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Death by Chocolate Cake

I know the name “death by chocolate cake” seems a bit aggressive, but what it really means is you’ll be drowning in chocolatey goodness as soon as you take a bite!

It’s made with moist chocolate cake layers, frosted with decadent dark chocolate buttercream, and coated with mini chocolate chips. This cake is truly a chocolate lover’s dream.

image of a death by chocolate cake made with moist chocolate cake layers, decadent dark chocolate buttercream, and coated with mini chocolate chips

How to Make This Death by Chocolate Cake

To make sure your death by chocolate cake turns out as amazing as possible, let’s walk through each step together! I’ve also included a video tutorial of the process below.

Below are the tools I like to use when I make this recipe. If you don’t have all of them, don’t worry! You can totally work with what you have on hand.

Step 1: Make the Chocolate Simple Syrup

Make the chocolate simple syrup first, because it needs time to cool down.

The chocolate simple syrup is optional, but it makes the cake layers super moist!! I think it really takes this cake to the next level, and don’t recommend skipping it.

image of chocolate simple syrup being poured into a small bowl to cool

Step 2: Bake and Level the Chocolate Cake Layers

Next, make the chocolate cake batter. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, and bake for 23-26 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

image of dark chocolate cake batter being poured into cake pans

Remove the cake layers from the oven and let them cool in the pans for about 15 minutes.

Gently run an offset spatula around the rim of the cake pans to loosen them, then flip them into wire racks to finish cooling.

If you’re in a rush, you can pop the cake layers (pans and all!) into the freezer for 30 minutes. I love doing this because it actually traps some of the steam inside the layers and makes them extra moist.

Once the cake layers have cooled to room temperature, use a serrated knife to level the top of each cake layer.

If you’re making these in advance, you can wrap and freeze them at this point.

image of a moist chocolate cake layer that's been leveled with a serrated knife

Wait to soak the cake layers with chocolate simple syrup until right before you plan to assemble the cake.

Step 3: Make the Chocolate Buttercream

While the cake layers bake and cool, make the chocolate buttercream. This frosting can also be made in advance if needed and kept in the fridge for up to a month!

image of silky smooth, decadent dark chocolate buttercream

Step 4: Soak and Stack the Cake Layers

Stack and frost cake layers on a greaseproof cake board or flat plate, using a dab of chocolate buttercream to help stick the first cake layer to the board.

Before you add each cake layer, use a silicone brush to soak the top of the cake layer with chocolate simple syrup.

image of chocolate simple syrup being brushed onto moist chocolate cake layers to make a Nutella cake

Spread an even layer of chocolate buttercream on top of each cake layer with a large offset spatula.

I also like to top each layer of frosting some mini chocolate chips to add a little texture to each bite of this cake. However, this is optional!

image of death by chocolate cake being assembled with dark chocolate frosting and mini chocolate chips

Repeat with the remaining cake layers, then freeze the cake for about 10 minutes in the freezer.

This will help the buttercream between the cake layers firm up and make the cake way easier to frost.

Step 5: Smooth on a Thick Layer of Frosting

Add a thick layer of chocolate buttercream around the cake and smooth it using a large offset spatula. This is a very forgiving cake design, so don’t worry if the frosting isn’t perfectly smooth!

We’re going to cover it completely with mini chocolate chips, so no one will know what it looked like before.

Carefully press mini chocolate chips into the frosting on the sides and top of the cake until it’s completely covered.

image of a dark chocolate cake being covered with mini chocolate chips

Step 6: Decorate the Top of the Cake

Decorate the top of the cake with buttercream dollops using any leftover frosting and your favorite frosting tip. I used a Wilton 1M to make my swirls.

Then cut yourself a big slice and enjoy! This cake can sit at room temperature for up to 2 days, or be stored in the fridge for a week.

image of chocolate swirls being piped on top a death by chocolate cake

Substitutions & Swaps: Chocolate Cake Layers

While I love this death by chocolate cake just the way it is, I know some of you might not have all of these ingredients on hand.

