Best Chocolate Cake Recipe

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Three layers of moist and rich chocolate cake. This cake is frosted with a delicious triple chocolate buttercream.

Decorate the outside of the cake however you’d like or keep it simple with chocolate shavings around the base of the cake. This cake pairs perfectly with a large scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or a tall glass of milk. 

Image of the slice of chocolate cake on a plate with a fork ready to be eaten

The best chocolate cake recipe

It’s no secret we’re obsessed with chocolate at my home and over the years I’ve shared dozens of chocolate-filled recipes (these oreo balls or icebox cake are favorites on the site). Today I’m excited to finally share the absolute best homemade chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted. And this gem of a recipe comes from some of my favorite people — Maria and Josh over at Two Peas and their Pod.

They recently released a cookbook, Two Peas & Their Pod (affiliate link) and if you haven’t gotten one yet, let me tell you how much you need one! It is filled with simple and delicious recipes, gorgeous photography for each recipe, and complete with the prettiest cookbook cover I think I’ve ever seen. Maria and Josh are sharing their favorite everyday recipes from their kitchen and I’m certain you’ll find dozens of recipes to love. My favorite part of the book is her “entertaining” chapter where Maria shares dozens of foodie party ideas — classy AND kid friendly. Congrats Maria, Josh, and boys; the book is beautiful! ❤

And if you get your hands on the cookbook (or already have it) be sure to leave a comment and tell me your favorite recipe from the book!

Process shots showing the dry and wet ingredients being made and then mixed together

How to make chocolate cake

  1. Add the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. We’ve got flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Make sure your baking soda and baking powder are fresh
  3. Dry ingredients mixed together. 
  4. Add buttermilk and oil into a separate bowl. Make sure the buttermilk is at room temperature not cold.
  5. Add in the vanilla extract.
  6. Beat together the wet ingredients.
  7. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
  8. Dry ingredients get mixed into wet.
  9. Add eggs one at a time, beating after additions until just combined.
  10. Texture of batter after all ingredients besides hot water has been added.
  11. Add in hot water. The hot water “blooms” the cocoa powder making the cake more flavorful. Don’t use cold or room temperature water.
  12. Finished cake batter.

The cocoa powder matters

The most important ingredient for this chocolate cake recipe, is the cocoa powder. You want to use a good, high quality DUTCH process cocoa powder. And the better the cocoa powder you use, the better this cake turns out!  This is my favorite cocoa powder (affiliate link) and what I use in this recipe.

If you’re interested in knowing the difference between dutch process and natural cocoa powder, you can read more here.

The cake pans matter (and lining them)

I tried this chocolate cake recipe in 8 AND 9-inch pans and the cake sank a great deal in the 9-inch pans. While I haven’t tested this cake in other sizes (or pans not meant for cake), I assume there would be similar results. Stick to 8-inch cake pans for best results. Here are the exact cake pans (affiliate link) I use.

While we’re talking about cake pans, you’ll also want to make sure you line the cake pan with parchment paper. This cake is so fudgy and moist that if the bottom isn’t lined, the cake doesn’t come out nicely (I speak from experience!)

There’s a simple to way to do this; check out this photo slideshow or read the directions below:

  1. Tear off a sheet of parchment slightly larger than the cake pan
  2. Fold the parchment in half
  3. Then fold the parchment in half again
  4. Fold into a triangle
  5. Fold the triangle in half again
  6. Hold the triangle against the bottom of the pan from the center outwards
  7. Cut the parchment right where it meets the edge of the cake pan along the curve of the cake pan
  8. Unfold the parchment and press into the bottom of the cake pan.

Image of the cookbook this recipe came from

Chocolate Cake Troubleshooting

How to get even cake layers

When making a layered cake, it is important to make sure you are dividing the batter equally between the three cake pans. It’s important for the cake to look even and pretty, but even more importantly so the layers bake evenly. The easiest way to confirm the layers are even is to weigh them!

Pour even amounts into each pan and then check the accuracy with a kitchen scale. Adjust the batter in each cake pan to have perfectly even amounts.

Chocolate cake tips

  • High quality chocolate: the better the chocolate, the better the flavor! I love ghirardelli or guittard chips for the buttercream. Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt is my favorite chocolate bar to chop up for the outside of the chocolate cake.
  • Spoon and level flour measurement: if you pack in too much flour, you’ll get denser/drier cake. Here’s a great video showing how to properly measure flour for this recipe.
  • Don’t over-bake: to avoid dry cake, you’ll want to make sure you don’t over-bake the layers — they can go from perfectly moist and fudgy to dry and less flavorful in just a few minutes. 
  • Let the cakes cool for 30 minutes before turning them onto cooling racks and letting them continue cooling. Wait for the cakes to be 100% cooled before frosting and decorating.

Image of the inside of the cake and a slice of the cake with a bite being taken out of it

Chocolate cake storage

Finished cake: store this chocolate cake at room temperature, tightly wrapped with plastic wrap, or under a cake dome for up to 3 days. Unfortunately finished and frosted cake doesn’t freeze and thaw well.

Make ahead/Freezing: carefully wrap the cooled cake layers in plastic wrap and store them in the fridge for up to 2 days. You could also freeze them wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 1 month. Just defrost (in the fridge for 24 hours) before frosting and assembling.

