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A simple homemade chocolate cake recipe that’s moist, flavorful and easy! Finished with a rich chocolate buttercream frosting, this is the perfect cake for any occasion. From birthday parties to Sunday suppers, you can’t go wrong with a classic Amish chocolate cake!

Slice of homemade chocolate cake on a white plate

The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe

I live in a house with a few chocolate-loving boys, so a homemade chocolate cake recipe is a must in my repertoire. After testing many, many recipes over the years, I’ve finally landed on a favorite. This is the chocolate birthday cake that my boys request each year, and it’s the only recipe you’ll ever need. With a moist, tender crumb, rich chocolate flavor, and a thick layer of creamy chocolate frosting, it’s a classic dessert that always wins rave reviews!

The simple chocolate cake is an old-fashioned Amish recipe that I originally found in Susan Loomis’s Farmhouse cookbook. She calls it the “Best-Ever Chocolate Cake,” and describes it as “rich with chocolate flavor, moist and springy…plus it is big, tall and slightly mounded so that when you serve it, guests can’t help oohing and aahing.” The sour cream is an important ingredient in this cake, thanks to its high fat content and its acidity. The sour cream adds moisture without thinning the batter, adds fat for creaminess, helps to control the browning, and activates the baking soda. The end result is a classic, old-fashioned chocolate cake recipe that you’ll pass down for generations!

Homemade Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

I paired our favorite homemade chocolate cake recipe with my great grandmother’s chocolate buttercream frosting to create the ultimate homemade chocolate cake recipe!

The simple buttercream frosting is made by creaming together butter and confectioners sugar. It gets its rich chocolate flavor from unsweetened cocoa powder, as well as from coffee — the secret ingredient! The coffee serves to thin the frosting slightly, but more importantly, it enhances the chocolate flavor. I use some additional milk or heavy cream to thin the frosting to the desired consistency so that it’s thick, but spreadable, and a pinch of salt to balance the sweetness. This is the easiest homemade chocolate buttercream frosting, and we think it’s the absolute best!

Close up front shot of a thick slice of moist chocolate cake

Ingredients for Simple Chocolate Cake

  • All-purpose flour
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder (we like Hershey’s brand)
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Granulated sugar
  • Eggs
  • Vanilla extract
  • Sour cream
  • Hot water

Why add hot water to chocolate cake?

The hot liquid helps “bloom” cocoa powder, creating a deeper, more rich chocolate flavor.

How to Make Chocolate Cake from Scratch

With one bite of this easy homemade chocolate cake, you’ll never go back to the boxed mix again!

  1. Prepare cake batter and divide between two round 9-inch cake pans.
  2. Bake the cakes in a 350 degree F oven for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
  3. Cream together the chocolate frosting ingredients until thick, smooth and spreadable.
  4. Slice a thin layer off of the top of the cake to create a flat surface for frosting and stacking.
  5. Frost the cake with the smooth and creamy chocolate buttercream frosting.
Process shot showing how to make chocolate frosting for cake

How to Decorate a Chocolate Layer Cake

I kept it very simple with some rainbow sprinkles on top of this cake, but there are so many possibilities when it comes to chocolate cake design.

  • Pipe extra chocolate frosting around the top and bottom edges.
  • Sprinkle chopped toasted nuts (such as almonds or pecans) on top for a rich, flavorful crunch.
  • Add sliced fresh strawberries or chocolate-dipped strawberries on top for a bright, fresh touch.
  • Fresh flowers make a beautiful topping — especially in the spring and summer.
  • Use a vegetable peeler to shave large chunks of chocolate curls from a dark chocolate bar onto the top of the cake.
Serving a slice of homemade chocolate cake on a spatula

How to Keep Chocolate Cake Moist

There are a few keys to keep a homemade chocolate cake moist and soft, and avoid a dense, dry cake.

  • Add Sour Cream. This ingredient adds moisture and richness to the batter, without watering it down or making it runny. Make sure it’s the full-fat variety.
  • Room Temperature Ingredients and Don’t Over-Cream. The best way to make sure that your butter is actually at room temperature is to let the butter sit out on the counter overnight. Otherwise your butter may be too soft or too hard, which prevents the butter from properly creaming together with the sugar. A light, fluffy cake requires properly creamed butter and sugar, because the creamed butter traps air. When the trapped air expands in the oven, it creates a fluffy cake! Be careful, though — if you over-cream the butter and sugar, you’ll trap too much air, which can deflate in the oven and leave you with a dense cake. For best results, cream the butter and sugar for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add a Leavener. In this recipe, the baking soda reacts with the acid in the sour cream to lift the cake and create a light crumb.
  • Don’t Over-Mix. Mixing for too long incorporates too much air in the batter, which will deflate in the oven and result in a dense cake. It also increases the gluten production, which yields a tough texture.
  • Don’t Over-Bake. This is incredibly important. Even over-baking by a minute or so can result in a dry cake. Since oven temperatures can vary, and total baking times will depend on the type of pan used (as well as other factors), be sure to keep a close eye on your cakes and start checking them at least 1-2 minutes before you think they should be done. I typically look at the cakes by the 35-minute mark, even though it usually requires about 40 minutes of total baking time. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean or with a couple of lightly-moist crumbs.
An easy chocolate cake recipe on a white plate with rainbow sprinkles on top

Storage

Store the frosted cake covered on the counter at room temperature for 3-4 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. The frosting will firm up when chilled, so if your house is warm and you’d like the frosting to set more, just pop it in the refrigerator. If the cake is refrigerated, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

To Freeze

Wrapped tightly, you can freeze the unfrosted cake layers for up to 2 months. You can also freeze the leftover frosted cake in an airtight container for up to 2 months — the frosting just might not look quite as pretty when thawed. It will still taste delicious, though!

