Hershey's (vs. Beatty's) chocolate cake

I'll begin this post by saying that I love chocolate.  I may have mentioned it once - or a million times - already.  So obviously, I love chocolate cake.  Years ago (before starting this blog), I discovered what I consider the ultimate classic chocolate layer cake: Beatty's chocolate cake, or what I also think of as "Ina's cake" because it was brought to us by Ina Garten.  I have made that cake many times.  My extended family loves it - even those who are not big cake or dessert lovers.  I could very happily just eat that cake all by itself (it is so moist and chocolaty) but the chocolate buttercream that goes with it is an ideal pairing.  I'm not a big fan of buttercream frosting usually but it just works perfectly with that cake, and I've tried other pairings.
Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake
Aside from Beatty's/Ina's cake, I have also heard plenty of raves about Hershey's chocolate cake. Many people say that is the ultimate chocolate layer cake (this testimonial, for example) and I've long wanted to compare the two but never wanted to take on the opportunity cost.  Apologies to Hershey's but I've been reluctant to try their recipe because I was pretty sure Beatty's cake would be the better version.  

Compare the ingredient list between the two cakes and Beatty's just seems to be the evolved - dare I say, "improved", - version of the Hershey cake.  The two recipes are very similar but whereas Hershey's uses milk and water, Beatty's cake uses buttermilk and coffee.  I was betting on buttermilk and coffee for the win.  But how can you be sure without actually trying both?
Beatty's Chocolate Cake, via Ina Garten (I've made it many times)
Which is better?

So now...let me try to get to the point before I lose you completely.  I finally made Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" chocolate cake so I can give you an informed opinion.  Taste is subjective so this is purely our opinion   We didn't do a simultaneous comparison of the two cakes but believe me, we have eaten many slices of Beatty's chocolate cake for it to be indelible in our minds.

And after tasting the Hershey's cake, I can tell you, definitively...that my family and I do, in fact, prefer...Beatty's chocolate cake!  The Hershey's cake is good - it's really good - but it lacks the depth of chocolate flavor and fluffiness of Beatty's cake.  The Hershey cake, particularly the frosting made with cocoa powder and a generous amount of confectioners' sugar, was pronounced "too sweet" by my taste-testers. We happen to have 3 family birthdays just a few weeks apart so this Hershey cake became the vehicle for a 3-way birthday celebration, resulting in plenty of taste-testers.  
The frosting on the Hershey's cake is easy to make and goes on smoothly.  The surface does dry out/crust given the generous amount of confectioners' sugar in it.
In particular, the kids (my son and his eldest cousin, in particular) kept saying the other cake is better because this one is too sweet.  Kids complaining about something being "too sweet" took me by surprise.  I mean, this coming from children who devour neon icing on cupcakes at birthday parties!  When did children become so critical, I thought!  In all fairness, maybe they wouldn't have been so vocal about this if they hadn't had Beatty's cake often in the past and were doing a direct comparison.  Everything is relative.

Speaking for myself now, I might have liked Hershey's cake more than the kids did.  Yes, it is sweeter than Beatty's cake.  Three cups of confectioners' sugar in the chocolate icing can't help but leave an aftertaste of sugar in your throat.  But I didn't find it too overbearing.  I thought it was a very good chocolate layer cake, reminding me of the kind I ate and loved as a child (apparently, children's tastes have evolved).  If there's a cake you'd eat with a tall glass of milk, this is the one.  It's just got that old-fashioned flavor to it, and I mean that in a good way.  Interestingly enough, it reminded me of Brooklyn Blackout Cake, which I really like and attempted once.  This cake is far simpler to make than that one.
The inside of the Hershey cake.  It's very moist but not quite as fluffy as Beatty's cake.
And one important point going for the Hershey cake is how easy it is to make! There's no fresh coffee to brew or chocolate to melt.  It is most definitely the easier of the two cakes to make by far.  And to its credit, the Hershey cake is very moist though heavier and denser than Beatty's cake, which is not only really moist but also delicate - airy, almost.  The buttercream in Beatty's cake uses melted chocolate instead of cocoa, and with more fat than confectioners' sugar, it stays soft and creamy instead of crusting on the surface like the Hershey's cake does.

Making this cake and frosting, much like making those cocoa brownies, gave me a renewed appreciation for cocoa powder.  It's the driving force behind this cake and created far more chocolate flavor in itself than I would've thought possible.  I think the cake really could use a boost of coffee to heighten that chocolate flavor even more.  That, alas, brings me right back to Beatty's cake. You know which I'll be making in my house whenever we get the craving for a chocolate layer cake.  

If anyone has tried both these cakes, I'd be very interested in your take on it!


This cake gets serious bonus points for how easy it is to make! 

The recipe is listed right in the back of a container of Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder.  I've gotten into the habit of using Pernigotti cocoa when baking at home but making Hershey's chocolate cake, I think using Hershey's cocoa is a must!  Also, the Pernigotti cocoa is Dutch-processed while Hershey's is a natural cocoa powder.  I'd always assumed that Dutch-processed cocoa makes for stronger chocolate flavor in the end product (probably because it's darker in color) but I've learned that's actually not the case.
To make the cake batter, you literally mix all the dry ingredients together before adding the wet.  Stir it all together in your stand mixer and add a cup of boiling water at the end.  I was very tempted to use coffee or add some espresso powder like I normally would for most chocolate recipes but the whole point was to try the Hershey recipe, so I followed it precisely.  The batter is very thin, even looser than Beatty's chocolate cake.  

I used the same 9x3 inch cake pans I use to bake Beatty's chocolate cake.  I noticed that the Hershey cake didn't rise as much and the sides were a bit uneven.
The frosting is also real easy to put together, too.  It starts mixing a stick of melted butter (love not having to plan ahead to soften butter) with 2/3 cup of Hershey's cocoa.  It smells awesome - so chocolaty - at that point!  Then, 3 cups of confectioners' sugar are mixed in, alternating with about 1/3 cup or so of milk, to reach a thick, smooth, spreading consistency.
It doesn't take a lot of effort to put together this classic chocolate layer cake. It's a great choice when you're under a time crunch.  I would recommend using hot coffee in place of the water in the cake batter, or reduce the amount of sugar in the batter.  I think that would ease up on some of the sweetness and bring the chocolate flavor out even more.

The texture of this cake lends itself well to eating cold, or chilled.  But, at the same time, I thought the cake actually tasted sweeter chilled than at room temperature so I'm a bit torn as to which I prefer.

Recipe:

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake
- One two-layer 9" cake - 

The recipe is listed right on the back of a container of Hershey's unsweetened natural cocoa powder. It is also available at Hersheys.com.







69 comments:

  1. The chocolate cake looks indeed moist and inviting, Monica.

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    1. Maybe that's the trouble...cake always looks 'inviting', eh? : )

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    2. Wonderful article, thanks for putting this together! This is obviously one great post. Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have so provided here. bakeries in fayetteville ar

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  2. wow..2 cups of sugar for the cake and 3 cups of icing sugar for the frosting? o my...that's a lot of sugar..huh?

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    1. Yes, it is not for the faint of heart...I find that plenty of 2 layer chocolate cake recipes call for a good '2 cups' of sugar. The sugar in this frosting is heavy but it's your average confectioners' sugar icing. The Ina recipe uses less but it's heavier on butter and uses chocolate, which already has the sugar (not to mention fat) added. It goes with the territory, I think, if you make a 'traditional' cake. I'm more than happy to indulge with a crowd, in moderation, every so often. For everyday, I like cakes w/o frosting and lighter recipes. Hope this hasn't scared you too much. : )

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    2. Thanks, Monica. You are right...most chocolate cake recipes call for at least 2 cups of sugar..that's part of the reason that I always go for the chiffon. And with a decadent and delicious chocolate cake like this, I don't think I would be able to stop after eating a small slice...:-( I will very likely give Ina's recipe a try first..but it has to wait until we have some visitors around...
      Have a great Sunday, Monica!
      Angie

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    3. Angie, I LOVE chiffon cake! This is my favorite: http://playingwithflour.blogspot.com/2011/10/chiffon-cake.html. I crave it and make it often.
      I think these 2 layer chocolate cake concoctions are best for a group, I agree. As my taste-testers all agree, the Hershey cake is sweeter than it needs to be. Ina's wins across the board but it's no lightweight either. It's another reason I like to divide the recipe sometimes and make 6-inch cakes. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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  3. Hehe I like the idea of trying out the cakes to find the ultimate! :D

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    1. I've always wondered about this cake - it's been written about a lot and I think it's one of those old classics that other chocolate cake recipes became based off of? As time went on, I think chocolate cakes have gotten less sweet and darker so the adaptations reflect that.

