I celebrated my 26th birthday this past weekend in our new town Fort Collins and wanted a dessert that was indulgent and familiar. Enter, chocolate cake! This chocolate cake is one for the books. It has a super light and moist crumb with hints of coffee and a salted chocolate buttercream of my dreams! 😍
Developing this recipe was a little tricky given the endless number of chocolate cake recipes out there. After a few test bakes, I leaned on the knowledge of a few favorite bloggers (Broma Bakery and Sally’s Baking Addiction). Their approaches to chocolate cakes had the perfect combination of texture and flavor that I look for in a chocolate cake. So I developed recipe from their methods! Here’s the digest.
My ideal chocolate cake has…
- a light crumb – after testing three variations of cake textures (light, tight, fudgy), I landed on a cake recipe that results in a super light crumb. It pairs really nicely with the rich chocolate buttercream that is paired with it.
- super moist texture – no one likes dry cake, so ensuring this cake had good moisture was of utmost importance.
- rich, dark, and velvety buttercream – this cake is paired with an amazing chocolate buttercream that includes a touch of cream cheese for subtle tang. I use salted butter in the frosting because I love how it balances out the super sweet buttercream!
Chocolate Cake Ingredients
- all-purpose flour – we use AP flour in this recipe instead of cake flour. When combined with ultra-light cocoa powder, AP will be strong enough to hold the structure of the cake. Otherwise, cake flour mixed with cocoa powder is way too fine.
- unsweetened natural cocoa powder – I use Ghiradelli 100% unsweetened natural cocoa powder in this recipe. Don’t use dutch-processed cocoa powder because it is has a different pH and will impact the final cake.
- espresso powder – coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate, so I have espresso powder in this recipe, but it is totally optional!
- buttermilk – because chocolate is a rich ingredient, it needs acidity from an ingredient like buttermilk. Buttermilk also contributes moisture to the cake. To make buttermilk at home, see the *Notes section at the end of the recipe box!
- hot coffee or hot water – hot liquids enhance the flavor of chocolate by allowing it to “bloom” and dissolve. I use hot coffee in this recipe since coffee also enhances flavor, but you could also use hot water, espresso or even decaf.
- vegetable oil – because cocoa powder is particularly dry, we need to use oil instead of butter for this cake to ensure it has substantial moisture. You can also use melted coconut oil or canola instead of vegetable.
- eggs – we will need 2 room temperature eggs for this recipe. If you don’t have eggs just lying out at room temperature like me, warm it up really quick with this trick! Put eggs in a cup of hot water (not boiling) for about 5 minutes. The eggs will get to room temp super fast!
Super moist and delicious chocolate cake recipe with salted chocolate buttercream. This recipe makes one 6″ 3-layer cake or a 9″ 2-layer cake. You could also bake into a 9″x13″ sheet cake. For best results, weigh the dry ingredients on a scale as volumetric measurements can vary widely and impact the final cake.
- 3/4 cup (62 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tsp espresso powder (optional)
- 1 cup (240 ml) strong hot coffee (or espresso or hot water)
- 1 3/4 cups (219 g) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk, room temperature (*see notes for how to make buttermilk)
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable oil (or canola or melted coconut oil)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Salted Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- 1 cup (2 sticks or 16 tbsp) salted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup (2 tbsp) cream cheese (full fat), room temperature
- 3/4 cup (63 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 cups (340 g) confectioner’s sugar, plus more if needed
- 1/4 cup strong hot coffee (or espresso or milk if you don’t like coffee)
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
Baking the Cake
- Prep Pan + Preheat. Line baking pans with parchment paper, and spray with nonstick cooking spray to ensure easy release. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Combine chocolate mixture. In a heatproof bowl, combine cocoa powder and espresso powder. While mixing, pour half of the brewed coffee (1/2 cup) into the bowl and stir to combine. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to ‘bloom’.
- Combine remaining dry ingredients. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Combine wet ingredients. After the cocoa/coffee mixture has cooled, add the remaining brewed coffee (1/2 cup), buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Pour this wet mixture into the dry ingredients. Whisk all ingredients until fully incorporated.
- Divide + Bake. Divide batter evenly among baking pans. (I highly recommend weighing the batter evenly across pans to ensure all layers are equal.) Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean since bake times can vary. (Adjust time as necessary for 9″ pans or 9″x 12″ sheet pan by checking doneness with a toothpick.) Cool cakes completely on a wire rack before assembling.
Making the Buttercream
- Beat butter + cream cheese. Add the room temp salted butter and cream cheese to a stand mixer or bowl with a hand mixer. Mix until smooth and well-incorporated, ~1 minute.
- Add remaining ingredients. Add confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla to the bowl. Start your mixer on low speed at first as dry ingredients come together, then slowly pour in the brewed coffee* one tbsp at a time until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. (You may not need the full 1/4 cup coffee.) Then increase speed to medium-high and beat for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until the frosting is silky smooth. Set aside.
- Assemble. When cake layers have cooled completely, frost the cake, and allow it to set for a few hours before slicing.
- *Coffee – if you don’t have brewed coffee for the frosting, replace it with 1/4 cup milk and 2 tsp instant coffee powder or just 1/4 cup milk, leaving the coffee powder out.
- *Buttermilk – if you don’t have buttermilk or just don’t want to buy it, you can make it at home using milk and vinegar or lemon juice! To make 1 cup of buttermilk for this recipe, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring cup. Then pour in milk until you have 1 cup of liquid. Voila, homemade buttermilk!
Keywords: birthday, chocolate, chocolate cake