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 followed the recipe but added a teaspoon of expression powder instead of the coffee and made cupcakes instead of a cake. They tasted great, but di not rise in the middle ( or maybe fell in the middle). Any idea of what might have happened? Thanks!
If you used a teaspoon of espresso powder instead of the cup of hot coffee, that would throw the recipe off, for sure. If you mean that you made coffee with the espresso powder, then all I can think is that the cupcakes didn’t cook long enough for the batter to get cooked in the middle.
I am thinking about making this recipe into cupcakes also. I have made it several times as a cake and love it. How long did you bake the cupcakes for when you made them? Thank you!
Generally cupcakes take 15-20 minutes, so I’d peek after 15 minutes, if they look pretty good through the oven window.
Can I use espresso powder instead of hot coffee? If so, any thought on how much? Then hot water?
You can make it according to the jar directions, that should be fine.
Is there a substitute for coffee with a non-caffeinated alternative ingredient that won’t compromise the overall flavor? Thanks!
You can just use water, or decaf coffee if you prefer.
This was the best chocolate cake that I have ever made! I followed the recipe with no substitutions and it was perfection. I made the cake in the morning and frosted it in the late afternoon and it all went so smoothly. Usually I feel like I run short or almost short on frosting, but even with a generous coating I had leftover. I loved the tang from the sour cream with the richness of the cake. Saving this to favorites for the next birthday! Thank you!!!!
My cake batter ran out all over my oven! What did I do wrong??
Did you use standard 8 inch cake pans Shari? I think if your pans were smaller this might have been the issue.
If you run out of parchment, can you just spray with nonstick spray or do you need to flour as well
It depends on your pans, if you have luck with that, great. I just don’t want anyone to have that awful experience of not being able to get a layer out of the pan.
The best chocolate cake I’ve ever had! So moist and rich. Thank you!
A brilliant cake. Thank you so much. It sure is a winner. I am from South Africa. I am sharing this recipe with my children so they can also try it out. Very fluffy and light. Not dry at all. I love it!
I’d like to try this recipe but don’t have a coffee machine for the hot coffee. Can I use instant coffee? If so what quantities of water and coffee granules should I use?
Yes, you can, just make the coffee according to the package instructions and it will be fine.
Any substitutions for the coffee, or will it be fine to leave it out?
Just replace with hot water.
Could this be made into cupcakes? What do you think the bake time would be?
Yes, for sure. It will depend on their size, but most cupcakes bake in 15-22 minutes.