fudgy chocolate sheet cake

My son’s first birthday cake was a banana cake with fudge frosting and it was shaped like a monkey with a mini-monkey smash cake. Because he loved them so much, his second birthday cake had to involve graham crackers, but in my carried-away hands it turned into a s’more layer cake (in the book) with a milk chocolate filling and a marshmallow frosting that was toasted because really, how could I not? His third birthday cake was a celebration of fall and trains — apples, applesauce, pie spices and a subway map on top because he was then and still is subway-obsessed. And I had already started plotting his fourth birthday cake — something involving massive pillows brown sugar-broiled peaches and sour cream, with the faintest trace of nutmeg, all late summery and perfect — when I had the strangest idea, something that hadn’t once occurred to me before: I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, and do you know what he said?

“Tchocolate. Chocolate with chocolate.”

what you'll need
dark brown sugar + butter

My husband and I have this joke when he talks because he’s sometimes so frighteningly articulate* that it’s impossible to pretend that we can’t understand what he said, even if we’d prefer to (such as when he requests spaghetti for dinner again or only wants to go to the playground furthest from our apartment). So, we say, “gosh, Jacob. You really have to stop mumbling.” and then he said,


chocolate sheet cake batter

And I’m such a terrible parent that I was kind of bummed because I thought the peach cake could have been kind of grand but now I was going to have to make a totally boring chocolate cake. Like anyone needs another chocolate cake recipe. I mean, sheesh, I have, what, seven in the archives alone?

very rich chocolate sheet cake

But when I got down to picking one, I ran into trouble. My first choice, the most decadent and tender one to date and it contained a full 1 1/2 cups of coffee, 3 cups if I doubled the recipe as I planned to make a sheet cake. I probably could have used decaf, but that still has trace amounts of caffeine and what kids like coffee flavored stuff? I probably could have used milk instead, but that’s a lot of flavor loss. I rejected the chocolate butter one that was my previous go-to for big events for being really sturdy and moist, but not decadent enough. I came back to, as I have no fewer than three previous times, sometimes as a loaf, sometimes as a disc, sometimes with buttermilk, sometimes with wine. Because it’s essentially a one-bowl cake. Because the crumb is downright fudgy. Because something magical and rich happens when you use dark brown sugar with cocoa powder. Because it’s insanely dark and decadent for something without a stitch of melted chocolate in it.

my freezer is just a mess

Wait, no melted chocolate? How can that be, you ask? The reason why this cake works not only well, but possibly better despite having only cocoa and no melted bar chocolate in it, harkens back to what I call The Alice Medrich Cocoa Theory, which she introduces along with her world-famous cocoa brownies. Basically, a bar chocolate contains cocoa solids, fat (cocoa butter) and sugar. To make cocoa powder work in recipes, you need to add additional fat and sugar. Medrich asks, why use cocoa butter if you could use real butter? I add to that, why use regular white sugar if you could use sticky, irresistable dark brown sugar? Essentially, good cocoa powder + butter + dark brown sugar potentially has way better flavor than melted baking chocolate. It just does. If you don’t believe me…

leveling a frozen cake layer

Well, fine then.

instant fudge buttercream

No cake for you.

instant fudge bloops

(More for us!)

so much fudge buttercream
a very tall chocolate/chocolate cake
crumb coat
pale blue sky
blue sky, red plane
airplane cake
airplane cake
a slice of sky

* Hm, do I sound like a humble-braggy parent? Okay, I’ll see you the “frighteningly articulate” and raise you the fact that he’s been scared to fly a kite because in one of his Curious George books, the kite takes George away. Hm, okay, that was just sweet… I’ll raise you the fact that he usually tries to eat yogurt with a fork, despite any evidence that this is a way to potentially succeed at eating yogurt.

** This, too, is my fault. When we’d go out for our nightly gelato in Rome, my son only wanted chocolate, and after the third night of scrubbing saturated chocolate messes out of his clothes, I decided to talk him into this “other, maybe better?” kind chocolate gelato called white chocolate. It worked for a day or so before he more or less called b.s. on it and started demanding “real” or “brown” chocolate. And really, who am I to argue? Dark chocolate is better. Signed, The Gelato Laundress.

cheese crackers + grahams + crispsairplane grahamslittle sandwiches from frescomama wants you to eat your veggies

