Forever and Completely

Hershey's Chocolate Cake Recipe

A long-term relationship has a lot in common with cleaning out a closet. Over the years, you learn what’s worth keeping and what can be tossed. In my nearly two decades with The One, we’ve often cleared the emotional and interpersonal closets of our lives, each time reshaping the sum of us. For example, I’ve come to acknowledge his Hess truck collection, which he uses as Christmas decorations, and his infatuation with Kenny G. He, in turn, accepts my love of kitsch and my need to control most everything. And over the years we’ve watched as my fascination with Glee, his preoccupation with teddy bears, our adulation of Martha Stewart’s first TV show, and my hard-core adherence to Atkins were rim-shotted into life’s wastebasket.

Yet one thing that has remained non-negotiable for both of us from the very beginning is chocolate cake.

Back when we were still new to each other, though, we had no clue what was important. After The One and I had been together two months, he spent a weekend visiting his mother in Baltimore. On the night of his return, we sat down to dinner—candlelit, of course, as he always insists on candlelight, even for ordinary weeknight suppers. He pushed the chicken around his plate, preoccupied and silent. “Do you think, if this thing is real,” he finally said, pointing his fork back and forth between us, “you can promise me forever?”

I set my bowl of Fiber One aside. So here we go, I thought. The conversation. By that time, I’d spent the past eight years serial-dating and getting any romantic notions of “forever” kicked out of me. I also knew how The One had been shunted from mother to grandmother to pastor and back to mother when he was growing up, and how much it had devastated him. The idea of permanence was paramount to his happiness. Yet I didn’t want to lie.

“No, mon cher, I can’t.”

Suddenly he looked like a five-year-old whose Big Wheel I’d accidentally backed over with my car. “I want to promise forever,” I rushed to say, trying to cheer him. “But neither of us has any idea who we’ll be in 20 years. We could grow apart.”

You’d have thought I’d run over his dog, too.

“Or—or—or,” I stammered, “on the other hand, we could grow closer. Right? That’s a possibility….”

He traffic-copped me, putting up his palm and cutting me off. “I get it, I get it. Don’t worry about it.”

We tabled the conversation and, over the following weeks, in place of arguing, did what we often do: We turned to chocolate cake. Not just any chocolate cake, but the culinary Eve from which millions of cakes have descended: Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake, featured on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa tin for more than 80 years. I’d never made it B.T.O. (Before The One), but it was a dessert his grandmother and mother had always baked.

And what a cake it is. If you’ve never tasted it, you simply can’t comprehend how it satisfies an addiction, soothes anxieties, halts arguments mid-accusation. Frankly, if the United States government sent these chocolate cakes overseas instead of troops, the world would be a kinder, more peaceful place. The cake itself is crazy-dense and moist—something The One loves. So moist is it that when you assemble the layers, your fingertips are covered with sticky chocolate crumbs that you simply have to pause and enjoy, looking for all the world like one of those sex-starved nubile young things on Showtime.

For me, though, it’s the frosting that slays. Well, my version of the frosting slays. I use twice as much butter as the original recipe, which makes it creamier, smoother, and less sweet. I’m ashamed to say it, but on more than one occasion I’ve been caught unawares by The One and sundry friends with an entire spatula of frosting in my mouth. Still, I make no apologies.

Since then, it’s been our birthday cake, anniversary cake, impress-the-snotty-ass-guest cake, hey-it’s-a-Tuesday cake, even Valentine’s Day cake. But back then, it was our stuff-our-feelings cake.

I struggled to find a way to express to The One my hopes for us. I tried journaling, armed with pen in one hand, fork in the other. I verbally wrestled with my therapist, shouting at him for making me a romantic pragmatist—so realistic and clear-eyed about love that I couldn’t indulge in a little forever fantasy. I asked advice of friends who’d been together far longer than us. Nothing helped.

One month and several cakes later, The One arranged for us to spend New Year’s Eve in Paris at the home of two ridiculously pretentious and nouveau-riche friends. While walking through their monstrously enormous apartment, I was suddenly struck dumb. From their five-figure sound system wafted lyrics to a song—”When I Fall in Love”—that gave voice to what I could not.

To me, it syncopated our two contrary points of view. (If you haven’t listened to the song, now would be a good time.) “When I fall in love, it will be forever, or I’ll never fall in love” suited The One. It comforted him, made him feel at home. “When I give my heart, it will be completely, or I’ll never give my heart,” spoke to me. I couldn’t promise him forever, but I could promise that I’d love him completely for as long as I can. It’s my own personal forever.

I waited until Pretentious Frenchman and his O’er-Reaching Snot Boyfriend were gone and then led The One into the living room as the opening strains embraced the room. He began to speak. “Shh! Listen,” I shushed. As Linda Ronstadt crooned the “forever” verse, I laid my hand on his chest. “This is you.” Then as she glided through the “completely” stanza, I added, “This is me.”

We had yet to exchange vows of love—that would be later that week, on the Left Bank of the Seine—but in that moment my need to control things precipitously proclaimed, “This is our song!” And, completely uncharacteristically, he didn’t argue. He simply accepted it and understood that although he needs to be loved forever and I need to be loved entirely, we were committed to one another.

All these years later, the song has proven to be something worth keeping. It usually underscores Valentine’s dinners—the highlight of which is another great keeper of our lives: that Hershey’s chocolate cake. These days, though, the cake lasts half as long as it did back then. That’s because with age comes not only wisdom, but relief that you no longer have to have a 32-inch waist to attract love and that there’s no harm in seconds—or thirds.

So now it’s our literal closets that need to be cleared of those once-flattering flat-front chinos, medium-size shirts, and long-ago-loose sweaters.

But, hey, love is forever, right?

David Leite's signature
SwirlHershey Chocolate Cake Recipe

Hershey’s Chocolate Cake

This cake needs no introduction, as it’s been around for almost a century. If you’ve never made it, you’re in for a treat. And if you’ve never made it with my wee spin, you’re in for an even greater treat. All I’ve done is add some instant espresso powder to the batter and the frosting. It amps up the flavor. And I wanted a frosting that was more buttery and less cloyingly sweet. Using a greater proportion of butter to sugar makes the frosting soooo light–nothing at all like the cloying, gritty American buttercreams out there. That’s it. Finito. Pronto.