Tips for the Best Homemade Chocolate Cake Recipe

  • While most cakes do best with cake flour, I recommend all-purpose flour for this recipe. That’s because the chocolate cake includes cocoa powder – which already has a soft, dry texture. The combination of both cake flour and cocoa powder can result in a flimsy cake. All-purpose flour has a higher protein content and is milled to a slightly coarser consistency, which keeps this cake nice and sturdy.
  • Use thick, full-fat sour cream. This adds richness, moisture and flavor to the cake that you won’t get with low-fat varieties.
  • Make sure that all of your ingredients are at room temperature. This helps them blend together more easily and smoothly, and helps to avoid over-mixing (which can result in a dry, dense cake).
  • For a moist, light cake, it’s important that you don’t over-cream the butter and sugar, and that you don’t over-mix the batter. Mix just until the ingredients are combined, and then stop.
  • Sift the confectioners’ sugar to avoid any lumps in your frosting.
  • Do not over-bake the cakes or they will become dry. Start checking the cakes for doneness by the 35-minute mark, since total baking times will vary depending on your personal oven and the pans that you use.
  • Make the cake about 1 day ahead of when you plan to serve it. The cake just gets better as it sits!
Front shot of a slice of chocolate layer cake served on a white plate

More Cake Recipes You’ll Love

Slice of homemade chocolate cake on a white plate

Homemade Chocolate Cake

Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Cooling Time 1 hour
Total: 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings 12 – 16 people
Calories 671 kcal
A simple homemade chocolate cake recipe that's moist, flavorful and easy! Finished with a rich chocolate buttercream frosting, this is the perfect cake for any occasion.

Ingredients
  

FOR THE CAKE:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 cup hot water

FOR THE FROSTING:

  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons brewed coffee, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons milk or cream, at room temperature (plus more, as needed, to thin the frosting)
  • teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
  • 2 lbs. confectioners sugar, sifted

Instructions

BAKE THE CAKE:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper and grease again.
  • In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • In a separate large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 1-2 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add vanilla and mix well.
  • Add sifted dry ingredients to the butter mixture in thirds, alternating with the sour cream and hot water, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Tap gently on the counter to release air. Bake for 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
  • Once the cakes are completely cool, prepare the frosting.

FOR THE FROSTING:

  • Using an electric mixer, cream together butter, cocoa powder, coffee, milk and salt. With the mixer on its lowest speed, gradually add the confectioners sugar until incorporated.
  • Increase the speed of the mixer until the frosting becomes fluffy. The frosting will likely be very thick, so gradually add 1 teaspoon of additional cream at a time until the frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. Taste and season with an extra pinch of salt, if desired.

ASSEMBLE:

  • Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the top of the bottom cake (or both cakes) to create a flat surface.
  • Spread the frosting in between the two cake layers, and then on the top and sides of the cake.

Notes

  • While most cakes do best with cake flour, I recommend all-purpose flour for this recipe. That’s because the chocolate cake includes cocoa powder – which already has a soft, dry texture. The combination of both cake flour and cocoa powder can result in a flimsy cake. All-purpose flour has a higher protein content and is milled to a slightly coarser consistency, which keeps this cake nice and sturdy.
  • Use thick, full-fat sour cream. This adds richness, moisture and flavor to the cake that you won’t get with low-fat varieties.
  • Make sure that all of your ingredients are at room temperature. This helps them blend together more easily and smoothly, and helps to avoid over-mixing (which can result in a dry, dense cake).
  • For a moist, light cake, it’s important that you don’t over-cream the butter and sugar, and that you don’t over-mix the batter. Mix just until the ingredients are combined, and then stop.
  • Sift the confectioners’ sugar to avoid any lumps in your frosting.
  • Do not over-bake the cakes or they will become dry. Start checking the cakes for doneness by the 35-minute mark, since total baking times will vary depending on your personal oven and the pans that you use.
  • Make the cake about 1 day ahead of when you plan to serve it. The cake just gets better as it sits!

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice (1/16 of the cake and frosting)Calories: 671kcalCarbohydrates: 112gProtein: 6gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 82mgSodium: 394mgPotassium: 221mgFiber: 4gSugar: 81gVitamin A: 749IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 48mgIron: 3mg
Keyword: chocolate cake recipe, homemade chocolate cake, simple chocolate cake
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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