And then there was a party: I mean, of course. Four is major! After a panic on Friday learning that our chosen/paid-for destination would have to close for the weekend, we decided to use the space anyway and bring in a face-painter, balloon guy and guitar player that all the mamas swooned over. I mostly reined in my obsessive homemade tendencies, only making some airplane-shaped goldfish crackers and grahams this year; we ordered sandwiches, my mother made iced sun tea and lemonade, my in-laws brought watermelon and balloons (though, one bundle had other priorities). Let’s see… oh, I found these amazing printables online that made me look like a far more coordinated and doting party-planner than I am; I’m not sure that’s actually a lofty goal but those jars sure looked pretty! And you can’t have an airplane party without having airplane favors; we picked up one of these at a Cracker Barrel on our way to Maine last month and we played with it for an hour a day until it broke and still considered it the best $4 ever spent on a toy. Now we have a case!

UK Book Tour: I’m in London! I’m in London! Well, for a few hours and then I’m en route to the Abergavenny Food Festival (you should have heard how politely the cab driver laughed when I pronounced Abergavenny the way I thought it might sound last night!) tomorrow and then back in London and Bath and Cambridge. The full schedule is here. I hope we’ll get to meet. I will try not to gush too awkwardly over your delicious accent.

One year ago: Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah and Roasted Apple Spice Sheet Cake (last year’s birthday cake)
Two years ago: Roasted Tomato Soup with Broiled Cheddar
Three years ago: Linguine with Tomato-Almond Pesto
Four years ago: Corn Bread Salad and Chocolate Pudding Pie
Five years ago: Sour Cherry Compote and Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee
Six years ago: Lemon Layer Cake
[New!] Seven years ago:
Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake and Moules a la Mariniere

Fudgy Chocolate Sheet Cake

This is the sheet cake you make for someone you love very much, someone worth splurging on Dutch-process cocoa for (I won’t lie, this is my favorite, and I save it for my favorite people), and then using a lot of it. It’s fudgy and moist and deep dark brown, and the crumbs are so loosely tethered to each other that it would truly benefit from another egg (there will be crumbs when you cut it) but I refuse because I don’t want the additional sturdiness that another egg would impart.

I got a little carried away and made this cake monstrously huge (6 inches tall!) — 3 layers of chocolate cake + 2 layers of fudge buttercream filling + vanilla buttercream (tinted blue and other colors) for the outside. This cake was 6-inches tall and fed a huge crowd. However, the recipe below is for the more manageable size I’d intended — 2 layers of cake (each is an inch tall) + 1 layer of fudge buttercream filling + vanilla buttercream for the outside. To make it the way I photographed it, increase the chocolate cake by 150% and bake it in three layers and double the fudge buttercream filling so that it will fill two layers. I’d estimate the servings for the triple-layer version as 52 (cut 4×13). For the double-layer version below, I’d estimate the servings as the same (for slices that will feel smaller with less height), 36 (cut 3×13) or 40 (cut 4×10).

The cake design was inspired by this one and this other one that I found through a Google image search.

Substitutions: Don’t have buttermilk? You can make an approximation of your own. Same with brown sugar. Even baking powder, but let’s not get too crazy.

New to layer cakes? These are my favorite tips.

Note: The volume of batter below (for a 2-layer sheet cake) could be used to make a tall 3-layer 9-inch cake. [If you have The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, you’ll see this there, with the buttermilk replaced with red wine, as the Red Wine Velvet Cake with Whipped Mascarpone.] You could also use the batter to make 32 cupcakes, as I did on Tuesday for my son’s preschool class. A 1-cup (8-ounce) butter level of vanilla buttercream (half with 2 ounces melted and cooled unsweetened chocolate beaten in) yielded way more frosting than needed for a normal, not towering, level of frosting on each; I might recommend scaling the recipe to 3/4-cup (6-ounce) instead.

Cake layers
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces or 230 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (380 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups (475 ml) buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups (345 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups (115 grams, approximately) Dutch-process cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt

Fudge buttercream filling
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar (no need to sift)
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons half-and-half or whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vanilla buttercream frosting
1 cup (2 sticks or 230 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 3/4 cups (1 1-pound box) powdered sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons half-and-half or whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla (use less if you want a whiter frosting)

Make cake layers: Heat oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of two 9×13 rectangular (i.e. quarter-sheet) cake pans with parchment paper. Grease parchment and sides of pan. Using an electric mixer, beat butter with sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at time, beating each in until just incorporated and scraping down sides of bowl. Add vanilla, then buttermilk. (Don’t worry if the batter looks a uneven and grainy; it will all be fine in a minute.)