Bottom line: Don’t mess (too much) with perfection.–David Leite

LC Comfort Cake Note

Nothing brings comfort like chocolate cake. But this chocolate cake? It also brings oohs and aahs, inspires reverence, evokes gratitude, and halts conversations mid-sentence. We ought to know.

Hershey's Chocolate Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 55 M
  • Serves 10 to 12


  • For Hershey's Chocolate Cake
  • Butter, for the pans
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 3/4 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • For Hershey's Chocolate Frosting
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/3 cups Hershey’s Cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso
  • 3 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  • Make Hershey’s Chocolate Cake
  • 1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and crank up the heat to 350°F (176°C). Butter and flour two 9-inch round baking pans, tapping out any excess flour.
  • 2. With a wooden spoon (surely you have one, yes?), stir together the granulated sugar, flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  • 3. Plop in the eggs and pour in the milk, oil, and vanilla, and, using a handheld electric mixer (oh c’mon, surely you still have one of those, too?!), beat the ingredients on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in the boiling water. The batter will be wicked thin but fear not, that is as it should be. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.
  • 4. Bake the cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the wire racks and let them cool completely.
  • Make Hershey’s Chocolate Frosting
  • 5. In a bowl, stir together the butter, cocoa, and espresso powder.
  • 6. First add some confectioners’ sugar and then add some milk, beating with a handheld electric mixer (see how handy it can be?!) after each addition. Continue to add the ingredients alternately and beat until you achieve a thick but spreadable consistency. If a less stiff consistency is desired, add small amounts additional milk. Stir in the vanilla.
  • 7. Place a cake layer on a serving platter and spread a layer of frosting over the top. Place the second layer on top of the first and finish by frosting the sides and the top of the cake. Cut cut the chocolate cake into gargantuan wedges and serve.

Tuxedo Variation

  • Tower of Chocolate Cake
  • For a more elegant take on this cake, make a double batch of frosting, slice each layer in half horizontally, fill, and frost. You’ll end up with a towering cake with four layers. Pull out the linen napkins.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Recipe Testers Reviews
Testers Choice
Bev B.

Feb 08, 2013

This really is the best chocolate cake! I’ve made lots of cakes, and this chocolate cake is absolutely the best. I tend to prefer using butter in baking, however, I make an exception with this cake, which calls for oil. Yes, the batter is thin, but that’s OK. And the frosting comes together beautifully, complements the cake, spreads easily, and isn’t overpowering. The first time I made this cake, I brought it to a small dinner gathering. After everyone had their cake, the room went silent, given that everyone was blissfully sated.

Testers Choice
Ellen Fuss

Feb 08, 2013

If I’d been wearing pearls, it would’ve been a Donna Reed moment, maybe June Cleaver. Imagine mixing all of the ingredients with a hand mixer before dinner, whipping up some frosting after dinner, and serving up the most delicious chocolate layer cake shortly thereafter…nothing complicated, nothing fancy, just a cake that screams perfection. Wooden spoons and hand mixers get perfect use here. Just make sure your bowls are deep enough so that the flour doesn’t go flying, same for the confectioners sugar in the frosting. Too bad there are only two of us and one of us watches our weight! No gargantuan pieces here, but small slivers with a cold glass of milk (skim is fine as a beverage but use whole for the cake!). I actually prefer the cake as cold as the milk—I tested that out this morning before my husband took the rest of the cake to work. He will be making new friends today. It’s a perfect cake for a celebration or just because you love chocolate. The espresso powder adds a nice undertone and cuts the chocolate just a bit.

Testers Choice
Linda Pacchiano

Feb 08, 2013

This is a very good chocolate cake and very simple to make. The cake is moist and has a nice, rich chocolate flavor. Certainly the addition of espresso powder enhances and enriches the chocolate flavor. I do this anytime I am making a chocolate dessert and it never fails to pay off. I suggest using cocoa powder instead of flour to dust the baking pans. This will eliminate the white powdery "crust" that will appear on a chocolate cake after it's baked. The frosting is a nice everyday type of frosting with a rich chocolate flavor, also as a result of the addition of the espresso powder. For a more special occasion, I would more likely make a nice Swiss Meringue Buttercream, a whipped ganache, or even a whipped cream frosting. Loved being able to use my electric hand mixer rather than dragging out the big 7-quart mixer!

Testers Choice
Sita Krishnaswamy

Feb 08, 2013

"Pure bliss," "perfection," and "supreme" are a few words that come to mind after a bite of this cake. If a food could bring about international peace, then one must offer this as the one. It was supremely easy to put together, the additon of the espresso powder deepened the chocolate flavors, the icing was easy to work with, and was not overpowering. I would skip all 3 meals and just do cake in a day. And of course with a nice glass of Prosecco, it is even sublime.

Testers Choice
Karen Lynch

Feb 08, 2013

Decadent chocolate cake. The ingredients are probably in your pantry and easy to whip up for some chocolate love. Batter is thin when done mixing but cooks up to a nice moist cake. Espresso powder adds a nice depth of flavor in the cake. In the frosting, though, we felt it was a little overwhelming and would tone it down in the future. Melting the butter for the frosting worked with a creamy frosting for the cake.

  1. Maura says:

    What a touching love story!

    • David Leite says:

      Thank you muchly, Maura.

      • Bea says:

        Oh, David, you made me cry so hard. What a beautiful piece of your life with The One. I was heart broken. I love you so much, and your recipes have always touch me in one way or another and this was beautiful. After 25 years of marriage I am single this year at Valentine’s, and it just reminds me you never can say when forever is. I thought it would be forever, but now I am divorced after a 25 year marriage. I am truly happy for you and your One

        • David Leite says:

          Thank you, Bea. And I’m so sorry to hear of your situation. It just goes to show how fragile the human heart and the nature of love relationships are. In time, I hope you find a love that makes your heart feel full.

  2. Jackie says:

    This is, indeed a great cake. I think I’ll make it for the family on V-Day. Your writing is beautiful. When you wrote about your ailing kitty, I was sniffling at my desk.

