Perfect Chocolate Cake From Scratch

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No boiling water required! This chocolate cake recipe bakes perfectly every time, and stays moist, even after two days in the refrigerator (I know… I just checked.)

No boiling water required! This PERFECT chocolate cake recipe is moist, rich, and most importantly... chocolaty! Part of the "perfect cakes from scratch" recipe collection only on GoodieGodmother.com

It’s time to have a serious discussion about chocolate cake. As a serious baker, I have made many many chocolate cakes, and until now, not one has been perfect. I’ve always meant to overhaul my recipe completely and get a perfect from scratch chocolate cake recipe down, but it wasn’t until this past December when I had a less than ideal result out of some variation on “the best chocolate cake recipe ever” that I finally had the “THAT’S IT!” moment. I put other cake flavors aside as I focused on creating the perfect chocolate cake recipe and recruited a test group that ate a pretty good amount of chocolate cake for me so I could get this right. Something like 8 or 10 cakes later (I lost track), I can confidently say that this is it. 

Here’s the challenge with chocolate cake, especially here in the United States, we don’t add nearly enough chocolate. Most chocolate cakes get their chocolate flavor exclusively from cocoa powder, which is good, but it’s not enough for me. We love a fluffy, moist, cake though, which is why we don’t use as much chocolate as the British, who make incredibly chocolate-y chocolate cakes, but they’d be too dense for most Americans. I needed to create a cake with a definite *chocolate* flavor that still baked up so you could serve it at a birthday party for any age (here in the States) and everyone would be happy.

No boiling water required! This PERFECT chocolate cake recipe is moist, rich, and most importantly... chocolaty! Part of the "perfect cakes from scratch" recipe collection only on GoodieGodmother.com

I started by making a British chocolate cake recipe that I cannot find now, but I’ll update when I do, and the Hershey’s chocolate cake recipe with the boiling water. I skipped using coffee like Ina Garten does in her variation because I wanted to figure out this recipe in such a way that it’s chocolate, just chocolate, providing the flavor. Because this is chocolate cake. Chocolate chocolate chocolate chocolate. Chocolate.

No boiling water required! This PERFECT chocolate cake recipe is moist, rich, and most importantly... chocolaty! Part of the "perfect cakes from scratch" recipe collection only on GoodieGodmother.com

I had a group try both the American and British recipes so they knew what I was envisioning, and worked from there. FYI, after you try an actually chocolaty chocolate cake, the boiling water version will taste bland to you too. Not bad, just not as good anymore. Be warned.

In my research, I also came across a cake decorating forum where professional decorators were venting their frustrations about chocolate cake. You see, it can be finicky sometimes and SINK DRAMATICALLY in the middle, meaning that you have to trim away a good amount of cake and end up with shorter layers. Many decorators had various suggestions (using flower nails, baking with cake strips, skipping from scratch recipes and going with a doctored box mix, etc), but all seemed to agree that chocolate cake was just difficult to work with – some going as far as to say they always tried to steer clients towards other flavors.

That made me sad for the bakers! I’m sure they want to provide a great tasting cake, so why not have a from scratch chocolate cake recipe that’s easy to make and work with too? I needed to make sure this cake would bake up evenly, beautifully, perfectly, each and every time. And it does.

No boiling water required! This PERFECT chocolate cake recipe is moist, rich, and most importantly... chocolaty! Part of the "perfect cakes from scratch" recipe collection only on GoodieGodmother.com

Do you see how it comes up just right on the 8″x2″ cake pan without spilling over? You can practically level in the pan and go from there. I wrapped my layers in plastic wrap when they were still slightly warm and refrigerated them for a few hours, and I didn’t have to level the layer baked in the 2″ tall pan at all. The layer baked in the 3″ tall pan required some minimal trimming along the edge, but was still 2″ tall all the way across when cut. Had I wanted to torte this cake into 4 thin layers, I could.

