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.)
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.
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.
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.
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. 😉
Perfect Chocolate Cake From Scratch
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, 225 g
- 2 cups granulated sugar, 400 g
- 1 cup cocoa powder, approx 88 g - cocoa weights vary slightly, unsweetened
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate or dark chocolate
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups sour cream, 454 g
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 118 ml
- 2 large eggs*
- 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.
- 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 1/4 cup of the oil and keep stirring until homogeneous. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- In another bowl, whisk together the remaining oil, eggs, and sour cream.
- 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.
- Slowly stir in the oil and chocolate mixture and then the flour. When all ingredients have just come together, stop mixing.
- 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.
- 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.
- Once cool, level and decorate cakes as desired.
*If you need to make an egg-free version of the cake, omit the eggs and use 3/4 cup oil instead.
Monday 20th of March 2023
Firstly thank you for sharing. I have baked this cake so many times and no matter what I do to trouble shoot, it always sinks in the middle. I don’t live at high altitude, my baking powder and soda is not out of date, I’ve used an oven thermometer to make sure the temperature is accurate. All my ingredients were at room temperature. I don’t open the oven till they look ready. Do you have any other ideas on what is going wrong? Please help
Wednesday 6th of October 2021
Will this work with both natural and dutch process cocoa? I prefer the mellow richness of dutch process cocoa over bitter ordinary cocoa.
Mary (The Goodie Godmother)
Tuesday 19th of October 2021
I have used both and it's worked out.
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