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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 ~
- Banana Cake with Spiced Vanilla Buttercream
- Orange Creamsicle Cake
- Raspberry Lemon Cake
- Blueberry Lemon Layer Cake
Ina Garten’s Chocolate Cake
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
Questions and Reviews
I made this for a birthday cake today, and it was a success! Here’s my experience in case it helps anyone – I don’t have much experience baking cakes, so I was a little bit nervous, but it turned out very well. I noticed in the comments that some people eliminated the issue of the layers falling by reducing the leavening, so just to be safe, although I’ve never made it before, I went ahead and only used 1 tsp. baking soda instead of 2. I also used butter in place of the oil for the cake. The pans I had were 9-inch, so I followed your advice to check after 25 minutes, and mine were done after 30 minutes. I forgot to buy parchment paper which is part of why I was nervous….I sprayed the pans really good without drowning them, but the cake layers did stick to the pans and refused to come out on their own. I was afraid all might be lost, but to my surprise, I was able to get them out of the pans almost completely intact with the help of a spatula – they did not break apart, maintained their shape, and there were just a few bits that came off the bottom of one of the layers, so not really an issue. Next time I would definitely try to use parchment paper though. The consistency of the icing was soft and silky; after refrigerating for 15 minutes it was a good spreading consistency. After icing the cake, I immediately put it into the refrigerator to firm up the icing. Everyone said it was really, really good. It was a little too rich for my preference, but I think the texture is fantastic – soft and moist. I’ve had homemade birthday cake in the past that was pretty dry, so I loved how moist this one turned out. I think if I make it again I’ll try reducing the amount of sugar in the layers, and I might try a more traditional butter cream frosting, or else try using cream cheese instead of sour cream.
Mine sinks in the middle too so I think I will either try the insulated cake strips next time to keep the outside from cooking too quickly OR I’ll try 9″ pans! Delish recipe though and SO easy to make! Tired of folks whining that this is not “Ina’s” recipe and she shouldn’t claim it as such. She never did that, she said it was a co-worker’s mothers recipe!
Could I use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream?
Hi! I have a question, I love this cake, but Everytime I bake it it sinks in the middle. Can you tell me what I might be doing wrong? Thank you!
Best cake recipe ever I also use black cocoa and regular omg soo amazing ! I want to make this into a big sheet cake should I double it ?
You can bake this in a 9×13 without any changes, but I’m not sure about an actual sheet pan, I haven’t tried that, sorry.
Can I use heavy whipping cream instead of half n half?
Yes, that works.