Basic Chocolate Cake

Basic Chocolate Cake Recipe

Get this basic chocolate cake recipe down and you can dress it up endlessly with various frostings, turning it into what seems like a new dessert each time you make it. The cake gets its deep, dark flavor from both chopped unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder.–Emily Luchetti

LC Best Darned Cake Note

This basic chocolate cake recipe results in a modestly named dessert that elicits reactions far more impassioned than its humble name would lead you to believe. Really. We’re hearing a lot of folks say this recipe creates what is easily one of the best darned chocolate cakes they’ve ever tasted, let alone made themselves. Go on, make the recipe for yourself. But before you do, let’s hear some applause for Emily Luchetti, the spectacularly talented pastry chef and cookbook author who also brought us the Basic White Cake recipe that so many of you deemed the best white cake you’d ever made. Kissing cousins, that’s what these recipes are.


Basic Chocolate Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 50 M
  • Makes 1 double-layer cake


  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder, plus more for the pans
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped or broken into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk


  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C) and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Butter the bottoms and sides of two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans and coat them evenly with cocoa powder, tapping out the excess.
  • 2. In a small bowl, stir together the cocoa powder and water to make a paste.
  • 3. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over but not touching a saucepan of simmering water. (Go ahead and use a double boiler if you have one.) Heat the chocolate, stirring and scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula, until the chocolate is smooth and melted. Let cool to room temperature.
  • 4. Hold a sifter or a fine strainer over a large bowl or piece of parchment paper and sift the flour and baking soda together. (If using a strainer, simply dump both ingredients in the strainer and gently tap your hand against the edge.) Dump the salt on top.
  • 5. Using a stand mixer or a handheld mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and then mix in the eggs, 1 at a time, just until combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the cocoa paste and mix just until combined. Then add the melted chocolate and mix until thoroughly combined.
  • 6. With the mixer still on low speed, add half the sifted flour mixture, mixing thoroughly, then add half the milk. Repeat with the remaining flour and then the milk, mixing well.
  • 7. Divide the batter between the pans and, using the spatula, spread it evenly. Bake the cakes on the middle rack of the oven until a bamboo skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, 20 to 30 minutes. If you put the cake pans on 2 different racks in the oven, switch the pans halfway through baking to ensure they bake evenly.
  • 8. Let the cakes cool in their pans on a wire rack. Unmold them by running a small knife around the inside edge of the pans and then placing a plate on top of each cake and inverting both the cake and the plate. Remove the pans. Cool the cakes completely before serving or frosting. (The wrapped cake layers will keep at room temperature for a few days or in the freezer for up to a couple of months.)
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Recipe Testers Reviews
Testers Choice
Natalie Reebel

Mar 13, 2015

This will be the “go-to” basic chocolate cake recipe for my family. When I cut into the cake, the texture was perfect. It was moist and light, dense but not heavy. The flavors of the cocoa and unsweetened chocolate blended well together to give the cake depth of flavor without being overly rich and the perfect balance of sweet to chocolate. My tasters didn't even need, nor ask for, a glass of milk. When they finished their pieces, they simply asked for another. This cake is great without frosting and would probably be just as wonderful with it. The recipe produces a cake that bakes up high but doesn't drip over the sides of the pan and onto the bottom of the oven. I baked mine in 2 heart-shaped pans and they came out beautifully. My cakes required 30 minutes baking time, but that may have been due to the shape of my pans.

Testers Choice
Sofia Reino

Mar 13, 2015

This basic chocolate cake recipe is very easy and fast to make, even for a non-baker such as myself. The cake itself was wonderful—moist, light, chocolatey but not overly so, and far from too sweet. My toddler wanted to add some frosting, but I decided instead to make a mixture of cream cheese, sugar, and mashed strawberries and it was a huge hit with everyone–my older daughter even asked me to make this cake for her birthday next month. Not sure if this has to do with my oven, but after 20 minutes the middle of the cake was still pretty liquidy. I left it in for 7 more minutes and that did the trick. Even though I buttered the cake pans very well, I had some trouble getting the cakes out. Next time I'll use springform pans.

  1. Frances Barker says:

    This sounds delicious and so yummy!! Thanks For sharing the recipe.


    Frances Barker

  2. Cathy Brown says:

    This sounds delicious! Thanks for all the great recipes on your site. I was wondering if this recipe might work for a bundt type cake? I’ve been searching for a chocolate bundt cake recipe with a good texture and taste. Thanks.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Cathy, we haven’t tried it as a Bundt cake so I’m hesitant to promise you that it will work. Most Bundt cakes tend to have a denser (in a good way) texture. May I suggest you try this Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake recipe from our site? Look beneath the recipe for the rave reviews its drawn from everyone who’s tried it. I think this may be more what you’re wanting…?

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