Homemade Chocolate Cake like this is not easy to find. This is the Most Perfect Moist Chocolate Cake recipe, and that’s coming from an obsessed cake tester!
Moist Chocolate Cake Recipe with Chocolate Frosting
You all know how I work. It’s why we have the best Traeger Ribs, Buttermilk Pancakes and Banana Bread recipes among a gazillion others. I get all sucked into finding the best of the best for a specific recipe and I can’t let it go until I’ve achieved it.
And friends, I’ve discovered which chocolate cake is best. If you’re needing chocolate cake for a birthday or a family celebration, you just step right up. (Who am I kidding, just make it because you are surviving the crazy these days.)
Everyone I know loves a moist chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, but no one has great luck with a homemade chocolate cake without just using a cake mix. I am crazy giddy to share all of my secrets!
Don’t go crazy, but this is a chocolate cake recipe without butter. That’s for a very specific reason. As much as I thought that butter would be all the difference in flavor, it just wasn’t the truth. The flavor didn’t count enough for how much the cake lacked moisture.
Apparently butter doesn’t make cakes moister, which makes sense. Butter has a high water content that evaporates as steam in the baking process so it can’t keep the moisture like an oil can. If you really want to use butter you can, just use equal amounts or half and half, but all oil did lead to a better chocolate layer cake!
Homemade Chocolate Cake Ingredients
As I already mentioned, the moistness of this homemade chocolate cake is thanks in part to the oil used in the batter. Our other secret? Buttermilk! Yep, this is a buttermilk chocolate cake.
Any time a recipe calls for buttermilk, it makes me think it’s going to be a fancy recipe. But in reality, this chocolate cake from scratch couldn’t be simpler to make.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this moist chocolate cake recipe:
- All-Purpose Flour: I’ve tested all sorts of flours but had the worst luck in a chocolate cake with cake flour.
- Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder: Do not use dutch-process cocoa powder, but opt for an unsweetened cocoa powder, which will give a better rise. Try Hershey’s or a similar brand just in the grocery store. Not crazy trip to a gourmet store needed.
- Espresso Powder: Espresso powder is optional, but listen, as one who does not drink coffee for religious reasons I really do believe this makes a difference in the chocolate flavor.
- Baking Soda & Baking Powder: Yes, use both!!! I’ve tried many baking powder only and baking soda only chocolate cake recipes, but it was only in using both that it worked out.
- Salt: Salt balances the flavor of sweet and actually makes this homemade chocolate cake taste better!
- Oil: I do not believe in using butter in this cake batter as anything with cocoa powder dries out the baked goods.
- Eggs: Use room temperature eggs to not shock the batter and help it better emulsify. I almost always forget, so I set them in a bowl of warm water while I start the recipe.
- Buttermilk: We tried all sorts of liquids and found that part water and part buttermilk made for a better cake. The acidity broke up the chocolate and resulted in a super moist chocolate cake.
- Hot Water: Hot liquid blooms the cocoa powder’s flavor. It’s just like how I bloom spices in a pan when cooking. It totally makes a big difference in flavor. In addition, it activates the espresso and helps to dissolve the cocoa powder.
How to Make Chocolate Cake From Scratch
When making a chocolate cake, please don’t make substitutions the first time, this really is best chocolate cake recipe, and you need to know how the cake is going to turn out before meddling. If you must, please see our suggestions below. 🙂
- Preheat your oven to be certain it is at the perfect temperature by the time the cake bakes.
- Spray the bottoms of two to three 9″cake pans and then line with precut parchment paper and spray again, including the sides this time. (Note that if you’re doing a three layer chocolate cake, each layer will be thinner).
- Prepare your dry ingredients by using a mesh sieve to remove any lumps.
- In a mixing bowl, beat together eggs, buttermilk, hot water, oil and vanilla until smooth.
- Add dry ingredients, mixing again.
- Divide evenly into pans and bake.
- Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes and then turn out onto a wire cooling rack.
How to Tell When Cake is Done Baking
Unlike brownies, you can use the toothpick trick for cake. Just insert a toothpick into the very center of the cake and if it comes out clean it’s time to pull the cake!
Can You Make Chocolate Cake Ahead of Time?
