There’s something to be said for a chocolate cake recipe that you can whip up at 9 o’clock on a Friday night, after a serious doozy of a week, when you need some baking therapy that requires little to no brain power.
By the time this past weekend hit, I think anything requiring technique or poise in the kitchen would have had induced some kind of cerebral short circuiting – I imagine there would have been sparks, probably some twitching and likely even drool.
Okay fine, so there might have been drool anyway. Actually, when the cake emerged, there was probably drooling and clapping. I tell you that because I trust you won’t judge me.
Why You’ll Love This Moist Chocolate Cake Recipe
This cocoa-based cake is deeply chocolatey and incredibly moist. It surprises me every single time with how good it is for something so easy.
It is a great emergency chocolate cake to have in your repertoire for forgotten birthdays, last-minute visitors, or urgent Friday night chocolate cravings.
Moist Chocolate Cake Ingredients
Get ready to whip up the most delicious and moist chocolate cake. It’s a straightforward recipe with some common pantry ingredients, a few easy variations, and some basic kitchen tools.
Let’s look at what each ingredient brings to the table.
- All-purpose flour: The base of the cake, providing structure. Swap all-purpose flour with a gluten-free alternative.
- Granulated white sugar: Adds sweetness and affects the texture.
- Unsweetened cocoa powder: Gives the cake its rich chocolate flavor. Natural or dutch process cocoa powder both work here.
- Baking soda: A leavening agent that helps the cake rise. No baking powder is needed, the baking soda reacts with the acidic ingredients to make the cake rise.
- Salt: Balances the sweetness and enhances overall flavor.
- Eggs: Bind the ingredients together and add moisture.
- Buttermilk: Contributes to the cake’s tenderness and slight tang. If you don’t have buttermilk, here are the best buttermilk substitutes. Milk and lemon juice, full fat greek yogurt or sour cream all work well.
- Butter: Adds richness and helps with the cake’s soft texture.
- Vanilla extract: Enhances the chocolate flavor and adds depth.
- Hot coffee: The secret ingredient that intensifies the chocolate flavor and contributes to a moist texture. If caffeine is a concern, go with decaffeinated coffee. I always keep a jar of instant decaf on hand for this purpose. You can alternatively swap in instant espresso powder.
Can You Taste the Coffee?
I have been asked dozens of times if you can taste the coffee, and the answer is no; it does not taste at all like coffee.
You won’t know it’s there, it just deepens the flavour of the chocolate and the heat helps smooth out the batter and get rid of lumps.
But feel free to use just plain boiling water in its place.
Grab these Tools
To make this cake, you’ll need:
- Mixing Bowls: For combining your dry and wet ingredients.
- Standing Mixer: Ideal for mixing your batter, but a hand mixer or whisk works too.
- Rubber Spatula: To fold in the coffee and scrape the sides of the bowl.
- Two 9-inch Round Cake Pans: The perfect size for this cake.
- Parchment Paper: Helps prevent sticking and makes removing the cakes easier.
- Cooling Racks: Essential for cooling the cakes after baking.
- Oven Mitts: Safety first when handling hot pans.
- Butter Knife or Palette Knife: For loosening the cakes from the pans.
How to Make Moist Chocolate Cake: An Easy Guide
This Moist Chocolate Cake recipe is so easy and yields a deliciously rich and tender cake for your next birthday celebration.
Everything gets tossed in the standing mixer (no creaming of butter and sugar, or alternating between dry and liquid as in typical cake recipes), poured into cake pans, and popped in the oven. Easy as 1-2-3.
For a deeper dive, however, here’s my complete guide to “How to Make a Cake from Scratch“, with insights and tips from my background in food science. Over there, you’ll learn all the detailed essentials of cake-making, from ingredients and tools to troubleshooting.
How to Make the Cake Batter
Combine Dry Ingredients: In your mixer’s bowl, mix together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
Adding Wet Ingredients: To the dry mix, add eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth.
Final Touch with Coffee: Remove the bowl from the mixer. Gently stir in hot coffee with a rubber spatula. The batter will be quite runny.
How to Bake The Cake
Preheat and Prepare Pans: Start by preheating your oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour two 9-inch baking pans and line them with parchment circles.
I like to “flour” the pans using cocoa powder so that it doesn’t leave a sticky white residue on the baked cake.
Pour and Bake: Evenly distribute the batter between the two pans. Bake in the middle rack for 25-35 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 190ºF.