Below are some swaps and substitutions that can be made in this recipe:

  • All-Purpose Flour – This recipe turns out best with all-purpose flour. However, you can swap in a good gluten-free flour blend (like this) if needed. Just be sure to stir the batter longer than normal to help give the cake proper structure, and let the batter sit for about 20 minutes before baking it if you opt to make a gluten-free version.
  • Granulated Sugar – I do not recommend reducing the amount of sugar or changing the type of sugar, as it will change the texture of the cake layers.
  • Dark Baking Cocoa – I like to use Hershey’s dark baking cocoa, but you can also use black cocoa or Dutch-processed cocoa powder. If you can’t find dark cocoa powder or don’t have any on hand, you can use regular unsweetened baking cocoa in its place.
  • Sour cream – You can also use full-fat yogurt, buttermilk, whole milk, or an alternative yogurt or milk (almond, soy, oat).
  • Vegetable Oil – Any flavorless oil can be used in this recipe. Canola, vegetable, or even sunflower oil would all work great. I don’t recommend olive oil though, as it has a strong flavor and will change the taste of the cake.
  • Eggs – This recipe uses 2 large eggs. You can try using a vegan egg replacer or 2 flaxseed eggs if you have an egg allergy.
image of Hershey's dark baking cocoa

Substitutions & Swaps: Chocolate Buttercream

Below are some great swaps and substitutions that can be made in this recipe.

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it instead of unsalted butter. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place!
  • Dark Cocoa Powder – If you can’t find dark cocoa powder or don’t have any on hand, you can use regular unsweetened baking cocoa or Dutch-processed cocoa powder, or add additional powdered sugar in its place.
  • Heavy Cream – Whole milk or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat) can also be used to make the frosting.
  • Dark Chocolate – You can use dark chocolate chips, baking chocolate, or good-quality chocolate bars to melt and add to the frosting. Alternatively, you can also use milk or semi-sweet chocolate if you have a strong preference.
image of chocolate american buttercream

Tips for Making the Best Death by Chocolate Cake

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better! Be sure you set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure the flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level). Or better yet, use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Mix your cake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will ensure your cake layers are tender and fluffy.
  • Use a scale to weigh your cake pans as you fill them. It ensures that each pan has the same amount of batter, which will help the cake layers bake to the same height and bake more evenly.
  • Level the room temperature or thawed cake layers with a serrated knife to make them easier to stack.
  • Chill the cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake and before adding the simple syrup. It makes it so much easier to stack and frost them!
image of chocolate cake batter being weighed on a scale to make sure all the pans have the same amount of batter

Making this Death By Chocolate Cake in Different Sizes

One batch of batter is about 1500g or 8 cups, so I add roughly 500g to each of my cake pans when using 3, 8-inch cake pans, or 375g to my cake pans when using 4, 7-inch cake pans.

You can also use one batch of batter to make 2, 9-inch cake layers or 4, 6-inch cake layers. Bake time will be a few minutes longer at 350 F / 175 C.

This recipe can also be used to make a death-by-chocolate sheet cake! One batch will make 1, 9 x 13-inch cake layer that is about 1 inch tall once it’s baked.

Bake for 25-35 mins at 350 F / 175 C, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Bake time can vary a lot based on the type of pan you use, if you use heating cores, and your oven. I recommend using heating cores if you have them to help large cake layers like this bake more evenly and quickly.

If you want to make a tiered cake with this recipe, check out my cake batter calculator to see how many batches of batter you’ll need.

If you want to make death by chocolate cupcakes, use this recipe! One batch makes 2 dozen cupcakes.

Making this Death by Chocolate Cake in Advance & Storage Tips

I highly recommend making the components of this cake in stages. It breaks the process up and makes it so much more approachable!

The cake layers can be made in advance and frozen. They taste just as great when they’re frozen as when they’re fresh, I promise!

You can make the frosting ahead of time or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month or the freezer for 3 months.

Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

This cake can last at room temperature for up to 2 days, in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for a month. The buttercream locks in the moisture and keeps the cake fresh and delicious!

If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store it in the fridge for up to a week.

image of a slice of death by chocolate cake made with moist chocolate cake layers, decadent dark chocolate buttercream, and coated with mini chocolate chips on a plate

Let Me Know What You Think

If you try this death by chocolate cake recipe, I’d love to hear what you think! Please leave a rating and comment below.

