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
This is nothing but the recipe from the back of Hershey’s dark cocoa. Hershey calls it “an especially dark cake.” It has been around for decades. All Ina did was change the 1 cup of water in Hershey’s original recipe to one cup strong coffee. I doubt that makes such a big difference! Hershey should be given credit for this cake!
Recipes definitely do get recycled, I think because when it comes to chocolate cake there’s only so many ways you can spin it. But to me this is the ultimate, whether it’s Ina’s or Hershey’s!
It’s actually Hershey’s black magic cake.
In a challenging time, why would you be so negative. She uses buttermilk or half and half. Regardless, every chocolate cake has the basics. We all “twist” and “change up” ingredients.
I made the cake (in a 9X13 pan) but I have not made the frosting. I did not want to do Ina’s frosting b/c I am not comfortable with the raw egg yolk. Your frosting looks good but could I reduce the powdered sugar or would that cause problems?
What are you talking about a raw egg yolk in the frosting? There is no egg yolk in the frosting.
Ina’s original frosting recipe calls for egg yolk in the frosting.
I made this cake for my birthday. My “icing lover” friend loved the cake part because it was so moist.
Love the simplicity of this recipe. I’ve made the cakes and am freezing them to take on a trip in 3 days. I’d like to make the frosting ahead of time as well. Is that OK in the refrigerator until I’m ready to use it? The crumbs are delicious. Can’t wait to taste the cake!
The frosting should be ok, but you will need to re-whip it before using, and possibly add a little milk or cream to loosen it.
Just made this cake for my husband’s birthday it really was easy to make and it taste awesome. I love the frosting it was so easy. To make as well. Can’t wait for him to taste it tomorrow. Will definitely keep this recipe handy.
Does the coffee leave the cake with a “coffee taste”? I want to make this for my mom’s birthday this weekend but she does not like the taste of coffee at all.
No, you can’t taste it, but it does subtly enhance the chocolate flavor.
Omg this chocolate cake is so luscious and moist and the frosting is to die for! I made it for my mother in law 93rd birthday and she wouldn’t let anyone take leftovers home! Everyone absolutely loved it It came out absolutely perfect and I will be making this again Thanks Ina! You are my absolute favorite chef!
Love that, what a sweet gift 🙂
Do you have a high altitude add for this recipe??
Made this for my moms birthday and she was beyond happy. Such a simple but rich cake. The coffee in the cake and sour cream in the frosting helped balance out the more sugary flavors, making a rich flavorful chocolate cake. My dad even liked it and he is not a chocolate person at all! This is a must make.
Best cake ever! I’m as chocolate lover but am not crazy about chocolate frosting on chocolate cake. I use Ina’s Mocha Chocolate Icebox cake frosting which is made with whipping cream – yummy. https://barefootcontessa.com/recipes/mocha-chocolate-icebox-cake
Never heard a complaint about that!
The mocha frosting sounds perfect!
Just made this cake strop by step and it flopped. Not sure why
Sorry Janet! I’d have to know more details to try to figure out the problem.