    In our family, the reason the cake doesn’t last as long as it used to is not because we’ve become accustomed to our expanding waistlines but because we no longer play the martyr for the last piece of cake — “No, I insist. You eat it. It will make me happy knowing how much you enjoy it.” No. Now, it’s a free for all. Every man for himself. Get it while you can!

    • David Leite says:

      Jackie, thanks for your kind words. And, yes, do make it for VD. Also congrats to all of you for turning in your martyr’s robes! I can only imagine the fracas when everyone is diving for that last piece!

  3. Beth says:

    This made me laugh and cry. Amazing post.

  4. lynds gross says:

    Thank you for the beautiful story.

  5. Lorraine says:

    Beautifully written. I wish you both a deep, complete and everlasting love. And for myself, right now I want a piece of your cake!

    • David Leite says:

      Lorraine, right now after arguing with The One about who’s going to shovel the snow, I’d rather have a piece cake, too.

  6. Shelley says:

    I loved this. I can attest this is one of my favorite cakes, but it’s been made sweeter somehow, by this wonderful story. Isn’t love grand?

    • David Leite says:

      Shelley, love is pretty grand. But don’t get the wrong impression! In between bites and bouts of cooing, there’s a fair share of the “un-grand” stuff, too. But somehow that makes it all the sweeter for me.

  7. Esther says:

    I am lactose intolerant so butter and milk sadly are out for me. Can anyone suggest substitutions they may have tried .. I totally understand and agree. It’s never quite as good. I normally am disappointed but when I look at the picture of this chocolate cake I so want a piece. Shall I try or dream on … ?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Esther, this cake is amazing looking, isn’t it? We’ve only made the recipe with milk and butter so we’re reluctant to offer alternatives that haven’t been fully tested. Any readers out there that can offer Esther some suggestions to what to use in place?

    • Sofia R. says:

      Esther, we JUST made this cake last night and used coconut milk instead of the cow milk and oiled the pans with canola oil. For the frosting we used a vegan spread. Also I substituted GF flour. It came out amazing. Took a long time as it was my older daughter doing it and she seemed to be dancing as much as she was making the cake and the kitchen was a mess at the end of the night… sigh…

    • Donna says:

      Esther, look up the recipe for Wacky Cake. It is similar to this cake but without the butter, eggs and milk.

  8. Susan says:

    Oh, David…I’m so glad this is your favorite chocolate cake, too. (You give it street cred!) It’s my special occasion, no special occasion, need chocolate cake with coffee for breakfast or whenever, cake…and it must have chocolate frosting. I’ve tried them all, Ina’s, Martha’ name’em, and none of them touch this one. Although, I have changed it up, so I guess I can’t really say it’s “the one” but it is my inspiration. I use melted butter instead of the oil and I use a cup of hot coffee instead of the water. Not much of a change, but change none the less. As far as “When I Fall In Love”…I get dreamy eyed when I hear it. Still.

    • David Leite says:

      Well, I’m honored that I give it street cred. I feel like rapper or something!

      I love the idea of the cup of coffee. I think it works much like the expresso powder. And melted butter, huh? Is it greasy at all?

      • Susan says:

        No, not greasy at all. The half cup of oil has more fat (though not saturated) than the 4oz stick of butter…unless you cook the water out of enough butter to equal 1/2 cup of pure fat. It still shouldn’t make it any greasier than oil. I’ve always found this cake moist and almost light/fluffy.

  9. Arthur says:

    David….thank you for another wonderful story

  10. Vivian says:

    This cake is surprisingly similar to The Barefoot Contessa’s Beatty Chocolate Cake recipe, enough to make me wonder if this recipe was the basis for her recipe. There are some differences like buttermilk for milk and minor changes in the amts of baking powder and soda, and hot coffee instead of boiling water. Beatty’s is my go-to chocolate cake recipe and when you said the batter was really thin, I immediately had to compare the two. Yes, one of the best chocolate cakes ever.

  11. Alex says:

    Beautifully written, honest piece! Happy Valentine’s Day to you and the one!!

  12. stuofnankinchowmien says:

    David, you certainly have a way with words. Especially when commenting upon your relationship. Who could read the recipe thru the mist? I couldn’t. You know how to strike directly to the heart of an issue, the heart of the reader and the needs of TO.

    I’ll make the cake on Valentine’s Day.

    • David Leite says:

      First, I like the change in your posting name! And you know, until your last few comments, I never even though about how well (or not) I wrote about The One and me. Somehow I no longer can limit myself just to food. I think food is such a catalyst for so much of what life is about. Relationship, too.

  13. Adri says:

    Great cake. Even better writing. Bravissimo – you touched my heart.

  14. Martha in KS says:

    I’m a Gleek too! And my name is Martha! Kismet. Let them eat cake!
    Happy Valentine’s Day to both of you precious guys.

    • David Leite says:

      Dorothy, I’m not exactly loving “Glee” this season. I just wish they’d drop the high school stuff and follow the kids in NYC. And happy Valentine’s Day to one of our most precious readers!

  15. Elisabeth Romero says:

    Oh such cruel sweet sorrow…. I would be starting a diet, and you present a wonderfully delicious chocolate cake. I think I gained weight just looking at the picture! LOL :)

    • David Leite says:

      I hear you, Elizabeth. I’m trying to cut back, so I’m debating whether we should make the cake this VD. I need to lose 110 pounds before March 19th, when I see my doctor for my annual physical. Not exactly easy, huh?!

  16. nancy says:

    Once again, David, you wrote so beautifully about your relationship. Very touching.
    I too, love this cake and look forward to using your inspired changes. :-)

  17. nancy says:

    I forgot to add that this cake actually freezes really well frosted (I freeze leftovers when I want to avoid eating the rest of the cake by myself. I must say it tastes good frozen too :-0). It must be the moistness of the cake.

  18. Larry Noak says:

    A WONDERFUL life, a GRAND love…A PERFECT chocolate cake…

  19. Lin says:

    Alas. I am working on losing some weight, so will have to make this dreamy cake later in the year….but I will! Happy Valentine’s Day to you both! I always look foward to your writings David and can invision your stories because you have that wonderful gift.

    • David Leite says:

      Lin, well, the cake will always be there for you when you’re your model-thin self! And we both wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day.

