This easy chocolate cake is indulgent, moist and full of chocolate flavor. Made from scratch with coffee, buttermilk and cocoa powder, and ready in under 45 minutes!
Ever since I can remember, I’ve requested either chocolate cake or chocolate cupcakes for my birthday. Every single year, without fail. So in my 35 years on this earth, I’ve consumed a lot of chocolate cake.
In my years of sampling various cakes, I’ve become more and more particular about the ones that I like. In fact, really really good chocolate cake is surprisingly hard to come by. Usually they are too heavy, or too fudgy or simply don’t even taste like chocolate at all.
The Best Chocolate Birthday Cake
About 9 years ago, I found a chocolate cupcake recipe in a magazine. It was okay but I knew with a few tweaks it could be amazing.
And so my perfected chocolate birthday cake recipe was born.
It’s incredibly light and fluffy but oh so chocolatey at the same time.
It’s also really simple to make and takes only 30 minutes to bake. My kids request it every single year for their birthdays and every guest that has tried it has declared it the best homemade chocolate cake…ever!
The Important Ingredients
There’s 3 ingredients in this recipe that are the reason this cake is so good. First, coffee. Don’t exclude it. This is the reason the chocolate actually tastes like chocolate.
Coffee brings out the flavor of chocolate in a cake. I don’t drink coffee. I hate coffee. You cannot taste any coffee once this cake is baked. Just chocolate, I promise!
The acidity of the buttermilk works with the gluten in the flour to create a really soft, light crumb. Along with the oil, these two ingredients also help create an incredibly moist (but not sticky) cake.
For the flour, I like to use pastry flour but all purpose works perfectly fine if you don’t have pastry flour on hand. It will still be a very light cake, it’s just lighter using the pastry flour, since it has a lower gluten content.
Frosting & Toppings
I’ve tried different frostings and toppings with this cake over the years but by far my favorite is my simple chocolate buttercream with chocolate sprinkles on the sides. The buttercream has the perfect sugar/butter/salt ratio and the sprinkles add just the right textural component.
By the way, this is the actual cake that I made for my son’s third birthday party. My boys are obsessed with all sorts of trucks and I’ve now made this cake with a Lego excavator on it for a total of 4 birthdays.
My 5 year old did request monster trucks for his birthday this past November, but for my 3 year old, we were back to the excavator again!! Oh, and that’s crushed Oreo cookies for the dirt in case you want to replicate it!
If you’re wondering why my styled images above only show about a third of the cake, it’s because we ate the rest.
And I’m not making another whole cake because we will eat that one too. And by we, I mean I will eat the vast majority of the cake. I can’t resist it!
I’ve also made this cake at Christmas and used it with homemade raspberry jam and fresh cream to make a sort-of trifle. Beyond amazing. Try it.
Best Ever Homemade Chocolate Cake
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 ¾ cups pastry flour
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons extra dark cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup strong black coffee, cooled I used Green Mountain's Dark Magic
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For The Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- 8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks) softened (but not melted!)
- 3 ½ cups cups confectioners sugar
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoon milk or heavy cream
- Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer, combine the sugar, flour, cocoas, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix on low until dry ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for about two minutes. The resulting batter will be thin.
- Pour batter evenly between the two prepared pans.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans and cooling completely on wire racks.
- Frost as desired.
To Make The Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- In a stand mix with the paddle attachment on, cream butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes. You may need to scrape down the sides once. Turn off the mixer.
- Sift 3 cups powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter.
- Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.