The BEST Chocolate Cake Ever

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In honor of National Chocolate Cake Day, today, I wanted to share one of my most treasured possessions with you — my chocolate cake recipe. This cake recipe has been with me for almost 20 years. It has graced birthday party tables as cupcakes, achieved lofty heights as tall, elegant masterpieces at weddings, and has been unceremoniously “smushed” with buttercream inside fudgy, decadent cake pops. This is my ultimate go-to chocolate cake.

 

The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe
Filling these chocolate cupcakes with some dark chocolate ganache!

The Elements

This cake has a delicate crumb with a deep chocolate flavor. The addition of buttermilk helps it achieve that perfect airiness without becoming overly fragile. Also, this recipe does not use any butter or shortening. Instead, vegetable oil and water that give it that “better-than-the-box” moist texture which is often hard to achieve with a scratch made cake.  With any good chocolate recipe, a small amount of vanilla is added to really make the chocolate flavor really “pop!” (I always think of adding vanilla to chocolate like adding salt to a dish. It puts the other flavors on stage!) When paired with a simple chocolate buttercream, the result is a chocolate lover’s dream.

The Process

One of the essentials of working with cocoa is sifting. Cocoa clumps easily and is very hard to “unclump” once mixed with other ingredients. I always advise sifting all dry ingredients prior to mixing with wet, otherwise, you may end up with some unsightly and not-so-tasty bits! A formal “sifter” (think grandma’s kitchen sifter with the revolving tines and crank) isn’t necessary. I am, personally, not a fan of that type as they are difficult to clean and rust easily. I just use a simple strainer and it does the trick! (You can usually find an inexpensive set of different handy sizes at most big box and grocery stores, or online, like this set from Amazon.)

The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe
For a cake this huge, triple the recipe! This undecorated monolith was the base for a massive “DJ Marshmellow” themed birthday cake!

The Cake

Yield: 2 9″ rounds or 24 cupcakes

Cake Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, room temperature (for an egg-free version, substitute 2 Tablespoons of flax meal combined with 4 Tablespoons warm water)
  • 3/4 cup Buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk on hand, add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or vinegar to 3/4 cups milk)
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Chocolate Buttercream ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3–5 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F
  2. Grease and line either two 9″ round cake pans or 24 standard size cupcake tins
  3. Sift dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Combine eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla and slowly mix into dry ingredients.
  5. Gradually mix in warm water until completely combined, then beat on high for about 1 minute to completely mix. Batter will be thin.
  6. Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. (Note: Even if they’re completely done, the cooled cakes may “slightly” sink in the center. Cocoa powder is simply not as structurally strong as all-purpose flour and can’t hold up to all the moisture necessary to make a moist tasting chocolate cake. It’s normal, and, the best part, no trimming necessary for a nice, flat cake!)
  7. Remove cakes from oven and place on wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Make the buttercream: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light and creamy – about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla extract. Start at lowest speed with mixer (to prevent the dry ingredients from exploding upwards!) and beat for 30 seconds, then increase to medium, then high speed for 1 full minute. Slowly drizzle in heavy cream until incorporated and the icing is fluffy. (Add 1/4 cup more confectioners’ sugar or cocoa powder if frosting is too thin or another tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick.)
  9. Cake assembly: Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with about 1/3 of your frosting. Top with 2nd layer and spread remaining frosting all over the top and sides. *For cupcakes: fill a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe 2 tablespoons of icing on top of each cupcake.
  10. Refrigerate cake for at least 30-60 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting. (Tip: Leftover cake should be covered tightly and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.)

 

If you make this cake, I would love to see your results! Happy baking!

Note: With the exception of my personal photos in conjunction with Heather's Dessert Cart and Catering, LLC, this article contains external links for sites and stores for which I am UNAFFILIATED and receive NO compensation. They exist for the SOLE expressed purpose of reference. Shop around and get the best deal! Thank you! -Heather

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