Super Moist Chocolate Cake

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You’ll love this super moist chocolate cake. It’s homemade and topped with a silky chocolate cream cheese frosting. The chocolate cake just melts in your mouth, it’s a light and fluffy cake that stays moist for days. 

A close up shot of a gorgeous slice of chocolate cake

My favorite easy chocolate cake

I feel like this cake has been a year in the making. Many of you requested a chocolate version of my vanilla cake. I tried several different variations, and nothing seemed to be working, because my standards for chocolate cake are very high. When I finally nailed the recipe I was beyond excited. Now this has become my go-to chocolate cake recipe.

It is super light and fluffy, but very moist, which is exactly what I wanted. It reminds me of my favorite doctored cake mix- but of course it tastes WAY better. The chocolate flavors isn’t overly sweet or intense, which is kinda of nice because once you add the frosting, it’s the perfect balance.

The best part is, this cake comes together in just a few minutes. It’s an oil-based recipe, so you don’t have to wait for any ingredients to come to room temperature!

A look inside this moist dark chocolate cake that's topped with a chocolate frosting.

The secret to moist cake

A lot of readers email me asking why their cakes are so dry. Cleary they haven’t tried this recipe- HA!

Oil-based cake recipes tend to be more moist, and make a very tender and spongy crumb. But the real secret is sour cream (or yogurt can be used too). Even days later, you’ll still find this cake is incredibly moist and fluffy.

4 Key ingredients (and substitutions)

  • Cocoa powder- Of course we need cocoa powder. My favorite way to make this recipe is with Hershey’s special dark cocoa. It’s a little less bitter (more mild) and gives it a distinct dark color. Otherwise an unsweetened natural cocoa powder works best.
  • Sour cream- We talked about is, don’t skip it! It what gives this cake the best texture and moistness. Sub with plain or Greek yogurt
  • Espresso powder this is optional but enhances the chocolate flavor. Fine ground coffee works too
  • Brewed coffee– hot brewed coffee enhances the chocolate flavor and blooms the cocoa. No, this cake doesn’t taste like coffee! Milk is the best alternative if you don’t want to use coffee.
A close up shot of a slice of moist chocolate cake

How to make a chocolate cake in 3 easy steps

  • Combine the wet ingredients and sugar: Beat the sugar with the eggs, oil and vanilla extract and beat them together until fluffy. Then add sour cream and beat until well combined.
  • Combined dry ingredients: I recommend sifting the the flour and cocoa powder because it will be easier for them to combine into the liquid ingredients. If you don’t have a sifter, you can also use a fine sieve.
  • Alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients: To the bowl, add half the dry ingredients and half the coffee and mix until combine. Repeat again. Once all the ingredients are well combined, stir with a spatula. Pour the batter in a 9×13 inch pan and bake.
  • Bake, Cool, Frost, Eat

Amazing chocolate cream cheese frosting

Choosing a frosting was no easy task. The chocolate cream cheese frosting is to-die-for! It’s ultra-creamy, whipped to perfection and not overly sweet, but it really adds the chocolate kick to finish off each bite. If you don’t love cream cheese, then you might like my traditional chocolate frosting, or my chocolate fudge frosting which is made with melted chocolate.

How to make it

  • Start with a cold butter and slice it into cubes. Beat the butter until it’s smooth and creamy and lighter in color. This may take several minutes
  • Add the cream cheese (also cold!) and beat until it’s well combined. This is the key to preventing lumpy frosting.
  • Add the cocoa powder and vanilla extract. You’ll want to beat the cocoa powder into the cream cheese for a couple minutes.
  • Add powdered sugar and cream: Next, you’ll add 2 cups of powdered sugar at a time and some of the heavy whipping cream, beating each time until the frosting is completely smooth. The more you whip it together, the more airy the frosting will be. Repeat this until all ingredients have been added and whip until it’s light and fluffy.
A close up shot of a half-eaten slice of dark chocolate cake with a chocolate frosting and sprinkles.

How to scale this recipe

  • To make a 3-layer 8-inch Chocolate Cake you can use this same cake recipe, but you’ll make adjustments to the frosting.
  • If you need a smaller cake this recipe can be made as a two layer mini 6-inch cake.
  • If you want to make chocolate cupcakes, this recipe will make 24 cupcakes, but you’ll need to scale up the frosting.

Storing a frosted cake

Once frosted, this cake can be stored in an airtight container on the counter top. If you live in a hot and humid environment, then you’ll need to refrigerate it. However, this can sometimes dry out the cake. Be sure to use an airtight container and serve at room temperature for best results.

A beautiful slice of chocolate cake on a white plate. The cake is frosted with a chocolate frosting and sprinkles.

