Quintessential Chocolate Cake

The Quintessential Chocolate Cake RecipeWe are sharing our most beloved Quintessential Chocolate Cake recipe. This is a chocolate-lovers dream!

The Quintessential Chocolate Cake Recipe

There are certain things every good cook should know. A culinary artillery belt, of sorts.

For example…

  • How to perfectly sear a steak so that the outer layer is crusty and the interior is pink and juicy.
  • Where to buy the freshest produce.
  • How to hand-whisk fluffy whipped cream and glossy meringue (although you’d rather use a mixer!)
  • How to work a knife.
  • How to make chocolate chip cookies that still taste incredible three days after baking.
  • The earth-shattering importance of salt and pepper.
  • How to prepare a basic cream sauce, wine sauce, and bolognese.
  • The makings of a good chocolate cake.

The Quintessential Chocolate Cake Recipe


Every good cook should have a reliable recipe for an unforgettable chocolate cake, don’t you think?

You never know when you are going to need it!

Friends coming over for movie night and pizza? Chocolate Cake!

Asked to bring a dessert to a party or shower? Chocolate cake!

Chocolate cake is the answer to many of life’s dilemmas.

The Quintessential Chocolate Cake Recipe

We all have our ideas about what makes a good chocolate cake. Think about yours.

Is it light and airy, or dense and fudgy? Is it extra-sweet, or just barely sweetened? Is it teddy bear brown or the color of dark soil? One solid slab, or layers? How many layers??? And the frosting… The most important consideration of all.

Drizzled with chocolate glaze, covered in thick, rich ganache, or slathered with buttery chocolate frosting?

Making The Quintessential Chocolate Cake Recipe

When I close my eyes and think about the perfect chocolate cake, my rendition is light and moist, not too sweet, and dark in color. There are layers… Lots of layers.

The icing is the only conundrum. I love both classic chocolate frosting and chocolate ganache equally. Chocolate frosting is nostalgic. When I taste it, blissful memories of childhood birthday parties and church picnics flood my mind. Ganache on the other hand is… There’s nothing like good ganache! It melts into warm pools of molten chocolate the moment it touches your tongue. How can you beat that?

I guess my quintessential chocolate cake needs to have both.

The Quintessential Chocolate Cake Recipe

The recipe that I’ve adapted as my Quintessential Chocolate Cake started as the Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake recipe on the back of old Hershey’s cocoa tubs.

Don’t snub the Hershey’s recipe before you’ve tried it! It is a delicious classic chocolate cake recipe with big flavor.

I made two alterations to the cake recipe…

1. I substituted buttermilk for regular milk, to give it a twangy quality that balances out the richness of the ganache.

2. I substituted 1 cup of scolding hot coffee instead of boiling water. Other than that, it’s the same cake. The buttermilk and coffee give this cake serious depth, but leave the light, moist texture just as it was meant to be.

How To: The Quintessential Chocolate Cake Recipe

My Quintessential Chocolate Cake has both ganache and frosting… I couldn’t choose.

I made a two layer cake, then cut each layer into two thin disks to make a cake with four thin layers. More layers means more room for ganache!

Then I frosted the outside with buttery chocolate frosting. I added coffee to the frosting to enhance the flavor.

The Quintessential Chocolate Cake Recipe

The result?

My idea of what chocolate cake should be. Moist, tall, rich, dark, and creamy. It’s the Quintessential Chocolate Cake.

Warning, This cake must be consumed with vanilla ice cream or a cold glass of milk.

The Quintessential Chocolate Cake Recipe

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39 comments on “Quintessential Chocolate Cake

  1. Lazaro Cooks!posted May 1, 2010 at 8:28 pm Reply

    Wonderful informative post. Great photos. I agree with many of your rules for cooking. Cheers!

  2. s.posted May 1, 2010 at 9:12 pm Reply

    I'm drooling over here.

    My friend is coming home for two weeks (he lives in hong kong now) and he requested that I bake him something chocolate. This may have to be it!

  3. Sharlene (Wheels and Lollipops)posted May 1, 2010 at 9:22 pm Reply

    Looks great, I definitely agree with your rules of cooking. Everyone should have "THAT" chocolate cake recipe in their arsenal of recipes.