More delicious desserts:

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Chocolate Cake

5 from 2 votes
Three layers of moist and rich chocolate cake frosted with an incredible chocolate buttercream made with three kinds of chocolate.
Recipe shared from Two Peas & Their Pod cookbook, from Maria of Two Peas & Their Pod
Print Recipe

Chocolate Cake

5 from 2 votes
Three layers of moist and rich chocolate cake frosted with an incredible chocolate buttercream made with three kinds of chocolate.
Recipe shared from Two Peas & Their Pod cookbook, from Maria of Two Peas & Their Pod
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword chocolate cake, chocolate cake recipe
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 24 minutes
Servings 12 -16 slices
Calories 684kcal

Equipment

  • 3 (8 inch) round cake pans
  • Parchment paper
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • 1 cup full fat buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 and 3/4 cup all-purpose white flour
  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup DUTCH PROCESS cocoa powder (Note 1)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup very hot water (Note 2)

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 2 cups (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 7 cups (2 pounds) confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar), sifted
  • 1 cup DUTCH PROCESS cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons whole chocolate milk (or regular milk or heavy cream), at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and slightly cooled
  • For decorating: chocolate shavings, sprinkles, or mini chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans generously with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper (Note 3), then spray the parchment paper with the nonstick spray. Set pans aside.
  • WET INGREDIENTS: In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla until combined.
  • DRY INGREDIENTS: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder (Note 1), baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the buttermilk/oil mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until well combined. Slowly add in the hot water (hot water "blooms" the cocoa powder making it more flavorful) and stir just to combine, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula before mixing briefly again. Do not overbeat or overmix the cake or it will become dense.
  • BAKE: Divide the batter evenly among the three prepared pans and bake for 24 to 28 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the centers of the cakes. (My cakes are always done at 24 minutes).
  • COOL: Set the cakes on wire cooling racks to cool in the pans for 30 minutes. Turn out the cakes onto the racks to cool completely. (You can refrigerate or freeze the cakes at this time.) Do not frost cakes if not cooled completely.
  • BUTTERCREAM: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy and lighter in color, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl halfway through. Add the confectioner’s sugar (2 cups at a time) and then the cocoa. Mix on low speeds until just incorporated. Pour in the chocolate milk, vanilla, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the melted chocolate. Mix for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until the buttercream is light and fluffy.
  • ASSEMBLE: If the cake layers are slightly domed on top, carefully level them off with a sharp serrated knife or cake leveler. To build the cake, place a tiny bit of frosting in the center of your cake stand (to keep the cake from sliding). Next place the first layer bottom side up on a flat plate or cake pedestal. Using a knife or offset spatula, spread the top of the cake evenly with buttercream. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and spread more buttercream evenly over the top. Repeat with the third layer and frost the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with chocolate shavings, sprinkles, or chocolate chips, if desired. Slice and serve.
  • BREAKING UP THE PROJECT: Since this is a bigger undertaking than other desserts, you can break up the project by making the cakes in advance. I like to do his so the cake has time to chill, which makes it easier to frost. Carefully wrap the cooled cake layers in plastic wrap and store them in the fridge for up to 2 days. You could also freeze them wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 1 month. Just defrost before frosting and assembling.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: the cocoa powder must be dutch process (not natural cocoa powder) for this cake. Otherwise it will end up overly dry and bland. See blog post for my recommendation on cocoa powder. 
Note 2: coffee can be used in place if preferred
Note 3: Make a parchment paper round bottom for the cake pans by following the below steps:
  1. Tear off a sheet of parchment slightly larger than the cake pan
  2. Fold the parchment in half
  3. Then fold the parchment in half again
  4. Fold into a triangle
  5. Fold the triangle in half again
  6. Hold the triangle against the bottom of the pan from the center outwards
  7. Cut the parchment right where it meets the edge of the cake pan along the curve of the cake pan
  8. Unfold the parchment and press into the bottom of the cake pan.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 16slices | Calories: 684kcal | Carbohydrates: 91.6g | Protein: 5.5g | Fat: 36.9g | Cholesterol: 86.1mg | Sodium: 33.5mg | Fiber: 4.8g | Sugar: 78.2g

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

I love hearing from you when you've made one of my recipes! Tag me on Instagram at @ChelseasMessyApron or leave me a comment below.

 

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7 Comments

  1. This looks absolutely decadent! We’re having friends over for dinner on Saturday and think I’ll make this for dessert. Can it sit in the fridge overnight or should it be made the day of? Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Abbie! The cakes can be made beforehand (and VERY well wrapped up to avoid drying), the frosting can also be made before and stored in an airtight container. Other than that I wouldn’t prepare anything else before the day of and don’t frost the cake or add the other elements until the day of

  2. This chocolate cake is looking so yummy and delicious. It seems like it’s so moist and spongy. Thank you for sharing this lovely recipe, now looking forward to trying it.

  3. Best chocolate cake I have ever had!

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. I had an itch for chocolate cake and wanted to make it myself. I am VERY happy with the results. Great directions, item descriptions (bought the cocoa from Amazon too), and pictures make your site a great resource for DIY-minded people.

    My wife and son now declare me the family baker!!

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