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You’ll love this super Moist Chocolate Cake topped with a silky chocolate cream cheese frosting. This homemade chocolate cake is fudgy, decadent, and so easy to make! It’s also crazy versatile, so you’ll never run out of excuses to make it.
Looking for a vanilla version? Try my equally irresistible Moist Vanilla Cake recipe.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Ultimate Easy and Moist Chocolate Cake
- What’s the Secret to a Moist Chocolate Cake?
- Key Ingredients
- How to Make the Best Chocolate Cake
- Making the Chocolate Frosting
- Tips for Success
- Can I Make Chocolate Cupcakes Instead?
- More Variations and Ways to Decorate
- How to Store a Frosted Cake
- Can I Freeze Chocolate Cake?
- Get the Recipe
The Ultimate Easy and Moist Chocolate Cake
My standards are very high when it comes to chocolate cake. When the requests came pouring in for a chocolate version of my best-ever Vanilla Cake recipe, I knew it needed to be perfect.
It’s been a year in the making, but I’ve done it (originally I shared this cake back in 2018). I finally nailed the ultimate chocolate cake! I’ve made it countless times since, and have learned more and more ways to make improvements over the years. This recipe for insanely rich and fudgy cake has since become my go-to cake for any and all occasions.
This cake is light and fluffy, but very moist, which is exactly what I’d hoped for. It’s a homemade cake with everything I loved about those chocolate cake mixes we made when I was a kid, only a MILLION times better!
What’s the Secret to a Moist Chocolate Cake?
One of the main questions I get from my readers is, “Why are my cakes so dry?” Clearly, it’s because they haven’t tried this recipe (jokes!).
In all seriousness, there are a couple of things that contribute to the outrageous moisture in this cake. The first is vegetable oil. Oil-based cake recipes tend to be moister, with a tender and spongy crumb. This is because oil stays liquid at room temperature, whereas butter tends to harden once it cools.
The second secret is sour cream (or yogurt). Sour cream brings unbelievable moisture to a chocolate cake, without watering it down. Even days later, you’ll still find this cake incredibly moist and fluffy. See the next section for the other ingredients that make this the best chocolate cake.
The best part is, the batter comes together in just a few minutes. Below is a quick overview of the key ingredients you’ll need to make this cake. Be sure to refer to the full details in the recipe card.
- Oil – Using a neutral-flavored oil, like vegetable oil, in place of butter in cakes makes the texture extra tender.
- Cocoa Powder – My favorite is Hershey’s special dark cocoa. It’s a little less bitter (milder) and gives it a distinct dark color. Otherwise, any unsweetened natural cocoa powder works best.
- Sour Cream – Sour cream gives this cake the BEST texture and moisture. Sub with plain or Greek yogurt if you need to, but don’t skip it!
- Espresso Powder – Adding espresso powder is optional, but it enhances the chocolate flavor. Fine ground coffee works too.
- Brewed Coffee – Hot brewed coffee enhances the flavor and blooms the cocoa, for an exceptionally delicious chocolate cake. And no, your cake won’t taste like coffee! Milk is the best alternative if you’d prefer a caffeine-free cake.
For the Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
- Butter – My frosting recipes always begin with cold butter. This might seem counterintuitive, but I promise you, the extra whipping leads to the fluffiest, airy frosting. Trust the process.
- Cream Cheese – Also cold from the fridge. You’ll whip cocoa powder into a base of butter and cream cheese, for a silky, fudgy chocolate frosting.
- Heavy Cream – I recommend using full-fat heavy whipping cream for a creamy frosting. Otherwise, whole milk will also work.
How to Make the Best Chocolate Cake
You don’t have to wait for any ingredients to come to room temperature with this recipe. Just whip everything together, and bake! Here’s how to make a perfect chocolate cake from scratch:
- Combine the wet ingredients. First, beat the sugar with the eggs, oil, and vanilla until lightened and fluffy, then add the sour cream.
- Combine the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients. I recommend sifting the flour and cocoa powder as it makes them easier to combine with the batter. If you don’t have a sifter, you can also use a fine mesh sieve.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Add half the dry ingredients and half the brewed coffee to the bowl with the wet ingredients, and mix. Repeat again. Once all the ingredients are well combined, stir with a spatula. Pour the batter into a 9×13-inch pan.
- Bake. Bake the cake at 350ºF for 26-28 minutes. Afterward, let the cake cool completely before frosting.
