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This incredibly delicious chocolate cake recipe features the softest cake with rich chocolate flavor covered in a silky chocolate frosting.
This post is brought to you by Bob’s Red Mill.
I often like to perfect basic recipes like vanilla cake, scones, vanilla buttercream, chocolate buttercream, and chocolate mug cake. Once you have a great base recipe, you can adapt it in so many ways.
Today’s chocolate cake is definitely a classic. It’s rich, moist, and made completely from scratch.
So what makes this cake better than all the other chocolate cake recipes? The texter! And it all comes from the brand of flour I use.
If you’ve clicked around the ingredient links in my recipes, you’ll notice I always link to Bob’s Red Mill products, especially the organic all-purpose flour. It’s a premium baking flour that’s unbleached and unenriched, with no potassium bromate added.
It never fails me and yields the best results. I simply can’t recommend it enough!
If you’re in need of a gluten-free recipe, try my flourless chocolate cake. Or if you need to feed a crowd, try my Texas sheet cake.
For this perfect chocolate cake recipe, I started with my favorite cake which I used for my chocolate coconut cake and made several changes to get a lighter, fluffier cake. I couldn’t be more pleased and you are going to feel the same way after just one bite.
The key to getting such a rich chocolate flavor in cake is to use melted baking chocolate, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Don’t worry, you can’t taste the espresso powder. It simply enhances the chocolate.
But, if you are worried about caffeine, you can use instant decaf coffee powder instead.
How to make chocolate cake from scratch?
Begin by preparing the batter. Butter and sugar are mixed together first, then melted chocolate and eggs are added.
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt then add it to the chocolate mixture. Mix it just until it’s almost fully incorporated.
Combine cocoa powder and espresso with water and add it to the cake batter with oil and sour cream. Mix it all together until well combined.
The batter should look mousse-like and shiny.
Bake the cake in two 9-inch round pans then let them cool completely before frosting.
The chocolate frosting is my favorite and I have an entire post dedicated to how to make the best chocolate frosting. So be sure to pop over and take a look before you begin.
How to make a moist cake?
Dry cakes are the worst and chocolate is notorious for drying out a cake. To solve this problem, use butter AND oil. This recipe calls for both but if you make any other chocolate cake recipe, try swapping 20% of the butter for oil. You’ll be amazed at how moist the cake turns out!
Another way to keep the cake moist is to avoid over baking it. It takes about 25-30 minutes to bake but oven temperatures can vary so start checking for doneness at around 20 minutes. Use the toothpick test and remove the cake as soon as the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
How to bake flat cake layers?
I loathe having to trim the tops of my cakes to make them flat. I feel like it’s such a waste. Instead, I wrap wet tea towels or bake strips around the pans. This helps to distribute heat evenly allowing the cake to rise in one flat, even layer. Bake strips can be found online or at hobby and craft stores.
Chocolate cake recipe modifications
- Gluten-Free: Use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour to make the best gluten-free version.
- Swap the espresso powder for instant coffee granules. You can use regular or decaf.
- Make a three-layer cake with three 8-inch round cake pans. Bake them for 20-25 minutes.
- Make 24 cupcakes with 2 muffin tins lined with paper liners. Bake them for 15-20 minutes.
More chocolate cake recipes you’ll love
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For the cake
4 ounces (113 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups (260 g) Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
⅔ cups (160 ml) warm water
¼ cup (21 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder - SEE NOTE 1
1 cup (230 g) sour cream, room temperature - SEE NOTE 2
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
For the frosting
1 ½ cups (340 g) unsalted butter, softened - SEE NOTE 3
5 ¼ cups (630 g) confectioners' sugar
¾ cup (64 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons heavy cream, room temperature
Make the cake
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans and line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper for easier removal of the cake. Set aside.
- Add the chopped chocolate and oil to a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 30-second intervals, stirring after each one, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-low speed until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes.
- Pour the melted chocolate into the butter mixture and beat on medium-low speed until fully combined, about 1 minute.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir with a whisk and add to the chocolate mixture. Mix on low until the dry ingredients are almost fully incorporated.
- Whisk the water, cocoa powder, and espresso powder together until fully combined
- Add the espresso mixture, sour cream, and vanilla to the batter. Beat on medium speed for about two minutes; the batter will be thick and mousse-like.
- Pour the batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs.
- Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans from pans, discard the parchment paper, and let the cakes cool completely, about 2 hours.