Place flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a sifter over the mixing bowl and sift ingredients in. Beat or stir dry ingredients into batter until just combined; scrape down bowl again. Divide batter between two pans. Bake each layer for 30 to 40 minutes, rotating them once top-to-bottom and back-to-front halfway through. Cakes are ready when a toothpick inserted into the center of each layer comes out batter-free. Cool in the pan 10 minutes, then remove cakes from pans and let cool completely on racks. I often put those racks right into the freezer, to firm up this very soft and tender cake before leveling and frosting it; it makes the process much easier.

Make fudge buttercream filling: Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to incorporate, then process until the frosting is smooth. If you don’t have a food processor, you can beat the butter until light and fluffy with an electric mixture, then add the sugar and melted chocolate, followed by the milk or cream and vanilla. With an electric mixer, it helps to sift the powdered sugar first.

Fill cake: Remove first cooled cake layer from freezer. Place on cake board or serving tray. Arrange small scraps of waxed or parchment paper underneath edges, to protect the cake plate from frosting as you decorate. Level the top of the cake if it has domed by shaving off the dome with a horizontal serrated knife. Put the cake scraps in the garbage and cover them with dish soap; nothing good will come of it otherwise. Spread fudge buttercream filling evenly over first cake layer. Place second layer on top of filling; you can level this too slightly if it it has dome, but it’s less essential to the stacking of the cake if it’s the top layer. Return the cake to the freezer, while you make the frosting. Having it very cold will make it easier to cover the chocolate crumbs with your light-colored frosting in a few minutes.

Make vanilla buttercream: You can make this either in the food processor (using the same method as the fudge buttercream, above) or with an electric beater, however, I find that I can get this frosting fluffier by hand with the latter, via electric beaters or a stand mixer. Beat the butter until light and fluffy in a large bowl. Add sugar 1/2 cup at a time (trust me on this, it allows us to get away with less sugar than the standard recipe) until fully incorporated. Beat in half-and-half then vanilla.

Frost and finish cake: From here, you method will vary depending on your intended decorations. I put 1 cup frosting in a separate bowl for the piped decorations (clouds, planes and writing) and tinted the rest with just one drop of a concentrated blue color. (I love this stuff.) Thinly coat entire cake with frosting (this is a “crumb” coat, to mask the chocolate crumbs better), then return the cake to the freezer for 10 minutes, to set the first layer of frosting, then finish frosting the cake with the remaining frosting. Tint and pipe any decorations needed with remaining buttercream.

To serve: If making this the day before the party (recommended!), keep it in the fridge overnight. If you want it fully defrosted for a party that day, an hour or so at room temperature should be sufficient. It doesn’t hold the cold in very long.

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437 comments on fudgy chocolate sheet cake

  1. Rachel K

    Happy Birthday Jacob! My little girl is going to be 3 next month and would probably prefer the peach cake, while this cake looks like something I would love for me! :D

  2. Chris

    I have a similar fondness for dark chocolate. If I ever make a cake again I would make this cake – but my diabetes is acting up so I’ll just have a salad… =)

    Also – there looks to be a typo in the Make cake layers section: “two 9×13 round cake pans”. Cheers!

  3. Yes! I am in love with the cake! While I tend to make over the top towering cakes, nothing gets me more than simple sheet cake. The party themes is so cute and I love the graham crackers you have used.
    Sometimes you need simple cake to remind you of home!

  4. Nathalie

    That cake looks delicious!

    There’s caffeine in chocolate too (8.4 mg per tablespoon, according to Hershey’s – which adds up to about 177 mg if you’re using 1 1/3 cups. More if you’re including the chocolate in the icing). I’m not trying to deter you from feeding chocolate to your kid (I certainly feed it to mine!!), but just saying that a few cups of decaf coffee divided between however many servings that cake was divided into, wouldn’t be so terrible if that’s what you had your heart set on (decaf has about 12 mg per 8 ounce mug, depending on the process they used).

  5. what a sweet mama you are to your growing boy; i hope he was satisfied with the real deal chocolate. atticus keeps asking for chocolate too, like, “choc lat.” but then if i give him vanilla ice cream with sprinkles, he doesn’t turn his nose up at it:)
    ps hbd jacob!

  6. That chocolate butter cake is my go-to for layer cakes. I’ve done a wedding cake and who knows how many birthday versions. (Because chocolate with chocolate is everyone’s request, naturally.)

