This Hershey’s chocolate cake needs no introduction, as it’s been around for almost a century. It’s one of the great chocolate cakes of all time. If you’ve never made it, you’re in for an old-fashioned treat. And if you’ve never made it with my wee spin on it, you’re in for an even greater treat.

All I’ve done is toss in some instant espresso powder to the batter and the frosting. It amps up the flavor. And because I wanted a frosting that was more buttery and less cloyingly sweet, I use a greater proportion of butter to sugar, which makes the frosting soooo light–nothing at all like the cloying, gritty American buttercreams out there. That’s it. I don’t like to mess (too much) with perfection.

READ MY ARTICLE: Forever and Completely, in which I explain that few things in life are truly forever and completely, save for my adoration for this rich chocolate cake and my love, The One, of 30 years.

david caricature

Why Our Testers Loved This

It’s no surprise that the testers are calling this “a cake that screams perfection.” Not only did they adore the rich chocolate flavor of the cake and frosting, but they were delighted that this could be whipped up in just 20 minutes with only a bowl, spoon, and hand mixer.

What You’ll Need to Make This

Ingredients for Hershey's chocolate cake--flour, sugar, cocoa, oil, milk, vanilla, eggs, baking soda and powder, and espresso.
  • Hershey’s Cocoa—Since this is a Hershey’s chocolate cake, you simply gotta use Hershey brand natural cocoa. I sometimes use their extra-dark cocoa for a seriously deep flavor. If you need to substitute another cocoa powder, be sure to use natural unsweetened cocoa, not Dutch-process cocoa.
  • Instant espresso powder–The addition of espresso powder enhances the chocolate flavor of the cake, and I highly recommend it. If you don’t have instant espresso powder, you can replace the espresso and hot water with 1 cup of very hot coffee.
  • Vegetable oil–Any neutral-flavored oil will work, such as vegetable oil, canola, or sunflower. Don’t use strongly flavored oils as they’ll alter the flavor of the cake.
  • Vanilla extract–Only the real stuff, please! (You know how I feel about the fake stuff.)

How to Make Hershey’s Classic Chocolate Cake

Two cake pans lined with parchment rounds; a person mixing dry ingredients in a bowl.
  1. Crank the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans and line with parchment.
  2. Stir the sugar, flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center.
Eggs, oil, and milk in a well in the center of dry ingredients; a hand mixer beating cake batter.
  1. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla into the well.
  2. Beat the ingredients with an electric hand mixer for 2 minutes.
A hand mixer beating hot water into cake batter; cake batter divided between two cake pans.
  1. Beat in the boiling water. The batter will be wicked thin. Fear not, that’s as it should be.
  2. Divide the batter between the two cake pans. Bake until a tester inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire racks spritzed with cooking spray to cool completely.
  3. Place the first layer on a cake stand and spread frosting over the top. Add the second layer and frost all over.

Common Questions

Can I freeze this cake?

Yes. I suggest freezing the cake unfrosted. Wrap the cooled cake layers individually in plastic and freeze for up to 3 months. Unwrap the layer and thaw at room temperature before assembling and frosting.

Can I make this into cupcakes?

Yes. The cake batter can be divided among 12 jumbo cupcake wells and baked for about 20 minutes.

Helpful Tips

  • Mix your ingredients in a deep bowl so that everything stays contained when you start beating it.
  • To make sure your cake layers are identical in height, weigh the batter. I use a digital kitchen scale.
A pan of chocolate cake batter on a digital kitchen scale.

Storage

Store the cake under a cake dome or loosely tented with plastic at room temperature for up to 3 days.

A slice of Hershey's chocolate cake with chocolate frosting on a yellow plate, with the remaining cake on a stand in the background.

More Great Chocolate Cake Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

I made this cake last week, and, my goodness, it’s the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had! I love the espresso in the batter and the frosting. The cake is very “more-ish” and moist, and the frosting is smooth.

I froze some slices, and it froze beautifully, too. Thank you for the recipe, I will definitely be making this for a long time to come!

Melanie M.
A slice of Hershey's chocolate cake with chocolate frosting on a yellow plate, with the remaining cake on a stand in the background.

Hershey’s Chocolate Cake Redux

4.95 / 39 votes
This Hershey’s chocolate cake recipe with frosting is an old-fashioned classic American dessert that will never, ever disappoint. Simple and simply the best.
David Leite
CourseDessert
CuisineAmerican
Servings10 to 12 servings
Calories561 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time55 minutes

Ingredients 

  • Butter or baking spray, for the pans and wire rack
  • 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
  • 1 batch Hershey's chocolate frosting recipe

Instructions 

Make the Hershey’s chocolate cake

  • Heat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Generously butter and flour (or spray with baking spray) two 9-inch round baking pans, tapping out any excess flour. Line each pan with parchment paper rounds. Butter or spray a large wire rack. Set aside.
    A person lining a cake pan with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl with a wooden spoon (surely you have one of those, yes?) or spatula, stir together the granulated sugar, flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center.
    A person mixing flour, cocoa, and sugar in a bowl.
  • Plop the eggs into the well and pour in the milk, oil, and vanilla.
    Oil, eggs, and milk in a well in the center of a bowl of dry ingredients.
  • Using a handheld electric mixer (c'mon, surely you still have one of those, too?!), beat the ingredients on medium-high speed for 2 minutes.
    A hand mixer being used to beat cake batter.
  • Stir in the boiling water. The batter will appear alarmingly thin but fear not, that's the way it should be.
    A person using a hand mixer to beat water into cake batter.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it evenly.
    Two cake pans partially filled with chocolate cake batter.
  • Bake the cakes for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean.
  • Cool the cakes in the pans on the buttered wire rack for 10 minutes. Then invert the cakes onto the rack, remove the pans, turn the cakes right side up, and let them cool completely.