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A close up shot of a gorgeous slice of chocolate cake

Super Moist Chocolate Cake

  • Author: Beyond Frosting
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 26 minutes
  • Total Time: 46 minutes
  • Yield: 12-15 slices

Description

This easy homemade chocolate cake and topped with a silky chocolate cream cheese frosting. It’s a light and fluffy cake that stays moist for days.

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) sour cream
  • 2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (55 g) cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon (5g) espresso powder  (optional)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons (9 g) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (2 g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 1 ¼ cup (355 ml) hot brewed coffee

For the frosting:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, cold
  • ½ cup (55 g) cocoa powder
  • 4 ½ cups (585g) powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) milk or heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) pure vanilla extract

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. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Then add half the dry ingredients followed by half of the coffee and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate. Then add the remaining dry ingredients and coffee. Beat until all of the ingredients are well combined. 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.
  4. 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 1-inch blocks. Beat the butter for 3-4  minutes until it’s softened.
  2. Then add the cream cheese and cream together for 2-3 minutes until they are fluffy and free of lumps, scape down the bowl occasionally.
  3. Add the cocoa powder and vanilla extract and beat until well combined,
  4. Next, add the confectionary sugar 2 cups at a time, followed by one tablespoon of heavy whipping cream and beat for 60-90 seconds until completely smooth. Add the remaining powdered sugar and cream and beat until desired consistency, at least 2 minutes.
  5. Spread frosting over cooled cake and then cover with sprinkles.

Notes

  • Cocoa powder: I prefer to use Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder for the cake and regular cocoa powder for the frosting.
  • Coffee substitute: I recommend using milk
  • Sour Cream Substitute: Use plain or Greek yogurt
Nutrition Information:
1 slice
606
70.1g
394.7mg
25.9g
17.3g
92.1g
3.2g
6.5g
87.4mg
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Chocolate Cake, Moist Chocolate Cake

84 Responses
  1. Cindy

    Disappointed in how the cake turned out. Far from moist. It was a bit dense and on the dry side. I took it out when the toothpick came out a bit wet knowing that it would continue to bake.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Cindy- that’s never been an issue for me, did you make any substitutions? It shouldn’t be dense at all- so something must not have been right with the measurements? It’s hard to say with out additional details.

  2. Nadege

    I don’t like chocolate but I have cravings once in a while, so I just made this cake. The cake is really good, not too sweet! I do find the frosting a little too sweet for my taste. The cake is cooling and I will be frosting it in a few hours, so maybe I’ll like the frosting better once I can balance it with the cake. It is really moist, and I can’t wait to taste the completed cake! Thank you for the recipe 🙂

  3. Amy

    Will this cake need to be refrigerated with the chocolate cream cheese frosting?
    Have it all made for my daughters birthday, we can’t wait!!
    Thank you

    1. Beyond Frosting

      I personally choose not to, but I also live in a rather cool climate most of the time. If you live in a warm or humid environment, or if you aren’t serving this cake for couple days, then you should refrigerate and serve it at room temperature.

  4. MollyJ

    I followed the instructions exactly (minus expresso powder), and the cake and frosting were absolutely delicious. I’m not sure I’ll try any other chocolate cake now! My cake was ready right at 26 min.

  5. Claire

    I tried this cake today for the first time. I’m very happy with the results. Didn’t include frosting, as I didn’t feel like it – and honestly the cake alone was amazing! By far the moistest cake I’ve ever baked. Thanks for sharing 🙂

        1. Beyond Frosting

          Hi Natalee- what type of pan were you using? Baking times are suggested, so if you’re cake was not done in the allotted time, that’s okay, you just need to bake it until it’s done. The edges turning hard, that’s a weird one, could be something up with your oven. If perhaps it wasn’t fully preheated to the turn internal temp when you started baking or your actual oven temperature is off.

  6. Betty

    Why measure it was in regular measurements
    Using measuring cups and measuring spoons using these are so good
    The recipe also said use a
    9 x 13 pan
    Hope this helps
    If u dont have measuring cups or spoons go to Walmart

  7. Brklyn

    This took me 45 minutes to bake, on a 9 x 11 pan, and all I could smell was the coffee. Maybe it’s the addict in me. However, I don’t think it should have taken that long. I’m trying it again, this time I will not measure by the weight, maybe that was the problem, too watery… Ugh… Maybe someone can help. And by the way, I just found this site, this is my first try and one of the recipes, and am excited to try more, even with this little set back.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Brklyn- thanks for checking in. 45 minutes is nearly double the recommended time- so something seems not right to me. However a 9x11inch pan is not the same size as I use. I use a 9×13 inch pan. So since you used a small pan, that’s probably why.

      Measuring by weight is not the problem- this is the way I always bake this cake. But please note the batter is quite thing.

      If you don’t like the coffee you can try substituting with milk.