Cooling Down: Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Then, run a butter knife around the edges and flip them onto parchment-lined cooling racks.
How to Remove the Cake from Pans
To start, prepare a cooling rack by lining it with parchment paper. This prevents the cake from sticking to the wire rack and makes it easier to handle later.
- Gently run a knife around the edge of the pan.
- Place the parchment-lined baking rack on top of the cake pan so that it covers the cake.
- Use oven mitts to hold everything together, and flip the cake pan over onto the cooling rack.
- Now that the cake pan is upside-down on the cooling rack, gently tap on on the bottom of the pan until the cake releases.
- Finally, remove the pan and peel off the parchment paper.
Complete Cooling: Allow the cakes to cool completely before handling or frosting. This ensures they’re firm enough to decorate and serve.
Best Frosting for Moist Chocolate Cake
I love to smother moist chocolate cake in fluffy vanilla frosting (the five-minute kind made with just whipped butter, sugar, cream or milk and vanilla).
Mmm… Drooling again. Note to self: try to control that.
This time I smothered it instead with a super easy Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.
Not the fancypants Italian buttercream, the shortcut American-style buttercream that is basically just butter, icing sugar, and cocoa powder.
Again, brain short-out aversion strategy.
Storing Baked, Unfrosted Cake Layers
Once cooled, the cake layers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
I don’t recommend refrigerating unfrosted cake, as it actually speeds up the staling process. It’s best to save refrigeration until it’s really needed, if cream fillings or fruit toppings are used.
How to Freeze This Homemade Chocolate Cake Recipe
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, unfrosted cakes well in plastic wrap before popping them into freezer bags.
Thawing: Unwrap the frozen cake layers while still frozen. This ensures the sticky surface of the cake doesn’t glue itself to the wrappings. Thaw frozen cake layers partially at room temperature before icing them or decorating them. You can frost cake layers while still cold (this actually makes it easier to spread the frosting).
How to Store Moist Chocolate Cake with Frosting
Once frosted, cover it loosely with plastic wrap or use a cake dome.
The cake can be stored at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for longer. Here’s everything you need to know about how long cake lasts in the fridge.
I make sure that it’s at room temperature by the time it’s served again for best texture (although my husband loves it straight from the fridge).
Can You Freeze Frosted Cake?
Yes, you can freeze a frosted cake, although the success of this depends partly on the type of frosting used. Here are some tips for freezing a frosted cake:
- Buttercream and Ganache: Cakes frosted with buttercream or ganache freeze well. These types of frostings hold up to the freezing and thawing process without much alteration in texture or taste.
- Freezing Method: First, freeze the frosted cake uncovered for a few hours or until the frosting is firm. This prevents the frosting from sticking to the wrapping.
- Wrapping: Once the frosting is firm, wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil or place it in a freezer-safe container. This helps to protect the cake from freezer burn and absorbs any odors.
- Thawing: To thaw, remove the cake from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Before serving, let the cake sit at room temperature for about an hour for optimal flavor and texture.
- Frostings to Avoid Freezing: Some frostings, like those made with whipped cream or cream cheese, may not freeze as well. They can become watery or separate when thawed.
- Decoration Consideration: Delicate decorations or those made from fondant might not withstand freezing and thawing as well as the cake itself, so it’s best to add these after thawing if possible.
How to Adapt The Chocolate Cake Recipe a Different Size Pan
One of the most common questions I get is on how to adapt it for cupcakes or another size cake pan. I have used this recipe to make sheet cakes, layer cakes, cupcakes, mini cupcakes, etc. Really, you can’t go wrong.
- For cupcakes: bake at 375ºF for 20-24 minutes, until the tops feel slightly springy when pressed.
- For an round pan smaller than the nine inch cake pans called for: f the pan is smaller, start checking doneness 10 minutes sooner.
- For a larger pan: if the pan is larger, give it more time and cover with aluminum foil if the top is getting dark before the middle feels slightly bouncy (your finger shouldn’t sink, like it’s still raw beneath the surface).
If you’re not sure about cooking times, the easiest thing to do is grab your cooking thermometer. The temperature should be 190ºF in the middle.
Start testing when the cake has risen, feels slightly bouncy when pressed in the center, and is a shade darker. A toothpick or tester inserted in the center will have just a few moist crumbs attached (not wet batter).
If you love this one, I’ve got lots more cake recipes be sure to check them out!
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 December 20, 2023 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD