Chocolate Cake

This double layer chocolate cake is moist, rich and topped with a smooth chocolate buttercream frosting.

Layer cakes are impressive, and yet they’re more simple than you would think! If chocolate isn’t your thing, check out our Vanilla Cake, Pistachio Layer Cake, or S’mores Layer Cake!

Chocolate cake sitting on top of a white cake stand

The Most Perfect Chocolate Cake

Layered cakes haven’t always been my forte. That’s why I usually prefer making cupcakes. They’re easy, you can scale down the recipe and they’re just more fun! So when you do see a cake recipe pop up on here, you know it’s gotta be a good one!

But fortunately, today’s layered cake is simple and can be made by anyone.

I made this Classic Chocolate Cake for Sunday dessert. I wanted to do something different and I really wanted something chocolate! And let me tell you, this cake fit the bill.

Making chocolate cake from scratch in a mixing bowl

Ingredient Tips:

Buttermilk: Buttermilk tenderizes the baked good and gives it a softer crumb. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, we have a post on how to make your own.

Flours: I used part all-purpose flour and part cake flour to help create a lighter and more tender crumb. Cake flour has a lower protein content than all purpose, which means it’s finer, softer, and not as heavy.

Cake flour substitute:  To make a substitute, take a ½ cup of all purpose flour and spoon out 2 tablespoons of it. Scoop in one tablespoon of cornstarch and sift it all together.

Cocoa powder:I typically have three natural unsweetened cocoas on hand (Hershey’s, Scharffen Berger, and E. Guittard) that vary in quality and color. I went with the Scharffen Berger cocoa powder because it seemed like the happy medium. Feel free to use whatever you have in your pantry, you can’t go wrong!

Espresso powder: Since I don’t drink coffee I opted for using baker’s espresso powder diluted in warm water as a substitution, which helped add depth to the flavor.

Can you use melted chocolate for the frosting? Our frosting recipe uses cocoa powder rather than melted chocolate, but if you prefer, omit the heavy cream and cocoa powder and add 1 cup of melted semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Chocolate cake recipe inside two 9" pans

How to Make Chocolate Cake

PREP. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9″ round cake pans, set aside.

BATTER. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together sugar, oil and vanilla. With mixing speed on low, add one egg at a time. In a glass measuring cup combine the buttermilk and coffee.

In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

With mixing speed on low, gradually alternate adding whisked dry ingredients and buttermilk/coffee mixture. Mix just until combined.

BAKE. Pour the batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Place in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

COOL. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate buttercream frosting for chocolate cake recipe

The Chocolate Buttercream

I have a go-to Chocolate Buttercream recipe I typically use for whatever cupcakes I’m making, but the recipe you’ll find below has just the right quantities to cover both layers of this cake.

Light and fluffy, it was whipped to absolute perfection! The powdered sugar and cocoa powder were nicely balanced creating one of the best tasting chocolate buttercreams I’ve ever had.

BEAT. While cakes are cooling, prepare the buttercream by beating the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment for 2-3 minutes. Once the butter is smooth and creamy, add salt, vanilla and heavy cream. Mix until incorporated.

GRADUALLY ADD. With mixing speed on low, gradually add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder (I used my guard on my mixer to prevent any of the powder from escaping).

BEAT. Once combined, beat on medium-hight until fluffy, about 2 minutes. If the frosting isn’t spreadable enough, add a splash more of cream and beat another 30 seconds.

Step by step pictures of how to frost a chocolate layer cake
 

Assembling the Cake

To assemble, place one layer of cake onto a round or a cake stand. Frost the top evenly, then add the next layer. Frost the top of that layer and then the sides of the entire cake. Decorate/pipe as desired.
 
Leveling: You could use a professional cake cutting wire, but there are simpler options. You can take a serrated knife and start at the edge of the cake dome and slice about 1-2 inches in before rotating the cake a  ¼ turn. Do that all the way around the cake and then take your serrated knife and cut all the way through the cake.
 