    But one request–could you do a piping tutorial? Because my letters? They are terrible. How on earth do you get them so smooth?

  7. pam

    I cannot believe your boy is four already! I might just have to use this when my boys turn six in December. (Four? Six? Man, time is moving at warp speed.)

  8. I love how you tried to push banana, apple, and graham cracker cakes on your son when all he really wants is chocolate on chocolate. It reminds me of how my mom always made homemade cakes for me and my siblings and we all (not so secretly) longed for store-bought cakes with huge crisco-frosting flowers or confetti cake from a box.

  9. deb

    Whoops — two mistakes that I will fix when I’m back at the computer (am on train to Abergavenny!). Flour needs to be added; it’s 2 3/4 cups or 345 grams. And the brown sugar grams are 380, not the 345 I mistyped from the missing flour.

  10. Nathalie

    Ooh! And I might be able to go meet you at Waterstone’s next Thursday (though my accent is Canadian – does that count? Also, my copy of your book is still in Canada, sadly)

  11. Lizzie

    I do not pay enough attention… You’re coming to Divertimenti on Marylebone High Street, but it’s SOLD OUT! (Congratulations!) I work just a street away and highly recommend you meander round Daunt Bookshop, which is just over the road, and also try the gluten-free pistachio and rose cake at The Natural Kitchen! Have a wonderful book tour! Oh! And you’ll be with Rosie Lovell! Her deli is one of the best places to eat/shop/hang out in Brixton Market!

  12. OK, chocolate is my downfall. This look so decadent ant delicious that it begs for me to make it. The problem is I will need to make it when I have company or I’ll eat it all myself, not a good thing for the waistline… LOL

  13. nan

    He’s FOUR?!?!? Already?!?! Amazing! The cake looks and sounds delicious, will give this one a go. I love that he knows the difference between dark and white chocolate…you’ve created a potential foodie monster! London…swoon…the English are going to love you! Have fun and happy belated birthday to my favorite 4 year old!

  14. annabanana662002

    Lovely cake! and what a sweet picture of your special “frosting assistant”. Deb- you are a amazing mom making such a fabulous THREE-layer cake in the midst of the busy-ness of leaving for London. I am sure you will have success on your book tour.

  15. TLitchfield

    Yogurt with a fork: there’s an ad campaign currently running on phone booths in New York City featuring this image exactly. My son’s obsessed with it and now requires a fork for his yogurt too.

    1. deb

      Typos — All fixed. I also added two cake decoration inspiration links. I did an image search for “airplane birthday cakes” and enjoyed the planes on one and clouds on another.

      TLitchfield — No way! I haven’t seen them yet. He might not actually still be doing that this week but it was the best example I could think of that hopefully wouldn’t overly embarrass him. No need to humiliate the babies, is my family blogging mantra. ;)

      1. Anne L.

        I am so excited to make this but I have to ask, if I wanted to go a more mocha route with the flavor could I sub the half and half or cream in the vanilla frosting with coffee instead?

  16. deb

    Ugh, another typo: that’s 9×13-inch rectangular cake pans and also, yes, 1 cup = 2 sticks, not 3, of butter. Will fix later, but it might be a bunch of hours.

  17. Koreen

    So looking forward to the book signing next Thursday. Im skipping birthday lunch for my husband to make it, but seeing that he benefits from my obsession with your recipes he doesnt seem to be overly bothered.

  18. Susan

    And to think you spent your last days (weeks?) of pregnancy perfecting a golden birthday cake (because it was imperative!) only to make anything but on those special days. Oh, what comes over us when pregnant? Jacob, my own two kids echo your sentiment. Chocolate is king of the birthday cake! Good listening, Mama!

  19. JP

    Because it is just my husband and myself, I may try this recipe halved in one round or square 9″ cake layer…I love cake recipes that have an even number of eggs in them. Happy birthday to Jacob. Four is a wonderful age to be.

  20. Awww…Happy birthday to Jacob! I see the boy has excellent taste already – way to go Team Chocolate!! I’m with him, and I’m thrilled to have this recipe! I just made another batch of Alice Medrich’s cocoa brownies the other day and we have been flipping over it – miraculously chocolaty and chewy like the kind from a box brownie mix texture wise! I used natural cocoa and it was even more chocolaty than using Dutch process, just like Alice promised…
    Love everything about this birthday cake – the chocolate, the colorful frosting on top, and the stories to go with it. Great job!