But the best part about this chocolate cake recipe is that it actually tastes like chocolate. I melted chocolate right into the batter, so you won’t have any funny lumps anywhere, and between that and the cocoa powder, no other flavoring is needed. It’s a beautiful, rich, chocolate cake. Thumbs up all around from my test group, and I’ve already turned it into a really fabulous layer cake with fun flavors, stop by the blog next Wednesday to read about that. In the meantime, go bake a seriously chocolate chocolate cake. 😉

No boiling water required! This PERFECT chocolate cake recipe is moist, rich, and most importantly... chocolaty! Part of the "perfect cakes from scratch" recipe collection only on GoodieGodmother.com

Perfect Chocolate Cake From Scratch
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 1 8x4" round cake
Ingredients
  • 2 cups (225 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (approx 88 g - cocoa weights vary slightly) cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate or dark chocolate
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups (454 g) sour cream
  • ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs*
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 F (170 C, mark 3), and butter two 8" round cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Melt your chocolate over a double boiler, or in the microwave (my preference) at 50% power for 1 minute, then stir. Microwave in additional 30 second intervals (50% power) as needed until the chocolate is completely melted. Stir in ¼ cup of the oil and keep stirring until homogeneous. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining oil, eggs, and sour cream.
  5. Add the sour cream mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing on low speed (or working in 2 batches if not using a mixer) until the ingredients have just combined.
  6. Slowly stir in the oil and chocolate mixture and then the flour. When all ingredients have just come together, stop mixing.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between your prepared baking pans, and bake for 50-55 minutes until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, or with no more than 1-2 moist crumbs.
  8. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to set in the pan 10-15 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack to cool completely. If you are baking ahead of time and need to freeze the cakes, wrap the layers individually in a double layer of plastic wrap and freeze. Place in the refrigerator to thaw the night before you plan to decorate to avoid condensation.
  9. Once cool, level and decorate cakes as desired.
Notes
*If you need to make an egg-free version of the cake, omit the eggs and use ¾ cup oil instead.

 

No boiling water required! This PERFECT chocolate cake recipe is moist, rich, and most importantly... chocolaty! Part of the "perfect cakes from scratch" recipe collection only on GoodieGodmother.com

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32 Comments on Perfect Chocolate Cake From Scratch

  1. Gail
    December 13, 2016 at 11:15 am (6 months ago)

    We published a link to this on our facebook page and one of our readers asked for the icing recipe. Do you have a link that we might share with her? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Mary (The Goodie Godmother)
      December 13, 2016 at 11:37 am (6 months ago)

      First of all, thank you so much for sharing! I just hopped over to your blog and realize you’re in Byron, GA… we used to live nearby in Warner Robins! Small world. 😉

      I frosted the cake using two kinds of chocolate ganache, a white chocolate ganache and a bittersweet chocolate ganache. Before the ganache had set, but while it was still spreadable, I piped/spread it onto the cake and then used a bench scraper (anything with a straight edge will work), to smooth the edges. I used white chocolate ganache in a piping bag with the tip snipped off to pipe the drizzle up top. 🙂 I talk about making the bittersweet chocolate ganache in my Mexican Chocolate Cake recipe (http://goodiegodmother.com/mexican-chocolate-cake/). The white chocolate ganache is almost the same, except you need to use a ratio of 3:1 for the chocolate and heavy cream. So if you’re making a 12 oz bag of white chocolate chips into ganache, you’ll use 4 ounces of heavy cream.

      Reply
  2. Mitco
    September 28, 2016 at 4:40 pm (9 months ago)

    Thank you for this truly delicious chocolate cake recipe. I’ve been searching for years for the perfect recipe and this is it! Finally one without the boiling water. My husband made this for my birthday. He’s a great cook but usually struggles with baking. He made this without help and it was perfect. He even said it was easy. We had it with buttercream icing. It also freezes really well.

    Reply
    • Mary (The Goodie Godmother)
      October 4, 2016 at 11:34 pm (9 months ago)

      Your comment made my week! Thank you so much for sharing and I’m so happy you enjoyed the recipe & that your husband found it easy to follow. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Cassi
    September 17, 2016 at 12:09 pm (9 months ago)

    My sister says this is her favorite chocolate cake recipe so I’m going to give it a shot but do you know how many mini cupcakes this recipe makes?

    Reply
    • Mary (The Goodie Godmother)
      September 21, 2016 at 2:48 pm (9 months ago)

      Hi Cassi! Unfortunately, I do not, as I always make this as a cake… I would imagine from the amount of batter you’re looking at about 5 dozen or so.

