Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Cake

Tested & Perfected Recipes Cookbook Recipe

A dark chocolate cake with a rich and creamy chocolate frosting — this is the ultimate chocolate cake for chocolate lovers.

Photo by Alexandra Grablewski (Chronicle Books, 2018)

When my kids were babies, I started a home-based baking business specializing in special occasion cakes and cupcakes, mostly for children’s birthday parties. Before I opened, I spent weeks testing every vanilla and chocolate cake recipe under the sun, often baking into the wee hours. My husband would wake up in the morning to find the countertops covered with cakes and cupcakes. He thought I’d lost my mind—little did he know I was just discovering my passion for creating recipes, which was the impetus for starting my blog. Eventually, I created a few recipes that I loved and could rely on, like this rich chocolate cake (for the cupcake version, click here).

The cake itself is basically a one-bowl recipe. The frosting, modestly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, is fast and foolproof—a  welcome change from most homemade chocolate frostings, which are temperamental and take hours to cool. This is my son, Zach’s, favorite cake.

What You’ll Need To Make Chocolate Cake

For the Cake

chocolate cake ingredients

For the Frosting

chocolate frosting ingredientsStep-by-Step Instructions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

dry ingredients in mixerMix on low speed for 30 seconds to combine.

mixed dry ingredients

Add the eggs, oil, and sour cream.

adding eggs, oil, and sour cream

Mix on low speed until combined.

chocolate cake batter with wet ingredients mixed in

Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Then, reduce the speed to low and gradually pour in the hot water (be careful to pour very slowly so it doesn’t splash). The batter will be soupy. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl; mix again until evenly combined.

chocolate cake batter

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.

chocolate cake batter in pans ready to bake

Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

baked chocolate cake layersCool the cake layers in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto a wire rack, remove the pans and cool completely.

chocolate cake layers cooling on rack

While the cakes cool, make the frosting.

Make the Frosting

Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl.

Cook in the microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring in between, until it’s about three-quarters of the way melted. Stir, allowing the residual heat in the bowl to melt the remaining chocolate completely. (If necessary, place the chocolate back in microwave for a few seconds.) Set aside to cool.

melted chocolate

In a food processor, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt.

butter, confectioners sugar, and cocoa powder in food processor

Process until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Then add the corn syrup and vanilla.

adding the corn syrup and vanilla to the chocolate frosting

Process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the lukewarm melted chocolate.

adding the melted chocolate

Pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds. Do not overmix.

finished silky chocolate frosting

When the cakes have cooled, place one cake layer on a serving plate. Using an icing spatula or butter knife, spread about 3/4 cup of the frosting over the first layer. Top with the second layer, then spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake, swirling decoratively.

frosted chocolate cake

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Chocolate Cake

A dark chocolate cake with a rich and creamy chocolate frosting — this is the ultimate chocolate cake for chocolate lovers.

Servings: Makes one 9-inch 2-layer cake
Total Time: 1 Hour, plus time to cool

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled off with knife
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, such as Hershey’s
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

For the Frosting

  • 8 ounces semi-sweet or milk chocolate, broken into small pieces (see note)
  • 2½ sticks (20 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1¼ cups confectioners' sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, such as Hershey’s
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

For the Cake

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly butter the bottom of two 9-inch (23-cm) round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper, and then butter and flour the parchment and the sides of the pans. (Alternatively, replace the butter and flour with nonstick cooking spray with flour, such as Baker’s Joy or Pam with Flour.)
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to combine. Add the eggs, oil, sour cream, and vanilla and mix on low speed until combined.
  3. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Then, reduce the speed to low and gradually pour in the hot water (be careful to pour very slowly so it doesn’t splash). The batter will be soupy. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl; mix again until evenly combined.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. While the cake is baking, prepare the frosting.
  5. Cool the cake layers in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto a wire rack, remove the pans and cool completely. When the cakes have cooled, place one cake layer on a serving plate. Using an icing spatula or butter knife, spread about ¾ cup of the frosting over the first layer. Top with the second layer, then spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake, swirling decoratively. The cake is best enjoyed fresh on the day it is made, but it will keep for 2 to 3 days stored in a cake dome at room temperature.

