Ina Garten’s Chocolate Cake Recipe

slice of chocolate layer cake

Ina Garten’s Chocolate Cake recipe ~ it’s a classic! When I hear the word dessert, this homey, rich, chocolatey cake is what springs to mind. Everybody should make it at least once.

Taking a slice of Ina Garten's Chocolate Cake

Ina Garten’s chocolate cake is hands-down one of my favorite chocolate cakes I’ve ever baked, (or tasted!)

It will take a lot for me to look for another chocolate cake recipe in the near future. The texture and flavor of Ina Garten’s chocolate cake is just my style — it’s very moist without being dense or heavy at all, and has just the right balance of sweetness with rich chocolate flavor. I can see why this is a beloved recipe, and will be my go-to from now on.

Ina Garten's Chocolate Cake cooling on a rack

This easy chocolate cake has the light, even texture of a boxed cake mix

The chocolate cake itself is similar to my Chocolate Cake with Cranberry Buttercream, but even a little bit simpler to put together as it calls for oil and cocoa powder rather than melted butter and chocolate. You can feel confident going with either one, depending on whether you’re in a butter creaming mood or not. They both bake up perfectly with a nice deep rich color and fabulous chocolate flavor.

Taking a bite of a piece of Ina Garten's chocolate cake

A pinch of salt and some silky sour cream makes chocolate frosting even better!

I did make a couple of changes to the original frosting recipe to suit my preferences ~ I added a pinch of salt, a bit of sour cream, and increased the amount of powdered sugar. These changes help to bulk up the frosting a bit so that there’s plenty to generously frost a double layer cake (I’m paranoid about running out!)

I feel that the salt and sour cream help offset the added sugar a little bit. The added sour cream also makes for a slightly softer frosting that doesn’t go quite as crusty over time as a plain buttercream frosting tends to do.

Chocolate layer cake with chocolate frosting.

I kept my cake as plain and simple as can be, but of course this is a wonderful base for all kinds of variations and decorations. The cake would be amazing with a vanilla frosting, a peanut butter frosting, a blackberry buttercream, whatever you like!

Suggestions for decorating a chocolate layer cake

If your occasion calls for a little more frippery, here are some ideas…

  • One of my favorite ways to decorate any chocolate surface is with chocolate shavings: just take a bar of chocolate and a vegetable peeler and peel off little curls. If your chocolate is dry you can microwave it for a few seconds to soften it so that you can get it to curl beautifully.
  • Chocolate sprinkles look pretty on a chocolate cake, you can decorate the top, or press them into the sides.
  • If it’s the season, pop some berries on top, strawberries and raspberries are perfect. Intersperse some green mint leaves.
  • Arrange malted milk balls or other chocolate candy around the perimeter of the cake.
Serving a slice of Ina Garten's Chocolate Cake.

How to crumb coat a layer cake

The moist, delicate texture of this cake mean that it is a little bit trickier to frost without getting crumbs in your frosting, so I recommend doing a quick “crumb coat,” which, if you’ve never bothered with one in the past, really isn’t as complicated or annoying as it might sound!

  • To make a “crumb coat,” simply frost the top and sids of the cake with a thin layer of frosting, getting everything as smooth as you can. Don’t worry if there are crumbs showing.
  • Then, refrigerate the cake for at least 15 minutes. This sets the frosting and effectively locks all those crumbs in place before you move on to your next coat of frosting, so they won’t be floating around and getting in your way! That’s it!
A slice of Ina Garten's Chocolate Cake with fork

I think this cake is the perfect celebratory cake for any and all occasions ~ it’s a great recipe to have in your back pocket for birthdays, anniversaries, graduation parties, you name it.

More luscious layer cakes ~

slice of chocolate layer cake
4.72 from 448 votes

Ina Garten’s Chocolate Cake

Ina Garten's Chocolate Cake recipe ~ it's a classic!  When I hear the word dessert, this homey, rich, chocolatey cake is what springs to mind.  Everybody should make it at least once.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Yield 16 servings
Calories 498kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • Two 8-inch round cake pans Note: this cake is thick, so make sure your cake pans are at least 2 inches tall to accomodate the batter.


Dry Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used half-and-half, which worked fine, too!)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot coffee

For the frosting

  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream


For the cake

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper discs.
  • Whisk all the dry ingredients together well in a large bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients EXCEPT the coffee.
  • Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing as you go. Once incorporated, add the hot coffee, and mix everything until there are no pockets of dry flour left. The batter will be very thin.
  • Divide the batter between the two cake pans, and bake for 35 minutes until risen and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out without wet batter clinging to it.
  • Allow the cakes to partially cool in the pans, then turn out onto a cooling rack to completely cool before frosting. The cakes can be made a day or two ahead and kept in the refrigerator before frosting.

For the frosting

  • Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave using short bursts. Stir until smooth and set aside to cool slightly.
  • Beat the room temperature butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment for a couple minutes until smooth and noticeably paler in color. Slowly add the powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla, beating on a low-medium speed until everything is smooth.
  • Whisk the sour cream into the partially cooled melted chocolate. This both cools down the chocolate and warms up the sour cream so that both are more-or-less room temperature before adding to the butter mixture.
  • Add the chocolate and sour cream mixture to the mixer bowl and beat on low speed until everything is smooth and combined.
  • If your frosting seems a little too loose, you can refrigerate it for 10-15 minutes to allow it to firm up a little bit. Then give it a good stir before frosting the cake.

Cook’s notes

*Recipe lightly adapted from Ina Garten.


Calories: 498kcal | Carbohydrates: 67g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 57mg | Sodium: 316mg | Potassium: 205mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 52g | Vitamin A: 459IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 2mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    June 18, 2022 at 4:29 pm

    5 stars
    Wondering if I need to refrigerate the cake if serving the following day or can I leave out covered overnight?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 18, 2022 at 4:59 pm

      Because of the sour cream, technically it should be refrigerated after a couple of hours. You can let it sit out at room temperature a bit to take the chill off before serving, if you like.

  • Reply
    June 14, 2022 at 9:59 am

    Could I use this recipe for cupcakes? What would the temperature and time be for cupcakes verses this cake?
    Thanks in advance

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 14, 2022 at 2:32 pm

      Bake at the same temperature, and cupcakes can take anywhere from 15-20 minutes or so, depending on size.

  • Reply
    Heather K
    June 5, 2022 at 8:38 pm

    What kind of cocoa powder do you use to get the really dark color?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 6, 2022 at 9:58 am

      In this cake I used regular cocoa powder, but when you want to get a very dark result I love Hershey’s Special Dark powder.

  • Reply
    Amanda Gutierrez
    June 2, 2022 at 4:05 pm

    For those of you who have eaten at Portillo’s (a Chicago chain restaurant) and had their famous chocolate cake, this might as well be a copy cat of that. It is so moist, so soft with such a beautiful crumb, and not overpowering in any way. I used 1 3/4 cups sugar instead of 2 cups just bc we tend to like things a little less sweet and it was enough to still balance the 1 tsp salt and cocoa powder. And what a great way to make frosting. Not to sweet, just right. Way to go!

  • Reply
    Debra Davis
    May 31, 2022 at 5:35 pm

    5 stars
    Your recipes look to be awesome just by the look. I can’t wait to try it.

    Debra Davis

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