Best-Ever Chocolate Cake Recipe

Prepare yourself for the most incredible chocolate cake recipe you will ever make. Intensely chocolate, unbelieveably moist, and incredibly easy to make, this recipe will easily become your go-to for all your chocolate cake needs.

A chocolate cake on a white cake stand with chocolate cake slices in the back and front of the chocolate cake.

I love baking cakes because even those with the most simplistic decorations elicit ooohs and aaahs and can be total showstoppers. From Homemade Yellow Cake to Banana Split Ice Cream Cake, you truly can’t go wrong.

Nearly everyone loves cake, and it’s the defacto celebration dessert. Birthday? Graduation? Baptism? Retirement? Anniversary?

The answer is almost always CAKE.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

This amazing homemade chocolate cake has been in my life for years now (it first appeared as the six-layer chocolate cake with marshmallow filling and malted chocolate frosting?), and you’ve seen it paraded around as other cakes (hello ultimate Oreo cake, Snickers cake and peanut butter cup overload cake), and now I am presenting it in all of its simple chocolate cake glory.

This is my absolute favorite chocolate cake in one of the simplest, easiest ways to prepare it – a three-layer cake filled and frosted with my favorite chocolate frosting. It gets rave reviews anytime I serve it, with most people exclaiming that it is the best chocolate cake they’ve ever eaten, and wondering how it could be so moist.

The Key Ingredients

A top down photo of the ingredients for chocolate cake with purple labels.

Aside from baking staples like flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and the leaveners, this cake relies upon some special ingredients that take it from ordinary chocolate cake to best-ever:

  • Dutch cocoa powder – I know, it’s not easily found at most grocery stores, but it’s available from Costco and Amazon – get a bag and keep it in your pantry. It produces such an intense, rich chocolate flavor and a deeper, darker color than unsweetened cocoa powder. I consider it a pantry staple.
  • Vegetable oil – No butter here! When it comes to chocolate cake, oil really does reign supreme. Why? Vegetable oil is 100% fat, while butter clocks in around 80%. More fat means more coating around the flour proteins, preventing the flour from absorbing the moisture in the cake to make gluten. When this happens, unsurprisingly, cakes are drier. So for a supremely moist cake, we use vegetable oil.
  • Coffee – You may have seen many chocolate cake recipes that call for coffee or brownie recipes that call for espresso powder, and there is a good reason for that. Coffee helps to ratchet up the chocolate flavor significantly, kind of a turbo boost for the cocoa powder.
  • Buttermilk – Buttermilk plays two roles in the cake; first and foremost, it reacts with the baking soda to create a beautiful rise for tall cake layers. Secondly, its lactic acid creates a slightly acidic batter, which keeps the cake moist and tender by breaking down gluten.

Ingredient Substitutions

While I highly recommend you make this recipe as-is so that your cake turns out as fantastic as possible, I understand sometimes alternatives are needed. These are my recommendations:

  • Coffee – You can substitute an equal amount of hot water.
  • Buttermilk – Add 1½ tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar to a 2-cup measuring cup, then add enough milk to make 1½ cups. Stir together, then use as directed in the recipe.
  • Dutch-Process Cocoa – You can use regular unsweetened cocoa powder, but please note that the color and texture of the cake will not be the same.

Chocolate Frosting Ingredients

A top down photo of the ingredients for chocolate cake frosting with purple labels.

This cake is filled and frosted with my very favorite chocolate frosting – it’s rich and luscious without being overly sweet. This is what you’ll need:

  • Semisweet chocolate – Chopped and melted to give the frosting a rich and creamy chocolaty finish. You can substitute dark chocolate if you’d like, but milk chocolate would be too sweet.
  • Unsalted butter – Be sure to use butter that is at room temperature so that it whips up nicely.
  • Powdered sugar – Sweetens, thickens, and gives a little structure to the frosting.
  • Vanilla extract- Boosts the flavor up a notch!

Alternative Frostings

If you are looking for something other than a chocolate frosting for your rich and decadent chocolate cake, here are a few different frostings to try:

Step-by-Step Directions

Once you have your ingredients gathered, you are ready to make the most incredible chocolate cake!

