A super moist chocolate cake

I think this is the ultimate chocolate layer cake.  The thing that really knocks you out is the cake itself.  It is sooo seriously moist and dark and ultra chocolaty - everything you'd want if you're a fan of chocolate cake.  The buttercream frosting is a great accompaniment to the delicate, moist cake. 

When I make and look at this cake, it reminds me of one of those black and white sitcoms from the 60's where the kids would come home from school and have something like this with a tall glass of cold milk.  It's traditional and that's not a bad thing.  

Cookies, brownies, and cupcakes are all great but a cake says celebration or a special occasion.  And we should all celebrate more often.  I just made this cake for our little Easter party this past Sunday and I've made this for birthdays and often when we just have a hankering for it.  It requires a bit of effort but I think it's worth it.

The recipe for this cake comes from one of Ina Garten's cookbooks.  If you watch the Food Network, chances are you're familiar with her show, Barefoot Contessa.  I remember watching the show one day a couple of years ago when she was making this cake for her friend's birthday (incidentally, this recipe comes from that friend's grandmother...it's so nice when people share these great recipes and we can all enjoy them).  It looked so good.  I bought her cookbook, Barefoot Contessa at Home, mainly because this recipe was included in it.  It was a good investment if only for this recipe. 

For the cake:

This cake is not difficult to make but it does take a bit of work.  Here's a snapshot of what you'll need to make the cake itself.
Since this is a double-layer cake, you'll need 2 cake pans.  I'm using 9" pans that are 3" tall.  You want to use pans that are at least 2" tall to make sure there is no chance of the batter running over during baking (particularly if you use 8" pans, which is another option).  You need to butter the pans, line the bottom with a round piece of parchment (pre-cut ones are a nice short-cut), butter the top of the parchment, and flour the pans.
To make sure the cake is light and airy, sift the dry ingredients (in this case, flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda/powder, and salt).  It goes into the bowl of an electric mixer and you mix this on low speed to combine together. 
Separately, we combine the wet ingredients (buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract).  Notice this cake doesn't require any melted chocolate or have any butter in it (a cup of buttermilk and half a cup of vegetable oil makes it really moist) so it's practically low-fat...until you add the frosting.
Once the dry ingredients are mixed together, the wet can go in while the mixer is still on low.  Once combined, a cup of hot, freshly brewed coffee gets added.  The coffee is the secret ingredient in a sense - this is what makes the cake so chocolaty.  Again, it just intensifies the chocolate flavor and you don't taste coffee in the finished product.
Scrape the bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure everything is incorporated.  The batter is very runny, almost liquid.  This is how it should be.  Divide the dark batter into the 2 pans (I just eye ball it but you want the batter to be fairly evenly distributed between the two so you have relatively equal layers) and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
Out of the oven, the cakes should cool for about half an hour before they are removed from the pans to cool completely.  I run a butter knife around the edge of the pan to make sure it's fully loosened but the cakes should slip right out.  Since the cakes are so moist, you need to turn them out quickly and with confidence or it could break apart (but it's fine even if that does happen because no one will notice a little crack once you layer the frosting on).  You'll have some cake stuck on your hand since it's so moist and sort of sticky on top.  This is when you can taste-test.  The cake is not too sweet, and it's so moist that it kind of sticks to the root of your mouth when you eat it.  I keep saying "moist" but that's what it is.

I've use this cake recipe as a basis for the cupcakes I talked about in my very first post.  It tastes just the same but as cupcakes, they tend to fall apart once you start grabbing them.  So it's very tasty but you almost need to eat them with a fork.  The buttercream frosting could certainly be used as cupcake toppings as well.

To make the buttercream frosting:

Most kids love buttercream frosting but I've never been a huge fan to tell you the truth.  The thought of all that butter mixed with sugar is kind of daunting.  But I have no such qualms about chocolate ganache frosting (chocolate and cream) so I guess it's all just a matter of preference.  I think the cake is so good, you could make one layer and just eat that all by itself.  But my son would disagree and my husband says the frosting makes it.  And the fluffy, soft chocolate buttercream is a great partner for the delicate cake. 