  8. Deb Stein

    I have baked this cake around 3/4 times and whilst I love the flavour and texture the cake always flattens out on the sides and domes in the middle. I have tried multiple ways to fix this to no avail. I also use good quality everything and my ovens are near new Miele, my pans are Mondo. I don’t know what the problem is!!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Deb, are you expecting it to bake flat? Mine also domes in the middle, just like you’d see with a cake mix or something. It doesn’t sound to me like there’s anything wrong. This happens because the edges bake before the middle, causing the middle of the cake to “dome” and it finishes baking

  9. Manisha

    I usually use my mother’s chocolate cake recipe and I decided to go out on a limb and be adventurous. Boy am I glad!!! This cake is AMAZING! I didn’t get to making the icing- my little ones and their cousins polished the cake off in minutes!

  10. Fiona Schandl

    Wow! This was a great cake. I’ve never reviewed a cake before but this one deserves five stars. It was really quick & easy to make, will definitely make this one again.
    The icing was also delicious and not overly sweet.
    Thank you! This was a hit 🙂

  11. Ann

    I see, you are a real cake specialist! Most of all I love baking, that’s why I am a frequent guest at your blog 🙂 I have a really big baking recipe book, but I always find something new and creative here, thank you so much, I appreciate it! Chocolate cake is always a good idea, I like that it hardly ever annoys neither me, nor my family or friends when I bake it for every second holiday))) Long live the super moist chocolate cake!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      I keep at room temperature in a 70 degree climate. If you live in a hot or humid environment, then you should refridgerate

  12. Katie

    Julianne, I’ve tried you moist yellow cake & cupcake recipes & your moist vanilla layer cake recipes to rave reviews. Everyone loves them. I love knowing I have a go-to cake recipe that won’t disappoint.

    I need to make a half sheet cake that’s half chocolate & half vanilla, and I’ve been looking for recipes that are comparable so I can bake them together in one pan. After making your moist vanilla cake recipe yesterday, I thought, “Ooh, I have to check out her chocolate cake recipe.” I see that this recipe is pretty comparable to your moist vanilla cake. Do you think I could bake them in the same pan successfully? I don’t plan to use coffee in the chocolate cake, but do you think using milk in the recipe instead of water would make for a more similar crumb structure to the moist vanilla cake?

    I also see that the moist yellow cake & buttermilk chocolate cake are comparable recipes. Would you recommend one set of recipes over the other?

    Thanks so much for any feedback.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Katie! First of all, I am so glad that you have found these cake recipes to be so successful! You’re correct that the vanilla and chocolate recipes are comparable from an ingredient stand point, but I do believe the density and texture if quite different. I have not tried to do them together as a marble cake. In regards to the swap for milk vs water, it’s hard to say especially if you’re baking them together. This would all be a very interesting experiment.

  13. Su

    Hi! I just found this recipe and i cant wait to try make it. My problem is your recipe used a 9×13-inch pan but mine is an 8-inch square pan. What should i do? Blurrrr?

  14. Roz

    Hi there. I followed this recipe to the letter last week and it was absolutely fantastic. Love the moist amd fluffy texture and my family loved it too. This is now my ‘go-to’ recipe for my chocolate tray bake and I am about to make it again this afternoon due to popular demand. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      YAAAAS Roz! That is amazing! I am so glad to hear it that. It has become my go-to recipe as well because it’s so easy!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Donna, I don’t grease my pans because they are already coated nonstick, but it would depend on the pan you’re using. I am also not removing the cake from the pan, so I don’t grease, but if you are planning to grease the pan, then yes, definitely. In regards to refrigerating this cake, that would depend on the climate you live in. I live in a cooler climate, and I store at room temperature in an air tight container. It’s up to you.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Water is usually my recommendation. Milk can also be used but it makes the cake a bit heavier and not as fluffy.

  15. May

    Can I freeze the sponge?
    I am makimg this cake for a second time minus the coffee and now all my 2 year old wants is cake! I’m making again for her birthday and wanted to check it it could be frozen or kept for 3 days without freezing?

  16. Marlene

    I will be honest, I was a little hesitant to try this recipe after reading a few of the less than gracious recent comments, but I am so glad I trusted my gut- and just went for it! Oh my gosh, this cake is the bomb! We made it, yesterday, for Mother’s Day and it was just amazing! It was everything you said it was going to be- super moist, fluffy and not overly sweet! It’s been in the fridge overnight and it is still incredible- maybe better, but then I like cake when it’s cold!! I will definitely be making it again and using it as a base cake for many other different recipes in the future. Okay, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m going to have another piece 🙂 Thank you!!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Marlene! I am SO glad that you gave this a chance. Honestly, when it comes to chocolate and vanilla cake, everyone has such differing opinions, but I LOVE this recipe and it’s my perfect chocolate cake. Thank you for sharing!