  21. Miranda midas

    Welcome to the UK! I am so sad that the one week you are here I am not able to come and meet you :-( But now I have a fudge cake to cheer me up I guess… I hope everyone that comes to your UK tour shows you lots of love, everyone I have cooked for using your book and blog has loved your recipes. If you want to have great food in London, visit Wahaca, Moro or Morito, Ottolenghi delicatessens and an Artisan du Chocolat. Enjoy your trip!

  22. This fudgy sheet cake look fantastic. It is most definitely NOT a “boring chocolate cake” by any stretch of the imagination.

    For what it’s worth, my younger brother has loved coffee since he was about 3-4 years old. He grabbed my dad’s coffee cup one morning, and just loved the taste that he’s been drinking coffee ever since (decaf until he was in high school!)

  23. Liz

    I can’t believe Jacob is 4 already, next thing you know your kids will all be gone like mine as of a few weeks. I learned about you from my daughter, can you imagine little Jacob grown up and sending you to the best food blog ever?
    So far my favorite chocolate cake is the the Devil’s Food Cake from the old Joy of Cooking. Yes, it is more work, but it is the one I always return to. Naturally I will have to try this one to be sure.
    For those of us who don’t do coffee, Kaffree Roma has no coffee in it at all and is the best substitute I have found.
    For the record my kids actually enjoyed things like bitter chocolate cake and were shocked when they found out that other little kids did not like eggplant.

  24. Steph

    Ok, I’m almost embarrassed to ask but I am mathematically challenged. If I want to make the cake for a crowd (which I do!!) and as shown in the photos, what does increasing the ingredients by 150% mean exactly?? I’m guessing it means 1 1/2 times each ingredient, so a stick of butter would be?…oh crud, do you have a simple example to share?
    It looks and sounds amazing, by the way!!

    1. deb

      Steph — 1 1/2 times each cake ingredient, batter divided into three pans.* 2 times the filling recipe, so:

      Cake to make three layers
      1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
      3 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
      1 cup granulated sugar
      6 large eggs
      3 cups buttermilk
      1 tablespoon vanilla extract
      4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
      2 cups Dutch-process cocoa
      3/4 teaspoon baking soda
      1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
      1 1/8 teaspoons table salt

      Fudge buttercream filling for two layers
      4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
      3 cups confectioners’ sugar (no need to sift)
      1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
      4 tablespoons half-and-half or whole milk
      2 teaspoon vanilla extract

      (* Or, bake one, cool it slightly, flip the cake out, wipe it out, put second amount of cake batter in… This is what I do because I have only 1 9×13-inch cake pan.)

  25. This is great! my son’s 9th birthday is today but too bad I went to costco before I saw this post. another bday coming up in a week, maybe he will get the honor of this sheet cake! happy birthday!

  26. I completely agree about cocoa making more chocolatey things than melted chocolate. But back to the point: how can Jacob possibly be four? He can’t. You’ve been baking him a birthday cake every six months, I’m sure of it.

  27. I am currently organizing my son’s fouth b-day party and you ahve given me some ideas.Like – I was going to offer pizza but I think sandwiches make more sense. He’s into sharks so that’s our theme. I am having a vegan baker friend make the cake to take some stress off the day. I’m excited! Your party looks smashing!

  28. rachel

    My son’s 4th birthday was on the 17th…he requested apple cake, so I made your mom’s apple cake recipe. it was a hit. I’ll try this one next year, if he’s up for it.

  29. Does you husband do what my husband does and sometimes have to tell you when to STOP with the homemade obsessiveness? I’m trying to plan a baby shower for a good friend, and of course I had big plans to make every stitch of food myself (and it would all be original and related to our winter baby theme, naturally) and also make a glorious cake. He told me I am not allowed to make the cake, and work full time, and go to grad school, but I must buy it from a local bakery (granted, their cakes are amazingly good). I’m a bit dejected, like you might have been when you realized you had to make chocolate cake, but I have to remind myself, the pregnant lady doesn’t care. She just wants cake!

  30. Jessica

    If I wanted to make this a marbled cake could I put chocolate in just half the batter? I suspect this would work just fine, but I’d rather ask the expert. My kid wants marble cake and this sounds so good I though maybe I could modify it.

  31. Someone told me recently that you could sub vanilla pasted for vanilla 1:1 and it brings out even more vanilla flavor (and you can see the beans when it’s white cake, etc.) Thoughts?