Making the Chocolate Frosting
Choosing a frosting for this cake was no easy task. In the end, my Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting won out. It’s honestly to die for, ultra-creamy and whipped to perfection, and not overly sweet. It really adds the perfect tangy chocolate kick to each bite. Plus, it’s very easy to make:
- Start with cold butter. Cut the butter into cubes, and beat until it’s smooth and creamy, and lighter in color. This may take several minutes, but it’s worth it.
- Add the cream cheese. Beat in the cream cheese (also cold!) until it’s well combined and free from any lumps.
- Add the cocoa powder and vanilla extract. Beat the cocoa powder into the cream cheese for a good minute or two, so that it’s thoroughly mixed.
- Add powdered sugar and whipping cream. Next, you’ll add 2 cups of powdered sugar at a time, followed by heavy whipping cream, beating each time until the frosting is completely smooth. The more you whip it together, the more airy your frosting will be. Repeat this until all ingredients have been added and whip until the chocolate frosting is light and fluffy.
- Frost the cake. When your chocolate cake is cooled completely, spread the chocolate cream cheese frosting over top in a generous, even layer. Then, dig in! See below for more ways to decorate a chocolate cake.
Tips for Success
You already know the secret to a super moist chocolate cake (see above), but here are a few more helpful tips for making the best cakes:
- Ingredient temperatures. After making this cake dozens and dozens of times over the years, I’ve found that ingredient temperatures do matter when it comes to mixing the batter. Hot coffee helps bloom the cocoa powder, and room temperature ingredients do incorporate better.
- Sifted ingredients. It’s an added step but sifting the flour and cocoa powder do help to prevent a lumpy batter and incorporate better overall. Additionally sifting the powdered sugar and cocoa powder for the frosting with also produce a smoother consistency.
- Don’t overmix the batter. Overmixed batter yields a dense, tough cake. You want the ingredients thoroughly combined. Once the dry ingredients have been added, mix at a low speed and use a spatula to scrape the sides and mix from bottom to top.
- How to tell when your cake is done baking: The easiest way to test a cake for doneness is to insert a toothpick into the middle of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is ready to come out. This means adjusting the baking time to your oven and pan type. Baking times are always suggestions but can vary greatly.
Can I Make Chocolate Cupcakes Instead?
Yes, this recipe yields enough batter for 24 standard-sized cupcakes. Simply divide the batter evenly between the wells of a lined cupcake pan, and bake at 350ºF for 14-16 minutes. You will need to scale up the frosting, though. See my post for Easy Chocolate Cupcakes for more details.
You can also make this cake in a different-sized pan. Here’s how to scale this recipe for other sizes:
- To make a Chocolate Layer Cake, you can use this same recipe divided between three 8-inch round pans. Bake at 350ºF for 20-24 minutes.
- For a two-layer Mini Chocolate Cake, divide between two 6-inch round pans and bake for 20-24 minutes.
More Variations and Ways to Decorate
This simple chocolate cake is so versatile, it’s no wonder that it’s become one of my most-made dessert recipes. It lays the foundation for easy variations like this decadent Better Than Sex Cake and my Buttermilk Chocolate Cake. I’ll also use it when making my classic Chocolate Poke Cake, or this Chocolate Oreo Poke Cake.
This cake can be made gluten-free using your choice of measure-for-measure gluten-free flour replacement (see my recipe for Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes, too!).
If you don’t love cream cheese, you can always frost your cake using a traditional Chocolate Buttercream Frosting or this Chocolate Fudge Frosting instead. I can’t think of many frosting recipes that don’t pair with a perfect chocolate cake! Here are more frosting and decorating ideas to try:
- Frosting – For something different, frost this cake with Peanut Butter Frosting or Oreo Frosting.
- Piping – You can be as fancy or as simple as you’d like when it comes to decorating your cake. Check out my tutorials for How to Decorate with Piping Tips and How to Use a Piping Bag for helpful pointers.
- Sprinkles – Customize this cake for any holiday, birthday, or occasion using your favorite colorful sprinkles and nonpareils. I used this cake recipe to make my Cookie Monster Smash Cake for my son’s first birthday.
- More Chocolate – Top the frosted cake with shaved chocolate, chopped chocolate, or crumbled candy bars.
How to Store a Frosted Cake
Once frosted, this cake can be stored in an airtight container on the countertop for up to 3 days. 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 the best results.
Can I Freeze Chocolate Cake?