  17. LD

    I made this cake along with a vanilla and mixed them for a marble effect. The swirl was not as visually pleasing as I had hoped, but that was due to the incompatibility of the two recipes I chose to use. The chocolate went to the bottom and the vanilla was mostly at the top. However the taste and flavor was delicious! Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      You’re welcome LD. Yes, the vanilla cake batter is quite a bit thinner than the chocolate, so they can’t be marbled together unfortunately, but I am glad it tasted good!

      1. Caileigh

        What temperature is should the butter be for the frosting? Looking forward to trying his cake for my daughter’s birthday. Your vanilla cake was a huge hit last year.

  18. Joanne

    I tried this and the cake is just ok. Not quite as special as I expected it to be basing from the write up. For the frosting, I already lessened butter and sugar yet it still tastes way tooooo sweet. I tried remedying it with Greek yogurt but was still too sweet. My husband just made it into a chocolate drink instead since only lots of water could lessen the sweetness.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi there, I am sorry you didn’t like it. Although I think it’s a personal taste that differs between each person. I am not sure I quite understand what adjustment you made to the frosting. Water will not do much for lessening sweetness, instead I’d recommend milk or heavy cream and a pinch of salt.

  19. Tangocharlie77

    I followed the recipe exactly. I found the cake to be bland and boring. It wasn’t as moist or fluffy as I thought. Disappointing as I made this for Valentine’s day.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi there, I am sorry you didn’t like it. Although I think it’s a personal taste that differs between each person. I’ve made this recipe dozens and dozens of times and it gets great reviews. The cake is more mild chocolate tasting so that it isn’t overly sweet once the frosting has been added.

  20. Annabel

    Hi Julianne

    I have just pulled my attempt out of the oven! We are looking forward to frosting it and then trying it 🙂

    I cooked it in a fan forced convection oven at 180C which means it would usually cook quicker than the suggested time. BUT mine needed 1 hour and 15 minutes. I am sure I followed your recipe accurately but maybe I put too much of one of the liquids in without realising. When the buzzer went off at 30mins it was still completely liquid.

    I am testing it out for a birthday party cake in a few weeks so will play around with the recipe if needed – wont bother though if it still tastes great, we will know in a few hours 🙂

    Annabel

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Thanks Annabel. I am not familiar with a fan forced convection over, so this probably has something to do with the adjustments you needed to make during the baking process. I hope you enjoy!

  21. Niyatee

    Hi can I use a 8inch cake pan? Also another question, I can only bake one cake at a time in my oven so if this batter makes two cakes and I keep one waiting on the counter top while the other one bakes, and then bake it, do you think it would affect the taste?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi there! Yes, I have a chocolate layer cake recipe that talks about baking this same recipe in 8-inch pans. I do not think it will effect it to bake one at a time. But I recommend leaving the batter in your mixing bowl, because you’ll want to remix the leftover batter again before baking your second or third layer. As the batter is sitting and waiting when you are baking your first one, it’s going to settle a bit.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Leane- I don’t turn turn on my fan but I am not really sure if there’s an internal one and I am not sure how to turn on my oven fan, so maybe I need to look into that!

  22. Beyond Frosting

    Hi Cleason, please let me what is not clear so I can help and make improvements for others, as I have made this recipes dozens and dozens of time without issue, and other have made it as well. Did you over bake the cake?

  23. Dave Bigham

    Hi Julianne,

    This was my first not-boxed cake, I will never go back.
    This cake is Awesome!!

    I had to add another 1/4 cup heavy cream to get the icing thin enough to pipe, I made cupcakes, but it worked out!

    Thanks for sharing this recipe, you made it so easy.

    dave

  24. Ramse

    At first I wasn’t satisfied with the results, It smelled eggy, and looked dry, also I tasted some crumbles and I didn’t like it. Once was cool down; and the cake was a little cold, finally I gave it a proper taste and OMG it was moist, It was fluffly, the thing I think was dryness in reality was a brownie-like top. And the taste of the chocolate mmm so delicious, also the eggy smell disappeared. By far, this is the beeeeest chocolate cake I’ve made (Also, I’m a pastry chef, so that’s a lot to say) Just, amazing, Thanks for this recipe!

    Also, I made it again, but I substitute the oil for margarine, and the sour cream for Mayonnaise, And It still worked like a charm. Love it!

  25. Bjaxon

    I just made this completely substituted everything lol and it was so good I used egg replacers and dry coffee grinds and omg delish I needed the base idea and I’m super pleased baking is a science and science is for experiments????‍♀️

    1. Beyond Frosting

      I use a nonstick pan, so I do not grease the pan. If you are using glass or a pan without a nonstick coating then you should probably grease the pan

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