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  4. Goody God, that's an amazingly rick looking cake. I do love Ina's cakes but for me it tends to be a bit on the sweeter side but absolutely heavenly. It's always nice to have the best ultimate recipe to fall to. thanks for sharing.

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    1. So interesting you said that! I agree with you - a few of Ina's desserts that I've tried (like her brownie recipe) are too sweet for me too. This cake is an exception. I do have a habit of going "scant" when it comes to measuring sugar in cake recipes and I do do that for the cake but honestly, it is not too sweet. You can ask anyone in my family! : ) It could be that the recipe comes from one of Ina's friend's grandma, Beatty, who reported used to bake this cake for her husband who delivered milk!

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  5. Wow. You cannot go wrong with this cake!

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    1. I can't complain (too much) about a homemade chocolate layer cake either.

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  6. Wow, that cake looks amazing Monica. I'm with Angie --I don't think I can stop at one slice. You did an amazing job! :) Have a great Sunday!

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    1. I usually get a good 12 servings out of a double layer chocolate cake like this so best to wait for a crowd.

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  7. This looks pretty amazing! I love that you compared the two and told us all about it - so fun!

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    1. I've wanted to do the comparison for a long time because while I was so sure I'd prefer Beatty's cake, I saw a lot of bloggers rave about Hershey's so I needed to really be sure. : )

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  8. Gosh, this cake looks so moist! I haven't tried either of these chocolate cakes ... but now I kinda want to make both : ) lol. I should probably control myself and only make one though haha

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    1. It *is* moist, Ashley! And now you know how I feel - hearing about these cakes for so long, I had to try the other one. One at a time is a good idea - I'd make Ina's!

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  9. Thanks for doing the comparison-both have been on my to bake list for awhile now and I haven't gotten around to them yet! I guess Beatty's will be the first I try!

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    1. Yay - someone who knows what I'm talking about! I would love to know which you prefer...there should've been some sort of blogger-wide taste test. : )

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  10. I think I'd like it chilled!! Looks amazing! Love the comparison you did :)

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    1. My son loves when we do comparisons or "tests" like these. He always has an opinion! It was fun and the moistness (and denseness) of the Hershey's cake really makes it suitable for eating cold!

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  11. Love your cake comparison :) I think I'd probably be happy with a slice of either of those cakes, hehe. I have to say that the close-up of the side of the Hershey's cake slice looks incredibly moist and delicious. I'll have to try both of them for myself!

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    1. I like your style, Amy! I'm not complaining either!

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  12. Yay! My mom makes Ina's cake all the time and it's definitely a family favorite. But it's been years since I've had Hershey's... Great experiment :)

    Sues

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    1. Thanks - I have made that Ina cake so many times...a family favorite for us here too.

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  13. That looks like a chocolate lover's dream come true, aka mine :)

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    1. lol! I love a fellow chocolate-lover! I am a fan of almost anything chocolate.

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  14. I'm constantly doubling the amount of cocoa powder called for in recipes as it just seems to get better and better with more and more! I guess you can tell I'm a rather haphazard baker. GREG

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    1. Hi, Greg! That's so interesting! I've never done that - probably because I don't want to "waste" a drop of my precious cocoa powder (I like to hoard Pernigotti, which I like to sniff for aroma therapy). A little extra cocoa powder probably would've been good for the Hershey's cake. Thanks for stopping by!

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  15. This chocolate cake sure looks very chocolate...like the dark color of it...and the texture looks perfect Monica.
    Have a great week ahead :D

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    1. Thanks, Juliana. I always enjoy making and sharing a cake.

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  16. I love how you made your frosting look - might be a weird comment - but I love it! Also I want to eat this entire chocolate cake.. really! Looks amazing!

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    1. Thanks, Pamela. I can't decorate cakes or cupcakes for my life so this is about as good as it gets. Glad you like it.

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  17. Thanks for sharing.
    It looks so beautiful.
    I must try it.

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  18. The cake looks gorgeously dark and moist. Love the frosting!

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  19. Thank you for this wonderful post, Monica! I found the honest comparison very informative, and I hope to make both of those cakes someday to see which is a favorite around here (:

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    1. Thanks, Monica. I appreciate your nice comment. I'd love to know which you prefer.

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  20. Thank you so much for taking one for the team! I've made the Hershey chocolate cake and loved it. I am now convinced I'd like Ina's cake too. This is one beautiful cake anyway - they should all be happy you baked it for them. Great post Monica - thanks again.

