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Perfectly Moist Chocolate Cake Recipe (Homemade!)

Homemade Chocolate Cake like this is not easy to find. This is the Most Perfect Moist Chocolate Cake recipe, and that’s coming from an obsessed cake tester!

Moist Chocolate Cake Recipe with Chocolate Frosting

You all know how I work. It’s why we have the best Traeger Ribs, Buttermilk Pancakes and Banana Bread recipes among a gazillion others. I get all sucked into finding the best of the best for a specific recipe and I can’t let it go until I’ve achieved it.

And friends, I’ve discovered which chocolate cake is best. If you’re needing chocolate cake for a birthday or a family celebration, you just step right up.  (Who am I kidding, just make it because you are surviving the crazy these days.)

a photo of a slice of two layer chocolate cake sitting on a white plate.

Everyone I know loves a moist chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, but no one has great luck with a homemade chocolate cake without just using a cake mix. I am crazy giddy to share all of my secrets!

Don’t go crazy, but this is a chocolate cake recipe without butter. That’s for a very specific reason. As much as I thought that butter would be all the difference in flavor, it just wasn’t the truth. The flavor didn’t count enough for how much the cake lacked moisture.

Apparently butter doesn’t make cakes moister, which makes sense. Butter has a high water content that evaporates as steam in the baking process so it can’t keep the moisture like an oil can. If you really want to use butter you can, just use equal amounts or half and half, but all oil did lead to a better chocolate layer cake!

A chocolate layer cake with chocolate frosting. Several pieces have been cut from the cake exposing the moist, chocolaty inside. Each layer is frosted with the same creamy chocolate frosting that frosts the whole cake.

Homemade Chocolate Cake Ingredients

As I already mentioned, the moistness of this homemade chocolate cake is thanks in part to the oil used in the batter. Our other secret? Buttermilk! Yep, this is a buttermilk chocolate cake.

Any time a recipe calls for buttermilk, it makes me think it’s going to be a fancy recipe. But in reality, this chocolate cake from scratch couldn’t be simpler to make.

Here’s what you’ll need to make this moist chocolate cake recipe:

  1. All-Purpose Flour: I’ve tested all sorts of flours but had the worst luck in a chocolate cake with cake flour.
  2. Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder: Do not use dutch-process cocoa powder, but opt for an unsweetened cocoa powder, which will give a better rise. Try Hershey’s or a similar brand just in the grocery store. Not crazy trip to a gourmet store needed.
  3. Espresso Powder: Espresso powder is optional, but listen, as one who does not drink coffee for religious reasons I really do believe this makes a difference in the chocolate flavor.
  4. Baking Soda Baking Powder: Yes, use both!!! I’ve tried many baking powder only and baking soda only chocolate cake recipes, but it was only in using both that it worked out.
  5. Salt: Salt balances the flavor of sweet and actually makes this homemade chocolate cake taste better!
  6. Oil: I do not believe in using butter in this cake batter as anything with cocoa powder dries out the baked goods.
  7. Eggs: Use room temperature eggs to not shock the batter and help it better emulsify. I almost always forget, so I set them in a bowl of warm water while I start the recipe.
  8. Buttermilk: We tried all sorts of liquids and found that part water and part buttermilk made for a better cake. The acidity broke up the chocolate and resulted in a super moist chocolate cake.
  9. Hot Water: Hot liquid blooms the cocoa powder’s flavor. It’s just like how I bloom spices in a pan when cooking. It totally makes a big difference in flavor. In addition, it activates the espresso and helps to dissolve the cocoa powder.

A homemade chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Several pieces have been cut from the cake exposing the moist, chocolaty inside. Each layer is frosted with the same creamy chocolate frosting that frosts the whole cake.

How to Make Chocolate Cake From Scratch

When making a chocolate cake, please don’t make substitutions the first time, this really is best chocolate cake recipe, and you need to know how the cake is going to turn out before meddling. If you must, please see our suggestions below. 🙂

  1. Preheat your oven to be certain it is at the perfect temperature by the time the cake bakes.
  2. Spray the bottoms of two to three 9″cake pans and then line with precut parchment paper and spray again, including the sides this time. (Note that if you’re doing a three layer chocolate cake, each layer will be thinner).
  3. Prepare your dry ingredients by using a mesh sieve to remove any lumps.
  4. In a mixing bowl, beat together eggs, buttermilk, hot water, oil and vanilla until smooth.
  5. Add dry ingredients, mixing again.
  6. Divide evenly into pans and bake.
  7. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes and then turn out onto a wire cooling rack.

a photo of a slice of chocolate cake that is two tiered laying on a white plate.

How to Tell When Cake is Done Baking

Unlike brownies, you can use the toothpick trick for cake. Just insert a toothpick into the very center of the cake and if it comes out clean it’s time to pull the cake!

