Simple Chocolate Cake

This recipe is perfect when you’re craving a chocolatey dessert but don’t want to spend a lot of time or ingredients to make one.

My favorite dessert of all time is chocolate cake with chocolate frosting!

I grew up eating and making the boxed cake mixes like Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines. They were super moist and fluffy and the canned frostings that were sold alongside them were rich and creamy.

Of course, the taste could never compare to homemade or bakery cakes. Made from scratch cakes have more intense and complex flavors, while the box mixes are often one-note.

But, fancy cakes aren’t perfect either. Sometimes they are too heavy or dense due to lots of butter. Or they are overly sweet.

Top view of chocolate cake with creamy fudge frosting.

Some are covered in too much fondant or decorations that get in the way of the delicious cake underneath.

Once I spent $7 on a small slice of cake that looked beautiful but was dry and lacked flavor. I could have baked a whole cake with that $7!

I can see why inexpensive mixes have such wide appeal. 

Well, I wanted to create a homemade cake recipe that has a similar texture to the mixes but is also rich in chocolate flavor.

After experimenting with several recipes, I came up with a chocolate cake that won’t cost you a fortune and doesn’t sacrifice flavor. It is simple to make and only requires a few extra steps than a boxed mix.

Slice of simple chocolate cake with fudge frosting on plate.

How to Make Chocolate Cake from Scratch

First preheat your oven to 350℉. Then grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. When greasing and flouring cake pans for a chocolate cake, use cocoa powder instead of flour to avoid a white residue.

Also, use leftover butter wrappers to grease the pans and keep your fingers clean!

Next add some parchment rounds to the bottom of the pans and grease and flour again. Set the pans aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup each of wheat and all-purpose flours. I use half whole wheat flour for a heartier texture but feel free to use all white flour if that’s what you prefer.

To the flours, stir in 2/3 cup cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon each of baking soda and baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set the dry ingredients aside.

Next, in a medium bowl, beat together 4 tablespoons melted butter, 1/4 cup oil, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup granulated sugar.

If you are used to sweeter desserts, increase the granulated sugar to 1/3-1/2 cup.

Beat the butter/oil and sugar mixture for 1-3 minutes until very creamy. Then beat in 2 whole eggs, one at a time. Finally add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Now it’s time for the creaming method!

You will need a total of 1 1/3 cup of buttermilk. If you don’t have any, add a few tablespoons of vinegar, lemon juice, yogurt, or sour cream to a large measuring cup and fill with regular milk till you get the required amount.

Add a third of the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Stir until just combined, with some bits of flour remaining.

Then stir in half of the buttermilk, once again whisking until just combined.

Continue this method with another third of the flour, the remaining half of the milk, and finally the last of the flour.

Gently stir or fold everything together until no more flour remains. Be careful not to over mix!

Evenly pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh even amounts of batter into each pan.

Or use a ladle and scoop 1-2 spoonfuls of batter back and forth between the pans. This ensures you’re dividing the batter evenly.

Place the pans in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean with a few crumbs attached.

Mine were done after 20 minutes, so definitely check yours cake early enough to prevent them drying out.

Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes. Then loosen the edges with a small butter knife or metal spatula and turn out onto a cooling rack. Peel off the parchment papers. Let cool completely before adding frosting.

The cake can be kept at room temperature for a few days but make sure it’s properly covered to retain moisture.

I usually bake my cakes ahead of time and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, then in foil, and then freeze them.

You can enjoy this cake plain with a tall glass of milk or hot cup of coffee.

You can drizzle on melted chocolate or lightly dust with powdered sugar for extra sweetness.

And of course, nothing can beat a simple chocolate frosting!

Check out my delicious fudge frosting that is creamy and rich and very easy to make.

My cake is not a decadent cake but rather an “everyday” chocolate cake, one with a homemade taste those boxed mixes just can’t give you.

So next time you’re in the mood for a quick and easy chocolate dessert, give this recipe a try!

 

What My Kids Say:
10 year-old: “The cake is sweet and fluffy and the frosting is sweet and creamy.”
7 year-old: “I like it because it’s moist and I like chocolate.”

Here are some other cake recipes

Old Fashioned Carrot Cake
A classic fluffy carrot cake paired with sweet and tangy frosting.
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Joby's Test Kitchen slice of 2 layer Carrot cake slice with cream cheese frosting.
Lemon Blackberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
A fluffy lemon cake with fresh blackberries, tart lemon curd, and sweet blackberry cream cheese frosting.
Check out this recipe
Lemon blackberry cake with blackberry cream cheese frosting.
Simple Plum Cake
A mildly sweet, tender buttery cake, with swirls of tart plums.
Check out this recipe

Closeup of frosted chocolate cake.

Chocolate Cake

Joby’s Test Kitchen
A simple chocolate cake recipe, perfect for a special occasion or just a regular day!
Prep Time 17 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 42 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 2 9-Inch Cakes

Ingredients
  

  • ¾ cup (90g) wheat flour
  • ¾ cup (90g) all-purpose flour
  • cup (53g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup (56g) butter, melted
  • ¼ cup (60ml) oil
  • ½ cup (96g) packed brown sugar
  • ¼-½ cup (48-96g) granulated sugar *(see Notes)
  • 2 whole eggs, room temp
  • 2 tsps vanilla
  • 1⅓ cups (320ml) buttermilk or regular milk *(see Notes)
  • 1 tsp instant coffee, optional (dissolve in the milk)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350℉. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Add parchment rounds to the bottoms and grease and flour again. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, beat the butter, oil, and sugars for 1-3 minutes, until very creamy. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Finally add the vanilla.
  • Next add ⅓ of the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Stir until just combined, with some bits of flour remaining. Then stir in ½ the milk, once again whisking until just combined. Continue using this method with another ⅓ of the flour mixture, the remaining ½ of the milk, and finally the last of the flour. Gently stir everything until no more flour remains being careful not to over mix.
  • Evenly pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean with a few crumbs attached. Mine was done after 20 minutes, so definitely check your cake early enough to prevent it drying out.
  • Cool cakes in the pans for 10 minutes. Then loosen the edges with a small butter knife or metal spatula and turn out onto a cooling rack. Peel off the parchment papers. Let cool completely before adding frosting. The cake can be kept at room temperature for a few days but make sure it’s properly covered to retain moisture. I usually bake my cakes ahead of time and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, then in foil, and then freeze them.

Notes

Prepping Pans: When greasing and flouring cake pans for a chocolate cake, use cocoa powder instead of flour to avoid a white residue. I add an extra layer of protection with parchment paper to ensure the cake easily releases from the pan. Also, use leftover butter wrappers to grease the pans and keep your fingers clean.
Sweetness: I prefer desserts on the less sweet side so only use ¼ cup granulated sugar. If you like sweeter cakes, increase the granulated sugar to ½ cup.
Buttermilk: If you don’t have buttermilk, add 2 tablespoons yogurt or sour cream to a large measuring cup and enough milk to get 1⅓ cups. Stir well. Alternatively, use  cup hot water to dissolve the instant coffee, then add the milk. 
Cupcakes: Not feeling in the mood to bake a whole cake? Cut the recipe in half and make a single layer cake or a small batch of 8 cupcakes. 
Keyword cake, chocolate, dessert, frosting

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