Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Cake
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A dark chocolate cake with a rich and creamy chocolate frosting — this is the ultimate chocolate cake for chocolate lovers.
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
For the Frosting
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, and sour cream.
Mix on low speed until combined.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a food processor, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt.
Process until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Then add the corn syrup and vanilla.
Process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the lukewarm melted chocolate.
Pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds. Do not overmix.
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.
You May Also Like
- Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Cupcakes
- Yellow Cake with Rich Chocolate Buttercream
- Vanilla Birthday Cake with Old-Fashioned Vanilla Buttercream
- Rainbow Sprinkle Funfetti Cake
- Red Velvet Cupcakes
- German Chocolate Cake
A dark chocolate cake with a rich and creamy chocolate frosting — this is the ultimate chocolate cake for chocolate lovers.
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
For the Cake
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter the bottom of two 9-inch 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
Question, the cake is already frosted and my friend said it’s too much. Can he freeze the remainder?
Thx so much!!
Hi Maile, I think this is best if frozen without frosting, but if he has some leftovers, it’s definitely worth freezing them so they don’t go to waste.
Made it for family birthday!! Big hit!
I’ve baked a fair amount in my life, but I’m more of a “pie” person than a “cake” person, so I have never before made a chocolate cake. However, a family member requested chocolate cake for his birthday. Yikes.
I immediately looked here, and sure enough, I found this recipe. I looked at this recipe and one from another well-known baker/cook. I’m sure the other one was good, but I’ve had great success with your recipes, so I decided to try your recipe.
Super! Came out beautifully, very moist and delicious—and that was after making the cake the day before! It didn’t seem to suffer at all from having been made the night before.
I did substitute one cup of boiling coffee for boiling water, but no other changes.
Very simple and easy to make. Will definitely make this again when I need a chocolate cake! Thank you!
I was wondering about adding coffee to the recipe as well, how did yours come out? I’ve always read that coffee intensifies the chocolate flavor.
OMG again, Jenn.
Thanks for sharing this recipe. As usually, I followed the instructions step by step and then: perfect cupcakes!
Chocolate flavor: checked
Taste: double checked!
Hi Jen! If I don’t have a microwave, what is the best method for melting the chocolate to make the frosting? Also, if I make this one day ahead, should it be stored in the fridge or on the counter? Thank you as always.
Hi Ling, You can melt it in a double boiler on the stovetop. Hope that helps!
Can it sit room temperature or does it require refrigeration
Hi Lisa, I leave it at room temp, but it never lasts long! You could also refrigerate it for longer storage; just be sure to let it come to room temperature before serving.
Can this recipe be adapted to a two-layer quarter sheet cake?
Yep, that should work.
I see you don’t recommend this frosting for piping and I’m trying to think how to make the cake look a little more festive. Will sprinkles stick to this frosting? Could I make some traditional butter cream and pipe some stars around the edge of it with the buttercream or would it be weird to use both?
Hi Heidi, sprinkles would adhere to this nicely and I don’t think it’s weird to use both types of frosting if you want to add some decorations.
What a fabulous chocolate frosting, and so fast and easy using the food processor!! Absolute perfection. I’ve never made any other frosting like it. Time to throw away the recipes using sugar syrup, a double boiler, etc.! I didn’t make the cake, though. I live at high altitude (6,300′) and after YEARS of trying out chocolate cake recipes, I have my go-to and I’ll never deviate again!
Amazing as a cake. Can I use this same recipe in cupcake/ mini cupcake tins?
Glad you liked it! I actually have a cupcake version. Enjoy!
Hi Jenn! My soon-to-be 4 year old has requested a chocolate cake for his birthday and I have my eye on this recipe 🙂 Do you think it’s a good choice for a kiddo (or too dark/rich?)? Also… I don’t have a stand mixer, will I be okay using a hand-held mixer for the cake?
Your recipes never fail me, thanks for all your hard work!
Hi Katherine, It might be a bit rich for a 4 yr old, although my kids have always loved it. If you do make it, I would definitely use milk chocolate in the frosting.
Sorry! One more question: Would this cake freeze well?
The cake will freeze nicely before it is frosted. Just make the frosting and frost prior to serving.