And don’t forget to tag me @chelsweets and #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations!

image of a slice of death by chocolate cake made with moist chocolate cake layers, decadent dark chocolate buttercream, and coated with mini chocolate chips on a plate

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 24

Death by Chocolate Cake

image of a death by chocolate cake made with moist chocolate cake layers, decadent dark chocolate buttercream, and coated with mini chocolate chips

Love chocolate?? Then this death my chocolate cake recipe is for you! It's made with moist chocolate cake layers and decadent dark chocolate buttercream.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 55 minutes

Ingredients

Chocolate Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup water (120g)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (100g)
  • 1 Tbsp dark baking cocoa powder (6g)

Dark Chocolate Cake Recipe

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (260g)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (400g)
  • 3/4 cup dark cocoa powder, sifted (75g)
  • 2 tsp baking powder (8g)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda (9g)
  • 1 tsp fine salt (6g)
  • 1 cup warm water (240g)
  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature (255g)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (110g)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature (112g)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (8g)
  • 1 tsp instant espresso or coffee (1g) - optional

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups (or 4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (434g)
  • 1 cup dark baking cocoa, sifted (100g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt (3g)
  • 5 cups powdered sugar (625g)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature (180g)
  • 1 1/3 cups dark chocolate chips, melted and cooled (230g)

Additional filling and decoration - optional

  • 2 cups mini chocolate chips (360g)

Recommended Tools

Instructions

Chocolate Simple Syrup

  1. Pour 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup granulated sugar into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking continuously until the mixture starts to boil.
  2. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 Tbsp dark cocoa powder. Pour into a medium-sized bowl to cool to room temperature, then cover and set aside. This will be brushed onto the cake layers right before we assemble the cake. If you're making this in advance, it can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. 

Dark Chocolate Cake Layers

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C. Grease and line four, seven-inch or three eight-inch cake pans.
  2. Sift or whisk together 2 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 3/4 cup dark cocoa powder, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1 tsp salt into a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Into a separate bowl, add 1 cup warm water, 1 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup oil, 2 eggs, 2 tsp vanilla, and 1 tsp instant espresso into a separate bowl and whisk together until fully incorporated.
  4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until they're incorporated into the batter.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, and bake for 23-26 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  6. Remove the cake layers from the oven and let them cool in the pans for about 15 minutes. Gently run an offset spatula around the rim of the cake pans to loosen them, then flip them onto wire racks to finish cooling. If you're in a rush, you can pop the cake layers (pans and all!) into the freezer for 30 minutes. I love doing this because it actually traps some of the steam inside the layers and makes them extra moist.
  7. Once fully cooled, use a serrated knife to level the top of each cake layer. If you are making these in advance, wrap and freeze them at this point.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  1. Beat 2 cups or 4 sticks of butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment until smooth. 
  2. Add in 1 cup dark cocoa powder, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
  3. Gradually mix in 5 cups of powdered sugar and 2/3 of a cup of heavy cream on a low speed.
  4. Then mix in 1 1/3 cups of melted and cooled dark chocolate on a low speed until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the desired consistency is reached. The chocolate should still be fluid, but no longer hot to the touch. I let mine sit for about 10 minutes before adding it to the frosting. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula. You want to make sure all the melted chocolate is mixed in, or else you can end up with lumps of hardened chocolate in your buttercream. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent crusting and set aside.

Assembling this Death by Chocolate Cake

  1. Stack and frost the cake layers on a greaseproof cake board or flat plate using a dab of chocolate buttercream to help stick the first cake layer to the board.
  2. Before you stack each cake layer, use a silicone brush to soak the top of the cake layer with chocolate simple syrup.
  3. Spread an even layer of chocolate buttercream on top of each cake layer as you stack them with a large offset spatula. If desired, sprinkle 2-3 Tbsp of mini chocolate chips on top of each layer of frosting for a bit of texture.
  4. Repeat with the remaining cake layers, then freeze the cake for about 10 minutes. This will help the buttercream between the cake layers firm up, reduce crumbing, and make the cake way easier to frost.
  5. Then cover the cake with a thick, even layer of chocolate buttercream and smooth using a large offset spatula. Don't worry if the frosting isn't perfectly smooth!
  6. Carefully press mini chocolate chips into the frosting around the cake until it's completely covered.
  7. Then decorate as desired! I like to use the leftover buttercream to pipe swirls on top of the cake with an open star tip (like a Wilton 1M). Then cut yourself a big slice and enjoy! This cake can sit at room temperature for up to 2 days, or be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

Notes

Tips for Making the Best Death by Chocolate Cake

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better! Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure the flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level). Or better yet, use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Mix the cake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will ensure your cake layers are tender and fluffy.
  • Use a scale to weigh your cake pans as you fill them. It ensures each pan has the same amount of batter, which helps the cake layers bake to the same height and bake more evenly.
  • Level the room temperature or thawed cake layers with a serrated knife to make them easier to stack.
  • Chill the cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake and before adding the simple syrup. It makes it so much easier to stack and frost them!

