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A single piece of a layered chocolate cake being removed showing the different layers.
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5 from 26 votes

Chocolate Cake

A recipe and tutorial on how to make my favorite chocolate cake with a simple homemade chocolate buttercream frosting. This recipe is easy to make and turns out perfect every single time!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword cake, chocolate
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 12 slices
Author Danielle


For the chocolate cake:

  • 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour, spooned & leveled
  • 3/4 cup (65 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (200 grams) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder optional, but recommended

For the chocolate buttercream frosting:

  • 2 cups (460 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 6 cups (720 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1 cup (90 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 6-7 tablespoons (90-105 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


To make the chocolate cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray three 8-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk in the granulated sugar and brown sugar until well combined. Then, add the oil, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract and mix until just combined.
  • Add the instant espresso powder to the cup of boiling water and mix until fully dissolved. Add to the mixing bowl and mix until everything is just combined. The batter will be thin.
  • Evenly distribute the batter between all three cake pans. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 28-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly touched.
  • Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the chocolate frosting:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until smooth.
  • Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, making sure to mix well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the cocoa powder and mix until fully combined.
  • Add the heavy whipping cream, vanilla extract, and salt and mix on medium speed until fully combined, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

To assemble the cake:

  • Level the tops of each cake with a knife or cake leveler. Place one of the cakes on a cake stand, top with a layer of frosting, and smooth it out into one even layer. Repeat with the second layer of cake. Place the third layer of cake on top and use the remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake.


Store leftover cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.
To make ahead of time: Cover cake layers tightly and store in the refrigerator or at room temperature for up to two days. Frosting can be prepared 2-3 days in advance, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator. Allow frosting to come to room temperature, mix the frosting well, and frost the cake.
Freezing Instructions: Cake layers will freeze well for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Frosting will also freeze well for up to 3 months, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature and mix well before frosting cake. You may also slice the cake once it's frosted, store the cake slices in an airtight container or freezer bag, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
Espresso Powder: If you don't have espresso powder, you can omit it and just use the boiling water or use 1 cup of strongly brewed hot coffee in place of the water and espresso powder.
Buttermilk: If you don't have any buttermilk, you can use my homemade buttermilk substitute. 
To bake in 9-inch cake pans: Divide the batter evenly between two 9-inch cake pans and bake at 350°F (177°C) for 28-32 minutes. My chocolate frosting recipe is enough to lightly frost a two-layer cake. If you prefer more frosting I suggest multiplying the buttercream recipe by 1.5.
To bake in a 9x13 pan: Pour the batter into a 9x13 pan and bake at 350°F (177°C) for 35-40 minutes. Use just one batch of my chocolate frosting.
To make cupcakes: Use my homemade chocolate cupcake recipe here.