The Best Simple Chocolate Cake

5 from 14 votes

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This best simple chocolate cake is light and airy, moist and tender, rich and chocolate-y. The secret ingredient ensures the perfect chocolate cake every time!

Sliced chocolate cake layers stacked on top of each other.


 

I believe every baker should have an amazing vanilla cake and chocolate cake recipe under their belt!

This chocolate cake recipe is my go-to base for many of my chocolate cakes, including this snickers cake.

Why you’ll love this recipe:

So many reasons to love this chocolate cake recipe!!

  • Texture: sturdy, yet super moist and tender, and not fudgy.
  • Taste: rich chocolate flavor!
  • Ease: straight-forward and simple method – no creaming butter and sugar, no whipping the eggs.
  • Versatility: a perfect canvas for many different cake flavors. Pair it with different frostings and fillings, and you’ll never get bored with this chocolate cake!

My simple chocolate cake recipe doesn’t use buttermilk. And that’s not by accident! Although buttermilk makes cakes incredibly moist, it also mellows the chocolate flavor significantly. And we want all the rich chocolate flavors in our cake! And milk produced perfectly tender crumbs that you’ll absolutely love!

Chocolate cake ingredients.

Key Ingredients:

  • Flour – All-purpose flour works great for this recipe.
  • Cocoa powder – You can use either unsweetened natural or dutch-processed cocoa powder in this chocolate cake recipe.
  • Instant espresso powder is optional, but highly recommended. It enhanced the chocolate flavor without adding coffee flavor.
  • Milk – You can use absolutely any kind of milk: whole, skim and even almond milk.
  • Oil makes this cake nice and moist. Use neutral oil, like vegetable or canola oil. I don’t recommend olive oil.
  • Butter adds a great flavor. I choose unsalted butter. If you’re using salted butter, omit the salt in the dry ingredients.
  • Vinegar is the secret ingredient. It reacts with baking soda and creates light and airy crumbs! Either white or apple cider vinegar will work fine.

Tip

Be sure to bring eggs and milk to room temperature, so that everything combines quickly and easily.

Simply let them stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or so.

Natural vs Dutch-processed Cocoa Powder:

There’re 2 types of cocoa powder:

  • Natural cocoa powder is a regular cocoa powder, like Hershey’s, which is naturally acidic. It has slightly bitter and rich taste.
  • Dutch-processed cocoa powder is basically an alkalized (neutralized) cocoa powder, which produces darker color and has a milder flavor.

In most cases, these 2 cocoa powders aren’t interchangeable, because each cocoa powder react differently in different ingredients.

However, in this chocolate cake recipe, baking soda reacts with vinegar and leavens the cake without help of cocoa powder. Therefore, either natural and Dutch-processed cocoa powders works in this recipe.

How to make this chocolate cake:

It’s really easy to make this cake!

1. Make the batter

Simply whisk the dry ingredients. Then add the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined and batter is ready!

Step by step photos of making chocolate cake batter.

Tip

To avoid over-mixing the batter, whip the batter in a mixer until just about combined, and then finish mixing with a rubber spatula, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, until the batter is mostly smooth.

2. Bake

Divide the batter into the lightly greased cake pans lined with parchment paper.

Bake the cakes at 350°F until the inserted tooth pick comes out clean.

Step by step photos of baking chocolate cake layers.

Tip

For flat cake layers, use these cake pan strips around the cake pans.

Bake times for different pan sizes:

The bake time varies depending on the size and number of cake pans.

  • Two 7-inch cake pans yield 2 tall cake layers that you can easily cut into 2 layers each. Bake time: about 35 minutes.
  • Three 7-inch cake pans yield 3 cake layers for a perfect 3-layer cake. Bake time: about 20 minutes.
  • Two 8 or 9-inch cake pans yield 2 thin cake layers, perfect for simple 2-layer cake. Bake time: about 25 minutes.
  • Three 6-inch cake pans yield 3 thick layers that can be sliced horizontally for an extra tall 6-layer cake. Bake time: about 25 minutes.

2 ways to check the cake for doneness:

Start checking the cake for doneness 1-2 minutes before the recipe directions, because every oven is slightly different.

  • Method 1: Insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean (or with just couple crumbs), the cake is done!
  • Method 2: Carefully press down on the cake. If it doesn’t leave a dent, your cake is done!! Bake a minute or two longer, if you see a dent left behind.
Four stacked chocolate layers.

Tips for Moist Cakes:

How do I make a moist cake? What makes the cake moist and fluffy? And how to keep the cake moist?

These are the common questions home bakers ask when baking a cake at home. And it’s totally understandable. There’s nothing worse than biting into a dry, dense cake, right?

Follow these simple tips and you won’t have to worry about serving a dry, dense cake ever!

  • Measure the flour correctly! I highly recommend using a scale to measure the dry ingredients, especially flour. It’s really easy to over-measure flour by volume, which will lead to dense and heavy cake that no one wants to eat. If you don’t have a scale, instead of scooping the flour with a measuring cup, spoon the flour into measuring cup and then level the top off with the back of a knife. This is called “spoon and level” method. Don’t be tempted to shake the measuring cup or pack the flour down!
  • Don’t skip vegetable oil – I’m using both vegetable oil and melted butter in this chocolate cake recipe. Butter adds nice flavor, but vegetable oil keeps this cake moist! If anything, substitute oil for butter, and not other way around!
  • Don’t over-mix the batter – It’s really important not to over-mix the batter when you combine wet and dry ingredients. Mix it just until the ingredients combined.
  • Don’t over-bake the cake – This is the most common mistake when it comes to dry cakes. Over-baking dries out delicate cakes and there’s no fix for it!! Keep reading to my tips on checking for doneness.