For the Frosting

  1. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and cook in the microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring in between, until it's about three-quarters of the way melted. Stir, allowing the residual heat in the bowl to melt the remaining chocolate completely. (If necessary, place the chocolate back in microwave for a few seconds.) Set aside to cool.
  2. In a food processor, process the butter, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the lukewarm melted chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds. Do not overmix.
  3. The frosting can be used immediately or held at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours. It may lose its shine as it sits—to bring the shine back, run a metal spoon under hot water, then wipe dry with a towel; stir the frosting with the hot spoon and it should shine right up.
  4. Note: If making this cake for children, I recommend using milk chocolate for the frosting (Hershey or Lindt milk chocolate bars work well). Semi-sweet chocolate will lend a more intense chocolate flavor (Ghirardelli bars for baking are ideal).

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (16 servings)
  • Calories: 550
  • Fat: 30 g
  • Saturated fat: 15 g
  • Carbohydrates: 73 g
  • Sugar: 55 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 5 g
  • Sodium: 320 mg
  • Cholesterol: 69 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • I have Scharffenberger baking chocolate. Can I substitute that for the cocoa powder in the cake? Any change in quantity? Should I just melt it, or any change in its preparation?

    • — Reid on May 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Reid – I’d recommend sticking with the cocoa powder here – sorry!

      • — Jenn on May 13, 2022
      • Reply
  • Delicious!!!! Have been waiting for ages to make this and finally did for my daughter’s 11th Birthday today. Everyone loved it! I couldn’t find Karo syrup down under but I used rice syrup as a sub and it worked well!! Thank you!!

    • — Steph Down Under on May 9, 2022
    • Reply
  • Overall the cake was delicious but not as moist as I thought it would be. Any idea what I could’ve done wrong?

    • — Sohnia on May 2, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Sohnia, I’m sorry that you found the cake to be a bit dry. Dryness is usually caused by measuring the flour incorrectly. Did you use the spoon and level method to measure the flour? Even a few extra ounces can make a big difference. This article/video explains it nicely. Also, did you serve it the day you made it? This will last for 2 days but is definitely best on the day it’s made.

      • — Jenn on May 2, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I’m looking forward to making this gorgeous-looking cake! One question: can I bake the cakes a day ahead, or does it need to be freshly made? Many thanks in advance!
    Mala

    • — Mala on April 8, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Mala, if you can make it on the same day you plan to serve it, that’s best, but you can get away with 1 day ahead. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on April 8, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn – would this work in a Bundt pan? If yes, on what temperature and baking time? Would you recommend substituting espresso for the water?

    • — Stacy Chambers on March 7, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Stacy, I haven’t tried making this in a Bundt pan and because things tend to stick to Bundts, I’d be hesitant to suggest it – sorry! And I think the espresso flavor would be too strong if you replaced the water with it. You could use coffee instead or dissolve some espresso powder in water instead.

      • — Jenn on March 7, 2022
      • Reply
  • Can you bake this in a 9×9 square baking dish?

    • — Karen on February 18, 2022
    • Reply
    • Yes, but you’d need two of those baking dishes. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 18, 2022
      • Reply
  • I’m a little confused that the 1 cup of cocoa in the cake recipe converts to 90 g, but 1/2 cup of cocoa in the frosting recipe converts to 40 g!

    • — Richard on February 10, 2022
    • Reply
    • Great point — sorry for the inconsistency! I’ve updated the recipe and have changed the 90 grams to 80. Hope you enjoy the cake if you make it!

      • — Jenn on February 10, 2022
      • Reply
  • Tried this recipe trying to convert American cups to British metric.
    What a miserable failure and so disappointed because I tasted the bits of cake and it was delicious.
    So wish measurements were given in metric!!!!

    • — Stella Gilson on February 8, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Stella, I’m sorry you had a problem with this. The great majority of my recipes (including this one) include conversions to metric/weight measurements. To view them, scroll down to the recipe, and immediately under the recipe title on the right side, you’ll see a little toggle. If you move it from “cup measures” to metric, you’ll see measurements that will work for you. Hope that helps and that you enjoy the cake if you make it again!

      • — Jenn on February 8, 2022
      • Reply
  • Really great cake – I couldn’t make the frosting this time but the cake itself was delicious. Used hot coffee in place of the water to give my cocoa powder some oomph as I didn’t quite have the full amount.

    • — Jill on February 6, 2022
    • Reply
  • Is the sour cream something that needs to be added or no?

    • — Esperanza on December 18, 2021
    • Reply
    • Yes, it adds moisture and helps with leavening, so it’s definitely important to include it.