      • Lin says:

        Oh David those model thin days have been gone for 25+ years….I am just trying for a non-weeble torso….

  20. Lauralee says:

    Definitely ended up a chocolate cake day here. Thanks for the great tempatation.

  21. Brooks says:

    David, your storytelling is impeccable drawing the reader into the setting like an invited guest. Lucky are we to be enriched by your words, but no more so than this cake executed to chocolate perfection. I’ve adapted Hershey’s vintage recipe in a similar manner and I concur that it does stop conversations in mid-sentence—the hallmark of a true showstopper.

  22. Leslie says:

    What a beautiful story — but please consider using buttermilk instead of whole milk in this recipe! Even more moist and delicious!!!

  23. Lisa says:

    So happy I can stop the search for the perfect chocolate cake! Will make it for my 85 year old mother for Valentine’s Day, who has always said chocolate cake was her favorite. AND…hand held mixer?? of course (highly underrated & under appreciated these days but PERFECT, especially in small NYC apts.) THANKS & Happy Valentine’s Day!

    • David Leite says:

      Lisa, as soon as Momma tastes it, you come back here and tell me what she thinks! And I admit I was a stand mixer snob, but I now believe whatever tools works is best. Happy VD to you and yours.

  24. elopez0218 says:

    A beautiful story. God Bless you both! Every time I make this cake I will remember your story.

  25. David, what an intimate glimpse into the budding of what would become such a beautiful relationship. As for the cake, thank you for reminding me of one of the best desserts out there. I have been searching for that perfect dessert to serve my husband this Valentine’s Day, something all fancy and involved, something to impress, and then I came upon your post. This cake is simple, but impressive in its own way. The search is over. Chocolate Cake it is! Just for fun I think I will serve it with only two forks and no plates. No one will be looking.

    • David Leite says:

      Mary! I love serving the cake with only two forks and no plates. That is fabulous. I should change the yield to “Serves 2, in Mary’s house.”

  26. If you keep making me cry, I’m going to have to stop reading your blog. Well, OK, I won’t, but still! A beautiful, achingly real story. Thanks for sharing it. I’ll make this cake in your and The One’s honor soon.

    • David Leite says:

      Well, what you don’t know, Deborah, is I receive $500,000 a month from Kleenex to write posts that make people cry. (Ha! I only wish.) Thank you for your kind words, and I wish you and your special one a very Happy Valentine’s Day.

  27. Roxanne says:

    I adore your writing and it is so wonderful to see you enjoy a cake from years ago. What a beautiful way to celebrate any occasion. I hope more books are in your future as I could read your stories, recipes and love of life forever. Thank you!

    • David Leite says:

      Roxanne, thank you. And I love recipes from everywhere. Back-of-box dishes are perfectly fine for me as long as they’re perfectly delicious.

      And I’m touched that you want to see more books from me. I’m so torn about writing them, though. So many writers are asking if it’s financially worth it anymore. But perhaps a memoir or a book of stories? Would you like that? I’m trying to get feedback from readers.

  28. Pat in NC says:

    OMG David, A lot of married couples would love to have what you have with The One. You two are so sweet to share such heart touching moments. I can’t wait to make this cake now. Maybe I can make this cake for special memories as well. Thanks for sharing.

    • David Leite says:

      Obrigado, Pat. The One and I do indeed share some sweet moments and are lucky that we do. (Although I think I’m going to write a post about all our stupid arguments. Can’t have people thinking we have a perfect relationship, can we?!) And definitely use this cake for special times. You won’t be disappointed.

  29. kathdedon says:

    Beautiful post! Happy Valentine’s Day to you and The One!

    And, people, make this cake!! It’s been THE chocolate cake for our family for decades! I have made it without the espresso powder and it’s outstanding. I’m curious to try it with David’s tweaks. Extra butter in the frosting can only mean better.

  30. Joana says:

    A perfect story – real, touching and funny at the same time. You’ve inspired me to make the cake for MY One (endearingly called My Fossil at times) for tomorrow.

    • David Leite says:

      Joana, write back and tell me how Mr. Fossil liked the cake. I simply can’t imagine he wouldn’t.

  31. I can’t imagine a nicer valentine’s gift for The One. He must be thrilled.

    • David Leite says:

      lindajholland, I agree. Although we’re both trying to watch our waists, so we’re either going to make a smaller version, or eat one slice of the regular size cake and give away the rest to friends!

  32. The cake caught my eye as I skimmed the LC email round-up, and then your words caught my heart. What a wonderful, lovely, moving, witty and rich post. The verbal equivalent of this cake. I love that you mention the Hershey’s tin–I had forgotten the tins with the little round coin-like lid that you pried up with a spoon until I saw one at a museum-like exhibit recently. To candlelight and love, and to finding and sharing cake with The One.

    • David Leite says:

      Oh, Nancie, that tin with the metal top that you have to pry off with the spoon. Gosh, how I remember that. It’s different now, because it’s plastic. But what memories. Thanks so much for the kind words about the post, and I hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day.

  33. nywoman says:

    A book of stories would be sensational. You write about your life with such openness and vulnerability. Despite that tongue in the cheek.

    Since I will be alone on VD which is fine, never did get that holiday growing up in Sweden, so won’t feel deprived. The Chocolate Cake will have to wait for a few weeks until I have my next 10 guests.

    • David Leite says:

      nywoman, thanks. That’s helpful. And I’m glad that you’re not feeling a sense of emotional less-than-ness because of the holiday. In any event, a chocolate cake certainly is a good substitute.

  34. Claire says:

    I love this story! I can’t wait to make this cake. For all occasions my family makes a similar cake, my grandmother’s chocolate cake. The only difference is we use buttermilk rather than whole milk. I imagine it will taste very similar but I’m willing to do a taste test!

  35. jamielifesafeast says:

    Oooooh. Oh. What a post! I am at a loss for words. All the images of a single conversation between my green-eyed Frenchman and me in a small wine bar fronting the Seine over a warm lentil salad come rushing back. Isn’t it funny how your stories always do this kind of thing to me. Utterly beautiful, both the love story and the cake, beautiful, rich, luscious. And a cake that represents so much in your relationship. Words in chocolate layers.

