Classic Chocolate Cake Recipe

There are times when we're in the mood to try a different kind of dessert such as cardamom churros with guava puree, and other times when a light and simple dish like fruit sorbet will do. Most of the time, though, what we really want is Dessert with a capital "D," meaning something along the lines of a classic chocolate cake.

Recipe developer Jessica Morone describes this cake as "fluffy and delicious," and says it's also easy to make as "you only need one bowl to mix up the cake batter, and the frosting comes together quickly." 

Although it's all chocolate, the cake does have a secret ingredient: coffee. This ingredient, Morone says, "makes the chocolate flavor more intense." As there's rather a lot of coffee in the cake, you might think it would wind up tasting of mocha, but Morone assures us that "The cake does not end up being mocha flavored; the coffee actually just intensifies the chocolate flavor."

Gather the ingredients for classic chocolate cake

To make the cake, you need your standard cake stuff. The dry ingredients are flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, while the wet ones are eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla, and coffee. For the frosting, you'll also need butter, powdered sugar, and whipping cream.

There are a couple of easy swaps you can make if you don't have all of the ingredients on hand. For one thing, it's super-easy to DIY your own buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or plain white vinegar to regular milk. For another, you don't need to open a carton of whipping cream for the few tablespoons needed in this frosting as Morone tells us "You could use half and half or milk in the frosting, instead." In fact, one benefit of making this switch is that you'll get to use a little less (try maybe 2-3 tablespoons to start) because both of these options are thinner than heavy cream.

Prepare the pans and make the batter

Begin by preheating the oven to the standard 350 F. If you want to make a layer cake as Morone does, get out a couple of 9-inch round pans and grease them up before lining the bottoms with parchment paper to facilitate removing the cooked cakes. If you'd rather not go through the bother of making a layer cake, though, Morone says 'You could definitely bake this as a sheet cake." She suggests using a 9x13-inch pan and cooking the cake for 40-45 minutes.

Beat the flour together with the sugar (the granulated, not the powdered), cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and a teaspoon of the salt. Stir in the eggs, buttermilk, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla, then add the hot coffee.

Bake the cake

Divide the batter between the pans (unless you're going the sheet cake route), then put the pans in the oven and bake the cake for 30-35 minutes. Test to see if it's done by poking a toothpick or skewer into the middle. If it comes out clean, you're good to go.

Cool the cake in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely. This may take a lot longer than you think. Morone says "I would wait at least 2-3 hours for the cake to cool before adding the frosting." If you're impatient, you can always make like the contestants on "The Great British Baking Show" and wave a sheet pan over the top, or else you can take the quick and easy approach and just stick the cooling cake in the fridge.

Make the frosting

At some point during the rather lengthy cooling process, you can go ahead and make the frosting. Beat the butter until it's light and creamy, then add the powdered sugar, cream (or milk), and the remaining cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla. Beat the frosting until it gets fluffy, adding more liquid if it's too thick to spread.

Frost the cake

If you want a nice flat surface to frost, Morone says you can use a serrated knife to cut off the rounded tops of the cakes. (Save the leftover cake for later to make cake pops, or just eat it yourself when no one's looking.) Spread the frosting on the top of one layer, then put the other layer on top to make a cake sandwich. Put the cake sandwich on a plate and use the rest of the frosting to cover the top and sides. 

There's one last step before you can cut into that cake: Morone says to stick it in the fridge for half an hour, telling us this "helps to firm up the cake and the frosting before slicing it." You can skip this step, though, if you're more concerned with how the cake tastes than how it looks.

Classic Chocolate Cake Recipe
5 from 43 ratings
Sometimes the best dessert is a classic chocolate cake. This recipe may become your favorite due to the addition of coffee to intensify the chocolate flavor.
Prep Time
Cook Time
chocolate layer cake on plate
Total time: 50 minutes
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • ¾ cup strong hot coffee
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Grease two, 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, ¾ cup cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt.
  4. Stir in the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract until well-combined.
  5. Mix in the coffee.
  6. Pour the batter evenly between the pans.
  7. Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Cool the cake in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. While the cakes cool, beat the butter until light and creamy.
  10. Stir in the powdered sugar, cream, and remaining cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla.
  11. Beat the frosting until it becomes fluffy, adding additional cream if it's too thick.
  12. Level the tops of the cooled cake layers with a serrated knife.
  13. Spread frosting on the top of one layer, then place the second cake on top.
  14. Frost the top and outside of the cake.
  15. Chill the cake for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving it.
Calories per Serving 597
Total Fat 29.2 g
Saturated Fat 12.7 g
Trans Fat 0.7 g
Cholesterol 79.3 mg
Total Carbohydrates 84.9 g
Dietary Fiber 4.5 g
Total Sugars 64.2 g
Sodium 399.2 mg
Protein 6.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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