Storing Tips:

You can bake this chocolate cake in advance. I actually prefer to bake them a day or two in advance, since chilled cakes are much sturdier and easier to handle.

  1. Cool the cake completely on wire rack.
  2. Wrap each layer separately in a plastic wrap.
  3. Refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
Baked chocolate cake in a cake pan.

CHOCOLATE CAKE FROSTING IDEAS:

FAQ:

Can I make it into chocolate cupcakes?

If you want to make chocolate cupcakes, you can simply divide the batter into muffin pans and bake for about 20 minutes. 

If you try this chocolate cake recipe, please leave a review in the comments below and share on social media with #sweetandsavorybyshinee. Thank you!!

Sliced chocolate cake layers stacked on top of each other.
5 from 14 votes

The Best Simple Chocolate Cake

The best simple chocolate cake recipe for super moist, rich and chocolate-y cake layers! It’s a base for many indulgent chocolate cakes you can ever imagine. Customize it with any kind of frostings and fillings to create rich and indulgent dessert!
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 12 – 7-inch cakes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups (300g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (60g) unsweetened cocoa powder Note 1
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder Note 2
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (280ml) milk at room temperature Note 3
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (60ml) vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons (56g) unsalted butter melted
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Instructions 

  • Line two 7-inch cake pans with a parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • In a mixing bowl with paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds, or until everything is well combined.
  • Add milk, eggs, oil and butter. Mix the batter just until smooth, about 15 seconds.
  • Stir in vinegar and mix for another 10 seconds.
  • Divide the batter into the prepared baking pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  • Let cakes cool completely in the pans set on wire rack. Then carefully run a knife around the edges and invert.
  • Wrap each cake in a plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use, preferably overnight and up to 2 days. Chilled cakes are sturdier and slice much easier, but you can definitely frost the cake as soon as they cooled completely.

Tips & Notes

Note 1: You can use either unsweetened natural or dutch-processed cocoa powder in this chocolate cake recipe.
Note 2: Espresso powder doesn’t add coffee flavor and you won’t even taste it. It only enhances chocolate flavor. But if you don’t have it, you can omit it.
Note 3: I highly recommend using a whole milk for richer flavor, but 2% , skim or even almond milk would work too.
Make-Ahead Tip: Cool the cakes completely. Then wrap each layer in a plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen cakes in the fridge overnight.

Nutrition

Calories: 277kcal, Carbohydrates: 44g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 40mg, Sodium: 208mg, Potassium: 122mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 26g, Vitamin A: 189IU, Calcium: 38mg, Iron: 2mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

This recipe was originally published on May 11, 2020.

Hi, I’m Shinee!

Welcome! I’m so happy you’re here! I believe anyone can cook restaurant-quality food at home! And my goal is to help you to become a confident cook with my easy-to-follow recipes with lots of tips and step-by-step photos.

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39 Comments

  1. How many cups of batter does this recipe make? I’m making a 3 tier wedding cake. Are these sturdy enough to stack that much cake? (I’ve made wedding cakes before, but this is my first chocolate one)

    1. I honestly haven’t measured how many cups of batter this recipe makes. And I honestly don’t know whether this cake is suitable for that many tiered cake, as I have no experience with making tiered cake.

  2. Hello 👋 I’m planning on making this cake base soon and I wanna make a big rectangular cake so do you think I could put all the cake batter in a 10-inch or an 11-inch cake pan??

    1. Sure, just keep in mind to bake less time, as it’ll be thinner cake. I’d recommend checking at 25min mark.

  3. 5 stars
    Followed your recipe but substituted 1/2 cup of sour cream for a half cup of the milk and I also beat the whites of the eggs and folded them in at the end. The cake was absolutely delicious. I made a dairy free whipped chocolate ganache with hot coconut cream poured over dark chopped chocolate and a dash of vanilla, cooled and spread over each layer. It’s my new favorite cake. Thanks for the recipe. I’m always reluctant with recipes I find online.

  4. Hello Shinee, if I just wanted to have a single layer cake by using an 8” pan could you let me know approximately how high the cake might be please? Or would I be better off halving the recipe and using a 7” pan?

    1. Hi, Helen. One 8-inch cake pan would be too small for this batter. You’re right, it’d be better to half the recipe for one 7- or 8-inch cake pan.

  5. 5 stars
    Hi Shinee I have made this recipe so many times already but just in 6inch x3 round pans so now I need to make this in 8inch x3 round pans would I need to double the mixture for this as I will be stacking my cake and need the same height as the 6inch ones. love this recipe.

  6. 5 stars
    This is an exceptional chocolate cake. So easy, especially if you follow the weight measurements. I made this cake in 2 8 inch pans. Cakes were done in 23 minutes. Tender, moist, chocolatey. Just as good, if not better, than sour cream chocolate cakes and other rich chocolate cakes I’ve made through the years. Since I didn’t have any dairy milk in the fridge, I used almond milk. Worked well. I also used the Wilton Chocolate Buttercream frosting recipe for this cake which I happen to love. Thank you for this lovely recipe. So so good!!! Big YUM!!