Bottoms Up: One trick I’ve found extremely helpful is to place each layer of cake upside down so that the bottom is facing up. Not only will that help create even layers, but will help you avoid picking up crumbs when you’re frosting it.
 
Frosting: If you want to make this look like a professional cake I recommend letting it cool completely and then crumb coating the cake with a thin layer of frosting. Have the crumb coat set up in the fridge and then you can put your actual layer of frosting on. You can use a piping bag or a flat metal spatula. It really depends on what style you’re going for, but no matter what, having a crumb coat will give you a solid base to build off of.
 
After the frosting was on, I did my best to smooth things out. Of course it wasn’t perfect, but I think the imperfections somehow made it all the more inviting- like one that grandma would make. Classic, simple and undeniably delicious.
 
Easy chocolate cake recipe

Serving and Storing Chocolate Cake

Getting a clean cut: The best way to slice a cake is to have a very clean and hot knife. You want to make sure that you wipe the knife down after each slice so that you aren’t pulling any extra crumbs where they shouldn’t be. You can also warm your knife by running it under hot water.

Depending on the occasion, cake is usually best served with a scoop of ice cream on the side! This chocolate cake pairs well with:

STORE the frosted cake at room temperature with a large bowl over it. The frosting will protect the cake from drying out, but the bowl over the cake will protect the cake from dust or bugs or any other gross things.

Store unfrosted cake at room temperature or in the fridge. Either way keep it tightly covered so that it doesn’t dry out

You can very easily FREEZE the unfrosted layers after they’ve been baked. Let the cake cool completely and then wrap them in plastic wrap and then wrap them once again in foil. If they fit you could even place them in a freezer safe bag.

To freeze an entire frosted cake, let the cake sit in the freezer for about an hour until the decorations are set. After that you can double wrap it in plastic wrap and then in a layer of foil.

Close up of Homemade Chocolate Cake with a missing slice

For more chocolatey desserts, try: 

 
 

Chocolate Cake Recipe

This double layer chocolate cake is moist, rich and topped with a smooth chocolate buttercream frosting.
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Pin Rate
Course: Cakes & Cheesecakes
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 25 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 55 mins
Servings: 12 slices
Calories: 685kcal
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup water - warmed, +1/2 tsp expresso powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
For the Chocolate Buttercream
  • 3 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cup butter - room temperature
  • 5-6 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

To Make the Cake
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9" round cake pans, set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together sugar, oil and vanilla. With mixing speed on low, add one egg at a time. In a glass measuring cup combine the buttermilk and water/espresso powder.
  • In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. With mixing speed on low, gradually alternate adding whisked dry ingredients and buttermilk/coffee mixture. Mix just until combined. Remove bowl and pour the batter evenly between the two prepared pans.
  • Place in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
To Make the Buttercream
  • While cakes are cooling, prepare the buttercream by beating the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment for 2-3 minutes. Once the butter is smooth and creamy, add salt, vanilla and heavy cream. Mix until incorporated. With mixing speed on low, gradually add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder (I used my guard on my mixer to prevent any of the powder from escaping). Once combined, beat on medium-hight until fluffy, about 2 minutes. If the frosting isn't spreadable enough, add a splash more of cream and beat another 30 seconds.
  • To assemble, place one layer of cake onto a round or a cake stand. Frost the top evenly, then add the next layer. Frost the top of that layer and then the sides of the entire cake. Decorate/pipe as desired.

Notes

  • I find if I forget to put my butter for frosting out ahead of time, 10-12 seconds on power 4 in my microwave does the trick- soft, but not melted.
  • Makes one double-layer 9" cake.

Nutrition

Serving: 12g | Calories: 685kcal | Carbohydrates: 90g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Cholesterol: 99mg | Sodium: 742mg | Potassium: 274mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 69g | Vitamin A: 874IU | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 2mg