My Go-To Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe

I have used a few different chocolate cake recipes over the years, and each on has it’s own merit. My moist chocolate cake recipe is so soft and fluffy, I love the way it tastes!!

It’s great for beginning bakers and is really easy to make, but it isn’t the easiest to stack and frost with perfectly smooth sides! When I was first getting into baking, taste was my #1 priority, so this didn’t bother me much.

As I became more into decorating (and obsessed with frosting cakes with smooth sides), I found it was so much easier to frost cake layers that have a bit more structure, like my favorite vanilla layer cake recipe.

I fell in love with the strength of the layers, how well they help up while being frosted. I altered the recipe to a make a chocolate version, and used this as my chocolate layer cake recipe for a while.

The only downside is that I like to trim away the carmelization on the sides, in additional to leveling the top of the cake. This means an extra step in the process, and I wasn’t completely satisfied with the texture of the layers.

This lead me to continue to try out new chocolate cake recipes, and experiment. I really loved using Yolanda Gampps chocolate sponge cake recipe, but didn’t like that they baked with such huge domes!!

I felt like i was cutting off 2/3 of each layer when I leveled them. However, the layers tasted great with simple syrup, and had great structure.

I decided to use Yolanda’s recipe as the starting point, but combined my favorite elements from all my past chocolate cake recipes.

I chose to use black cocoa (I love the taste and color it creates), swapped some of the water for buttermilk, added slightly more flour, and used less baking soda.

The result?? A soft, tender chocolate cake that can handle a splash of simple syrup, yet still hold up while being frosted. I’m obsessed with this recipe, and hope you all will be too!

dirt cup cake - with dirt cup

Begin by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line four 7 inch or 8 inch pans with parchment rounds, and spray with non-stick spray.

Add the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk on high for 1 minute. The mixture should become light in color.

Add in the eggs, one at a time. Then add baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix on high for another minute.

In a separate bowl, combine the cup of hot water, and cup of buttermilk. Pour in the cup of black cocoa, and whisk until no clumps remain.

Next, add 1 cup of flour into the butter /egg mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, to ensure the flour is fully incorporated.

Pour in half of the buttermilk / cocoa mixture, and gently pulse the mixture to incorporate the liquid (if you don’t, you’ll end up splattering the cocoa mixture all over you kitchen!Please learn from my mistakes :P).

Mix in the 2nd cup of flour, at a medium speed. Pour in the remaining buttermilk / cocoa mixture, and again gently pulse, then mix on low until fully combined.

Add in the last cup of flour, and mix on low until the flour is incorporated. Mix on high for 30 additional seconds, to incorporate a bit more air into the batter.

Evenly divide between the four prepared pans. I like to use a kitchen scale to ensure each pan has exactly the same amount of batter.

Bake according to the size of pan. For 7 inch layers, bake for 35-37 minutes. For 8 inch layers, bake for 32-33 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Allow layers to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the edge of the pans to help separate the layers from the pans.

Place the pans in the freezer for about 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers.

Use a serrate knife to level the tops of the layers, and then frost as desired.

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Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe

This recipe makes soft, tender, chocolaty cake layers that can handle a splash of simple syrup, yet still hold up while being frosted. I'm obsessed with this recipe, and hope you all will be too!

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword best chocolate cake layer recipe, best chocolate cake recipe, chelsweets, go to chocolate cake recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 1 seven or eight inch cake

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 eggs, room temp
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temp
  • 1 cup black cocoa

Instructions

Instructions

  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line four 7 inch or 8 inch pans with parchment rounds, and spray with non-stick spray.

  2. Add the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk on high for 1 minute. The mixture should become light in color.

  3. Add in the eggs, one at a time. Then add baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix on high for another minute.

  4. In a separate bowl, combine the cup of hot water, and cup of buttermilk. Pour in the cup of black cocoa, and whisk until no clumps remain.

  5. Next, add 1 cup of flour into the butter /egg mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, to ensure the flour is fully incorporated.

  6. Pour in half of the buttermilk / cocoa mixture, and gently pulse the mixture to incorporate the liquid (if you don't, you'll end up splattering the cocoa mixture all over you kitchen!

  7. Mix in the 2nd cup of flour, at a medium speed. Pour in the remaining buttermilk / cocoa mixture, and again gently pulse, then mix on low until fully combined.

  8. Add in the last cup of flour, and mix on low until the flour is incorporated. Mix on high for 30 additional seconds, to incorporate a bit more air into the batter.

