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
If I wanted to make this in a 12 x 18 Cake pan would I need to double the recipe? The pan says it needs 16 cups of batter
My mother was baking this recipe in the late 50s. It’s a delicious classic that’s been around for a long time, before it was made famous by a popular caterer.
Yes, Ina herself mentions that the recipe is from Hersheys. Seems like 90% of chocolate cake recipes on the web are Hersheys with slight alterations in levener or salt.
It’s funny; several people have commented that this recipe is very close to Hershey’s Black Magic Cake recipe. I have never made that one, however, my favorite recipe for chocolate cake also came from the back of the Hersey cocoa can: Collector’s cocoa cake. That recipe uses similar quantities of dry ingredients but differs in a few. To whit, it features 3/4 cup butter, instead of oil, water instead of coffee, and no baking powder, only baking soda. I have made this recipe for at least 45 years, and it’s a keeper. However, this recipe works really really well. I especially love the use of coffee with the cocoa. I usually use instant espresso powder mixed with very hot water. I will also note that you can easily substitute yogurt for the buttermilk (since I have Greek yogurt, I thin it wit milk to the consistency of buttermilk). Also, Greek yourt makes a great wap for the sour cream 🙂
Ah, Hershey’s Black Magic Cake. I’ve been making this for over 30 years.
Absolutely one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve made!
I had the same problem someone else had. It totally dropped in the middle. Followed the directions!
It sounds like it didn’t get cooked through. Ovens vary so much that the same time and temperature can yield very different results.
Mine did the same. It cooked all the way through and then dropped in the middle when cooling. It tasted good but not what I wanted when trying to make a birthday cake
It sounds like even though it seemed to be cooked through, it wasn’t quite, Ash. It is difficult to tell with cakes. A very slight dip is fairly normal, but anything more and it probably needed a little more time in the oven.
I love the cake! Perfectly soft, moist and rich, with a nice spring.
I found the frosting is too sweet for me. I tried to tone it down with more sour cream. Is that just the way buttercream is?
I saw your recipe with the same cake but with whipped cream and strawberries! I can’t wait to try that!
Made this for my mother in laws bday and it Turned out absolutely beautiful! However due to illness we didnt get to cut into it the same day i made it and i didnt think to refrigerate. Is there a chance that due to the sour cream in the recipe it shouldnt be consumed at this point? Thanks!
Technically there is a chance, Lindsay. The official guidelines are that sour cream should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Since I’m an online ‘authority’ I can’t recommend otherwise, sorry!
SO GOOD! Made for my daughter’s birthday (but with homemade strawberry cream cheese frosting) and it is so dense, chocolatey and not too sweet. I used 1/2 espresso 1/2 French roast for the 1c coffee and it made it even better!
I made this cake and even baking an extra 9 minutes my cake sunk. Followed directions exactly. Only thing I did different is use coconut oil to grease. When I flipped the cake it was so sticky and wet. Was that my problem? Want to try it again but need help. The frosting was amazing.