  4. lauraposted May 2, 2010 at 1:53 am Reply

    That is one incredible cake, Sommer! Gorgeous – I could not pipe like that for anything – that's why my cake decorating always takes on some sort of free form art. (: My friend who runs her counseling practice out of her home has a whimsical sign for all clients to read that says: "Chocolate is the answer – it doesn't matter what the question is." This DEFINITELY qualifies as the answer!! I will try this – there is no such thing as too many chocolate recipes.

  5. Cherineposted May 2, 2010 at 8:07 am Reply

    Your cake is a masterpiece!! Fantastic!!

  6. Rachposted May 2, 2010 at 2:40 pm Reply

    Looks yummy! Will surely try it sometime. Yes, I do agree with your rules ! Qualifies me :)

  7. citronetvanilleposted May 2, 2010 at 3:08 pm Reply

    I think if I had a favorite cake it would be this one, it's just gorgeous, with the layers of cream in between the cake, a perfect balance of textures…and look at those beautiful pictures of the preparation! Love it!

  8. Shirleyposted May 2, 2010 at 10:23 pm Reply

    That is a thing of beauty. I think I love chocolate cake above all other desserts.

  9. Devakiposted May 3, 2010 at 2:07 am Reply

    Dear Sommer – I still trying to shut my mouth but I seem to be suffering from lockjaw in the open mouth position.

    That looks like something out of a serious patisserie!

    You post is informative and wonderful with the step by steps. I love how you couldn't decide between the frosting and the ganache :) As a MUM with 2 younglings thank you for the tip on giving any of this to them after 4.00pm!

    BTW, I do not own a piping bag..so my skills are not only rusty they are non-existence.

    Thank you for this wonderful start to a week!

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  10. penny aka jeroxieposted May 3, 2010 at 3:14 am Reply

    Thanks for the tips!

  11. A SPICY PERSPECTIVEposted May 3, 2010 at 12:35 pm Reply

    Hi Devaki!

    You are always so encouraging! I hope you enjoy the chocolate cake. You should think about getting a piping bag and tips…they get the creative juices flowing. Plus, your kids will love using them!

  12. Jessieposted May 3, 2010 at 12:36 pm Reply

    Oh my goodness this is beautiful. I'm getting very into baking cakes. I want to split them to have 4 layer but I'm nervous in ruining the cake! Suggestions??


  13. A SPICY PERSPECTIVEposted May 3, 2010 at 12:45 pm Reply


    Use a serrated knife to cut through the middle, then two spatulas to pick up the thin layers to separate them. Wrap and freeze them before layering…that is the key! Frozen cakes are SO much easier to handle.

  14. whisk-kidposted May 3, 2010 at 2:00 pm Reply

    This cake looks sooooooo good.

    I see this recipe all the time, but I have never tried it. My favorite chocolate cake recipe has sour cream in it and it's one of the few things I make over and over again.

    Chocolate cake is a wonderful thing :)

  15. Valenposted May 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm Reply

    That is the most delicious looking chocolate cake ever!

  16. Quinnposted May 4, 2010 at 1:44 am Reply

    I found you through Tastespotting and I must say I have to agree with frosting cake when it is frozen. They're not as messy, clings beautifully and when it thawed down, it's beautifully moist too! Looks absolutely divine, simple yet elegant. Great job!

  17. denise @ quickies on the dinner tableposted May 4, 2010 at 6:07 am Reply

    OMG Sommer! I have to agree!! I've been on the hunt for a really magnificent chocolate cake and I think this answers the call beautifully! I've bookmarked this and will certainly try it as soon as I can! Thanks for sharing such an outstanding recipe :)

  18. sweetlifeposted May 4, 2010 at 3:33 pm Reply

    girl, really it's 10am and I need to devour this, omg how did you know chocolate cake is my fav, well all cake is my fav…love this recipe…I agree everyone should have a smack you lips good cake recipe, yum yum yum

    did I say yum…yes yum

  19. Lisaposted May 5, 2010 at 6:29 am Reply

    this cake looks amazing and ive decided to do it this weekend for my mother as it is mothers day. i just have a question, the ingrediens for the frostin – with 1/3 cream is that supposed to be 1/3 cup cream. And is one stick butter 50 grams?
    thank you for a lovely recipie

    [email protected]

  20. A SPICY PERSPECTIVEposted May 5, 2010 at 3:15 pm Reply


    Sorry about that–I'm the queen of typos!I always have someone check my posts before I send them out, but sometimes they're hard to see!