Yes, though you’ll want to freeze the baked cake before it’s frosted. Once the cake has cooled completely, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap with an extra layer of foil. Store the cake frozen for up to 3 months, and defrost it in the fridge before letting it come to room temperature for frosting.Print
Moist Chocolate Cake
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 26 minutes
- Total Time: 46 minutes
- Yield: 12-15 slices
This easy homemade Chocolate Cake is ultra-moist and fluffy, topped with a silky chocolate cream cheese frosting. Decorate it any way that you’d like, it’s the ultimate chocolate cake recipe for any occasion!
For the cake:
- 1 ½ cups (285g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup (118 ml) sour cream, at room temperature
- 2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour, sifted
- ½ cup (40 g) cocoa powder, sifted
- 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 (296 ml) hot brewed coffee
For the frosting:
- ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter, cold
- 6 ounces (170g) full-fat cream cheese, cold
- ½ cup (40 g) cocoa powder, sifted
- 3– 4 (390-520 g) powdered sugar, sifted (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) milk or heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) pure vanilla extract
For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray the pan with coking spray.
- 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.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add half the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, followed by half of the coffee, and mix until the flour is just incorporated at a low speed. 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.
- 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:
- Cut the butter into 1-inch blocks. Beat the butter for 3-4 minutes until it’s softened.
- Then add the cream cheese and cream together for 2-3 minutes until they are fluffy and free of lumps, scrape down the bowl occasionally.
- Add the cocoa powder and vanilla extract and beat until well combined,
- 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.
- Spread frosting over the cooled cake and then cover it with sprinkles.
- Frosting consistency: the amount of powdered sugar you’ll want to use in the frosting will vary between 3-4 cups. Start with 3 cups and if you’d like a sweeter or thicker consistency, add an additional cup.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Cocoa powder: I prefer to use Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder for a nice rich flavor and color. Otherwise, a natural, unsweetened cocoa powder is the next best option.
- Coffee substitute: I recommend using milk. You should still heat the milk in the microwave for approximately 60 seconds.
- Sour Cream. Use plain or Greek yogurt.
Storing and Freezing:
- Once frosted, this cake can be stored in an airtight container on the countertop for up to 3 days. Refrigerating the cake is suggested if you live in a hot or humid climate. In which case, use an airtight container and serve at room temperature for best results.
- To freeze an unfrosted cake, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap with an extra layer of foil. Store the cake frozen for up to 3 months, and defrost it in the fridge before letting it come to room temperature for frosting.
- Category: Cake
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: best chocolate cake, easy chocolate cake recipe, homemade chocolate cake
Hi! I tried your vanilla cake recipe……. excellent! Thank you for sharing!
So, now I am going to try this moist chocolate cake recipe…… however, I’m not a coffee drinker….. imagine that!…….so, I will substitute with milk ……
My question: should the milk be warm as the coffee would be as the recipe states?
I look forward to your reply! Thank you!
Hi Susan, yes if you can warm that milk that will help the ingredients to better incorporate.
Thanks for your quick reply! 😊
I’m planning on trying this recipe tomorrow. Does it make much difference if I leave out the espresso powder? I am planning to add brewed coffee (from the Nespresso machine…lol), but can’t find any espresso powder and am on the clock
Hi Tis, I’ve made this cake so many times, and sometimes I used espresso powder and sometimes I don’t. It’s delicious either way. You can also try using the ground coffee from your Nespresso machine
Did you grease the pan? I’m going to make this tonight.
Thank you in advance.
Depends on your pan, I don’t because I have a nonstick pan and I am not removing the cake from the pan.
I have been looking for a frosting like this for years and you just posted it THANK YOU
You’re welcome! So happy you found this recipe!
I made your Chocolate cake with the cream cheese frosting. I loved it and so did my husband. It’s really moist and the flavour is so good. I will be making this cake again and the frosting.
Thank you for the recipe.
Wonderful Linda!! Thank you so much for sharing!
The cake is absolutely amazing. Very moist. Love the cocoa flavour. The coffee is not overpowering either.
Can’t wait to try out more recipes.
Wonderful Tumi! Thank you so much for sharing!!
Will this cake have caffeine in it after baking or will the caffeine dissipate? It sounds wonderful but I don’t drink caffeine and wouldn’t want it to keep me up at night…..
That’s a great question, I actually don’t know the answer myself, would have to do some Google research. But if were to cut this cake into 12 slices, it’s about a tablespoon and a half of coffee per slice, so I don’t think you’re going to notice it at all. If you are concerned then I recommend using milk instead.
You could use instant decaf coffee instead of the espresso powder and use the same instant decaf coffee to make the hot coffee for the batter. This should solve your caffeine problem!
this is so smart and now I am wondering why I didn’t think of that LOL
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.
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.