling & Frosting the Cake
I like a thick layer of frosting on my cake. Whether you make this as a two-layer cake or three-layer cake, the frosting recipe below will be enough. (You may have a little leftover if you’re doing a 2-layer cake). My main tips for assembling and frosting this chocolate layer cake are:
- The cake layers must be fully cooled before frosting.
- If the tops of your cake are slightly domed, after the cakes are fully cooled use a serrated knife to gently saw off the rounded tops.
- Frost the cake on the same plate or stand that you plan to serve it on.
- If you notice that cake crumbs are getting into the frosting (this is especially common when frosting the sides of the cake), frost the sides with a very thin layer of smooth frosting then place the cake in the fridge for 1 hour (the frosting can stay covered at room temperature). This is called a crumb coat or dirty frost. Then frost the sides and top with a thick layer of swirly frosting. The thin layer acts as a seal to keep the cake crumbs in. You can see what I mean in the photo below.
At the end of the day – the cake is moist, perfectly chocolatey, and definitely not too challenging to make.
More Layer Cake Recipes to Love:
- Funfetti Cake
- Classic Birthday Cake – this is a yellow cake with chocolate frosting
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
- Strawberry Layer Cake
Double Chocolate Cake
- Two 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pans with sides at least 2.5 cm (5 cm) tall - see recipe notes for alternatives
For the Chocolate Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (250 grams) spooned & leveled
- ¾ cup cocoa powder* (60 grams)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup vegetable oil (120 ml) canola oil works too
- 2 cups granulated sugar (200 grams)
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk* (240 ml) room temperature
- ⅔ cup freshly brewed coffee* (180 ml) hot
For the Frosting
- 1 ½ cup unsalted butter (339 grams) room temperature
- ¾ cup cocoa powder (60 grams)
- 4-5 cups powdered sugar (440 - 550 grams) AKA icing sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4-6 tablespoons whipping cream (60 - 90 ml)
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180 C) degrees.
- Line the bottom of two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Grease the sides of the pans, and lightly dust with cocoa powder. Set aside. *The sides of your pans must be at least 2.5 inches tall (5 cm). See recipe notes for additional pan sizes.
- In a very large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. If the cocoa is lumpy, sift the cocoa first.
- In a separate large bowl whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. You can do this by hand or with an electric mixer. Then carefully whisk in the buttermilk.
- Carefully whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until there are no lumps. Very carefully whisk in the hot coffee.
- Pour the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for at least 30 minutes before removing and continuing to cool on a wire rack.
- In a very large bowl, beat the butter until smooth and fluffy.
- Starting with the mixer on low speed, beat in 2 cups powdered sugar. Sift the powdered sugar first if it's lumpy.
- Beat in the cocoa powder and salt, again starting with the mixer on low speed. Sift the cocoa if it's lumpy.
- Beat in the rest of the powdered sugar about ½ - 1 cup at a time, alternating with 1-2 tablespoons of cream until the desired sweetness is reached and the frosting is thick and creamy.
Assembling the Cake
- Ensure the cakes are completely cooled before getting started.
- If your cake layers are domed on the top, use a serrated knife to gently saw off the rounded top.
- Place one cake layer top side down on the plate or cake stand that you plan to serve it on. Frost the top of the layer to create an even layer about ¼ - ⅓ inch thick.
- Place the second cake layer on top, top side down.
- Frost the sides and top of the cake with a swirly layer of frosting. If cake crumbs are getting mixed into the frosting, frost the sides with a very thin layer of frosting (this is a crumb coat). Place the cake in the fridge for 1 hour (keep the frosting at room temperature). Then remove the cake from the fridge and frost the sides and top with a thick layer of frosting.
- Pan Sizes & Baking Times:
- Two 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pans with high sides (2.5 inches/5 cm) - 35-40 minutes
- Two 9-inch (23 cm) round cake pans - 30-35 minutes.
- Three 8-inch (30 cm) round cake pans - 30-35 minutes.
- A 9x13 inch (23x33 cm) cake pan - 35-40 minutes. If using a 9x13 inch pan, grease the bottom and sides of the pan and lightly dust with cocoa powder. I do not recommend inverting the cake pan. Simply frost the top and serve from the pan. Divide the frosting recipe in half.
- I used Dutch-processed cocoa for a more intense chocolate flavor. Natural cocoa powder works too.
- To make your own buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Fill to the 1 cup line with milk. Give it a stir, then let sit for 5 minutes before using.
- Hot coffee can be substituted for boiling water.
- Storage & Make Ahead Tips
- Unfrosted cake layers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Unfrosted cake layers can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, then wrapped in tinfoil or placed in a freezer container and frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge. Do not thaw at room temperature or the cake will become gummy. Freeze each layer individually.
- Store frosted cake covered at room temperature for up to 8 hours, or in the fridge for up to 5 days. Let the cake sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before enjoying for the frosting to soften.
- Nutrition information is an estimate only and based on 1 slice, assuming all the frosting is used and the cake is sliced into 12 equal pieces.