    Yes- 1/3 cup of cream in the frosting and 1 stick of butter converts into approximately 114 grams.

    Hope this helps! Enjoy your cake!

  21. Rickposted May 5, 2010 at 11:06 pm Reply

    That looks like the most perfect chocolate cake I have ever seen! Thanks for the tip. Never would thought of cream cheese in flan.

  22. Anonymousposted May 9, 2010 at 6:37 am Reply

    I'm making this for mothers day too, and also found you through taste spotting! I've gotten to the freezing portion of it and will make the rest of the stuff tomorrow! I've never met any one more in love with chocolate than my mom, and of all the recipes I looked through, it looks like this one took the cake! Thank you so much! Julie

  23. Heidi Leon Mongesposted May 10, 2010 at 3:51 am Reply

    I'm amazed!. Your chocolate cake looks exactly as those displayed in professional bakeries. Well done.

  24. Vonposted May 24, 2010 at 7:49 am Reply

    I'm not quite sure what my favourite chocolate cake would be but this looks really really good! I'll have to try this one day!

  25. Memóriaposted May 25, 2010 at 4:35 am Reply

    What is my ideal chocolate cake? The one you just posted. I make the cake the exact same way – subbing buttermilk and coffee (I actually mix espresso powder with boiling water). I also like to add ganache and chocolate frosting, but my frosting uses melted chocolate along with cocoa powder. It is quite decadent.

    I love how you decorated your cake. It looks like the prototypical chocolate cake. I would love a millions slices of that cake.

  26. Honeyposted May 25, 2010 at 4:41 am Reply

    this looks gorgeous. i'm seeing this at 12:41 am… NOT GOOD! lol. i'm salivating!

  27. Magic of Spiceposted May 29, 2010 at 12:22 am Reply

    This is just stunning!

  28. Mommy 2 Bearsposted July 21, 2010 at 2:54 pm Reply

    Thank you! I needed a chocolate cake for my Mother's and Sister-in-Law's birthday next weekend. I'm great at kids cakes but the adults need a touch of whimsy that doesn't include SpongeBob. Ganache and frosting, I'm so excited.

  29. sadafposted August 9, 2010 at 9:40 am Reply

    hi, sommer
    its my first visit to your blog. I don't have words for this delicious cake just want to lick these picture from my comp. this is adorable. i like the idea to use hot coffee instead of water.

  30. Rosyposted September 13, 2010 at 2:57 am Reply

    I wish my cakes looked as perfect!

  31. Elaposted November 13, 2011 at 1:27 pm Reply

    I just got an answer on what to do with the chocolate cake I’m making for Thanksgiving. Thank you.

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  33. Sharon Dotyposted August 25, 2013 at 7:13 pm Reply

    I made this today and it tastes so wonderful! But, mine did not look as pretty! My ganache was a bit runny so I added a bit more chocolate which helped. The family loved it!

  34. Clarence Pposted January 7, 2014 at 12:54 am Reply

    Love this cake! I have used it a couple of times and it was a big hit. The cake itself is not too sweet so the ganache balances it out just nicely. Love your blog!

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  36. Chrisposted February 15, 2015 at 5:22 pm Reply

    To keep the cake plate clean, I’ve found using three/four strips of waxed paper under the cake while frosting works much better/easier. Otherwise I just want to lick the mess around the plate and that just gets noseprints on the cake sides. Who wants that?

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  39. CakenGifts.in Noidaposted May 13, 2017 at 2:17 am Reply

    I did not know how to make a cake but with the help of this recipe I made it successfully. It’s taste was marvellous!!!!!!!!!! I would like to recommend this cake to all my friends.