Make the frosting
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy and pale in color, about 5 minutes.
- Sift the confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder together in a medium bowl, then add half to the creamed butter and beat on low speed just until the sugar mixture has fully moistened then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the remaining sugar mixture and salt; beat on low speed just until the sugar has fully moistened then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.
- Stir the cream and vanilla together. With the mixer on low speed add 3 tablespoons to the butter mixture. Turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until the cream is well incorporated, about 3-4 minutes. (after about 2 minutes of mixing, stop to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl then continue.)
- Check the consistency of the frosting and add more cream if needed, ½ a tablespoon at a time. (The frosting should be soft and spreadable but not so loose that it doesn't hold its shape.)
Assemble the cake
- Place one cake layer onto a serving platter. Add a generous amount of frosting and spread it to the edge with a spatula. Top with the second cake layer then cover the top and sides of the cake with frosting.
- Instant coffee powder can be used as well.
- Plain yogurt or ¾ cup of buttermilk can be used in place of sour cream.
- The butter for the frosting should not be melty. If the softened butter has an oily sheen to it, it's too soft to make buttercream. Pop it in the fridge for a few minutes to firm it up slightly.
Make a three layer cake with three 8-inch round cake pans. Bake them for 20-25 minutes.
Make 24 cupcakes with 2 muffin tins lined with paper liners. Bake them for 15-20 minutes.
Make ahead tip
- Wrap baked and cooled cake layers tightly in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator. Assemble and frost the cake within 2 days.
- Once the cake has been assembled, it will stay fresh for up to 3 days at room temperature or up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- The frosted cake can be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature just before serving.
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Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:
Calories: 145Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 4gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 79mgSodium: 375mgCarbohydrates: 13gSugar: 4gProtein: 4g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.
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Hey! I loved this cake recipe it was so moist and soft! But is there anyway I could replace the eggs with something? The person I’m baking this for doesn’t eat eggs 🙁
Unfortunately, there’s no way to replace the eggs without changing the entire recipe. I suggest searching specifically for an egg-free chocolate cake recipe.
Jen, I note that twice in the descriptive remarks and the recipe itself two 9″ pans are called for but in the summary it says the recipe yields an 8″ cake.
Can you please clarify. Thanks…and BTW, your cheesecake recipe is without a doubt the very best in the history of cheese, cakes and the entire universe/multiverse. THANKS.
The recipe makes one 9-inch two-layer cake. The yield amount has been corrected. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.
Thanks for this great recipe I will sure try it out …pls I want to know how to preserve this cakes or can preservative be added…
Um. By far THE BEST recipe for chocolate cake EVER.
Do you use Dutch process cocoa or regular cocoa? Thanks!
Use regular unsweetened cocoa powder.
Can this be used in a sheet pan
It will work in a 9×13-inch pan. The bake time may need to be adjusted slightly.
Thank you for this recipe! I’m looking forward to making this for my daughter’s 2nd birthday, just wondering if I can use cake flour instead of all-purpose and what is the ratio?
I haven’t tested this recipe with cake flour so I can’t guarantee how it will turn out. But, it’s generally suggested to use 2 tablespoons more cake flour for every cup of all-purpose. I usually just make cakes using the exact weight, flour for flour and it works fine.
Hi there. I’m excited to bake this cake as I already love your basic vanilla, which I’ve made several times. I’m wondering if you would have an idea how many cupcakes I the “leftover” batter would make after using some of a full recipe to just make a 6 inch round cake (full recipe = one 6″ cake plus cupcakes). Thanks!
I’m not 100% sure since I’ve never made the recipe this way. But, here’s a great resource on how to convert pan sizes.
Hi Jen, I’ve tried the pistachio chocolate cake sans pistachios which was amazing!! I’d like to try this as well. Wanted to find out if this refrigerates well and how long it will keep moist and fresh without freezing. Thank you 🙂
The cake will keep for up to 5 days stored in the refrigerator. Keep it covered in an airtight container and bring it to room temperature before serving.
Thanks Jen! I tried this recipe and it was amazing! The quality of chocolate also really helps with flavour! This is my go to recipe now thanks! ❤️
I’m thrilled to hear you enjoyed it! Thank you for making my recipes!
Hi! This looks like a good recipe but I am a little new to cooking and was wondering if it mattered what chocolate I use since I don’t want to go to the store?
Unsweetened cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate are best for the recipe. But, you might be able to get away with using semisweet baking chocolate.