This Moist Chocolate Cake recipe has been been made hundreds of thousands of times, to rave reviews. If you’re looking for the best homemade chocolate cake you’ve ever made from scratch, look no further.
The foolproof, always-moist chocolate cake of your dreams
This cocoa-based chocolate cake has rich chocolate flavor with an incredibly moist, tender crumb. It surprises me every single time with how INCREDIBLE it is for something easy enough to whip up at 8 pm on a Wednesday night when the craving strikes.
It uses the simplest, unfussy technique and is the best easy chocolate cake recipe to have in your repertoire for forgotten birthdays, last-minute visitors, or urgent needs for chocolate.
How do you make cakes moist? These are the pro techniques bakers use.
These things will help you make super moist cakes every time:
- Start with a good recipe to ensure success. I’m here for you on that with tested-till-perfect cake recipes like this.
- Measure accurately. Fluff up your flour in the container, scoop until it’s over-filled, then sweep excess away using a knife. Weighing your flour is really the best way to make sure you don’t get too much. Flour settles and compacts, which means one cup scooped by your mom might be different from one cup scooped by you. This $15 scale is what I’ve used for 10 years.
- Mix enough and not too much. Overmixing can make cakes rubbery.
- Use a thermometer to tell when the cake is done. Water quickly turns to steam at 212ºF, which is moisture lost from your cake. A cake is done anytime after 190ºF.
Buttermilk: A Secret Ingredient That Makes a Cake Super Moist
Buttermilk is so special because it’s chock full of natural emulsifiers. What does this mean?
Fat and water normally repel each other, but when there are emulsifiers, they don’t separate as they normally would. This makes a super soft, moist crumb in your cake.
They also keep air bubbles suspended in the batter rather than floating up. That keeps your cake fluffy.
For the best results you can have, don’t swap the buttermilk for something else, but in a pinch you use one of these buttermilk substitutes.
Absolutely not, you can’t taste the coffee at ALL in the finished chocolate cake, it just deepens the flavour of the chocolate. When you use cocoa powder, you don’t have that same fruity dark chocolate flavor as a chocolate bar. The coffee adds that to the mix.
The heat from hot coffee or water blooms the cocoa and releases its flavor, making a richer chocolate cake.
Baking soda is actually a stronger raising agent than baking powder and when there is an acidic ingredient (buttermilk, cocoa powder and coffee are all acidic), you don’t need baking powder as well. Baking soda also helps browning reactions, which adds more flavor to the cake.
To make cupcakes from a cake recipe, line muffin tins with paper liners and spray the pan (it’s a moist cake, which can stick). Fill the cups only half-way full. Bake at 375ºF for 20 or so minutes, until the tops are domed. It yields 24 cupcakes or 48 mini cupcakes.
Yes, you can make a moist chocolate sheet cake by using a 9×13″ pan. Bake at 325ºF for 35-45 minutes (start checking at 35 minutes).
Can I Adapt This Recipe to Other Size Pans?
See above for baking times for cupcakes and sheet cakes.
You can also adapt to a different size pan with these tips.
- If the pan is smaller but deeper (like 8″ pans instead of 9″), the cake may take more time. Start checking at the normal time but allow up to 10 minutes more.
- Likewise, if the pan is larger and the batter is shallower with more surface area (like a 10″ round pan), it will cook faster.
- Keep a close eye and remember that no matter what the size of the pan, the temperature should be 190ºF in the middle.
Can I make it in advance?
This chocolate cake recipe freezes beautifully and I’ll typically make it a few days in advance when preparing for a party.
Just wrap the cooled cakes well in plastic wrap before popping them into freezer bags. Freeze them until ready to use, and you can frost them while still cold (this actually makes it easier to spread the frosting). I do make sure that it’s at room temperature by the time it’s served for best texture (although my husband loves it straight from the fridge).
How Do You Keep a Cake Moist Overnight After Frosting?
The best way to keep a frosted cake moist is at room temperature. Cover it with a glass dome. This Whipped Chocolate Frosting will insulate the cake and even add moisture as it sits.
The refrigerator makes cakes and breads go stale faster than they would go stale on the counter.
I don’t advise keeping it in the fridge unless you are using whipped cream or cream cheese frosting (or your house is super hot and the frosting will melt).