  36. I love this story :) It is that simple, I cannot compare any love that I have had to this one that you describe. I can only aspire….

    • David Leite says:

      Sunchowder, thank you. But, as I said before, it’s not all songs and cookies. Trust me! We’ve had our rows, disagreements, near-splits (I think three times), frustations, and I-wonder-if-I-did-the-right-thing moments these past 20 years. So hang in there.

  37. This was such a sweet story! I have never heard the song before, so I looked it up and it is indeed beautiful. I have known the Hershey’s cake for a long time though, as my sis-in-law’s easy and perfect chocolate cake :) It is the only chocolate cake I will ever make! The only difference is she uses coffee and buttermilk instead of the milk,

  38. ebmozo says:

    You made me cry! The One is so lucky to have found you. I used to think that “the one” meant the one who could love you best, but now I think it’s the one you most get along with, warts and all; the one you can eat a whole chocolate cake with, and fight over the last piece with. It is most romatic to be loved and accepted just as you are. Congratulations!

  39. Veritas says:

    What a great story.

    Now on to the recipe. I had to make a cake for someone’s birthday and was so inspired by your story that I tried this recipe. I am not a person that goes crazy for chocolate cake, in fact it is one of the few desserts that I can pass up without having at least a taste.

    That being said: I made this cake and cut it into four layers. I put a Peanut Butter Buttercream frosting on two of the layers with your chocolate frosting recipe in the middle and chocolate frosting all around. Truly unbelievable. It was moist, not overly sweet. No words but WOW.

    • David Leite says:

      Hey, Veritas, stick with me kid, you’ll go far! So glad you liked the cake. The One is a nut for peanut butter, so I often make the cake with a peanut butter filling and frosting, but now I think I may fill it with the chocolate frosting. Thanks for the idea.

  40. Saadia Tariq says:

    Brilliant! Loved every word and morsel of this story and cake. Just had a full meal of grilled sea bass and apple pie and then read the blog. The oohs and aahs began from the moment I looked at the cake. I wish I could control my chocolate cravings. But this one has to be tried out. Thank you.

  41. kitblu says:

    I did so love the introduction to this recipe (the recipe not so much as I am diabetic). So glad I opened it to read! Thanks for a wonderful love story!

  42. Ann says:

    Yes – that hershey chocolate recipe is one our culinary icons in the American Recipe Book just as Linda Ronstadt version belongs in the American Song Book. It’s refreshing to read about something other than Red Velvet cake! Also, wonderful story of you and The One. All the best.

    • David Leite says:

      Ann, I love your idea about the Great American Recipe Book. It would be wonderful if the nation got together and decided what our most beloved, most iconic recipes are. I would certainly buy the cookbook.

  43. Sandy says:

    David, my first time reading anything of yours came in the way of this love story, followed by what shall be my forever cake. Thank you for providing such beauty in the way of words, underscored by such a wonderful cake. I am looking forward to reading more…

    • David Leite says:

      Sandy, I don’t there’s a better introduction to each other than this cake. So…hello, and welcome to the blahg.

  44. Laurie says:

    David, this is our family cake. Has been the go-to-cake for every family b’day since I’ve been knee high to cake pan. I’ve always been partial to chocolate frosting, but most of my family members prefer vanilla. I will definitely try your frosting, as it looks incredible. Also have all kinds of ideas now for using is as an aphrodisiac. Who knew?

    • David Leite says:

      Laurie, yes, this cake is an American icon! Vanilla frosting? Egads. No! Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. And if this serves an an aphrodisiac for you, too, let me know!

  45. ATNell says:

    This is my go-to chocolate cake. I have yet to find another that makes such a wonderfully tender cake with just the right amount of sweetness. I’m not crazy about the frosting recipe. It’s ok, but doesn’t stop me in my tracks. So I often pair the cake with the Foolproof Chocolate Frosting from America’s Test Kitchen. Now this frosting stopped me in my tracks when I first made it. I’m now famous for “my” chocolate cake with the chocolate frosting.

    Now if only I can find a yellow cake that makes me swoon the way this chocolate cake does…

    • David Leite says:

      ATNell, thanks for the heads up about the frosting. I’ll go over there and check it out now. And I’ll keep an eye out for the yellow cake….

  46. NRS says:

    David, scrumptious! If i’m making it early in the day for dessert, what’s the best way to store the cake? Room temp or in the fridge. And can it be stored room temp for a few days or is it better to store it in the fridge?

    • David Leite says:

      Hey, NRS. I depends on the weather, really. In cool or cold weather, I make the cake in the morning and let it sit on a cake stand under a cake dome until serving. If it’s sweltering, I place the cake in the fridge without the dome, and pull it out 2 hours before serving. And likewise for storage. If the weather is cooperating, I’ll keep the cake on the counter, which is my preference. If it’s too hot, I let it hang out in the fridge.

  47. Patricia says:

    What a lovely love story and a romantic song…thank you for sharing…God bless you many more years full of happiness and definitely I’ll try the cake recipe–sounds great. I believe in love for sure….

    • David Leite says:

      Patricia, thank you for your warm words. And, yes, do try the cake. I think you’ll flip.

  48. Lisa McNamara says:

    Oh, David, yet another reason for me to love you from afar! Not only is the story wonderful, you’ve managed to once again find the perfect recipe and make it even more perfect! I have been using the Hershey’s frosting recipe as my go-to chocolate frosting for years, but hadn’t thought to increase the butter. But you did! And i will be grateful for however much longer i live on this planet and make chocolate cakes and cupcakes (and yellow ones, too!).

    So many, many thanks to you (and Renee) for enhancing my cooking and baking life!!

    • David Leite says:

      Now, Ms. McNamara, you are just making me blush, you hear? (That was my attempt at being a Southern belle.) I’m pleased the post both touched and inspired you. When you make the cake again, send along a picture and we’ll post it.

      • Lisa McNamara says:

        As if i needed more of a reason to make it again! I cannot WAIT for the weather to turn autumnal so i can test out your improved version!! Oh, and btw, when i have made the cupcake version, i’ve frozen them wrapped tightly in plastic and let them thaw, unwrapped, on the counter. They hold very well that way–as long as one doesn’t eat them all before getting them TO the freezer…that can be a challenge:)

        • David Leite says:

          Lisa, well, you let me know what you think. I like the creamier texture, and the slight hint of coffee brings out the chocolate flavor. So all I can say is, “Hurry up, autumn! Hurry up!”