Can You Make Chocolate Cake Ahead of Time?

Yes!! I do this seriously all the time! Make and cover a cooled homemade chocolate cake with plastic wrap, then let it sit on the counter for 2 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

A whole moist chocolate cake with fluffy, dark chocolate frosting. The cake is on a white cake plate.

How to Make Chocolate Frosting

The secret to a good chocolate frosting is actually, in my expert opinion, to use both butter and cream cheese. Each doesn’t hold up to the chocolate enough, but together, man it’s good! All rich and creamy, totally dreamy.

Here’s how to make chocolate cake frosting yourself:

  1. Start with equally soft cream cheese and butter. Cream together until smooth.
  2. Beat in remaining ingredients.
  3. Add milk or cream as needed to make it just enough spreadable that it can be decorated on the cake without losing any of that thick goodness.

A slice of chocolate layer cake with chocolate frosting. Chocolate frosting is spread between each layer and on the top and sides of the cake. There is a cake plate with chocolate cake in the background.

Do I Have to Include Espresso Powder in the Batter?

YES! You saw me start to mention it in the ingredients list, but this is one of the most important parts of having a chocolate cake taste extra chocolate-y.

Almost every single chocolate cake you order somewhere probably has coffee in it and you didn’t know. It’s because it big time enhances the chocolate flavor.

I buy this Baking Espresso Powder in the baking section of my grocery store or lately I just Amazon it. Here are the top reasons I love baking with it:

  • It doesn’t have bitterness of real coffee.
  • It’s easily stored in a convenient jar.
  • It has no coffee flavor.

a photo of a piece of two layer chocolate cake covered in chocolate frosting.

What Can You Substitute for Buttermilk?

The best substitute for buttermilk is milk and vinegar or lemon juice. For each cup of buttermilk, use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir, then let stand for 5 minutes.

Alternately, if you have sour cream on hand you can actually use a combination of milk and sour cream to make homemade buttermilk — use 50% of each to equal the amount of buttermilk. Actually, sour cream makes for an even denser cake so it’s really not a bad sub at all!

Can You Use Unsweetened Bakers Chocolate Instead Of Cocoa?

Yes, 1 ounce of unsweetened bakers chocolate equals 3 Tablespoons of cocoa. You should melt the bakers chocolate and add it when you add the sugar and butter, or oil.

A close-up of the top of a moist chocolate cake that is frosted with beautiful chocolate frosting.

How to Store Chocolate Cake

Only leave chocolate cake out if you cover it and for only 2 days. Refrigeration is absolutely unnecessary.

The best way to store frosted cake that has been cut is actually to continue cutting into slices. Next, individually wrap each slice in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Can You Freeze Frosted Cake?

Yes, frosted cake will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. You should put the chocolate cake with chocolate frosting in the freezer uncovered, let it freeze completely, and then wrap in plastic wrap and foil.

How Long Will Chocolate Cake Last?

Fresh baked chocolate cake will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator. It should be covered with foil or plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.

A chocolate layer cake with chocolate frosting.

Tips for Making a Moist Chocolate Cake

Always start by sifting your dry ingredients for a cake. This is especially important when making chocolate cake from scratch as the cocoa powder often has lumps and you want a perfect cake texture.

Please note that cake flour will not work in this recipe. Cake flour is too fine and cannot hold up the chocolate cake. All-purpose flour is a must here.

When making the chocolate cake frosting, it’s important that you use real butter and full-fat cream cheese. You need the fat in both to create a fluffy, rich frosting. I’m not sure how the chocolate frosting will turn out if you use margarine and / or low-fat cream cheese.

More Easy Cake Recipes:

Servings: 24

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes


This is a perfectly moist chocolate cake recipe that has the BEST chocolate frosting I’ve ever had! So easy to make, and totally homemade!

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For the Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  • Butter three 9-inch round cake pans and dust with flour, dumping out excess. 

  • Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. 

  • In a standing mixer, mix the eggs, buttermilk, warm water, espresso powder, oil and vanilla until combined. 

  • Add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. 

  • Divide batter evenly between three pans. * (see note)

  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

  • Cool on wire racks, then after 20 minutes turn out to cool completely.

  • Frost and enjoy!

For the Frosting:

  • In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. 

  • Add in the cocoa powder, powdered sugar and vanilla extract, beating until smooth and adding 1 tablespoon at a time of milk if needed to make it spreadable.

*Note: it took me 3 heaping cups of batter per pan.
Cake will keep in the pantry for 5 days. Cover well.

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 491kcalCarbohydrates: 79gProtein: 6gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 65mgSodium: 428mgPotassium: 246mgFiber: 4gSugar: 61gVitamin A: 491IUCalcium: 64mgIron: 2mg

Author: Sweet Basil

Course: 500+ Best Dessert Recipes, Easy Cake Recipes For Beginners

Cuisine: American

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