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A slice of Hershey's Chocoate Cake on a white dessert plate with a red fork

Best Chocolate Cake Recipe

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This is definitely the Best Chocolate Cake Recipe with 3 moist tender layers filled and iced with a creamy, simple Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. Chocolate on chocolate is always a crowd-pleaser with my family!

A slice of the best chocolate cake on a white dessert plate

Best Chocolate Cake Recipe

I thought I found the best ever chocolate cake when I baked my Triple Layer Cocoa Cake, but it’s no fun to make the same cake over and over.  So when my friend, Sandra, made this recipe and shared a photo of a decadent slice, I knew I had found my son Nick’s birthday cake!  He was adamant that his celebration would involve a homemade chocolate cake and the birthday child always gets what he wants!

Homemade Chocolate Cake on a white pedestal

Homemade Chocolate Cake

Though I love doctoring up a chocolate cake mix when time is short, there’s nothing better than a cake from scratch. And when you add a third layer, it’s even more celebratory!! It’s the same Hershey’s Chocolate Cake recipe, just divvied up between 3 cake pans. The buttermilk in the batter is the secret ingredient that makes the cake so unforgettable!

What Does Adding Buttermilk to a Cake Do?

Buttermilk is more acidic than milk. In fact, you can make your own buttermilk by putting one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice into a liquid measuring cup, then filling the cup up to the one cup mark with milk. Wait a couple of minutes and the milk will curdle. At that point, it can be used in your recipe.

It’s that touch of acid in the buttermilk that helps break down the gluten fibers in the flour. Gluten is what gives baked goods their strength and structure. It forms an elastic web of proteins when the gluten-containing flour is mixed with liquid. If you want a tender cake, using cake flour works because it contains less protein/gluten. Since this recipe uses all-purpose flour, the buttermilk helps deactivate some of the gluten’s power.

A slice of Hershey's Chocoate Cake on a white dessert plate with a red fork

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

It’s the pairing of a delectable chocolate cake recipe and a simple buttercream that makes this such a comforting cake recipe. This is an old-fashioned, classic chocolate cake recipe that’s been popular for decades. It doesn’t need a fancy Swiss meringue buttercream, though that would be delicious, too. The chocolate buttercream frosting is a simple recipe with butter, cocoa, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. I did double my recipe to make sure there was enough for the extra layer. No one at this house complains about the extra frosting! In fact, there’s always a volunteer to lick the bowl.

And once again, when I tried to discern which of my chocolate cake recipes was the “best” one, I got the usual answer:  “You’ll have to bake them all for side by side comparisons.”  I think the family just wanted more cake!

How to Bake Even Cake Layers

There are two ways to make sure your cake layers are the same height. One is to use a few toothpicks to check the depth of the batter. Just add some batter to your pans, then use a clean toothpick to check the depth of each. Don’t completely distribute the batter as you will need some extra to add to those pans that need some more. Add batter to those with less, checking and rechecking until all pans have about the same amount of batter.

A more efficient method is to use a kitchen scale. Having all the same brand of pans helps, so they all weigh the same. Start by adding batter to each pan without using all the batter. Weigh each pan and add more batter to the pans that weigh the least.  Keep weighing and adding batter until all 3 pans weigh approximately the same and the batter is all used.

How to Bake a Flat Cake

This cake baked up with relatively flat layers, but having domed cake layers is another problem. You can always slice off the dome, but then you’re wasting cake and create a crumbly mess you’ll need to frost.

There are special fabric strips that are moistened and wrapped around the pans before baking. The moisture of these cake strips helps keep the edges from heating up faster than the middle and help the whole cake bake at the same rate. You can make cake strips at home from an old towel. Just cut strips the height of your pan in a length that will wrap around the outside of the pan with enough overlap to pin to secure.

To use the cake strips, wet them and squeeze out excess moisture. Wrap around the outside of the pan and secure with safety pins. Bake as directed. Alternatively, Wilton makes cake strips you can purchase. See a link in my recipe card FYI. They’re also available at Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics.

More of Our Favorite Chocolate Cake Recipes:

This recipe was first shared in May 2011. Text and photos were updated in 2019.

 
Moist Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Moist Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

A classic, old-fashioned chocolate cake with chocolate frosting! Perfect for birthdays and special occasions!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Yield 12 servings

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 cup hot coffee (I used one cup boiling water with 2 teaspoons instant coffee)

Buttercream Frosting:

  • 12 tablespoons butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Grease and flour (or use Baker's Joy) three 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment rounds and grease the parchment, too. Set aside.
  2. With a stand mixer, stir together the first 6 (dry) ingredients. Add eggs, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla and beat for about 2 minutes on medium speed, scraping sides of the bowl at least once. Stir in coffee.
  3. Divide batter between the three pans. I like using a kitchen scale to divide the batter evenly. The batter will be thin.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool for about 10 minutes, then run a knife around edges of pans. Carefully remove cakes from pans to a wire rack to cool completely. Gently remove parchment.
  5. Cool completely before frosting.
  6. To make the frosting, cream the butter. Add cocoa and powdered sugar alternately with milk. Beat until it reaches spreading consistency, adding more milk as needed. Mix in vanilla.