      Reply
      • Cassi
        September 23, 2016 at 10:50 pm (9 months ago)

        Thank you! I’m going to give it a test run next weekend just to be sure. We’re thinking about using this a base for a S’mores cupcake but I need close to 66 dozen for our event so we’ll need a few batches! lol

        Reply
  4. Anne
    September 15, 2016 at 9:23 am (9 months ago)

    I’m going to try this cake for a 1/2 sheet choc. a client ordered. Do you think if I double the recipe it will make a nice height cake in a 18×23 pan? It does have 2″ sides.

    Reply
    • Mary (The Goodie Godmother)
      September 15, 2016 at 4:06 pm (9 months ago)

      It should, but I would definitely use bake even strips or wet rags around the outside of the cake and a flower nail or two and a heating core in the middle to help distribute heat evenly and get the best rise out of the cake

      Reply
  5. Cyndi
    September 6, 2016 at 8:06 pm (10 months ago)

    Can you substitute chocolate pudding for the semi sweet chocolate?

    Reply
    • Mary (The Goodie Godmother)
      September 10, 2016 at 9:20 am (10 months ago)

      Unfortunately, no. Pudding has other additives to change the flavor and texture of the cake (eggs, cornstarch, etc). If baking chocolate is expensive in your area, substitute melted chocolate chips. They work just as well. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Sue
    September 6, 2016 at 2:33 pm (10 months ago)

    I hate to sound so ignorant, but could you please describe how you frosted this cake. It looks amazing. Thanks so much.

    Reply
    • Mary (The Goodie Godmother)
      September 6, 2016 at 2:51 pm (10 months ago)

      Not ignorant at all, Sue! I frosted the cake using two kinds of chocolate ganache, a white chocolate ganache and I believe the other was a bittersweet chocolate ganache. Before the ganache had set, but while it was still spreadable, I piped/spread it onto the cake and then used a bench scraper (anything with a straight edge will work), to smooth the edges. I used white chocolate ganache in a piping bag with the tip snipped off to pipe the drizzle up top. 🙂 I talk about making the bittersweet chocolate ganache in my Mexican Chocolate Cake recipe (http://goodiegodmother.com/mexican-chocolate-cake/). The white chocolate ganache is almost the same, except you need to use a ratio of 3:1 for the chocolate and heavy cream. So if you’re making a 12 oz bag of white chocolate chips into ganache, you’ll use 4 ounces of heavy cream. I hope that helps! Feel free to e-mail me with any further questions! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Lisa
    July 22, 2016 at 3:49 pm (11 months ago)

    Hi I’m going to try this cake today And possible take to my nephews bday party tomorrow. Does this cake without the buttermilk on top of the sour cream is it a cake that will sit in fridge over night and still taste amazing for party. Also I’m looking for the frosting can you help me find these directions please

    Reply
    • Lisa
      July 22, 2016 at 3:52 pm (11 months ago)

      I’m making this cake today as a trial run for my nieces 14 x3 and a top prices for the 101 dalmation cake I have to make for next weekend. Plus now she wants there to be a layer and wants Safeway’s strawberry filling I’m not sure what exactly that recipe is cause I’ve never we had it. Maybe I can purchase from Safeway?

      Reply
      • Mary (The Goodie Godmother)
        July 24, 2016 at 5:25 pm (11 months ago)

        Unfortunately, I’m not sure how to make Safeway’s strawberry filling as I don’t think I’ve ever lived near a Safeway! I do know that you can usually purchase fillings from grocery store bakeries if you ask. 🙂

        Reply
    • Mary (The Goodie Godmother)
      July 24, 2016 at 5:24 pm (11 months ago)

      I swapped the sour cream for the buttermilk. If you don’t have sour cream, you can substitute the difference with buttermilk, but the final result will be slightly different. It will still taste good. The cake can sit frosted in the refrigerator overnight if the frosting you use requires refrigeration. I would recommend a box or cake dome to help keep the frosting from drying out.

      As far as frosting recipes… I used a ganache for this cake, it’s a 2 part chocolate to 1 part heavy cream ratio, and I used a total of 1 pound chocolate and 8 ounces heavy cream. For a buttercream recipe, search “frosting” on the blog and you’ll find several options including a chocolate buttercream, fresh raspberry buttercream, and a cream cheese frosting (posted with the red velvet cake)

      Reply
  8. Veena Bhavanam
    May 24, 2016 at 9:47 am (1 year ago)

    Looks yummy :). will this hold up under fondant? If not which chocolate cake do you suggest under fondant?