  32. jennifer

    My kid is the lone weirdo who would adore coffee in a cake. What a good mama you are to put such thought and effort into his parties. The cake is amazing! So jealous you are in England! (Unsolicited advice: Soaking in Oxiclean is the best thing I have found for kid stains).

  33. avis

    I am so glad you added the specific directions for a bigger cake! I think you meant increase the ingredients by 50% (which would make a cake 1.5 times (aka 150%) bigger). Increasing by 100% would be doubling and increasing by 150% like in the main instructions would make a cake 2.5 times bigger–something like 5 layers! Now there are no questions/misunderstandings.

    And now I have the cake I am making for next Thursday’s birthday here!

  34. Sarah

    I keep making fruity cakes for my daughter’s birthdays (she’ll be 4 on her next one too), and she really, truly doesn’t like them. So for the next one she has insisted on “brown chocolate” just like Jacob – good to know where I can turn for a fail-proof recipe. P.S. I am SO looking forward to seeing you at Divertimenti in London. I got a standing-only ticket released after the sell-out, and was seriously jumping around in my office after I got it. But I am sorry to disappoint on the accent – I am an American transplanted to the UK, as I expect many of your fans here are! :)

  35. Martha in KS

    Your baby is FOUR already? How can that be? I remember when he was a newborn. Hope his future is filled with lots of brown chocolate.

  36. That cake looks amazing! My sons 2nd birthday is coming up and I’ve grown out of the fear of giving him sugar, so I think this one is in the running for the special day!

  37. Stoich91

    “Real” Chocolate. Haha. Oh the humanity! Beautiful cake! Still decadent in every way. They’re only 4 once! Give him ckokholate on chocolate! ;)

    PS I was just WAITING for you to say “I have raised my husband re. taste in dessert’, but well, since you didn’t…I’m saying it for you…chocolate on chocolate? Ah…the genes run strong! LOL

  38. Karen White

    Deb, I recently picked up your book and I am enjoying it so much! I was in the middle of exams or moving or something when it first came out, so somehow I missed the hype, and now I can’t believe I didn’t take advantage of it until now. Your writing is absolutely delightful. And the recipes – well, immediately I had to get leeks to make your fritters, and they were – DELIGHTFUL. Thank you for writing this book! My sister is getting married next week and this book is going to get sneaked in as an “extra” part of her gift.

    Oh and this cake looks like something I will be trying very soon :) I have always had great success making your recipes. You are a very trusted recipe source. Thank you for all your work that we benefit from :)

  39. Alexia

    Deb, in the book’s red wine velvet recipe you call for 2 3/4 c flour at 345 grams, but this one says 3 3/4 cups at 345 grams. Which is right?

  40. Ileana Keltz

    First of all, Happy Birthday to your little Jacob! This cake looks absolutely amazing and I will most certainly be making it. I LOVE your website, and your photography is stunning. The only thing that could make this cake better, is if it were fat free LOL, but I’ll just pretend it is.

  41. Linnea

    “Put the cake scraps in the garbage and cover them with dish soap; nothing good will come of it otherwise.” – hands down, my favorite line of this whole recipe.

  42. Catherine

    I just made this, only I halved the cake recipe (thus yielding one 9×13 pan’s worth of cake). I also only used one full recipe for the frosting, and did it all in a quick, sheet pan + frosting topped set-up. No layering. I, having infinitely loved your red wine chocolate cake in the past, wanted to see what it was like in its buttermilk form- it is delicious, incredible, amazing, wonderful, etc (and indeed I could go on!). For the frosting, I decided to use 3 oz. of chocolate, since the darkest I had on-hand was 72% cacao. To combat the added sugar, I also popped a generous pinch of salt into the frosting, in addition to sprinkling a bit of fleur de sel over the smooth, frosted top. Divine (though admittedly for a more adult set of taste buds, I’d imagine). Many thanks, as usual. Also, a very happy birthday to your darling Jacob! I cannot believe he is already 4.

  43. Susan

    What a lovely cake, but why did you deprive the poor lad of chocolate frosting on top? The decorations would have been just fine with a brown background, and you could have made white clouds. When I was little, DQ was the only ice cream stand in town (I’m 60). On really hot summer nights my parents would take us out for ice cream cones. They didn’t serve chocolate soft serve then, so I would grimly watch the others eating, because only chocolate was the acceptable flavor.