Frost and serve the Hershey’s chocolate cake

  • Place a single cake layer on a platter or cake stand and spread a goodly amount of frosting on top. Place the second cake layer on the first and frost the sides and top, creating as few or as many lavish swoops and swirls with the frosting as desired.
  • Cut the frosted cake into gargantuan wedges—none of those diminutive slivers for us, thank you very much—and serve.
    A slice of Hershey's chocolate cake with chocolate frosting on a yellow plate, with the remaining cake on a stand in the background.

Notes

  1. Use a deep bowl–Mix your ingredients in a deep bowl so that everything stays contained when you start beating it.
  2. Use a scale–To make sure your cake layers are identical in height, weigh the batter. I use a digital kitchen scale.
  3. Storage–Store the cake covered at room temperature for up to 3 days. Unfrosted cake layers can be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap them in plastic before freezing.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 sliceCalories: 561 kcalCarbohydrates: 91 gProtein: 6 gFat: 22 gSaturated Fat: 5 gMonounsaturated Fat: 7 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 40 mgSodium: 509 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 68 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2013 David Leite. Photos © 2024 David Leite. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This really is the best chocolate cake! I’ve made lots of cakes, and this chocolate cake is absolutely the best.

I 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 okay. 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.

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 are perfect here. Just make sure your bowls are deep enough so that the flour doesn’t go flying; the same goes for the confectioners’ sugar in the frosting. Too bad there are only two of us, and one of us watches our weight!

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.

This moist chocolate cake recipe is delicious and very simple to make. The cake has a rich chocolate flavor. Indeed, the addition of espresso powder enhances and enriches the chocolate flavor. I do this whenever I make 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 an excellent everyday type of frosting with a rich chocolate flavor resulting from the addition of espresso powder. For a more special occasion, I’d make a nice Swiss meringue buttercream, a whipped ganache, or even a whipped cream frosting. I loved using my electric hand mixer rather than dragging out the big 7-quart mixer!

“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 this must be the one.

It was supremely easy to put together. The addition of espresso powder deepened the chocolate flavor, and the icing recipe was easy to work with and wasn’t overpowering. I would skip all three meals and just have cake for a day. With a nice glass of Prosecco, it’s sublime.

This is a decadent chocolate cake. The ingredients are probably in your pantry and easy to whip up for some chocolate love. The batter is thin when done mixing but cooks up to a lovely, moist cake. Espresso powder deepens the perfect rich chocolate flavor of the cake. We felt the frosting was a little overwhelming and would tone it down in the future.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


Hungry For More?

Flourless Chocolate Cloud Cake

This lofty cake is so crammed full of chocolate and butter and air, there’s no room for flour–although we made sure to leave space for ample swoops of softly whipped cream.

1 hr 15 mins

Chocolate Caramel Cake

For this stunning dessert, rich chocolate cake and salty-sweet caramel frosting collide to make a magnificent masterpiece.

6 hrs

Hershey’s Chocolate Frosting

Sometimes simpler is better. Proof? This classic chocolate frosting from the back of the tin of Hershey’s cocoa. We dare you to not just eat it straight from the spoon.

10 mins


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




319 Comments

  1. OK, I will eat cake for breakfast (with frosting) and am all for eggs, butter, sugar, etc. I also love this recipe. But, are 2 cups of sugar in this cake recipe necessary? Could 1.5 work? I would appreciate comments re this.

    1. Rachel, we didn’t try it that way, so I can’t give a definitive issue. But many of our readers have reduced the sugar amount in cakes without any problems. I wouldn’t go lower than 1 1/2 cups, though. Please report back and let us know. It could help others who are looking to lower sugar content.

  2. I made this for my Valentine this afternoon. Did three layers in a convection oven situation. Thanks for the recipe! He is drooling, which is, of course, right where I want him.

      1. I have made this cake so many times – but DID end up cutting back the sugar to 1.5 cups (before I read the comments) a few weeks ago for the first time. Made the cake in a bundt pan and didn’t frost it – I think it came out great. And yes – I ate it for breakfast a few times. #delicious

        1. Laughs. I’m with you on the chocolate cake for breakfast, Rachel. Yours turned out beautiful.

  3. I love this cake and have made it for years. Last year or so, I swapped out boiling water for a cup of espresso coffee (we have a machine, so easy to do). Cheers, Peter