          • Lisa McNamara says:

            Well, i already know i’ll love the creamier texture…that was the only “complaint” i’ve ever had with that recipe was that sometimes it wasn’t quite creamy enough in consistency (and, after all, when is MORE butter NOT better? And when is a little coffee added to chocolate not yummier?).

            And: you just did some weather voodoo thing, apparently, because today is COOLER! Just made my grocery list to get a new box of cocoa so i can bake this weekend!!! Last night, hot as it was, i did turn on the oven briefly so i could bake up a batch of your choco-chip cookies to tide me over (had a log of dough in the freezer, thank goodness). The only problem with those is that they have ruined me for all other chocolate chip cookies. I am not being hyperbolic. They really are the best ever.

            Maybe if you ever need a second career you can become a meteorologist–you seem to have a better handle on it than most of the so-called pros. On the other hand, please keep doing what you do…i now know that if there’s a recipe on your site, it’ll be nothing short of stupendous!

            • David Leite says:

              Lisa, my chest couldn’t puff out anymore from pride. Not just because you love the chocolate chip cookies, but because of your confidence in the recipes we post.

              Our crack team of more than 150 recipe testers, headed up by Beth Price, put the recipes carefully chosen by our editor in chief Renee Schettler Rossi, through their paces. And even though many dishes pass the cooking test (accurate timing, etc.), many, many fail the taste test and never see the light of the pixels.

              It may take us longer to test a recipe, and we may post fewer than other sites, I have complete confidence in my team that the recipes are winners. And the proof is in your comment. (I wanted to say “pudding,” but the metaphor didn’t quite fit!)

              • Lisa McNamara says:

                Yes, your recipes are spot on. I’m a savvy enough cook to be able to read a recipe and just know whether it will be good, and yours always seem absolutely spot on. It’s evident that you put a lot of thought and testing and, yes, love into these recipes–i mean, the genius of adding more butter to what is undoubtedly a great frosting! And your cheesecake…perfection!

                Not only that, but you and Renee are just about the nicest people in the whole food world. The “no comment left behind” ethos is just so darn kind. You’ve created more than a place to look for recipes–you’ve made a lovely food community.

                So, yes…be very proud. You (all) provide a wonderful experience with a personal touch.

                Many, many thanks, over and over again!

                • David Leite says:

                  Ok, that does it. You’re officially invited to live with The One and me, and whenever I doubt myself–which is more often than you can imagine–I want you to walk into my studio and read this to me.

                • Lisa McNamara says:

                  Well, see, David? Kind, kind, kind :)

                  And whenever you need a little pep talk, i’m your girl. In the meantime, i hope you just hear my words in the back of your mind and know that i’m far from the only one who thinks as i do!

  49. Barb | Creative Culinary says:

    The story and the cake are both beautiful but I have one exception. No mention of ‘The Lettermen?’ They are ‘The One’ when it comes to this song!

  50. SusySlais says:

    What a lovely posting and story!!! Your analogy “a long-term relationship has a lot in common with cleaning out a closet” is so perfect and so darn true! I’ve been following you and your recipes (and, of course, had to have your book “The New Portuguese Table”) since I first look up for the “Pastéis de Nata” recipe on the Internet . . . and found yours! I love most of your recipes and have made some of them along the years . . . but nothing compares to those Portuguese Custard Tarts! I don’t live in VA anymore–where I tried those lovely tarts for the first time back in 2003 or so–but I can’t complain because I’m now happily married to the love of my life and living in MI. So, whenever I feel a little bit of “saudade” and long for those scrumptious “pastéis”, I simply turn to page 217 and make them!!! I’ll have to try this Hershey’s Chocolate Cake some time soon!!! :)

    • David Leite says:

      Well, SusySlais, today is our 20th anniversary, and your comment is so fitting. Thank you! I’m glad you found the pastéis and the love of your life. Um, well, I mean that in the reverse order, of course. The love of your life and the pastéis.

  51. SUZENNE says:

    Hi, I baked the cake for the first time for my husband’s birthday and he brought it to his office. It was very well received. I have a question – if I want to add bananas as a layer in the middle, not mashed, do you think it will work? I read above comments and nobody mentioned about adding bananas. Appreciate a reply. Thanks!

    • David Leite says:

      Suzenne, do you mean sliced bananas between the two cake layers? If you add a layer, without frosting, the cake would fall apart, because there’d be no frosting holding the layers together. If you want, you could chop the bananas, fold them into frosting and make that the internal layer. That should hold the cake together.

  52. Kelley Butler says:

    I have to agree that this is the cake of all cakes. Thanks for sharing your story, David. Have you tried the Hershey Special Dark cocoa with this cake? If you love dark chocolate… :)

    • David Leite says:

      Does a leopard have spots? (Or is it stripes?) Whichever, I have indeed-y, and it’s even more The One-ier. He is a chocolate addict.

  53. Hey David: I love this cake so much I made it with my niece Frida for her third birthday. We made a sheet cake with pink icing and sprinkles (three-year-olds MUST have everything pink!). While no one was looking, Dunga, a dalmation who only speaks Portuguese, climbed up on the counter and licked off half the frosting. Cake surgery was performed and the birthday girl was perfectly content. It was delicious–surprisingly light even though we beat the batter with only a wooden spoon. Dunga may still be in the doghouse….

    Hershey's Chocolate Cake Recipe

  54. NRS says:

    David, help! I absolutely love this cake and frosting and today I made it for the 3rd time. Somehow this time after frosting the cake, the frosting got white streaks, as if the butter was separating. Has this happened to you before and could it have something to do with the temp of the butter and milk? I feel like I didn’t cool the melted butter when I initially made it but don’t remember if my milk was room temp or on the colder side. What do you think? Many many thanks!

    • David Leite says:

      NRS, wow, I’m at a loss. That has never happened to me before. Does anyone have an idea or suggestion of what might be happening? NRS, do you happen to have a picture of it?