    1. deb

      Flour — Gah, I’m sorry guys. 2 3/4 cups of flour is correct, and corrected now. This is what happens when I try to keep the site updated whilst (British influence already?) book-touring, meaning that I can only fix things while on hotel wi-fi for like an hour a day.

      Cat — The airplanes were $3.75 each. You can get smaller ones for $3.

      K — Sorry, that was confusing. Not by hand, but by hand mixer or stand mixer. I just meant that I do get slightly better volume out of the FP on this one.

  44. Jessica

    So happy to see this cake – I actually came to your site to look for a chocolate birthday cake for my little girl who will be 3 next week. she requested chocolate with chocolate but with a spiderman theme! I used your monkey cake recipie for her 1st birthday and it was a huge hit. Perfect timing. Thank you!!!

  45. Aari

    Thank you for this. My son will only eat chocolate with chocolate. And if like it to be good enough for the grown-ups to swoon.

    But can you please work out that peach cake for us???

  46. When I read this post, I remember why I subscribed to you those years ago. I love your writing style. Personal, slightly sarcastic, self-derogatory, yet very real. I want to write like you, or at least find my own voice in the food blogging world. I’m turning one in this sphere soon and realized that you now have “Seven Years Ago”. Congrats. I’ll make this cake for someone special. Although my special guy doesn’t like cake. I’ll still make it for him and eat it myself.

  47. JP

    Thank you, Catherine #87…I would have gotten a 9X13″ cake when I was hoping for a 9″ square or half of the half…thus I am thinking it would work like this:
    1/4 cup butter
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
    1/2 cup buttermilk
    1 egg
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    11 tablespoons flour
    6 tablespoons cocoa
    1/8 teaspoon soda
    1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon (scant) salt
    Will have to check baking time earlier, but a small fudgy chocolate cake is a nice thing to have in one’s repertoire.

  48. RuthK

    Hope you get to read this and know how great it was to meet you today in Abergavenny! Just not long enough. Appreciated your natural way of talking to us. Worth the two and a half hour drive! Love the blog! Thank you

  49. avis

    Is there a reason you used a vanilla buttercream instead of a swiss meringue? I haven’t made a buttercream since I tried your SM (so amazing!!) and wonder if there was a reason you chose one here.
    I am making cupcakes for a birthday part later this week and wondered if I should try this frosting.

  50. Judy

    I think I told you I haven’t been in the kitchen for a long time. Well I’ve been in. I nade a chocolate cake for Friday when the family came. My 14 year old grandson said what’s that. I looked at him and said what does it look like and he said c.k. really! When the kids were small I baked. Lovely cakes and cooked lovely food. Sigh. I want to try your cake. But. I don’t understand about the tins? Are they metal or glass. Do the bottoms come out or what? I mean how do you get the cakes out of the tin or whatever. Couldn’t you just turn the cake over so the tops would be straight.
    I used to make a lovely choc cake for my son. I called it Marky’s chocolate cake. Recently my law asked me to make it. My granddaughter stared at her. What gran knows how to bake??? Such shock. She was told gran made lovely cakes. Just get back into the kitchen Judy. When I showed my son the cake he hugged me hard and said he was proud of me. He’s 42 and thinks he’s also my dad. Just wait all you lot. When you get to 69 your kids think it’s time to swap places. ;-)

  51. Judy

    @lizzie. When my granddaughter was small she loved loved loved broccoli and cauliflower. Because of her all of them -6 -eat their veggies. She also loves roast garlic. This

  52. Dina

    Yumm. I am now intrigued by that wine cake. And I am glad I am not the only one keeping her Dutch process cocoa just for special occasions. I have some left over from a trip to Europe and that baby is the most precious one in my cabinet. Someone needs to earn good marks in my books to have that. Mwaahahahahaha LOL :)

  53. Sarahb1313

    Alas I make the requested cakes for 3 now men. One has stagnanted with white chocolate cheesecake and raspberry coullis- for at least 10 years (he’s 23), and the other moved on from carrot cake with cream cheese frosting to a Nigella cake I suggested 3 years ago- chocolate orange cake (only almond flour, uses a whole orange, one food processor bowl, amazing) covered with the most spectacular salted caramel chocolate ganache… (21years old). The big guy (can’t reveal the age) is stuck permanently on lemon meringue pie. Although this year was so humid, I insisted on doing a lemon curd tart, ahem, yes yours, topped with raspberries.

    I do love doing it. Even if it is repetitive, and it’s not my choice, and I am dreaming of some fab new dessert to make, that often involves fruit…

    At least now the cakes are not decorated with Lion King, Aladin, dinosaurs… Broadens the options!