Step #1: Make the Cake Batter

  • Prepare for baking: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, grease the parchment paper. Flour the insides of the pans, tapping out excess; set aside.
  • Sift dry ingredients together: In the bowl of an electric mixer (or large bowl if you are using a hand mixer) sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • Whisk liquid ingredients together: In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil, and vanilla.
  • Mix the batter together: Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix for an additional 20 seconds (the batter will be very thin).
The dry ingredients for chocolate cake on the left, the wet ingredients in a bowl in the middle, and the chocolate cake batter in a bowl on the right.

Step #2: Bake the Cake

  • Pour the batter: Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans.
  • Bake + Rotate: Bake for 20 minutes then rotate the pans in the oven.
  • Finish baking: Continue to bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the cakes comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs), about 12 more minutes.
  • Cool the cakes, in the pans, on wire racks for 20 minutes, then carefully turn them out onto cooling racks to cool completely.
A bowl with chocolate cake batter on the left and three cake pans with batter on the right.

Step #3: Make the Chocolate Frosting

Once the cakes have cooled completely, it’s time to make the frosting and assemble the cake!

  • Melt the chocolate: Place the chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second increments on 50% power, stirring after each, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside and cool to room temperature.
  • Beat the butter: Meanwhile, using the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.
  • Add powdered sugar: Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the powdered sugar.
Two mixing bowls whipping the butter and adding in the sugar for the frosting.
  • Add vanilla: Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla and mix until incorporated.
  • Pour in the chocolate: Add in the melted chocolate and whip on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed to incorporate all of the chocolate.
Two bowls side by side mixing up the chocolate icing.

Step #4 Assemble the Chocolate Cake

  • Place one of the cake layers on a serving platter or cake stand and spread 1 cup of frosting over the top in an even layer.
  • Place another cake layer on top of the frosting and spread with another cup of the chocolate frosting.
  • With the last cake layer, place it on top of the frosting upside-down, then frost the tops and sides of the cake and decorate as desired!
A full chocolate cake coated in chocolate frosting with a chocolate bar to the bottom right.

Serving Suggestions

Frosted, decorated, and ready to serve, here are a few of my favorite ways to dish out chocolate cake:

  • With a cold glass of milk.
  • Served with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.
  • Paired with a warm espresso-based drink or a hot cup of coffee.
  • Straight from the cake stand with a fork.

Recipe FAQ

Do I have to use coffee?

If you don’t like coffee and are afraid that the cake is going to taste like coffee, fear not! You cannot taste the coffee at all, but it gives a tremendous boost to the chocolate flavor.

If your concern is the caffeine content, you can absolutely use decaf coffee.

If you cannot consume coffee due to medical, religious, or personal reasons, you can substitute hot water.

What if I don’t have buttermilk?

It’s truly worth picking up for this recipe, but if you are in an absolute pinch or do not have it readily available where you live, you can make the following substitution:

Add 1½ tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar to a 2-cup measuring cup, then add enough milk to make 1½ cups. Stir together, then use as directed in the recipe.

How do you make chocolate cake moist?

Vegetable oil. When it comes to cake, oil really does reign supreme. Why? Vegetable oil is 100% fat, while butter clocks in around 80%.

More fat means more coating around the flour proteins, preventing the flour from absorbing the moisture in the cake to make gluten. When this happens, unsurprisingly, cakes are drier. So for a supremely moist cake, use vegetable oil.

Can you convert this chocolate cake recipe to cupcakes?

I have not been successful at converting this recipe to cupcakes, despite multiple attempts. I recommend my Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes if you need a chocolate cupcake recipe.

Make-Ahead, Storage, and Freezing Tips

Looking for how to keep your cake moist longer? Here are my tips for storing this chocolate cake to maintain maximum freshness.

  • Unfrosted Cake Layers: Store wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for 1 day. You can also store the cake wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Freezer: For longer storage, keep the cake layers wrapped in plastic wrap and then wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in a resealable freezer bag for up to 1 month in the freezer. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before frosting and serving.
  • Frosted Cake: The cake can be kept, covered, at room temperature for up to 4 days.
  • Frosted Cake Freezing Directions: Wrap well in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
A chocolate cake on a cake stand with a slice of chocolate cake being removed and a chocolate bar in the bottom right.