Yes!! I do this seriously all the time! Make and cover a cooled homemade chocolate cake with plastic wrap, then let it sit on the counter for 2 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
How to Make Chocolate Frosting
The secret to a good chocolate frosting is actually, in my expert opinion, to use both butter and cream cheese. Each doesn’t hold up to the chocolate enough, but together, man it’s good! All rich and creamy, totally dreamy.
Here’s how to make chocolate cake frosting yourself:
- Start with equally soft cream cheese and butter. Cream together until smooth.
- Beat in remaining ingredients.
- Add milk or cream as needed to make it just enough spreadable that it can be decorated on the cake without losing any of that thick goodness.
Do I Have to Include Espresso Powder in the Batter?
YES! You saw me start to mention it in the ingredients list, but this is one of the most important parts of having a chocolate cake taste extra chocolate-y.
Almost every single chocolate cake you order somewhere probably has coffee in it and you didn’t know. It’s because it big time enhances the chocolate flavor.
I buy this Baking Espresso Powder in the baking section of my grocery store or lately I just Amazon it. Here are the top reasons I love baking with it:
- It doesn’t have bitterness of real coffee.
- It’s easily stored in a convenient jar.
- It has no coffee flavor.
What Can You Substitute for Buttermilk?
The best substitute for buttermilk is milk and vinegar or lemon juice. For each cup of buttermilk, use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir, then let stand for 5 minutes.
Alternately, if you have sour cream on hand you can actually use a combination of milk and sour cream to make homemade buttermilk — use 50% of each to equal the amount of buttermilk. Actually, sour cream makes for an even denser cake so it’s really not a bad sub at all!
Can You Use Unsweetened Bakers Chocolate Instead Of Cocoa?
Yes, 1 ounce of unsweetened bakers chocolate equals 3 Tablespoons of cocoa. You should melt the bakers chocolate and add it when you add the sugar and butter, or oil.
How to Store Chocolate Cake
Only leave chocolate cake out if you cover it and for only 2 days. Refrigeration is absolutely unnecessary.
The best way to store frosted cake that has been cut is actually to continue cutting into slices. Next, individually wrap each slice in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Can You Freeze Frosted Cake?
Yes, frosted cake will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. You should put the chocolate cake with chocolate frosting in the freezer uncovered, let it freeze completely, and then wrap in plastic wrap and foil.
How Long Will Chocolate Cake Last?
Fresh baked chocolate cake will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator. It should be covered with foil or plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.
Tips for Making a Moist Chocolate Cake
Always start by sifting your dry ingredients for a cake. This is especially important when making chocolate cake from scratch as the cocoa powder often has lumps and you want a perfect cake texture.
Please note that cake flour will not work in this recipe. Cake flour is too fine and cannot hold up the chocolate cake. All-purpose flour is a must here.
When making the chocolate cake frosting, it’s important that you use real butter and full-fat cream cheese. You need the fat in both to create a fluffy, rich frosting. I’m not sure how the chocolate frosting will turn out if you use margarine and / or low-fat cream cheese.
More Easy Cake Recipes:
- Our Favorite Cake Recipes!
- Flourless Chocolate Cake
- Cinnamon Roll Sheet Cake
- Easy Carrot Cake
- Banana Cake Recipe with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Lemon Poppyseed Cake
- Molten Lava Cake
- Pumpkin Cake with Maple Frosting
- Easy Lemon Jello Cake
- Chocolate Cherry Cake
The Most Perfect Moist Chocolate Cake
- 3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
- 3 Cups Granulated Sugar
- 1 1/2 Cups Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Baking Soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
- 4 large Eggs, , room temperature
- 1 1/2 Cups Buttermilk
- 1 1/2 Cups Warm Water
- 1 teaspoon Espresso Powder
- 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
- 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 Cup Unsalted Butter, , softened
- 1 Pinch Salt
- 12 oz. Cream Cheese
- 1 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
- 7-8 Cups Powdered Sugar
- 1-2 Tablespoons Whole Milk, , more if needed
For the Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Butter three 9-inch round cake pans and dust with flour, dumping out excess.
- Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
- In a standing mixer, mix the eggs, buttermilk, warm water, espresso powder, oil and vanilla until combined.
