The Best Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe

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My go to chocolate cake recipe is actually a modification of my favorite vanilla cake recipe! It’s delicious, moist, and best of all, it keeps its shape! The layers bake with smooth sides that are perfect for stacking and frosting. Another perk is that it can be made in one bowl! That’s right, ONE BOWL!!! The recipe is adapted from Kara’s Couture Cakes, and can be found below:

Chocolate Cake Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups (320 grams) flour
  • 3/4 cup (75 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups (600 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp (13 grams) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5 grams) salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter or 2 sticks (454 grams), room temperature
  • 2 tsp. (9 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup egg whites (244 grams) – about 7 large egg whites; I use egg whites from the carton to avoid wasting egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 grams) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp instant espresso (or coffee), dissolved in 1 tbsp of hot water

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line four 7” round pans.

Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer on low (with a paddle), until fully combined.

Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.

Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla, espresso, and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium high for about 30 seconds.

Divide evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers on a rack to finish cooling.

To accelerate the cooling process, I like to pop my cake layers in the freezer once I’ve removed them from the cake pans.

Below is a cross section shot of this cake recipe! You can see how moist it is, and also how well the layers hold their shape when stacked!! This peppermint mocha cake is from I live stream I did with Food Network back in December.

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33 thoughts on “The Best Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe”

  1. I can not have dairy so the buttermilk is out for me, do you think that soy milk for the replacement would work with this recipe.

    1. It will change the texture of the cake slightly, but it should still turn out great! Since this recipe only uses baking powder instead of baking soda, you can swap out the buttermilk for whatever milk works best for you (the acid in the buttermilk isn’t essential to the chemistry of the batter)! Hope that helps 🙂

    1. The texture will turn out the same, but I really enjoy the depth the bit of esspresso gives the cake!! It’s only for flavor, so if you omit it the cake will still turn out fine!

  2. Have you tried this recipe with Dutch processed cocoa? With the baking powder it should work…and I prefer the chocolate flavor with the Dutch…just wondering if you had tried it.

      1. I tried it and it worked beautifully! I used the Dutch-processed in the cake and then made your buttercream with the same cocoa. My father-in-law LOVED it! Thank you!

  3. I have seen on your IG stories and throughout your site here that you like to freeze the cakes first. Do you freeze them solid and then use them that way?
    And once you have assembled your cakes with buttercream/drip etc and bring them to room temperature to serve, do they hold together well? I guess I am worried as I know with fondant, a cold cake can make it sweat through the outside.. and I would like to transport the cake.

    1. They are usually partially thawed when I decorate the cake, but because my buttercream is a crusting buttercream, one it’s sits in my fridge overnight it is usually very sturdy! It holds up pretty well, but I also usually cut into the cake before it is fully thawed (it’s easier to get a clean cut when the layers are still slightly chilled).

  4. Hi Chels. I’m making a silver and black drip cake for a 40th. I like the sound of this chocolate cake as my chocolate cake is lovely but very dense and possibly too rich for all the additions to this cake. Can you please help me to pair a filling/buttercream to put between the layers? I think she will love your caramel sauce and I plan on covering the cake with chocolate ganache as I’m going to to try to brush on silver to go under the black chocolate drip (if that makes sense) lol. TIA, Jolene

    1. I don’t think her chocolate cake is dense. Rich, yes, but it is light and soft and delicious. In my humble opinion, the chocolate ganache is where things get over the top…but I am not a huge chocolate lover either. All of Chelsea’s recipes that I have tried are the best recipes that I have ever used and I have been baking for decades.

      1. Thanks Chels and Amanda! I was referring to my chocolate cake recipe, that one is very dense that’s why I’m going to try this one. I will definitely try your american buttercream. It looks good! I’m just hoping the combination of it all tastes good and looks good when it’s cut open. Hold thumbs for me;)

  5. Just commenting for others who wonder about this cake in high altitude – it works perfectly without any adjustments!

  6. Hi Chelsea! Huge fan! I have to ask- how thick are your cake layers? i have the two inch thick Wilton cake pans, how much batter should i pour into the pan? (i’ll probably use a 6 inch or 8 inch pan)

    Also- how do you get your cake circle to stay on your cake stand when decorating? do you add buttercream to the bottom of the circle too? Thanks a ton!!!

    1. Thanks! My cake layers usually bake to be between .75-1.5 inches tall! I usually use 7 or 8 inch pans. The recipes makes pretty tall layers if you spread it between four 7 inch pans. If you use 6 inch pans, you will have to make more than four layers, or save of the batter for something else. I use 2 inch tall pans. I have a non-slip mat which i cut into a circle, and place beneath my cake round. works like a charm!

  7. Hi Chelsea! How do you line your cake pans? I want to try and make this as fool proof as possible 🙂 thank you!

  8. Hey Chelsea. I’m making a Wonder Woman cake for my daughter birthday with a minecraft for tier two. The bottom layer will be around 10 inches in diameter so I can decorate with the square minecraft block on top of the round tier. I don’t want it to be too high. Do you think this recipe would work for two layers of the bottom tier?

  9. Would this recipe work with three 8 inch round pans? I am doing a two tier cake and want this recipe for the bottom 8inch round tier. How much batter should I put in each pan?

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