More Fabulous Chocolate Cakes:

If you keep one chocolate cake recipe in your recipe box, it absolutely needs to be this one! It’s simple, dare I say easy, supremely moist, and can be dressed up or dressed down with a limitless amount of different fillings and frostings.

If you make this chocolate cake recipe and love it, remember to stop back and give it a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️

Best-Ever Chocolate Cake Recipe

Servings 10 to 12 servings
Prep 35 minutes
Cook 35 minutes
resting time 20 minutes
Total 1 hour 30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Michelle

This triple-layer chocolate cake from scratch is easy to make and turns out incredibly moist every single time. It's perfect for birthdays, anniversaires, graduation, and more.

Ingredients:

For the Cake

  • cups
    + 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 3
    cups
    granulated sugar
  • 1
    cup
    + 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1
    tablespoon
    baking soda
  • teaspoons
    baking powder
  • teaspoons
    salt
  • 3
    eggs
    (at room temperature)
  • cups
    buttermilk, at room temperature
  • cups
    strong black coffee, hot
  • ¾
    cup
    vegetable oil
  • teaspoons
    vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Frosting

  • 8
    ounces
    semisweet chocolate
    (finely chopped)
  • 2
    cups
    unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5
    cups
    powdered sugar
  • 2
    teaspoons
    vanilla extract

Special Equipment

Directions:

  1. Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, grease the parchment, then flour the insides of the pans, tapping out excess; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or large mixing bowl if you’re using a hand mixer), sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix for an additional 20 seconds (the batter will be very thin).
  4. Divide the batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate the pans in the oven. Continue to bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cakes comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs), about 12 more minutes. Cool the cakes (in the pans) on wire racks for 20 minutes, then carefully turn them out onto cooling racks to cool completely. [Make-Ahead Tip! At this point you can wrap the layers in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for up to 1 day, or refrigerate for up to 3 days before frosting and serving. You can also wrap in aluminum foil and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before frosting and serving.]
  5. Make the Chocolate Frosting: Place the chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second increments on 50% power, stirring after each, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  6. Meanwhile, using the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.
  7. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed to incorporate all of the chocolate.
  8. Assemble the Cake: Place one of the cake layers on a serving platter or cake stand and spread 1 cup of the frosting over the top in an even layer. Place another cake layer on top of the frosting and spread with another 1 cup of the frosting. Place the last cake layer on top of the frosting upside-down, then frost the top and sides of the cake and decorate as desired. The cake can be kept, covered, at room temperature for up to 4 days. You can also freeze the cake, well-wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, for up to 1 month.

Recipe Notes:

  • Equipment: 8-inch round cake pans
  • You can substitute 9-inch cake pans, but will need to reduce the baking time. Rotate the pans after 15 minutes, then start checking for doneness after 10 additional minutes.
  • Dutch-Process Cocoa: Available from Costco and Amazon. You can use regular unsweetened cocoa powder, but please note that the color and texture of the cake will not be the same.
  • Coffee Substitute: If you cannot consume coffee, substitute hot water.
  • Buttermilk Substitute: Add 1½ tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar to a 2-cup measuring cup, then add enough milk to make 1½ cups. Stir together, then use as directed in the recipe.
  • Cupcakes: I have not been successful at converting this recipe to cupcakes, despite multiple attempts. I recommend my Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes if you need a chocolate cupcake recipe.
  • 9×13-inch Cake: I recommend using this chocolate cake recipe for the base of any 9×13-inch chocolate cakes. It bakes up perfectly!
  • Storage (Baked, Unfrosted Cake Layers): Store baked wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for 1 day. You can also store the cake wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. For longer storage, keep the cake layers wrapped in plastic wrap and then wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in a resealable freezer bag for up to 1 month in the freezer. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before frosting and serving.
  • Storage (Frosted Cake): The cake can be kept, covered, at room temperature for up to 4 days. To freeze (the whole cake or slices), wrap well in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
Nutritional values are based on one serving

Nutrition:

Calories: 580kcal
Fat: 54g
Saturated fat: 36g
Cholesterol: 126mg
Sodium: 622mg
Potassium: 374mg
Carbohydrates: 135g
Fiber: 4g
Sugar: 107g
Protein: 7g
Vitamin A: 1065%
Calcium: 96%
Iron: 3.7%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

Photography by Dee Frances.