  9. Evenly divide between the four prepared pans. I like to use a kitchen scale to ensure each pan has exactly the same amount of batter.

  10. Bake according to the size of pan. For 7 inch layers, bake for 35-37 minutes. For 8 inch layers, bake for 32-33 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

  11. Allow layers to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the edge of the pans to help separate the layers from the pans.

  12. Place the pans in the freezer for about 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers.

  13. Use a serrate knife to level the tops of the layers, and then frost as desired.

Recipe Notes

I chose to use black cocoa (I love the taste and color it creates), but if you don't have any on hand, you can use regular baking cocoa.

OR if you’d like to make a smaller cake, I have a small batch version this recipe! I typically use it to make 6 inch cakes, with three layers.

Small Batch Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe

This is a half batch of my go-to chocolate layer cake recipe! It's perfect for make two 7 or 8-inch cake layers, or three 6-inch cake layers.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword chelsweets chococlate cake recipe, chocolate layer cake recipe, small batch chocolate cake recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 1 6-inch cake

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.25 cups granulated sugar
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 0.75 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs room temp
  • 0.5 cups unsalted butter room temp (1 stick)
  • 0.5 cups hot water
  • 0.5 cups buttermilk room temp
  • 0.5 cups baking cocoa (I like to use black cocoa)

Instructions

Instructions

  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line four 7 inch or 8 inch pans with parchment rounds, and spray with non-stick spray.

  2. Add the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk on high for 1 minute. The mixture should become light in color.

  3. Add in the eggs, one at a time. Then add baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix on high for another minute.

  4. In a separate bowl, combine the cup of hot water, and cup of buttermilk. Pour in the cup of black cocoa, and whisk until no clumps remain.

  5. Next, add 1/2 cup of flour into the butter /egg mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, to ensure the flour is fully incorporated.

  6. Pour in half of the buttermilk / cocoa mixture, and gently pulse the mixture to incorporate the liquid (if you don't, you'll end up splattering the cocoa mixture all over you kitchen!

  7. Mix in another 1/2 cup of flour, at a medium speed. Pour in the remaining buttermilk / cocoa mixture, and again gently pulse, then mix on low until fully combined.

  8. Add in the last 1/2 cup of flour, and mix on low until the flour is incorporated. Mix on high for 30 additional seconds, to incorporate a bit more air into the batter.

  9. Evenly divide between the four prepared pans. I like to use a kitchen scale to ensure each pan has exactly the same amount of batter.

  10. Bake according to the size of pan. For 7 inch layers, bake for 35-37 minutes. For 8 inch layers, bake for 32-33 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

  11. Allow layers to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the edge of the pans to help separate the layers from the pans.

  12. Place the pans in the freezer for about 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers.

  13. Use a serrate knife to level the tops of the layers, and then frost as desired.

Recipe Notes

I chose to use black cocoa (I love the taste and color it creates), but if you don't have any on hand, you can use regular baking cocoa.

Moist Chocolate Cake Recipe

choco-cake

I’ve tested a lot of chocolate cake recipes over the years, and this chocolate cake recipe is one of my favorites. It is incredibly moist, and turns out perfectly every time!

It is a one bowl recipe that doesn’t require a hand mixer, which means less dishes to clean!! I highly recommend this recipe. It’s been modified from Robyn’s recipe on Add A Pinch.

The cakes do have a tiny bit of a dome, but I usually just level it out with a little extra buttercream. You can also just trim the top of the cake to make it level.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup espresso, or 1 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder dissolved in 1 cup of hot water
  • 1 tsp vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line and grease 4 8-inch cake pans.

Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a large bowl. Whisk together until combined (be sure there aren’t any clumps! If there are, you may want to sift your ingredients).

Pour in the espresso into the dry ingredients, and mix until the espresso is fully absorbed. Mix in the buttermilk, until fully incorporated. Pour in the oil next, and mix until fully incorporated. Then stir in the eggs, one at a time. The last step is to stir in the vanilla, then the vinegar. The batter will be on the thin side, but that’s the correct consistency!

Divide the batter evenly between the four cake pans, and bake for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and let the cakes sit for about 5 minutes. Gently run an offset spatula around the rim of the cake pans to loosen them. Place the cake pans in the freezer to speed up the cooling process, and to trap in additional moisture.

Decorate as desired! The photo below shows a snickers cake made with this cake base, before it was crumb coated.

choco-cake