    Thanks !

    Reply
    • Mary (The Goodie Godmother)
      May 25, 2016 at 12:18 pm (1 year ago)

      Because the sour cream gives the cake a bit of density in addition to a rich texture, this will absolutely hold up well under fondant. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Meagan
    May 17, 2016 at 10:36 pm (1 year ago)

    Hi Mary!! I just made this cake today, and I love the taste! The only issue I ran into was that the cakes sank in the middle. I didn’t open the oven at all while they were in there. I am at high altitude, but I don’t know if that would make a difference? I did use 9″ rounds instead of 8″ because that’s all I have. Any tips would be so helpful!! Thank you!! I love your blog!

    Reply
    • Mary (The Goodie Godmother)
      May 20, 2016 at 7:38 am (1 year ago)

      Thank you! 🙂 High altitude definitely makes a difference… I’ve baked this in 9″ rounds and it’s worked out, so I think it was likely the altitude. King Arthur Flour has some great tips on adjusting cake recipes for altitude and I will refer you to their article as I haven’t had the opportunity to test this recipe in high altitude yet. 🙂 http://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

      Reply
  10. Connie
    May 17, 2016 at 3:30 pm (1 year ago)

    Perfect Chocolate Cake Jessica said she made buttermilk using milk and vinegar. I don’t see any buttermilk in the recipe, is it missing?

    Reply
    • Mary (The Goodie Godmother)
      May 17, 2016 at 8:00 pm (1 year ago)

      Jessica reached out to me and asked if she could substitute buttermilk instead of sour cream since she didn’t have any on hand. 🙂

      Reply
  11. Jessica
    May 5, 2016 at 11:17 pm (1 year ago)

    Used this recipe to make cupcakes. I used 3oz semi sweet chocolate and 1 oz German’s sweet chocolate because that is what I had in hand. Also I used a cup of while milk and tablespoon of vinegar for the buttermilk. The recipe yielded 24 large cupcakes. They were flat as written above which was perfect for decorating! The oven time was between 20-25 minutes for me. The taste of this chocolate cake was divine. A couple may have “accidentally” broken and required a taste test ;). It is as described… Chocolate but light and fluffy, not dense. So amazing!!! Thanks for the recipe. It is my go to chocolate cake recipe now.

    Reply
    • Mary (The Goodie Godmother)
      May 6, 2016 at 7:15 am (1 year ago)

      I’m so glad it turned out for you! Thank you for sharing the modifications and results. 🙂

      Reply
  12. regina
    March 10, 2016 at 9:17 am (1 year ago)

    what type of frosting do you recommend to put on the cake

    Reply
    • The Godmother
      March 16, 2016 at 10:42 pm (1 year ago)

      Whatever makes you happy, my dear! I’ve used a buttercream (both the regular butter/powdered sugar kind – I have a great chocolate buttercream recipe on the blog – and the Swiss Meringue recipe also on the blog) and a ganache (as pictured). It just depends on what flavor combination I feel like making. This cake works beautifully with any frosting you’d like. 😉

      Reply
  13. smita
    March 2, 2016 at 3:55 pm (1 year ago)

    I am going to make this. Sounds and looks very lovely. If you can suggest, what kind of chocolate frosting would go well with this cake? Thanks!

    Reply
    • The Godmother
      March 16, 2016 at 10:43 pm (1 year ago)

      Any kind of frosting tastes delicious! I’ve used both American and Swiss buttercreams and a ganache frosting – all with lovely results. 🙂

      Reply
  14. Tara
    February 6, 2016 at 5:24 pm (1 year ago)

    I just love how delicious your cakes always look! I wish when I made cakes they looked half as pretty as yours!

    Reply
  15. Nicole @Little Blog on the Homestead
    January 31, 2016 at 3:04 pm (1 year ago)

    Oh yum, this looks amazing I definitely am adding this recipe to me ‘Must Try’ pile!!!! I’m not a huge fan of chocolate cake normally because I feel like it’s too bland so I think this might be the perfect option!

    Reply

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