      • NRS says:

        I took the picture before the streaking started, so looks like yours! Hopefully, someone has an idea. But in any event, do you suggest letting the melted butter come to room temp or using it hot. And should i make sure milk is at room temp? What do you do?

        • David Leite says:

          NRS, I’ve done it all sorts of ways. Cold milk, hot butter. Warm milk and butter. But baking basics always say to have ingredients at room temperature. So start with that and see if it makes a difference.

          • NRS says:

            Thanks David. I’m wondering if overbeating was an issue? I used high speed on the handheld rather than medium like I have in the past and i think i kept beating even after it reached a good consistency. Will make a note next time to try with all ingredients room temp, sifting coca (i only sifed the sugar), melting butter on low, and beating on a lower speed and just until spreadable consistency.

            • David Leite says:

              NRS, personally, I think it was just a fluke. So, your baking mojo was off for a day. (Sometimes my baking muse is out to lunch for weeks.) I’m sure the next time you make the cake, it will be perfect.

              • NRS says:

                David, the separation issue with the frosting was driving me crazy. So today i made the frosting again, this time without overbeating (went back to beating on med or med low rather than high), also milk was room temp (not sure that made a difference), but the frosting came out perfectly!!! Yay!

  55. Ivan Plumridge says:

    AS usual a wonderful blog/story – you have a perfect way with words. I had my ‘The One’ read it and of course the recipe for the cake. WELLLLL he’s been talking about wanting to make a chocolate cake for several months now. Today we are going out to get a few of the ingredients that we don’t have on hand. I don’t believe I’ve seen Hershey’s coca in Canada so we’re going to use Fry’s Cocoa instead, if we can’t find the Hershey’s brand. I’m hoping everything will turn out just as scrumptious as it sounds – we do have a wooden spoon but no hand mixer – just a nice cherry red stand mixer. All in all I’m sure we’ll muddle through. Thanks once again for the wonderful recipe and baring your soul as only you can. All our best to you and The One.

    • David Leite says:

      Ivan, I’m so glad that you and your The One enjoyed the piece. And about substituting ingredients, I’ve used different cocoas at different times and the cakes have all been successful. So I think you’ll have no problem. I wish you both a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

      • Ivan Plumridge says:

        Welllllllllllll, everything turned out JUST YUMMY. Used the stand mixer with the whisk attachment, since we don’t have a hand mixer. Both the cake and the frosting have just the right hint of coffee to them–absolutely delicious. NOT going to get on the scales for awhile though I don’t think!

        • David Leite says:

          Bravo, Ivan. Glad to know it turned out well. And while I may promise you a lovely dessert, I don’t promise 32-inch jeans….

          • Ivan Plumridge says:

            LOL, trust me – my days and my TO’s days of 32 inch waist jeans are long past – that is unless you’re talking leg length, then yes 32 for him and 33 for me.

  56. Martha in KS says:

    A year has gone by. No more GLEE for me – after Cory’s death I couldn’t watch. You guys are still in love & are off oogling gauchos. I’m dreaming of chocolate cake. Life is good.

    • David Leite says:

      Oh, Dottie, you always have a way of getting right to the point, don’t you? “Oogling gauchos.” How did you ever know?

  57. val says:

    Valentine’s Day is nice and seeing your beautiful chocolate cake makes me feel like I just got a Valentine’s Day card. Thanks, David.

    PS…I need to Bake 10 Sweet Potato Pies for a Black History Month Event on Tuesday. Any suggestions to make it easier, val.

    • David Leite says:

      Thanks, val. Vappy Valentine’s Day to you, too.

      When I need to make multiples of the same dessert (say this cake), I multiply the recipe by three. (I use three because I know that my 7-quart KitchenAid mixer can handle that much.) So say I’m baking nine cakes, I set out three sets of ingredients, each set for three cakes (3 x 3 = 9). I then make one tripled batch, divide the batter into the pans and bake it off. When those come out of the oven, I mix the next tripled batch and bake it off, and so forth. What you really have to watch out for is that you’re being precise in measuring each multiplied ingredient. The reason is some recipes don’t do well when tripled or quadrupled. They can be doubled at the most. IK hope this helps.

  58. Love this story. Wonderful. Amazingly, I have never heard of this cake, and now I NEED to make it =) Happy VD.

    • David Leite says:

      Thank you, Karen. And you do need to make the cake. It’s amazing. I made it again last night.

  59. Bess says:

    This is a fabulous story. Thank you for writing it.

    I was looking for the Hershey chocolate cake story about the time some child smashed his hand into the frosting and the mama outlined it with white frosting and put a candied violet on one of the fingers.

    Now I think I well go bake this cake. So glad I read this.

  60. V. says:

    Thank you so much for this delightful chocolate cake ! It’s the Best ever !

  61. dina says:

    there’s nothing like a classic chocolate cake!

  62. Preya says:

    Hi, I have a question regarding the Hershey’s Cake. Is it 1 AND three-fourths cup of flour or, 1 three-fourths cup as in one scoop.

  63. Maggie says:

    Folks, I need some feedback on an experience I had with this cake.

    I’m a private chef and have made this cake about 3 times for a cake-mad client since it first appeared here last year. First time, I made it to sneer at it — how could any cake without expensive 70% dark chocolate in it be any good? One bake was all it took to cure me of THAT misconception. My client went bonkers for it, requesting it every couple months between other, fancier cakes.

    So last week I decided to make it for them again, with a caramel ganache frosting they particularly love. Baked the layers, and then out of sheer laziness and distraction, I left them sitting, in the pans, uncovered, on a counter top for three whole days.

    They looked, smelled and felt fine, so I went ahead and frosted them and served it up. (Told you I was lazy.)

    And the reaction was unbelievable. They were wrapping and hiding pieces from each other, telling me almost in tears that it was the best chocolate cake they had ever, ever tasted.

    Of course I told no one what I’d done — but I’m telling y’all here because I’m bewildered by what the aging could have done to actually improve these already-perfect cake layers. They were darker, moister, and tenderer than when baked. How could that be? Could they have been on the verge of spoilage and somehow that improved their flavor?

    Anyone have any ideas?

