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This intensely chocolaty Devil's Food Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is a totally indulgent dessert. The cake is rich and moist with a tender crumb and it's a chocolate lover's dream. Especially with my favorite chocolate buttercream frosting slathered generously between the layers and around the outside - no fancy piping or decorating skills required!
When it's celebration time, homemade layer cakes are the best! Be sure to check out these other reader favorites: Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting, Homemade Funfetti Cake, and Best Red Velvet Cake.
This post was originally published in May 2017, but has been updated for content.
Years ago, before we had moved to the California Bay Area, we were in San Francisco on vacation when I found a cookbook at the Baker's Hall store attached to the Boudin Bread Factory on Fisherman's Wharf called Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth. It was, of course, right up my alley and is still one of my favorite cookbooks in my collection. This devil's food chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting is from that book, although I've adapted the recipe a bit over the years.
This is my go to chocolate cake recipe and it's definitely a keeper. I make it for birthdays, for special occasions, or when friends are coming over.
I looked for years and years for just the right homemade chocolate cake recipe but so many were too sweet or too dry and crumbly or just not chocolaty-enough for me.
I love serving a big slice of this cake with a few raspberries on the side and a nice tall glass of cold milk for drinking.
Why this Recipe Works
- The thing I love about this chocolate cake is that the chocolate factor is deep and intense. That's in part to using both cocoa powder AND bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate in the cake batter.
- The dark brown sugar in the batter also boosts both the flavor and moisture level of the cake. And using buttermilk, oil, and boiling water with your wet ingredients keeps the cake from going dry or crumbly.
- Chocolate: The combination of unsweetened cocoa powder and chopped bittersweet chocolate makes for a deep, intense flavor that really does make this the best chocolate cake I've ever tasted.
- Sugar: The combination of granulated sugar and dark brown sugar results in a well-rounded, more interesting flavor which is lacking in other chocolate cake recipes and especially missing in a box mix.
- Fat: Using both butter and oil results in a cake that is big on flavor but also super moist.
How to Make This Recipe
Start by combining the chopped bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder in a bowl with the hot (almost boiling) water. Let them sit, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate has melted.
Meanwhile, beat the butter, sugars, and oil together in a large mixing bowl until creamy and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla, stopping to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure everything gets evenly incorporated.
Add the dry ingredients - the flour, baking soda, and salt - and mix just until combined. Add the chocolate mixture and buttermilk, then mix on medium-low speed, stopping to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, until the cake batter is mixed together.
Divide the batter evenly between two 9-inch round cake pans that have been lined with parchment paper circles on the bottom and sprayed with baking spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with just a few crumbs and the cake is pulling away from the sides of the pan.
Cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto wire cooling racks to cool completely. If your cake layers aren't level, use a long serrated knife or cake leveler to even off the tops so they aren't domed when you are trying to assemble the cake.
Make the frosting by beating the butter until creamy and smooth, then add the cocoa powder and powdered sugar. Beat well until creamy, then add add the vanilla and salt. Add in enough heavy cream or milk to make a nice spreadable frosting, beating well until the frosting is creamy and light.
To assemble the cake, place your first cake layer onto a cake stand or plate and frost with the chocolate buttercream to create a nice, even layer. Add the second cake layer, then frost the outside of the cake with the rest of the frosting. If you want enough frosting for piping swirls on top of the cake, you will want to do 1 ½ times the batch of frosting.
Yes, you sure can! This cake freezes well and will keep for 2-3 months if properly stored in the freezer. To freeze the whole cake, stick it in the freezer for 30-45 minutes until the frosting is completely set, then wrap the cake with plastic wrap directly on the frosting. It won't stick if the frosting is already frozen. To thaw, pull the cake out of the freezer and remove the plastic wrap. It usually takes about 6 hours to thaw a whole cake. Individual slices can be frozen in a similar fashion and won't take as long to thaw.
Converting a cake recipe to other size pans is easier than you think! This recipe makes about 8 cups of batter, which is perfect for 2 dozen cupcakes, two 9-inch round cake pans, three 8-inch round cake pans, or four 6-inch round cake pans. It's also just right for a 9x13-inch baking dish if you want to keep things simple or use this recipe for a poke cake. Just keep in mind that baking times will likely change and you shouldn't fill your pans more than ⅔ full.
- Measure your ingredients carefully. It's common to over measure flour, resulting in a dry, dense cake. I recommend using the spoon & level approach for best results and have a guide on how to measure baking ingredients for more detail!
- Don't overbake. I actually don't like to bake "until a toothpick comes out clean" because I feel like that often means the cake is likely to be a little dry. Instead, I watch for just a few crumbs clinging to my toothpick or skewer. You just don't want it to come out wet from batter that is still not baked all the way through.
- Pair with your favorite frosting! We love the decadent classic combination of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, but I have lots of frosting recipes that would go well with this recipe. Others I would recommend are homemade rainbow chip frosting, salted caramel frosting, or Oreo frosting.
More Classic Cake Recipes You'll Love
- Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- Best Red Velvet Cake
- Vintage Cherry Chip Layer Cake
- Homemade Funfetti Cake From Scratch
Homemade Chocolate Devil's Food Cake From Scratch
- ⅓ cup cocoa powder (35g)
- 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate finely chopped
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup buttermilk (236mL)
- ½ cup salted butter, softened (114g)
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar (200g)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200g)
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 ¼ cups cake flour (281g)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup salted butter, softened (227g)
- 3 ½ cups powdered sugar (420g)
- ½ cup cocoa powder (50g)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 4-5 Tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans by cutting circles of parchment paper to line the bottoms, then lightly spray the insides of the pans with cooking spray.
- Combine the cocoa powder and finely chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Pour the boiling water over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Once cooled, add the buttermilk to the chocolate mixture.
- In the large bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and oil together for 1 minute. Add the dark brown and granulated sugars and beat for another 2-3 minutes, until light and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add half of this to the batter and mix on low speed just until combined. Pour in half of the chocolate-buttermilk mixture and mix again, just until combined, then repeat with the flour and the remaining chocolate-buttermilk mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions, until everything is incorporated.
- Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Be sure not to overbake.
- Transfer the cakes to wire racks and allow them to cool completely before assembling the cake with frosting.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter for 2 minutes using an electric mixer. Add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder and mix again at the lowest speed until combined.
- Add the salt, vanilla, and milk or cream and increase the speed to medium, mixing until the chocolate buttercream is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. For a softer frosting, increase the milk or cream by small increments., half a tablespoon at a time. Makes enough to very generously frost a two-layer cake.
- If you don't have cake flour on hand, just replace ¼ cup of the flour with ¼ cup of cornstarch instead.
- Converting a cake recipe to other size pans is easier than you think! This recipe makes about 8 cups of batter, which is perfect for 2 dozen cupcakes, two 9-inch round cake pans, three 8-inch round cake pans, or four 6-inch round cake pans. It's also just right for a 9x13-inch baking dish if you want to keep things simple or use this recipe for a poke cake. Just keep in mind that baking times will likely change and you shouldn't fill your pans more than ⅔ full.
- Freezing: This cake freezes well and will keep for 2-3 months if properly stored in the freezer. To freeze the whole cake, stick it in the freezer for 30-45 minutes until the frosting is completely set, then wrap the cake with plastic wrap directly on the frosting. It won't stick if the frosting is already frozen. To thaw, pull the cake out of the freezer and remove the plastic wrap. It usually takes about 6 hours to thaw a whole cake. Individual slices can be frozen in a similar fashion and won't take as long to thaw.