Best Ever Chocolate Cake Recipe

There’s no denying the appeal of a thick slice of rich, decadent chocolate cake. And if you’re going to make it, you better make it good. I stand by the title: this really is the BEST EVER chocolate cake recipe. It is tried and true and will leave you licking the crumbs off the plate!

The best ever chocolate cake recipe should be rich, dark, deliciously moist, and just sweet enough to balance the deep chocolate notes. It will need white sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, buttermilk, oil, and most importantly, hot coffee. Top with fruit, whipped cream, ganache, or frosting.

Whether you’re looking for a birthday cake, an anniversary treat, or just an excuse to curb those cravings, this incredible chocolate cake recipe is for you!

Best Ever Chocolate Cake Recipe

For me, there’s nothing like a slice of a simple chocolate cake. A good chocolate cake recipe should include buttermilk and oil to make sure it’s as moist as possible. But there’s also a secret ingredient: coffee!

Why Add Coffee to Chocolate Cake?

Don’t worry; you’re not even going to taste it!

So, why add it? I know; it seems a little odd to add an ingredient that you won’t even taste. But when I tell you that coffee enhances chocolate, I’m not exaggerating! And using hot coffee will activate the cocoa powder, making it deeper, more rich, and impossible to resist.

What Makes a Chocolate Cake Moist and Fluffy?

The key to making a chocolate cake moist is buttermilk. Regular milk doesn’t have the acidity needed to relax the gluten, meaning you won’t see the same tenderness in the crumb. It’s similar to adding sour cream to Banana Bread, and using buttermilk gives the same results without as much added fat.

If you’ve added buttermilk and are still wondering, “why my chocolate cake is not moist?” take a look at the recipe. Another key ingredient is oil, rather than butter. Though I’m usually a big fan of using butter for the richer flavor, you can’t deny how moist oil makes a cake. And since chocolate cake is already super-rich with lots of flavor, you won’t miss the butter at all.

As for the fluffy part? In most cases, creaming butter and sugar thoroughly will make your cake lovely and fluffy. However, for this chocolate cake, the key is not to overmix the batter.

Be sure to emulsify the wet ingredients, and when adding the dry, do so in batches, but stop just as the flour is incorporated. Too much mixing will beat out the air, leading to a denser sponge.

Easy and Moist Chocolate Cake Ingredients

I know there are countless easy chocolate cake recipes out there, all claiming to be the best. And maybe they are! I mean, have you ever had a bad chocolate cake?

So, though this is the Best Ever Chocolate Cake Recipe for me, it might not be for you. I like it rich and intensely flavored with dark and almost bitter cocoa. You may prefer something a little sweeter, and that’s ok.

But if you want to give it a try, you’ll need:

  • Cake flour - I like to use cake flour to keep the crumb as soft as possible
  • White sugar - for sweetness without added density like you get from brown sugar
  • Cocoa - please, don’t use drinking cocoa for this. It’s full of sugar and will leave your cake lacking. This Cadbury Dairy Milk Bournville Cocoa, 125g is my favorite because it’s lovely and dark, but I also love to use Hershey’s 100% Cocoa Natural Unsweetened (226oz 8oz)
  • Baking Soda - to help the cake rise
  • Baking Powder - ditto
  • Buttermilk - as mentioned above, this will keep your cake moist and full of flavor
  • Oil - again, this will keep the cake moist and tender
  • Eggs - used to bind the batter and helps the cake rise
  • Vanilla - is there ever a recipe without vanilla? Try to use a good quality extract or Vanilla Bean Paste like this from Taylor & Colledge, which I always use.
  • Hot Coffee - the star ingredient! Make it quite strong, using espresso powder if you have it!

How to Make Your Own Buttermilk

You can find buttermilk in most stores these days, but if the taste for chocolate cake strikes and you don’t want to go out, you can make the stuff right at home.

To make your own buttermilk, you’ll need to mix whole milk (or any kind) with something acidic, such as lemon juice or white vinegar. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a measuring cup and top it up with milk to 1 cup. Stir and let it curdle for about 10 minutes.

To make 2 cups, add 2 tablespoons to your measuring cup and top it up with milk. You can use any kind of milk you like here, even almond milk!

How Do You Make Chocolate Cake From Scratch?

As good as those boxed cake mixes are, nothing can beat a slice of homemade fudgy chocolate cake!

For this recipe, you’ll be mixing your wet together and your dry together. Sounds normal, right? Well, this recipe is a little different as you’ll be adding the sugar into the flour mix rather than the oil and eggs.

To make a chocolate cake from scratch, whisk together eggs with oil and vanilla. Add the buttermilk and set it aside. Next, sift the flour with baking soda, baking powder, and cocoa powder. Mix the sugar into the flour before whisking it into the egg mix. Lastly, whisk in the hot coffee and bake.