Notes

Adapted from Foodess and Hershey's

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 568 Total Fat: 14g Saturated Fat: 8g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 4g Cholesterol: 63mg Sodium: 546mg Carbohydrates: 105g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 82g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 7g
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43 comments on “Best Chocolate Cake Recipe”

  1. that looks so good!

  2. I’m a huge fan of chocolate cake…but I’m in a lemon mood…bought a bag of lemons last night to make your lemon bars.

  3. Lizzy! You and your cakes! I keep wanting to make ALL OF THEM! Good thing there’s 31 days in May!

  4. Thanks, Mary!!!
    Bo, wonderful! I hope you enjoy them~

  5. Whats not to love with chocolate heaven… lovely cake!

  6. Uh oh, I would be able to be trusted around that cake – looks amazing!

    🙂
    ButterYum

  7. Lizzy,

    I am glad your family liked the recipe 🙂

    I just showed Alex this post, and he said, “What a gorgeous cake, you should make that recipe!” I just looked at him … LOL

    Hugs,
    Sandra

  8. “wouldn’t”

  9. Mmm…there’s nothing better than a chocolate cake with chocolate icing! I love the chocolate shavings on top. Happy Birthday to your son!

  10. Brilliant birthday cake! It looks outstanding and if the birthday boy was a happy camper, that’s a double win in my book. Well done!

  11. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is my favorite birthday cake!! You did a great job with the frosting and the shavings on top!

  12. I like their way of thinking for the side by side comparison, haha! There are so many chocolate cakes being blogged about this morning my itty bitty is running around the house on a sugar high from all the gorgeous photos. His 3rd birthday is coming up and he actually understands the concept of a party this year so ever blog with a cake he’ll ask me if it’s for his “Cars burfday parey?” Haha!

  13. Ehehehe….side by side comparison in a quest for more cake…I am totally remembering this excuse. 😉

    Awesome cake….it’s just wrong for me to crave cake this early in the day.

  14. Lizzy, that’s so sweet of you to stop by my blog! I just started this new one and imported some of my old posts over a couple days. your comment was the first one on my first post of the new blog! 🙂
    Anyways, this cake looks absolutely beautiful… and delicious!

  15. That looks absolutely fantastic. I made a chocolate cake yesterday and mine totally doesn’t look like that, haha! YUM!

    http://pinchofthisthatandtheother.blogspot.com/

  16. This looks wonderful…you can never go wrong with chocolate cake and this one is so beautiful!

  17. Your cake looks as pretty as those in bakery windows. The chocolate curls are a nice touch.

  18. I just love your pictures here, and would like to be sitting at the table with a slice. Yummy

  19. Oh lawd – you put chocolate shavings on top too. Have mercy!!

  20. I bet your son won’t forget this birthday cake. Just got home from N. Carolina and your cake looks as beautiful as some of the desserts I saw this week. Your desserts always look wonderful, no wonder they wanted two!!!

  21. Your son is so lucky to have this chocolate birthday cake – coffee always enhances that chocolate flavor 🙂

  22. I love this recipe, it’s really close to Hersey’s which is so moist. I’m always in the mood for a piece of chocolate cake.
    -Gina-

  23. What a decadent chocolate cake, so perfect for a birthday celebration!

  24. Delicious looking chocolate cake!! There’s nothing like a huge slice of cake and cold glass of milk.

  25. Lizzy-Your chocolate cake is so decadent, and elegant, this would be the perfect cake for birthdays, holidays, and any occasion. Simple, beautiful, and the chocolate curls are all the decoration you need. Thanks for the inspiration, and for sharing this amazing recipe!!!
    xoxo

  26. Wow, what a cake! I can already imagine the taste of it. Yum.

  27. Oh boy, did someone say breakfast??? Well… I’d be having a big ole slice with my coffee if I could:@)

  28. Always a good thing t have chocolate on chocolate 🙂 and I do love adding buttermilk but did not know the science behind it. Thanks for the info!

  29. This cake is chocolate heaven! It is so incredibly moist and the rich chocolate frosting tops it off perfectly! This one is on permanent rotation at my house!

  30. This chocolate cake is SO GOOD! Literally divine, every crumb was eaten!

  31. That looks spectacular! Love that smooth tender crumb…simply perfect!

  32. I can only put 2 9 in. Cake pans in my oven.  Could this cake be baked in 2 9in. Pans?  Would be nice to make this cake for Christmas.

  33. What a great idea with the strips of fabric, will definitely be making my own this holiday season. The chocolate cake looks wonderful, love double chocolate cake. And this is such an easy recipe, who needs a box cake?

  34. What a pretty cake, Liz! I can imagine how delicious it is and I’d love a slice now. Buttermilk is great for cakes like this and the buttercream frosting never hurt anything it’s on. Yum!

  35. I always appreciate your baking tips in your posts, Liz! I have been craving a classic chocolate cake, and this looks like just the ticket! That icing is just perfection. Slice me up a HUGE piece, please!

  36. Everyone at my house really loved it! Such a huge hit! Can’t wait to make it again!

  37. This truly is the best chocolate cake. We love making it at least once a month.

  38. Wow this is really looking best recipe of choco cake.
    Easy and simple way of preparation.
    Thanks!

  39. That really does look like the best chocolate cake ever! Really like the sound of the frosting.

  40. Hi, I was wondering if kahlua could be used instead of the coffee? I have some that I don’t want to sit around but I have to make sure the alcohol gets cooked out.

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