- Add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
- Divide batter evenly between three pans. * (see note)
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool on wire racks, then after 20 minutes turn out to cool completely.
- Frost and enjoy!
For the Frosting:
- In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until fluffy.
- Add in the cocoa powder, powdered sugar and vanilla extract, beating until smooth and adding 1 tablespoon at a time of milk if needed to make it spreadable.
Your instructions say to spray pans and line with parchment paper, but the recipe instructions say to butter pans. What is best for this cake?
Hi Kathie! Sorry for the confusion! I’ve had luck with both, so whichever your method you prefer!
Hi, can you please tell me the measurement conversion from cup to grams in these ingredients? I’m sorry I don’t know and in google it shows lots of different ones, I’m gonna make my first chocolate cake and this recipe looks perfect, I want it to be perfect please HELP 🥺 thanks xx
Hi Mila! I have updated the recipe card to also include metric measurements. Underneath the list of ingredients, there is a button to convert to metric. I hope this helps! Enjoy!
Can I use whole spelt flour instead of all purpose? Do I need to adjust other ingredients? Thanks! ☺
Hello! That’s a great question! I can’t answer for sure because I’ve never tried it.
This cake is AMAZING! It is so delicious, chocolatey, moist and luscious. The layers were very thick and held together nicely.
Thank you!! I seriously have dreams about this cake! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
I made this last year for my husband’s bday and we all LOVED IT! I think I skipped the espresso powder and maybe added more cocoa? My question…can I make the layers Friday and refrigerate it until Sunday? Or is it best fresh??
Yes, you can definitely make them ahead of time! Let the cakes cool completely and then wrap them well in plastic wrap. You could even frost and stack them and then wrap them. It just depends on what kind of storage you have.
Thanks so much for the fast reply! One more question…i’m making it RIGHT NOW and then traveling up to heber for the weekend and we won’t be eating it until Sunday night. i’m planning to frost it there. For travel safety would you suggest i cook, cool, wrap and freeze before we go? Or just cook,cool, wrap and travel? freezing sounds so much safer…but then i’d keep it frozen until Sunday morning i guess??
I would definitely freeze if you have time to do that. Yes, pull them out Sunday morning and stick them in the fridge. They will be easier to frost if they are coming from the refrigerator. After you frost it, stick it back in the fridge and pull it out about a half hour before serving. Enjoy!!
Yummy cake! Can the MOST PERFECT MOIST CHOCOLATE CAKE be used when covered with fondant? Will it hold up? Thank you! 😊
Hi Lupe! I’m definitely not a fondant expert, but I’ve always heard that a cake recipe doesn’t need to be altered for fondant. I’m honestly not sure though!
Wow, just halved this recipe (small family) and made a single layer cake with a ganache instead of frosting, This cake is so moist and chocolatey! Thanks for this recipe!
Yay! Thank you so much! So glad you enjoyed it!
Hey I was just wondering if I could use this frosting recipe but omit the cocoa? Like make it into a plain frosting?
Hello! I wouldn’t recommend it because the consistency won’t be right without the cocoa. If you want just plain a cream cheese frosting, use the recipe from this post: https://ohsweetbasil.com/lemon-poppy-seed-cake-with-cream-cheese-frosting-recipe/
This is a special occasion cake. I made it for my birthday and it was fantastic. Super moist with a deep chocolate flavor and a large crumb. The frosting is rich and thick. Three layers of chocolate bliss!
I love that description…special occasion cake! Happy Birthday Deborah and thank you for taking time to leave us a comment!
Can you substitute coconut oil for the vegetable oil?
Hi Susan! Yes absolutely! They swap 1:1 but just be sure the coconut oil is melted before adding it and that the other ingredients aren’t too cold so the coconut oil doesn’t solidify. Enjoy!
Lesley True Morris
Just made this cake for a birthday party. I have never made a cake from scratch before and I don’t consider myself a baker by any means. It was wonderful, very moist, great taste and texture. The frosting was just right. Everyone loved it and was impressed. Thank you you for this great recipe! Lesley.
Yay! Thank you so much Lesley! This makes my day!