Can I use Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream?
The recipe works just fine. I didn’t have a food processor so used my Kitchen Aid with a paddle attachment for the frosting which worked fine. Personally, I found the cake to be really rich. You should serve very small slices.
Can I used Del Oro Cocoa instead of Hershey’s?
Hi M, I’m not familiar with that product, but as long as it is natural cocoa powder (and not Dutch-processed) it should be fine.
Yes, it is natural. Thank you.
Love all your recipes. Favorite are your pecan shortbread.
Will Dutch processed cocoa powder work here?
Hi Agnete, I wouldn’t recommend it as it may impact how the case rises. Sorry!
I only have convection ovens. Would I change the temp or the time for this recipe?
Hi Janna, Yes, when using the convection setting/convection oven, the rule of thumb is to reduce the temp by 25°F. Enjoy the cake!
I was making 2 cakes of chocolate for a bake sale when my food processor died on me. I switched to my hand held mixer to finish the frosting but the color was lighter than the first one which I finished with the processor before it broke down. Did I do something wrong? Does this cake have to be made with a food processor?
Hi Virginia, The cake is made with a mixer but the frosting requires a food processor, so that explains why you got a different result using the mixer for it. (Sorry to hear your food processor pooped out on you!)
Jennifer, how would you adjust this for high altitude? I would increase oven temp to 379, but is that too high for chocolate? Thank you, MaryAnn
Hi MaryAnn, I don’t have experience baking at high altitudes so, unfortunately, I don’t have any wisdom to share – I’m sorry! You may find these tips helpful though. And the chocolate won’t be negatively impacted by the higher temperature. Hope you enjoy!
Frosting is wonderful, and can be used in other deserts. However cake part was so sweet, it was unbearable. I made muffins again, reduced granulated sugar by 30% and then it was really good. I kept both cake and muffins in the fridge and it’s even better than room temperature.
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?
Hi Reid – I’d recommend sticking with the cocoa powder here – sorry!
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!!
Overall the cake was delicious but not as moist as I thought it would be. Any idea what I could’ve done wrong?
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.
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!
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!
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?
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.
I’m planning to bake this scrumptious looking cake for my daughter’s birthday. We don’t use corn syrup, would it be OK to substitute with coconut oil? Thanks in advance.
Hi Cesia, I haven’t tried it, but a few readers have commented that they’ve used golden syrup successfully. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!
Hi, Jenn! Just came back to thank you for this wonderful recipe! Everyone in the family devoured the cake! It was that good. Your recipes never disappoint!
Cesia, Thanks for reporting back — so glad it came out nicely!
Can you bake this in a 9×9 square baking dish?
Yes, but you’d need two of those baking dishes. Hope you enjoy!
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!
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!
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!!!!
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!
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.
Is the sour cream something that needs to be added or no?
Yes, it adds moisture and helps with leavening, so it’s definitely important to include it.
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
-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.
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.)
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!
Will Perugina Italian milk chocolate bars work for the frosting on this cake? Thanks!!!
Hi Jane, I’ve never worked with Perugina chocolate, but I suspect it should work. Hope you enjoy!
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!
Sure, Julia, you can use a 9 x 13“ pan. I’d start checking for doneness at 35 to 45 minutes. Hope everyone enjoys!
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
I love so many of your recipes, Jenn. Thank You.
Is it okay to bake this cake in a bundt cake pan?
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!
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.
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!
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 🙂
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!
Hi Jenn, can the frosting be made ahead of time? What’s the best way to store it? (I plan on making it this morning, but frosting the cake later in the day after transporting it to the birthday girl’s house). Thanks!
Hi Diane, I think I’m weighing in to late to help, but for future reference, 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. Hope the cake came out well!
Hi Jenn! Can the icing be piped and hold its shape?
Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be appropriate for piping – sorry!
I made this for the first time yesterday for my husband’s birthday. He had requested a plain dark chocolate cake and this fit the bill beautifully! We had a family get together and everybody loved it. The frosting is too die for and the cake is incredibly moist. I took it out of the oven even though I wasn’t quite sure that both layers were completely done. Glad I followed my instinct. I’ll be making this as my go to chocolate cake from now on. Loved it!
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.
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!