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    1. haha - I'd glad take one for the team if it involves making and eating chocolate cake. No sweat! Yes, Ina's wins but the Hershey's sure is easy to make and really good in its own way - I'd just ease up on the sugar and throw in some coffee. haha

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  21. Everything in life is relative,of course, but not having eaten either cake, this Hershey's one seems wonderful! It certainly looks like it has rich chocolate flavor (or at least rich chocolate color) and is so moist, it shines in the photo! I prefer a slightly denser crumb, so maybe this is the one for me. Now I want to do a comparison too! Thanks, Monica for the cake review. :)

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    1. If you like a denser, heavier (but moist) cake, the Hershey's one fits the bill! Just go light on the sugar in the cake batter, I'd say. It is so easy to make - that's a big plus. Thanks, Wendy.

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  22. Hi Monica! Thank you for trying out both cakes! It sounds like you are the one to turn to when it comes to chocolate. Now I know what my go-to chocolate cake recipe should be! Thank you so much for sharing yet another delicious post. I'm hungry now! I hope you are having a great Tuesday!

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    1. I am no expert but I do love chocolate and always have an opinion on it! I think a bit of chocolate (preferably, dark) is the best medicine for relaxation. : )

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  23. So moist and decadent. I need this cake in my life :) Thanks for sharing wealth of info on the comparison!

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    1. Thanks, Kiran! It is easy and fun to sound off about my favorite topic.

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  24. Beatty's chocolate cake is a mainstay for me, possibly the best chocolate cake ever! I have never tried Hershey's, though, but I trust your (and your family's) judgment :)

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    1. Yay! Isn't it gooood? My family and I adore it and I just make it sometimes when I have a craving for a classic cake. It's so delicious!

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  25. Phew! I'm so glad you did this taste test comparison for us! Way to take one for the team. :P

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    1. It was 'hard' work but somebody has to do it. ; ) My little guy loves these comp-tests so it's fun. Have a good one!

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  26. Monica, its my first time here..loved your blog and recipes...will be a frequent visitor now:)
    Shema | LifeScoops

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    1. Awww...that's wonderful! I'm glad you stopped by and looking forward to your visits! Thank you.

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  27. Love this cake! It looks amazing!

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    1. Thanks, Asmita. Cake = Happiness. : )

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  28. Me too, I love chocolate and I really have trouble with portion control especially in high school (and I didn't get pimples on my face, which didn't stop me eating chocolate!). I was so chocoholic! Now I'm more controlled but...always weakness for perfect chocolate cake like this!!!

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    1. Ah, Nami - I know the feeling. When I was young, I ate whatever I wanted. Now come to realize you can't exactly do that when you're older. I'm just glad I "lived it up" when I was younger. : ) At least we can still find lots of enjoyment these days in enjoying things like chocolate cake in moderation. Most of the time, I go for dark chocolate, but sometimes you need a piece of cake!

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  29. Thanks so much for the comparison Monica :) Hershey's is usually my go to chocolate cake with a few tweaks (I use buttermilk instead and add a bit of sour cream and leave out some water) but I have yet to try Beatty's. All these chocolate cakes look incredibly moist and delicious so I will definitely need to try making Beatty's one day too :)

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    1. I have a feeling lots of people make tweaks to the Hershey's cake. It is good but please do try Beatty's. It is superb!!

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  30. Thank you for the comparison! I agree with you, the coffee definitely give the chocolate cake the depth of flavor that water just won't cut it! I tried Ina/Beatty's recipe before and it was really good. :) Thank you for saving me the time/ingredients/limited space in the stomach to make the Hershey's cake! Have a lovely weekend.

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    1. I am totally with you on the limited time/ingredients/space! So true...Ina's cake is pretty spot on. I would stick with it, Amy!

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  31. Me too! I love chocolate cake! It is my stress reliever. =)

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  32. Hi Monica, thanks for this post! Found it really interesting as a commenter on my blog mentioned that she thinks Hershey's recipe came first, then Beatty's. This is a very helpful comparison, as I think making the decision between these two recipes happens more frequently than the internet would indicate. Thanks! :)

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    1. Hi Kaitlin - glad you found it interesting. We are definitely fans of Beatty's cake here at my house. I make it fairly often and I always thank Beatty - and Ina - every time. It's just incredible. That said, I was glad to make the Hershey's and finally know for sure which we preferred. I saw your post of the cake...I recognized it immediately. You did the recipe justice...so gorgeous!

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