A frosted cake with buttercream can stay at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Chocolate Cake Recipe Variations
- Vanilla frosting: Try my favorite Easy Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream as an alternative to chocolate frosting. (And while you’re on the vanilla track, this Moist Vanilla Cake recipe can’t be missed. It was tested-till-perfect to be the soft, tender bakery-style vanilla cake of your DREAMS).
- Cupcakes: Make this cake as cupcakes instead, if you like! See notes above on how to adapt the recipe to cupcakes or different sized pans. If you’re looking for specific chocolate cupcakes, check out my Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes or Caramallow Cupcakes.
- Chocolate Orange: If you the love chocolate and orange combination, don’t miss my Moist Chocolate Orange Cake (the whipped chocolate-orange frosting is to die for).
Chocolate obsessed in general? Here are ALL of my favorite chocolate recipes in one place. Pin them to save for later!
Other tested-till-perfect moist and tender cakes
I’ve spent my career in food science perfecting the art of moist and fluffy homemade cakes.
You can expect game-changing bakery quality results with the Moist Vanilla Cake recipe I spent years testing, or my favorite Moist Vanilla Cupcakes. This classic Moist Carrot Cake recipe with fluffy cream cheese frosting is so tender and incredible. For something different, try this fluffy Peach Cobbler Pound Cake or Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting.
If you try one of my recipes, be sure to leave a star rating and comment below and tag @foodess in your photos on instagram. I love to hear your thoughts and see your creations!
Moist Chocolate Cake
- 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated white sugar
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk or substitute by putting 1 tbsp white vinegar in a cup then filling the rest up with milk; let stand 5 minutes until thickened
- ½ cup butter melted
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup hot coffee or 2 tsp instant coffee in 1 cup boiling water
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour (using cocoa powder ideally – see note) two 9-inch baking pans and line them with parchment circles.
- In the large bowl of a standing mixer, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt on low speed for one minute.
- Add eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla extract and beat on medium speed until batter forms, about 30 seconds. Pause to scrape down sides and bottom of mixer bowl as well as the paddle. Beat 15 seconds more, until mixture is mostly smooth.
- Remove bowl from mixer and stir in hot coffee with a rubber spatula. Batter will be very runny.
- Pour batter evenly between the two pans and bake on middle rack of oven for 25-35 minutes, until thermometer inserted in the middle reaches 190ºF.
- Allow to cool 15 minutes in pans, then run a butter knife around the edges of each cake. Line two cooling racks with parchment paper. (See note)
- Place a cooling rack over top of each pan. Wearing oven mitts, use both hands to hold the racks in place while flipping the cakes over onto the racks. Set the racks down and gently thump on the bottom of the pans until the cakes release. Cool completely before handling or frosting.
- Use cocoa powder to dust your pans instead of flour. Flour can leave a gummy white residue on the finished cakes.
- Line your cooling racks with parchment paper before flipping the pans over onto them. This prevents the cake layers from sticking to the wire racks.
- Can you taste the coffee? Absolutely, 100% no, you can’t taste it at ALL. You won’t know it’s there, it just deepens the flavour of the chocolate.
- I use decaf instant coffee so I don’t have to worry about caffeine but feel free to use plain boiling water instead. Still an absolutely delicious (and very moist) chocolate cake.
- To bake in a 9×13″ pan, bake at 325ºF for 35-45 minutes (start checking at 35 minutes).
- To make cupcakes, line muffin tins with paper liners and spray the pan (it’s a moist cake, which can stick). Fill the cups only halfway full. Bake at 375ºF for 18-22 minutes. It makes 24 cupcakes or 48 mini cupcakes.
- Don’t have buttermilk? In a pinch you use one of these buttermilk substitutes.
Last Updated on March 2, 2023 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD
You can just use boiling hot water, but it won’t have the same depth of flavour! I like to use instant decaf coffee to avoid it having any caffeine.
thanks much for this delicious chocolate cake recipe 😉
Can i make this without the coffe or substitute something in its place. My husband does not like coffee.
May i please ask! There is no baking powder?
What’s the frosting used in your cake in the photo? Looks yum!
It was gorgeous THANK YOU!! Perfect without frosting and with ice cream!!