Easy Chocolate Cake

It only requires one mixing bowl and a square cake pan to make this Easy Chocolate Cake! It’s moist, rich, and topped with a silky smooth cocoa frosting.

As much as I love a good Layered Chocolate Cake, I don’t always have the time to make one. That’s why I love how quick this one is! You could even make some Easy No-Churn Ice Cream to go with it!

Easy chocolate cake cut into individual servings.

Quick & Easy Chocolate Cake

On Instagram a few weeks ago I set up polls to see what types of recipes you guys were interested in. It looks like you wanted to see more quick and easy desserts with some intricate show-stoppers sprinkled in between.

I’m right there with you! I love a good three layer cake (hello pistachio cake), but I’m ALL about desserts you can make on a whim. Nothing too fussy, no hard to find ingredients, and nothing overly time consuming. I have three little children after all!!

This easy chocolate cake is one we’ve really grown to love. You make it in one bowl, in under an hour and it tastes amazing!

Run into the kitchen, grab a 9×9 inch baking pan, a hand mixer and let’s get baking!

Baked and frosted square chocolate cake with cocoa buttercream.

Ingredient Tips

Brown Sugar: I find using a bit of brown sugar adds depth of flavor and moisture to this cake. Both of which are important characteristics of a good chocolate cake!

Espresso Powder: In almost all of my chocolate based recipes I add espresso powder to the water. It’s a trick I learned when I worked at Sur La Table. It enhances the flavor of the chocolate without being noticeable. This is not an espresso cake, so don’t expect to taste it.

Cocoa Powder: Make sure to sift the cocoa powder so that you don’t end up with clumps in your batter.

Buttermilk: Buttermilk creates a moist yet light cake crumb. If you don’t have any on hand, you can make your own, or substitute equal amounts of plain yogurt or sour cream.

Making easy chocolate cake recipe in a mixing bowl

How to Make It

BATTER. First things first. Combine the brown sugar and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil, eggs, vanilla, buttermilk and water. After the wet ingredients have been mixed together, add the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.

The batter should be fairly wet and runny.

BAKE. Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when the top springs back when touched. A toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake will also give you an idea doneness. We’re looking for just a few moist crumbs.

FROSTING. While the cake is cooling you can whip up the frosting in the same bowl you made the batter in. The fewer the dishes the better, right?!

DECORATE. Once the cake is completely cool, spread the frosting over top and sprinkle with chocolate pearls, chocolate curls/shavings, or chocolate jimmies. Whatever you have on hand! We’ve made this cake a few times, once with rainbow sprinkles and once with mini M&Ms. It’s definitely a clean-out-the-baking-shelf kind of cake.

SERVE. Slice it up in 9 or 16 pieces depending on how many people you plan on serving it to. I was instructed to cut BIG pieces because my kiddos have eyes bigger than their teeny little stomachs.

Easy chocolate cake batter in a mixing bowl with electric beaters

Recipe Variations

Cupcakes: You can easily make these in a cupcake pan with liners. Just be aware that they won’t take as long to bake as a full cake.

Ganache: If you don’t want to do a frosting you can use a ganache instead. Make a ganache by melting 1.5 cups of chocolate chips and a ½ cup of heavy cream in a double boiler situation

Dairy-free: Use almond/coconut milk and margarine.

No espresso powder? Bloom the cocoa powder with the hot water before adding it in! This helps create a deeper chocolate flavor without having to use espresso powder.

Light, sweet cocoa frosting to top the everyday chocolate cake

Serving & Storing

Grab a tall glass of milk to serve with this chocolate cake, cause you’re gonna need it! And of course, cake is always better with ice cream. Try pairing it with our Vanilla Bean Ice Cream or Brownie Fudge Swirl Ice Cream.

Keep the cake STORED either in the fridge or on the counter! Once the cake is frosted it is protected from drying out.

Cakes will last for around a month in the FREEZER if you wrap them in plastic wrap and then place them in freezer safe bags. To eat the cake, let it thaw in the fridge overnight and then unwrap and frost the layers

Make ahead of time? Cake is always best the day it’s baked. If you want to, you can bake, cool, and frost this cake the day before serving. The frosting acts as a barrier so you don’t need to worry about the cake drying out if you make it ahead of time. You can also bake the cake the day before to ensure that it is fully cooled before frosting it.

