If you still need (or just plain WANT) a dessert for later this evening, this chocolate cake is the answer to your prayers. It comes together so easily (one pot for mixing! 15 minutes!), and can be completed, start to finish, within two hours.
Chocolate-laden holidays aside, this is the best simple chocolate cake I’ve ever made. It has a rich chocolate flavor, is supremely moist, and is topped with an utterly amazing milk chocolate ganache frosting that is so silky smooth you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven (because heaven is filled with vats of milk chocolate ganache frosting, yes?).
Over the last 10 years, I’ve amassed a serious collection of chocolate cakes here on the site, mostly because chocolate ALWAYS trumps vanilla in my world (unless we’re talking ice cream, then give me vanilla all day, every day!). If I see a recipe, I have to try it, and I end up loving a lot of them.
As a result, many of you might be wondering which ones are my favorites, so I’m going to lay them out for you right here, right now. While some folks might use the same recipe for single-layer cakes, two-layer cakes, and cupcakes, I have separate favorites for each. I just haven’t found that any of them translate well into another form, so I have go-to chocolate recipes for each one.
One-Layer Chocolate Sheet Cake – THIS! This recipe is perfect for a single-layer cake that you can prepare quickly and slather with your favorite frosting. It’s also the perfect homemade substitute for recipes calling for a chocolate cake mix (see: Mrs. Dill’s chocolate cake, better than “anything” cake, and ho ho cake) – it bakes up evenly without doming and has a neutral chocolate flavor perfect for doctoring up!
Chocolate Cupcakes – The ultimate chocolate cupcakes recipe is my go-to! You can make them with or without the ganache center and use the frosting of your choice, but these cupcakes bake up absolutely perfectly each and every time with just the right amount of chocolate flavor.
I’m pretty biased given my chocoholic nature, but you’d be hard pressed to find a cake better than this one. Its simplicity, combined with the utterly amazing frosting made from just chocolate, cream and butter, makes this recipe a must for stashing away as one of your go-to keepers.
The true sign that this is a fabulous cake? I ALWAYS eat ice cream alongside my cake, but I skipped it this time and you truly do not need a single thing to augment or accompany this chocolate sheet cake. It stands mightily on its own.
I am determined to find every excuse imaginable to keep making this cake over and over again!
Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In a large saucepan, stir together the milk, chocolate, and cocoa powder. Place the saucepan over low heat and cook, whisking frequently, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes. Whisk the vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla into the chocolate mixture until smooth and homogeneous (it may look curdled and separated at first, but keep whisking and it will come together!). Add the flour mixture and whisk until combined, making sure to scrape the corners of saucepan.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan; bake until firm in center when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a wire rack before frosting, 1 to 2 hours.
Make the Frosting: While the cake is baking, combine the chocolate and cream in large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, making sure that water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Whisk the mixture occasionally until the chocolate is uniformly smooth and glossy, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the bowl from the saucepan. Add the butter, whisking once or twice to break up the pieces. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes, then whisk until all of the melted butter is incorporated and the mixture is completely smooth. Refrigerate the frosting, without stirring, until cooled and thickened, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Once cool, whisk the frosting until smooth. (Whisked frosting will lighten in color slightly and should hold its shape on whisk.) Spread the frosting evenly over top of cake. Cut the cake into squares and serve out of pan. (Leftover cake can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 2 days.)
Bittersweet chocolate with 60% cacao is recommended for this recipe.
Using unsweetened cocoa powder instead of Dutch-processed cocoa powder will result in a drier cake.