Making this Death By Chocolate Cake in Different Sizes

One batch of batter is about 1500g or 8 cups, so I add roughly 500g to each of my cake pans when using 3, 8-inch cake pans, or 375g to my cake pans when using 4, 7-inch cake pans.

You can also use one batch of batter to make 2, 9-inch cake layers or 4, 6-inch cake layers. Bake time will be a few minutes longer at 350 F / 175 C.

This recipe can also be used to make a death-by-chocolate sheet cake! One batch will make 1, 9 x 13-inch cake layer that is about 1 inch tall once it's baked.

Bake for 25-35 mins at 350 F / 175 C, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Bake time can vary a lot based on the type of pan you use, if you use heating cores, and your oven. I recommend using heating cores if you have them to help large cake layers like this bake more evenly and quickly.

If you want to make a tiered cake with this recipe, check out my cake batter calculator to see how many batches of batter you'll need.

If you want to make death by chocolate cupcakes, use my death by chocolate cupcake recipe! One batch makes 2 dozen cupcakes.

Making this Death by Chocolate Cake in Advance & Storage Tips

I highly recommend making the components of this cake in stages. It breaks the process up and makes it so much more approachable!

The cake layers can be made in advance and frozen. They taste just as great when they're frozen as when they're fresh, I promise!

You can make the frosting ahead of time or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month or the freezer for 3 months.

Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

This cake can last at room temperature for up to 2 days, in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for a month. The buttercream locks in the moisture and keeps the cake fresh and delicious!

If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store it in the fridge for up to a week.

Nutrition Information

Yield

24

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 480Total Fat 20gSaturated Fat 8gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 39mgSodium 314mgCarbohydrates 75gFiber 2gSugar 61gProtein 4g

Kay

Wednesday 19th of June 2024

This was so simple to make and so incredibly delicious! I’ve never made something that tastes just like it looks, this truly did not disappoint. Will 100% be making this for the rest of my life.

Hey Hey

Tuesday 18th of June 2024

Hi! I was wondering if you have tried making this with gluten free flour? Thank you ?

Sydney

Monday 10th of June 2024

This is an AMAZING recipe!!!! I cannot recommend it enough. I’ve made it for a birthday party and a wedding, and both times it had RAVE reviews. So many people told me it was the best chocolate cake they’ve ever had—even people who didn’t like chocolate loved it. The icing is sinfully decadent. The chocolate simple syrup keeps it perfectly moist. I’ve made it with and without chocolate chips, and it’s amazing either way.

I’ve also made this into cupcakes, and it works really well! Just reduce the baking time. I think it took about 18-20min in my oven.

Chelsweets

Saturday 15th of June 2024

Aw this comment put the biggest smile on my face Sydney! Thank you so much for sharing!!! I made it for my birthday this year because it's one of my all time favorite recipes too :)

Tanya

Wednesday 29th of May 2024

Made this delicious rich chocolate cake for my grandson’s birthday in February. Making it again today for my granddaughter’s birthday because it was such a hit. Thank you, this one is a winner. Tanya- Cape Town South Africa

Chelsweets

Tuesday 4th of June 2024

So happy to hear that Tanya!! You have some very lucky grandkids! Thank you for sharing :)

Amee Estevez

Tuesday 28th of May 2024

I'm making this cake for a wedding next month and did a practice run yesterday. They only want a crumb coat on the cake as the "decoration" but the cake was very crumbly which made a crumb coat very difficult. Is there something I did wrong to make it so crumbly? Would the issue be resolved by leaving the cake in the freezer for 20 mins before frosting? Is there a different recipe that would work better for a crumb coat cake? Thank you so much!!

Chelsweets

Tuesday 4th of June 2024

Hi Amee,

#1 - so happy you're doing a practice run! SO SMART when it comes to wedding cakes!! #2 - totally hear you on the crumbing. I love this recipe, but it can be difficult to stack, especially if you only can do a crumb coat! I'd recommend using my chocolate layer cake recipe instead. It has great flavor but a bit more structure and is WAY easier to stack! Here's the link: https://chelsweets.com/my-go-to-chocolate-layer-cake-recipe/

Hope that helps and that the wedding cake turns out great!

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