Here's what we need to make the frosting: room-temperature butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, an egg yolk, and 6 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate that needs to be melted.  You want to start on the frosting when the cakes are completely cooled since it should be used and spread right away.

We start off by sifting the confectioners' sugar to get rid of any lumps and make sure it's nice and airy.  If you're using the same sifter that you used for the cake, make sure it's totally dry (I had that problem once). 
You beat the 2 sticks of butter on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes until it turns light yellow in color.  At this point, the egg yolk and vanilla extract go in and you beat this for another 3 minutes.  We want everything to fluff up nicely. 
Once that is combined, the confectioners' sugar gets added and mixed until the whole thing is blended and the mixture is smooth.  The recipe also calls for dissolving a tablespoon of instant coffee powder with some hot tap water.  For convenience, I just throw in about a tablespoon of the coffee we used for the cake.   This bit of coffee and the melted semi-sweet chocolate are added and mixed with the butter mixture on low speed until blended together.  Don't mix on high or for too long; we want it to be creamy.

Almost done...putting it together:

Are you tired yet?  We're almost there.  Now we assemble the cake and spread the frosting.  This part is fun.  Start by placing one layer of the cake, flat side up, on a plate or cake pedestal.  Tucking some pieces of parchment or wax paper under the cake all around catches any dropped frosting and leaves you with a clean plate afterwards. 

I take about a third of the frosting and plop it in the center of the cake and spread outward with a large offset spatula.

The second layer goes on top, round side up, and spread with the remaining frosting.  Again, I take a big dollop and start spreading from the center.  I just realized it looks like a big chocolate hamburger right here.
Then you start taking the frosting and spreading it along the sides and all around.  Just turn the plate or pedestal as you go.
You can run your spatula all around and try to make the frosting smooth or like me, I like to make upward strokes along the side of the cake and squiggly swoops across the top.  To me, I like a somewhat messy homemade/old-fashioned look.  You can decorate with some small confetti sprinkles for color but I like it just like this for the most part. 
The great thing about this cake is it keeps very well for several days and remains moist and fresh, with the frosting acting as insulation for the cake (just cover it with a dome if you have one or even just some plastic wrap around the cut edges is fine).  I've kept this out on the counter for a good 5 days without any problems.  If it's too warm or you prefer to keep it in the refrigerator, that is fine as well.  Just slice what you need and take it out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you plan to eat so it comes back up to room temperature.

The recipes:

Super Moist Chocolate Cake (or "Beatty's Chocolate Cake")
From Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten and recipe available via Food Network

- One two-layer 8 or 9 inch cake -
(You can divide the recipe in half and bake a two-layer 6 inch cake; bake for roughly 30 mins)

Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Chocolate Buttercream for frosting, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter two 8" or 9" (that's what I use) round cake pans.  Line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans, tapping out the excess flour.  (Alternatively, try using a cooking spray designed for baking in place of the butter/flour). 

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low until ingredients are combined.  In another bowl, mix together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.  Continuing on low speed, add the hot coffee and stir until just combined, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. 

Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool in pans for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

To frost, place one layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal.  Tuck pieces of parchment or wax paper about an inch under the cake to keep the plate clean.  Spread the top with frosting with an offset spatula.  Place second layer, rounded side up, and spread frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake.  Remove parchment or wax paper.

Chocolate Buttercream

6 ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water.  Stir until just melted.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the egg yolk and vanilla, continuing to beat for another 3 minutes.  Turn mixer to low, and gradually add confectioners' sugar.  Then turn the mixer speed to medium and beat until smooth and creamy, scraping the bowl down as needed. 

Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water.  On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until just blended.  Do not whip. 

Use immediately to spread on cooled cake. 


