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Buttermilk Chocolate Cake

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This Buttermilk Chocolate Cake is so moist, tender, and fluffy. It’s the perfect rich chocolate cake topped with dark chocolate buttermilk frosting.

side view of a slice of cake on a plate with a jug of milk in the background

Easy Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

I’ve never met a chocolate cake recipe I don’t like. But this Buttermilk Chocolate Cake might just be pushing to the front of my favorites list.

I have several chocolate cake recipes on my site and they all offer something a bit different. I would say this cake reminds me more of an old-fashioned chocolate cake, but something you’d also see in a bakery case. Classic flavors, spectacular texture and plenty of chocolate.

The base recipe starts with my easy chocolate cake, with alternations to the leavening agents and swapping out the coffee for buttermilk. I do find whenever I make a buttermilk cake, it really ups the anty of flavor and even texture.

This cake in particular is light and fluffy, moist and tender, rich and chocolatey, and topped with the perfect chocolate buttermilk frosting. Now if you’d prefer another alternative, you this cake would also pair well with my chocolate cream cheese frosting.

What Does Buttermilk Do To a Cake?

The acidity in buttermilk creates a super tender texture and reacts with the leavening agents for a fluffier cake. Now if you don’t have buttermilk on hand, keep reading, I have a quick and easy solution for you that I listed below.

side view of a slice of frosted chocolate cake on a plate drizzled with chocolate

Key Ingredients

  • Sour Cream – I usually use light sour cream, but regular will work as well. If you don’t have sour cream, you can substitute it with plain or Greek yogurt.
  • Cocoa Powder – I prefer to use Dutch-processed cocoa powder since it’s a little less sweet than regular cocoa powder. If you have never heard of dutch-processed cocoa, I have a full explanation of what it is and when to use different types of cocoa powder.
  • Espresso Powder – Finely ground coffee will work as well. This is optional but does enhance the flavor of the chocolate. It doesn’t make the cake taste like coffee. Finely ground coffee also works.
  • Baking Powder and Baking Soda Both leavening agents work to keep the texture of this cake so light and fluffy. The baking powder is particularly important to use with dutch-processed cocoa powder.
  • Buttermilk – Buttermilk is key for a light and tender cake.

What if I Don’t Have Buttermilk?

This recipe was specifically designed to use buttermilk because the acidity creates the perfect moist and tender texture, but also flavor! It just isn’t quite the same with regular milk. Plus the leavening agents and cocoa powder also factor into a recipe made with buttermilk.

If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make a homemade buttermilk substitute using milk and lemon juice or white vinegar. So if you only have milk on hand, make this quick substitute.

side view of a square piece of chocolate cake on a white plate

How to Make Buttermilk Chocolate Cake

  1. Mix the wet ingredients: In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat until combined, then mix in the sour cream.
  2. Add the dry ingredients: In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add half of the dry ingredients and half of the buttermilk to the batter. Mix until just incorporated, then add the remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk.
  3. Bake and cool: Transfer the batter to a 9×13″ baking pan, then cook at 350ºF until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove and cool completely.
  4. Make the frosting: Cut butter into pieces, add it to a bowl, then use the paddle attachment of your mixer to whip until lighter in color and fluffy. Add in the cocoa powder and powdered sugar, and a couple of tablespoons of buttermilk, then beat until smooth. Add the rest of the buttermilk and vanilla, then beat until your desired consistency is reached.
  5. Frost and serve: Spread the frosting over the cooled cake, top it with sprinkles, then slice and serve.
a partially eaten slice of chocolate cake on a white plate next to a gold fork

Preparation, Storing and Freezing

Want to prep the cake in advance? This cake is best served in the first 2-3 days as long as it’s stored in an airtight container at room temperature. I often bake my cakes 24 hours in advance and frost it the same day I am serving them.

Freezing: You can store it unfrosted in the freezer for up to 2 months. Simply bake it as directed, let it cool completely, wrap it tightly, then store it. When you’re ready to serve, simply let it thaw at room temperature, add the frosting, then enjoy.

Storing a frosted cake: A frosted cake will last in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. You should only need to refrigerate it if you live in a hot or humid climate. In that cake, allow the cake to come to room temperature before serving.

a gold fork held with a bite of chocolate cake

More Chocolate Cake Recipes You’ll Love

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closeup of a slice of chocolate cake on a plate

Buttermilk Chocolate Cake Recipe

  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 27 minutes
  • Total Time: 42 minutes
  • Yield: 15 slices

Description

This Buttermilk Chocolate Cake is so moist, tender, and fluffy. It’s the perfect rich chocolate cake topped with dark chocolate buttermilk frosting.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 ½ cups (285g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (118 ml) light sour cream
  • 2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (55 gDutch processed cocoa powder 
  • 1 tablespoon (5g)  espresso powder or finely ground coffee (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons (7g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) salt
  • 1 ¼ cup (296 ml) buttermilk

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup  (226g) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup (55 g) cocoa powder
  • 23 cups (260347 g) powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (44 ml) buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Chocolate sprinkles for garnish

Instructions

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed until the eggs and oil are well incorporated and the batter is lighter in color.
  3. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Then add half the dry ingredients followed by half of the buttermilk and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate.
  5. Finally add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing on low speed while pouring in the remaining buttermilk and beating until all of the ingredients are well combined.
  6. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  7. Pour the batter into a 9×13-inch pan and bake at 350°F for 26-28 minutes. Test the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, your cake is done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

For the frosting:

  1. Cut the butter into pieces about 1 tablespoon size. Using the paddle attachment, whip butter for 3-5 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until butter looks light in color and has more volume.
  2. Next, add the cocoa powder and confectionary sugar, followed by two tablespoons of buttermilk and beat for 60-90 seconds until completely smooth.
  3. Add the remaining buttermilk and vanilla extract and beat until desired consistency, at least 2 minutes.
  4. Spread frosting over cooled cake and then cover with sprinkles. Keep in an airtight container.

Notes

Substitutions 

  • Sour cream: Lite sour cream, plain or Greek yogurt will work
  • Buttermilk: If you have milk on hand, make this buttermilk substitute with lemon juice or vinegar. 

To Make Cupcakes

  • This recipe can be made into 24 cupcakes. Baked for 14-16 minutes. The frosting recipe will be to be 1.5 times what’s listed here. 

Storing and Freezing

  • Storing a frosted cake: This cake is best served in the first 2-3 days as long as it’s stored in an airtight container at room temperature. A frosted cake will last in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. You should only need to refrigerate it if you live in a hot or humid climate. In that cake, allow the cake to come to room temperature before serving.
  • Freezing: You can store it unfrosted in the freezer for up to 2 months. Simply bake it as directed, let it cool completely, wrap it tightly, then store it. When you’re ready to serve, simply let it thaw at room temperature, add the frosting, then enjoy.

Nutrition Information:
1 slice
459
45g
353g
23g
62g
2.4g
5g
75mg
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Buttermilk Cake, Cake Recipe, Easy Cake Recipe

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating

10 Responses
    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hi Roberta, sorry I am not familiar with high-altitude baking, so I am not sure what adjustment you would need to make. If you typically make adjustments for similar recipes, I would probably try that

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hi Patty, I don’t grease the flour the pan because I am not removing the entire cake from the pan. I also use a nonstick pan.

  1. Diana Muñetón

    Me encantó el pastel, quedó húmedo igual que en la foto, sólo tuve un pequeño problema con el frosting, que me quedó algo más claro y la consistencia algo más blanda. Todo un éxito. Gracias

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