When whisking the wet ingredients, work until the eggs are fully incorporated, but not too long. You’ll probably see them separate a little from the oil while you work with the dry ingredients. Just give it another mix before you add the flour in.

For the dry, I like to sift everything to add some air to the mix and ensure the rising agents are thoroughly mixed in. Nothing is worse than a mouthful of unblended baking soda!

Also, whisking the sugar into this will help to incorporate it all a little easier. When adding it to the egg mix, do so slowly. I like to add about a quarter at a time, whisking until it’s fully blended before moving onto the next batch. The first will need the most work to make sure it’s nice and smooth.

Lastly, when whisking in the hot coffee, do so slowly and carefully. I like to add it in cups, working until the mix is smooth and thin.

Remember to spray your baking pans, line them with parchment, and then bake for about half an hour.

How to Know When Your Chocolate Cake Is Done

As with most cakes, there are a couple of ways to tell when it’s done:

  1. Gently press the center of the cake. If it depresses, it’s not ready. But if it springs back, you’re good to go!
  2. Insert a toothpick into the center. If the cake is ready, you’ll see some crumbs, but it should be mostly clean. If it comes out wet, the cake needs longer.

In my oven, these cakes take about 25-30 minutes. For context, cupcakes in my oven take about 18 minutes. If yours are the same, 25-30 minutes should be just right. But if you typically find your cupcakes need a bit longer (25+ minutes), your chocolate cakes will need longer.

I recommend checking them after 25 minutes and then working in three-minute intervals until it’s done.

Chocolate Cake Decorating Ideas

One of my favorite ways to decorate a chocolate cake - or any cake - is to pipe frosting rosettes all over. It’s easy and super pretty. You can do this by making a nice stiff frosting and piping rosettes, one after the other. Start at the bottom and work your way up, staggering the roses like brickwork.

Some great frosting flavors for chocolate cake include:

  • Swiss meringue raspberry
  • Peanut butter and mascarpone
  • Sweet strawberry and white chocolate
  • Whipped chocolate ganache
  • Nutella

I like to make a big batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream and flavor it depending on what I’m making. This is a much easier frosting - no streaming in boiling sugar! - that lasts a long time, pipes beautifully, and is so easy to flavor.

How to Make Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Swiss Meringue Buttercream is a mix of egg whites, sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt. Unlike Italian Buttercream, this method is pretty hands-off.

To make Swiss meringue buttercream, add the egg whites and sugar to a clean mixing bowl. Heat the over a double-boiler, whisking until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and whisk in the mixer until stiff peaks. Slowly add butter, whisking the whole time. Finish with vanilla and salt.

Ingredients:

  • 230 grams Egg Whites
  • 400 grams Granulated Sugar
  • 350 grams soft Butter
  • 1 tablespoon Vanilla Paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

Method:

  1. Clean mixer bowl thoroughly, wiping with lemon juice or white vinegar.
  2. Add the egg whites and sugar to the bowl and place over a water bath (a pot with 1-2 inches of simmering water).
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar until the sugar has dissolved - dip your finger in and rub it into your thumb to feel for residual granules.
  4. Once the sugar is fully dissolved, remove the bowl from the heat and attach it to the mixer with a whisk attachment.
  5. Whip the mix until stiff peaks form.
  6. Slowly add the butter in small bits until fully incorporated - the mix will look like it’s curdled, but it will come back together.
  7. Mix for at least 10-15 minutes until thick and glossy.
  8. Add the vanilla and salt last.

If flavoring your buttercream, do so while it’s soft. I like to add concentrated fruit juices (boiled with sugar to make them thick), melted chocolate, peanut butter, or Nutella. Whip it right in and store it in the fridge.

How to Make the BEST EVER Chocolate Cake

You will need two greased and lined 20 cm / 8-inch baking pans for this recipe. Spray with a bit of cooking spray so that the parchment sticks.

Ingredients:

  • 255 grams Cake Flour
  • 400 grams White Sugar 
  • 100 grams Cocoa
  • 3 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 240 ml Buttermilk
  • 85 ml Oil
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 250 ml Hot Coffee

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, and buttermilk.
  3. Add the vanilla and whisk until the eggs are incorporated.
  4. In a separate large bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, baking powder, and cocoa powder.
  5. Whisk the sugar into the dry mix to evenly distribute.
  6. Slowly whisk the dry into the wet ingredients, adding it in three to four additions, whisking until smooth each time.
  7. Once the flour and sugar are incorporated, very carefully whisk the hot coffee into the bowl. 
  8. Divide the batter between the baking pans - it will be quite thin.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean after inserting it into the center.  

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