      • — Jenn on December 20, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I plan on making this for a friend’s birthday this week. Sour cream is not sold where I live. Between these options I have available to me, what do you think would be the best substitute?

    -Plain, unsweetened yogurt
    -Mayonnaise
    -Whipping cream with lemon juice added (this one makes me a little hesitant because it ruined another chocolate recipe I tried it with in the past)

    Thanks for your help! I always appreciate your recipes.

    • — Adrienne on December 12, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Adrienne, I’d go with the plain yogurt. Use Greek yogurt if you can find it; otherwise strain the regular yogurt so it’s a bit thicker. (To strain: Place whole milk plain yogurt in a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or a plain white paper towel. Set over a bowl and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the liquid to drain. You will need about 2X as much regular yogurt as it will lose volume once drained.)

      • — Jenn on December 12, 2021
      • Reply
  • This cake was amazing!! I made it for my son’s 7th birthday and it was a huge hit. I didn’t use the same icing because I needed traditional buttercream to turn it into a tiger cake 😃, but the cake itself was moist and flavorful (and still good 3 days later)! Jenn, your recipes are so reliable and tasty and easy! Thank you!

    • — Sumi on December 4, 2021
    • Reply
    • Will Perugina Italian milk chocolate bars work for the frosting on this cake? Thanks!!!

      • — Jane on March 27, 2022
      • Reply
      • Hi Jane, I’ve never worked with Perugina chocolate, but I suspect it should work. Hope you enjoy!

        • — Jenn on March 28, 2022
        • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, is it possible to bake this in a 13 x 9 pan? (for easier transport) Or should I follow your chocolate cupcake measurements, since they are slightly less? Thanks, love your cookbooks and recipes, and looking forward to making this one!

    • — Julia on December 1, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, Julia, you can use a 9 x 13“ pan. I’d start checking for doneness at 35 to 45 minutes. Hope everyone enjoys!

      • — Jenn on December 1, 2021
      • Reply
  • I have just made this recipe following all the instructions , I had substituted corn syrup with glucose , and used Spanish dark cacao powder instead of Hershey’s , and it turned out great , I haven’t tasted this delicacy even when I bought chocolate from bakeries or dessert shops , for better experience keep in the fridge for a while before devouring it

    • — Sugarcrumbs on October 15, 2021
    • Reply
  • I love so many of your recipes, Jenn. Thank You.
    Is it okay to bake this cake in a bundt cake pan?
    Thanks,
    Jennifer

    • — Jennifer Turnbow on October 3, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Jennifer, Glad you like the recipes! I haven’t tried making this in a Bundt pan and because things tend to stick to Bundts, I’d be hesitant to suggest it – sorry!

      • — Jenn on October 5, 2021
      • Reply
  • This cake is excellent….Have made it from your cookbook many times. I now see that all your cookbook recipes are now on the blog…. so exactly what was the point of me purchasing these recipes? Definitely wont be buying the second instalment. Very disappointing.

    • — Talia Eldridge on September 22, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Talia, So glad you enjoyed the cake! Both books include 70 brand new recipes and 30 favorites from the blog. Once published, I share a handful of the new recipes on the blog to promote the book. I do have photos of all the book recipes in my recipe index, but if you click on the photos, most take you to a page to purchase the book, like this. Sorry for any confusion!

      • — Jenn on September 22, 2021
      • Reply
      • Just wanted to say, I was a bit confused too seeing book recipes on the blog. But I don’t care, as I think talented people like you should be supported !

        Love your books and recipes! Please do more 🙂

        • — Marie on October 19, 2021
        • Reply
        • Agree, 100%. I like the convenience of being able to filter through the website for recipes, but supporting women chefs and small businesses is important to me! Also, I made this cake for my son’s 18th birthday today. Looks amazing and I can’t wait to dig in after dinner tonight!

          • — Lisalen on November 20, 2021
          • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! Can the icing be piped and hold its shape?

    • — Erin on August 31, 2021
    • Reply
    • Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be appropriate for piping – sorry!

      • — Jenn on August 31, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen I love your recipes but when will you start using weight rather than cups? It’s really the only way to ensure accurate results every time.

    • — gillian on August 25, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Gillian, The great majority of my recipes (including this one) include conversions to metric/weight measurements. To view them, scroll down to the recipe, and immediately under the recipe title on the right side, you’ll see a little toggle. If you move it from “cup measures” to metric, you’ll see measurements that will work for you. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on August 26, 2021
      • Reply

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