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
4.71 from 439 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
    July 4, 2021 at 4:32 am

    This looks great! I was wondering if I could use plain yoghurt instead of sour cream for the frosting?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      July 4, 2021 at 5:30 am

      I haven’t tried that in a frosting, but it works in baking. I would try a thick whole milk yogurt.

      • Reply
        July 5, 2021 at 3:50 pm

        5 stars
        I tried it with 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp of yoghurt and it turned out great!

        • Reply
          October 6, 2021 at 7:41 am

          Would you substitute the 1/2cup sour cream for 1/2 cup double cream yogurt ?

          • Sue Moran
            October 6, 2021 at 8:28 am

            I’m not sure how that would work, but it’s worth a try! I haven’t experimented with using yogurt in frostings.

  • Reply
    June 22, 2021 at 9:35 am

    5 stars
    Thank you for this! I have never make a chocolate cake or chocolate frosting before and this turned out perfectly, I did want a more chocolate flavor for the frosting so added another 6oz of chocolate, another stick of butter, splash of vanilla and 1/2 cup of powder sugar. I also made this as 2 6″ pans as I lost my 8″ still worked great! Thanks again!

  • Reply
    June 18, 2021 at 3:40 am

    5 stars
    The only chocolate cake recipe I will use. It gets rave reviews every single time I bake it for family, friends and co-workers.

  • Reply
    May 27, 2021 at 3:57 pm

    What if I were cooking it in a 9×9 square pan, or a 11×9 rectangular time? How would bake time change?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      May 27, 2021 at 5:50 pm

      Check your 9×9 layers at 25 minutes. I’m not sure about an 11×9, there is too much batter in this recipe for that pan.

  • Reply
    April 26, 2021 at 10:24 am

    Hi Sue
    Thank you for sharing your recipes. Because of you I look like a good baker! ?I love this cake!! My question is I want to make a cake for my mother in law’s birthday. My problem is this cake is too large. Could I make it in a loaf pan? She would love this but she eats so little. I thought about your chocolate pound cake but I would imagine that is a more dense heavy cake. Thank you for your thoughts.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      April 26, 2021 at 3:58 pm

      Well, I haven’t tried this as a loaf, but my first thought is for you to make a single layer, that’s fairly small and still looks festive.

  • Reply
    April 22, 2021 at 4:17 pm

    5 stars
    What Brand Name of baking powder and baking soda does Ina Garten use?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      April 22, 2021 at 6:30 pm

      Gosh I don’t know Cynthia, but I bet you could google it. If I find out I’ll come back and let you know.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2021 at 8:32 pm

    5 stars
    This is not Ina’s recipe but her friend Beatty’s.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2021 at 11:35 am

    Hi! Making this cake today for my son’s birthday party tomorrow. Can I go ahead and frost it and keep it in the fridge until tomorrow? Also, do left overs need to be stored in fridge? Thanks!!!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      April 10, 2021 at 1:19 pm

      Yes, you can make it ahead and refrigerate it. The cake can stay out for the day on the counter, but it should probably be refrigerated overnight due to the sour cream in the frosting.

    • Reply
      July 18, 2021 at 8:56 am

      It is not her friends cake, she named it in honor of her dear friend Beatty.

  • Reply
    Katelyn D.
    April 6, 2021 at 5:19 am

    Can I substitute the vegetable oil for coconut oil?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      April 6, 2021 at 5:30 am

      Yes, use it in liquid form.

  • Reply
    March 28, 2021 at 9:53 am

    5 stars
    My absolute favourite chocolate cake to date. I used espresso and hot water in place of the coffee for the cake and dark chocolate in the frosting….some chocolate shavings on top and it was a hit. I didn’t have time to crumb coat the cake but no issues with crumbs in my buttercream. What a hit! Easy and fantastic flavour! Definitely making again!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      March 28, 2021 at 9:56 am

      I bet chocolate shavings took it over the top, pretty too!

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