Hi! I don’t drink coffee but I do have it and don’t have expresso powder. Do I have to use the expresso powder? Can I use Coffee or just leave it out? If I use coffee how much liquid coffee should I use? I can’t wait to make this for my birthday this weekend. Thank you!
Hey Jennine! Happy Birthday!! I would just omit it. Coffee is more bitter, so I wouldn’t want it to ruin the flavor. The espresso is totally optional.
I am not skilled enough to layer a cake, but I want to try the recipe. If I put this in a 9×13 pan, should I adjust the temperature or cook time?
Great question! I think it will be too much volume for a 9×13. You could fill a 9×13 about 2/3 full and then put the remaining in cupcakes or a smaller baking dish maybe.
Ok thanks, but my question was if I will change the temperature or length of time cooking?
Oh sorry! It will probably take a few minutes longer to bake. Start with 35 minutes. It may take up to 40. If you end up doing cupcakes, they will take about 15-17 minutes.
I’ve been baking for over 50 years and have baked thousands and thousands of chocolate cakes. I’ve always been looking for a recipe to duplicate the best chocolate cake I ever had from a restaurant that is no longer in business. This is that cake. Trust me, this is the best chocolate cake you will ever make. I didn’t have espresso powder and used instant coffee. It was perfection!
Sherry!! You’ve made my day! Thank you so much! It dangerously delicious! Thank you for taking time to leave us a comment!
I live in Salt Lake City – will this cake recipe work at high altitude as written or do I need to make changes?
Looks amazing and I want to try it! 🙂
Hey Deb! We are in Lehi and make it just as written. You should be good!
Why can’t I print the recipe using the ‘print recipe’ button. All that comes up is the shopping list. That is not the recipe. A recipe includes the directions.
There must be an issue with the link, I’ll look into it!!
I am trying to understand the size of the cake and what round pan sizes it would work with. Could I use three 8-inch rounds? Could I use only 2 8-inch rounds? Could I use only 2 9-inch rounds?
I use 3 9-inch pans. You can adjust the pan size but it will change the cook time a bit since the batter will be a bit thicker.
For this cake, what brand of all-purpose flour do you recommend? King Arthur’s all-purpose flour has a protein content of 11.7% and White Lily’s all-purpose flour has a protein content of 9%. That is a wide range for all-purpose.
Sue in Seattle
Delicious recipe – the perfect density and not too sweet. I made 36 cupcakes instead of a cake, and only a half batch of frosting which was plenty. I don’t bake a lot, but I’ll come back to this recipe again.
Amazing! I’m so glad you liked it!!!
is it really EIGHT cups of powdered sugar or is that a typo? do you know roughly how much that would be in weight?
Yes 8 is correct!! Haha and I’m not sure what the weight would be.
Are dry ingredients sifted before or after measuring out?
Sift them before adding to the wet ingredients!
Can you put batter in one pan
Disappointed you don’t use weight for your measurements
Hey! Sorry to disappoint! Most of our viewers don’t have a scale available and it’s easier to do measurements. 🙂
8 cups of 10x is 2 lbs., if you prefer to weigh, just google the conversion, either ounces or grams whichever you prefer.
What would be the best way to make this into some combination of a smaller cake and cupcakes to give to a friend? I have 6 inch cake pans and 9 inch cake pans. Could I do half the batter in the 6 inch cake pans with 2 layers and half in the cupcakes? If so would the baking time change? And if I need to give my friend the cupcakes a few days later do you recommend I store them in the fridge without the frosting until the day of? Thanks! Can’t wait to make this!
Yes that would work great! Cupcakes take about 15-18 minutes to cook! Let me know how they turn out!!
Can I make this in a 9x 13 pan?
Oh good question! I think it will be too much volume for a 9×13. You could fill a 9×13 about 2/3 full and then put the remaining in cupcakes or a smaller baking dish maybe.
I’ve baked many a cake, but this is the BEST cake I’ve ever made. Moist, rich with chocolate flavor and the frosting is a creamy, dreamy delight. Stop looking for chocolate cake recipes. You’re home.
Hi! Could I use strong brewed coffee instead of the water and espresso powder? Can’t wait to try this recipe!
Hi Cathy! Yes, that will work great! Enjoy!