    • David Leite David Leite says:

      Maggie, wow, that’s really fascinating. Perhaps someone can explain how it got moister. My guess as to the darker color and more intense taste would be the aging. I discovered the same thing happens to chocolate chip cookies. As the cookies aged before baking, the flour hydrated and the texture and flavor changed.

      In this instance, I don’t know how much hydration would have taken place, especially since they weren’t covered. If anything, they would have lost moisture, which could have accounted for the intense taste.

      Perhaps others have an idea? Anyone?

      • Maggie says:

        Yep, I can see how that would happen BEFORE baking, as with the cookies and the extra hydration. But I’m perplexed about the after-baking improvement….

        BTW, I neglected to thank you for introducing me to this odd and wonderful cake. Without your article and the testers’ comments I would never have tried it, so beijos to you for bringing it to my attention.

        • David Leite David Leite says:

          Maggie, my pleasure. But I, too, an perplexed. It’s not as if the cake has preservatives. The only thing I think think of is the oil, which has no water, may have kept it uncommonly moist.

      • Lisa McNamara says:

        I am not a scientist, but i have found that cake, as long as you don’t cut it, actually does get denser and moister if you let it sit. The pans sort-of act as a wrapping and the top “crust” that forms on a cake layer pretty much makes them impervious to drying out. I first observed this with cupcakes which, basically, are little individual cake layers. I also suspect that the humidity of your environment plays a role in this, although even in fairly dry climates i have noticed this phenomenon. The key, it seems, is leaving it/them unopened in the pan or cupcake wrapper. It’s way too hot where i am to bake right now, but boy…can’t wait to make this cake again!

        • David Leite David Leite says:

          Lisa, excellent deduction work there. I’m not sure if that the cause, but it sure sounds plausible. I need to try it.

        • Maggie says:

          Thanks Lisa, it’s good to hear someone else has experienced this. And as to the humidity factor, I’m in a hot and humid South Carolina summer, so your theory holds there.

          I’m wondering about David’s observation about this cake being oil-based, too. Would a butter-based cake behave the same, or tend to go rancid? And is the chocolate a factor? I think I’ll experiment with a different cake this weekend, make it on Saturday and let it sit out til Tuesday.

          Maybe there’s a cake-aging trend in our future…

  64. Maggie says:

    Has anyone here tried baking this cake in a tube or bundt pan?

  65. Beautiful writing, David. Would have loved to be eating the cake while reading the post. :-)

  66. i have to share with you.
    i have switched our birthday cakes to your cake.

    my husband had a cake and frosting recipe that he insisted (read sacred cake) from his family.
    he raised his sons on that cake so it became THE BIRTHDAY CAKE.

    i hated that cake from the go.
    it was just a cheap crap sugar bomb and the frosting is a crisco ‘butter cream’ (no butter!)…. in the big world of chocolate cake recipes sweet buddha why that one!

    i snuck this cake in for a birthday last year with RAVE reviews… husband raving and wants to know… did you change THE family cake?
    no, my dear just added a little espresso to it. ha! (totally not even that old sh*t cake!)

    i’ve made your cake 4 times now covering everyone’s birthdays over the last year.

    today i made it again for stepson’s 18th birthday again with raves and i confessed about the birthday cake switch out and proclaimed that this cake IS our birthday cake for the rest of our days.
    so thank you and it does quiet a room every time!

    i think this cake is actually better on day 2-3 when the flavors really mingle.

    ps. loved your story. touching and beautiful.

    • David Leite David Leite says:

      tracie, thank you for your lovely comment. Clearly, I can’t take all the credit. Hershey get’s the lion’s share. But I’m happy to know my changes helped. And I’m thrilled to know it’s now your family’s cake of choice for birthdays. Oh, and happy birthday to your stepson!

  67. Kim says:

    David, stumbled upon this post while searching for a fudge frosting recipe. Valentine’s Day is in two days and, you guessed it, duped again. In need of chocolate comfort. Your story is so eloquently told. The One must be special indeed. And very, very wise. You’re blessed to have each other.

    • David Leite David Leite says:

      Kim, so sorry about your being duped. Men, huh? Well, do what I did when I was single (and often duped): Go with your best single friend to a great place, have one hell of a good time. It makes all the other women jealous of you and all the men want to be with you.

  68. Dianne says:

    Just wanted to say I love your site and offer up a little variation on this wonderful cake which can be a nice change of pace from chocolate on chocolate. One night we had some people over unexpectedly and we all had a craving for cake kind of late in the evening, I only had enough cocoa powder for the cake, not enough for cake and frosting, but we knew we needed frosting so what to do? I got the idea that a Butter Pecan Frosting might just do the trick, and lo and behold everyone loved it and it has become a staple offering in our house. The butter and pecans just seem to really set off the chocolaty goodness of this cake. So for the Butter Pecan Frosting – Mix 3 cups of confectioners sugar with one stick of room temperature butter, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1/2 cup (or more, according to your taste) of chopped toasted pecans, and 2 – 3 tablespoons of milk or cream. Hope you give this a try, it is really a tasty alternative. Thanks for such a great food site!

    • David Leite David Leite says:

      Dianne, thanks for the kind words. And your variation sounds lovely! I can’t want to try it. (Although convincing The One that anything other than chocolate is worthy might be a little bit difficult!)

  69. Eric Noak says:

    Well folks, I finally did it. There most certainly IS a God…

  70. Mandi says:

    It is 3:30 am here in Texas, and life is tossing one curve ball after another. Life makes curve balls look easy. Life is an obnoxious showoff when it comes to curve balls. So here I sit in bed, glass of warming wine in hand, next to my sleeping toy fox terrier, looking for that cake recipe, the one from the back of the Hershey’s cocoa box, the only chocolate cake that actually tastes like chocolate cake to me, the cake I hope for every time I hesitantly order chocolate cake in a restaurant but have only gotten once at a tiny diner somewhere in rural southwestern Virginia. The one with the ever-so-slightly gritty and completely perfect chocolate icing. Because what else is one to do at such times but return to the very most elemental, and potent, of comforts? The Hershey’s chocolate cake. And what do I find? Not only the recipe, but an eloquent ode to its perfection and importance, plus a love story that brought tears to my jaded little jade green eyes. THANK YOU.

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