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

The Quintessential Chocolate Cake Recipe

Quintessential Chocolate Cake

Prep Time
45 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
1 hr 15 mins
The Quintessential Chocolate Cake Recipe. Ultra rich and moist cake, with a thick layer of chocolate fudge frosting. This is a chocolate-lovers dream come true!
Servings: 12 Servings
Nutrition Facts
Quintessential Chocolate Cake
Amount Per Serving (8 g)
Calories 455 Calories from Fat 279
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 31g 48%
Saturated Fat 19g 95%
Cholesterol 82mg 27%
Sodium 287mg 12%
Potassium 392mg 11%
Total Carbohydrates 49g 16%
Dietary Fiber 6g 24%
Sugars 37g
Protein 6g 12%
Vitamin A 12.9%
Vitamin C 0.2%
Calcium 8.8%
Iron 31.9%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup scolding hot coffee
Ganache Filling
  • 12 ounces heavy cream, about 1 ½ cups
  • 12 ounces baking chocolate, I use Ghirardelli dark chips
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
Chocolate Frosting
  • 1 stick butter, melted (1/2 cup)
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 + cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup cream, or milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee


  1. For the Cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8-9 inch round cake pans . Then sift (or whisk) all dry ingredients in a bowl.

  2. Beat together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Slowly mix the liquid into the dry ingredients, and beat for two minutes. Once well combined, pour in the hot coffee and mix well. Pour into the cake pans and tap each pan on the counter a few times to remove any large bubbles. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  3. Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes, then use the edge of the pan as a guide to cut of the round top. This makes a great mid-cake-baking snack! Run a knife around the edges, and flip out onto a cooling rack. I like to “slam” the cakes out of pan to (hopefully) insure they come out in one piece. Once totally cooled, carefully slice through the middle to make 4 thin round disks. Stack the layers with wax paper in between, then wrap in plastic. Freeze until ready to assemble. Frozen cakes are SO much easier to handle while frosting. It also helps to keep the frosting from getting crumby!
  4. For the Ganache: Place the chocolate chips in a glass bowl. Heat the cream, butter, and sugar in a small pan. Once the cream is just barely simmering, pour it over the chocolate and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. Then whisk until perfectly smooth. Allow the ganache to cool another 10-15 minutes before assembling layers.
  5. For the Frosting: Heat the cream in the microwave until hot to the touch, then add the instant coffee to it and mix. Place the cream in the freezer for a few minutes to cool rapidly. Using an electric mixer, mix the melted butter, vanilla and cocoa powder until well combined. Alternate, adding the cooled coffee-cream and powdered sugar until smooth. Add a little more cream or powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.
  6. To Assemble: Take the cakes out of the freezer. Slather 1/3 of the ganache in between each layer, until all four layers are stacked. Press the top of the cake to level it. Using a large spreader, smooth the frosting around the sides. Then frost the top and re-smooth the edges. Use a damp paper towel to clean up the edges of the cake stand. Place the last bit of the frosting in a piping bag to “fancy-up” the edges, if you want!
  7. Leave the cake out, at room temperature so the insides can thaw. Cake taste better when the frosting and filling are room temperature and soft!

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39 comments on “Quintessential Chocolate Cake

  1. 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.

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  4. 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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  6. 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!

  7. 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!

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  9. 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.

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

    I wish my cakes looked as perfect!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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

    This is just stunning!

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

  18. 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

  19. 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.

  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. 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]

  22. 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

  23. 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 :)

  24. 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!

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

    That is the most delicious looking chocolate cake ever!

  26. 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 :)

  27. 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.

  28. 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??


  29. 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!

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

    Thanks for the tips!

  31. 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

  32. 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.

  33. 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!

  34. 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 :)

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

    Your cake is a masterpiece!! Fantastic!!

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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!

  39. 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!