Cutting into the easy chocolate cake topped with chocolate curls and crunchy chocolate pearls

I hope you’ll fall in love with this everyday chocolate cake. It’s rich, moist and decadent. Everything a good chocolate cake should be!

P.S. I’m hoping to add a few more “everyday cakes” to the blog. What kind of cake would you love to see simplified? Leave a comment below and let me know!

For more chocolate cakes, try:

 

Everyday chocolate cake ready to be served. | lifemadesimplebakes.com

Easy Chocolate Cake Recipe

It only requires one mixing bowl and a square cake pan to make this Easy Chocolate Cake! It's moist, rich, and topped with a silky smooth cocoa frosting.
4.75 from 12 votes
Pin Rate
Course: Cakes & Cheesecakes
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
Servings: 9
Calories: 756kcal
Print Recipe

Ingredients

For the cake:
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c. buttermilk
  • 3/4 c. warm water + ½ tsp. espresso powder - espresso is optional
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. coarse kosher sea salt - not fine
  • 3/4 c. quality unsweetened cocoa powder*
For the frosting:
  • 1/2 c. 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened natural - dutch process or cocoa rouge cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 pinches coarse sea salt
For the garnish:
  • 1/4 c. chocolate curls - chocolate jimmies or crunchy dark chocolate pearls

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 9x9-inch square pan with parchment paper, set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the sugars and oil for 30 seconds. Add the vanilla and eggs, mixing well after each addition. Pour in the vanilla, buttermilk and hot water. Mix until combined.
  • Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Sift cocoa powder over top. Mix until combined, about 30 seconds.
  • Pour into prepared pan. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top springs back when touched (or a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean).
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  • For the frosting: in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl with a handheld mixer, beat the butter until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  • Carefully add in the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, vanilla and salt, beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  • Spread over the cooled cake. Top with desired garnishes.

Nutrition

Calories: 756kcal | Carbohydrates: 136g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 67mg | Sodium: 519mg | Potassium: 589mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 88g | Vitamin A: 414IU | Calcium: 105mg | Iron: 6mg

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About the Author

Natalie

Wife, mother, baker and photographer. Recipe developer & author of Life Made Simple. A self-professed peanut butter lover and fond of anything that involves pumpkin, cookie dough, or sprinkles

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Comments:

  1. Is it crazy that I’ve never baked a cake without a mix?! LOL! I love those gorgeous chocolate pearls on top. This looks super yummmmmy!

    1. Here are a few options…For each cup of buttermilk, you can use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir, then let stand for 5 minutes. You can also use 1 cup of plain yogurt or 1-3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar plus 1 cup milk. Hope that helps!

  2. 5 stars
    Hi. I’ve made this cake twice and I LOVE IT. Can I make it as cupcakes? Will I have to change some measurements or so?

    1. So happy you like it! I have not tried using this specific recipe for cupcakes, but I am sure you could. I would keep everything the same & just pour in the cupcake liners. It probably wouldn’t need as much time.

  3. I have a middle of the process quick question- if you don’t see this, and likely you won’t (it’s 2 hours difference in time from Rockies to my state of Ohio) , I’ll probably just look it up.. I was planning to use a regular metal – actually brownie pan – pan for baking this ymmy, so easy, cake but then it turns out the pan wasn’t QUITE AS CLEAN as it ought to be – this is a GIFT B-DAY cake or it wouldn’t matter!- so all I had the same size as it was a GLASS PAN, which I know is a RULE CHANGER, right? So just checking to see if, as standard practice says, I lower the temp by 10- 15 degrees for the glass, do you also extend the cooking time for the recipe? And are there any other things I should do as precautions (like check on how it’s baking a few times – oh never mind, you ‘re not supposed to open the door b4 it’s done and I don’t have a window -ugh). Sorry to be such a spaz,.lf you do see this, let me know; thanks! Cannot wait to give my chocoholic friend this baby!

    1. I am so sorry, I did not see this in time!! How did they turn out? The temps are usually a little different in glass vs non stick/other, but times seem to be the same.