  1. Yea!!! we all love this cake!!! super rich and moist cake!!!

    1. This is such a good cake recipe for me. Thanks for sharing I know one more site baking

  2. can this cake with the frosting be left out at room temperature for long?

    1. Yes, unless it's very hot/humid, I keep it out at room temperature under a cake dome for about 3 days. It stays very moist. It also holds well in the fridge. Just make sure to bring it out to sit so it comes to room temp before serving.

  3. hey!!
    thanks for this..
    had a question.. how do i make the freshly brewed coffee?
    want to make this early tom morning ... need some help :)

    1. Hi, it simply means a cup of hot coffee...freshly brewed or coffee you just made is best so it has the freshest flavor and it'll naturally be hot. You can make your coffee as usual - and there's always the option of buying a cup of coffee for the recipe.

  4. Im making this cake for my Pregnant sister-in-laws birthday and wanted to know if you have to use coffee or if there is another substitute that can be added.

    1. Hi...you could use very hot/boiling water instead of the coffee. That said, it won't be as good because it's the coffee in this recipe that makes for the extra chocolaty flavor. I've never substituted water when making this recipe but if you do, it would be very similar to Hershey's chocolate cake. I compared the cakes two here in this post: http://www.playingwithflour.com/2013/09/hersheys-vs-beattys-chocolate-cake.html

      The chocolate buttercream frosting in this recipe of Ina's is really good. If you are uncomfortable with using the egg yolk or coffee, you can omit it but it might not be quite as creamy as intended. Hope that helps a bit.

  5. What type of sugar do I use in the cake ?? Please

  6. I'm going to make this cake for a huge party. 80 people. Do you know how much batter each recipe makes in volume? I need 14 cups of batter for my bottom layer. Thank you!

    1. Wow! Good luck on your endeavor! I have never counted the volume...I wish I'd thought to look on my glass mixing bowl, which does have a measurement outside of it. I was looking at the bowl and I want to guess that the recipe is about 5 cups or so of batter but that is a very rough guess. Wish I could be more specific but this cake of Ina Garten's is very popular...maybe someone out there in the web has measured it? Hope your party is a hit!

    2. I actually made this cake last week and there was about 6 cups of batter...

  7. Can you use this recipe for cupcakes?

    1. Yes, you could bake these as cupcakes...I think I did that once a long time ago. It is definitely delicious but I would just mention that because the cake is so moist, it is hard to eat without a fork, as cupcakes, without it being a bit messy. It's just not as sturdy as other cupcakes might be. Hope that helps...

    2. How long would you recommend to bake the cupcakes?

    3. It's been a long time since I used it for cupcakes...I'd say bake for near 20 minutes, then begin to check. Ultimately, they should be set and a cake tester should come out clean. I'm thinking about 25 minutes would do it...good luck!

  8. Monica! I used this recipe and the chocolate cake turned out a-mazing! thank you for posting.

    1. Hi! I'm so happy to hear that! This cake recipe is amazing; I make it every few months and it never disappoints. Glad you made it and enjoyed it, and thanks for taking the time to let me know! :)

  9. Hey
    Which cocoa powder did you use? Dutch or natural? Mine has a peculiar taste indicating that either the baking soda/baking powder is off. I guess its soda thats more...though am sure I measured it right! Thanks

    1. Hi - I've always used a Dutch-processed cocoa for this cake recipe. Specifically, it's the "Pernigotti" brand, which I first learned about from Ina Garten. My sense is either should work though. Good luck!

  10. Have you tried cooking this in a bundt pan? I'm just wondering what your cook time would be for that.

    1. I have not tried baking it in a bundt pan and I would not recommend it. This cake is very moist and fragile and I think it would be difficult to turn out of a bundt pan intact.

  11. This recipe is great! I've used it multiple times and people absolutely love it!! Always my go to for a delicious and moist chocolate cake-- and the coffee is a game changer!

    1. I essentially think the exact same thing you said! Agreed!



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