  54. Annie


    you are my family’s go-to for delectable recipes. I can’t rave enough about your site and book to everyone I know. Now, when my husband wants to whip something up, he references your site. We have received many dish compliments that are really owed to you. Thank you for sharing so many fine-tuned recipes for me to in turn share with the ones I love.

    -Annie from Oregon

  55. April

    If you don’t have all-purpose flour, would cake flour be best, since this is a cake? (vs. bread flour)

    Also, I have a tiny little oven, not like an American one. It can only fit the equivalent of an American 8×8 square pan. Should I quarter the recipe, since a commenter above mentioned halving it for 9×13 (for a single layer)?

  56. LisaR

    Hi Deb!

    Suppose one only owns 2 round 8-inch cake pans but REALLY wants to make this cake…… do you think 1/2ing the recipe might yield OK enough proportions? Trust me I would love to make a massive sheet cake but not sure I can get a hold of some appropriate pans.


    1. deb

      LisaR — I think it should be fine in there.

      April — Cake flour without leavening (i.e. not “self-rising”) should be fine. Yes to halving it and baking it in two layers in an 8×8.

      janine — It’s too embarrassing to discuss.

      Judy — I use metal baking pans. The pans are buttered and then lined with parchment paper, which is nonstick (silicone-coated). You let the cakes cool in the pans after they’re baked for about 10 minutes, run a knife around the cake to make sure it hasn’t stuck to the pan anywhere, then place a cooling rack tightly over the pan, and flip it upside down, onto the rack. It should come out. Peel off the parchment, then flip it back onto another cooling rack so it’s right-side-up.

  57. Gabrielle

    I’m going to second another commenter’s request – please make the peach cake anyway! I’m more of a fruit than a chocolate person, so a peach & sour cream cake with nutmeg sounds magical.

  58. jmarie3

    I halfed this and made two 9″ round cakes. OH MY DELICIOUSNESS.
    The cake is indeed fudgey and the frosting is superb. The birthday boy (7), who claims to hate frosting, declared it ‘pretty good’.

    Well done, Deb, thank you!

  59. Ali

    I’ve insisted on the same chocolate cake recipe for every one of my 26 birthdays so far. my kids better like chocolate, cause that’s what ‘birthday cake’ is in our family!

  60. Looks totally fudgy! A chocolate cake is classic that never fades. I am not sure if anything in this world could compare to a piece of a good, moist chocolate cake! When I used to work with children we would usually avoid using chocolate (not to make them even more hyperactive), but on special occasions we would make an exception. Instead of coffee we used unsweatened cacao. Funny thing is, some children would demand on coffee taste in a cake (8-9 yrs old). But cacao would work as a charm as well!

  61. Julie

    Hi Deb! I am planning on making this cake for a friends birthday but want to use the chocolate frosting for the whole thing. Would doubling your recipe make enough for the inside layers and to cover the outside? I’ll be using a 9-inch round. Thanks!

  62. Deneb

    hi Deb
    I can’t get any Dutch process cocoa where I live. How can I substitue with regular cocoa powder? The recipe looks so good I am itching to try it!

  63. Geri

    What a great birthday for Jacob …and four years ago remember when you were waiting for his arrival. Lots of recipes and wonderful words before and since. I’ve been on line since 2002 and of all the stops on different blogs for food prep mainly I always come back here to spend most of my time. Thanks for all the recipes, tips and sharing your family life that is what makes your site so rich compared to others. The way you write it feels like you are talking to each one of us as an individual. That’s special! Best wishes to you in your travels in all directions.

  64. Amanda

    This post has me grinning for several reasons. As a mama to a 2 and 5 year old, I totally get you. I love that you have fully embraced the “theme party”, which you mentioned having an aversion to last year (and which we all experience once parents!) I love the puffy clouds on the cake! And I totally have experienced the excitement of planning out the perfect birthday cake only to realize that my child may have a preference and that it is, in fact, much more”boring” than what I had in mind. I am glad you went with Jacob’s preference and the cake looks delicious! I would say though, now you have me intrigued about this spiced peach cake. Good thing you have a food blog which makes it perfectly reasonable to post two cakes in one month!!

  65. Joanne

    This post arrived just as I was searching for recipes for my son’s 7th birthday party. I made this cake – 2/3 rds of the recipe was perfect for a double layer round cake (I think my pans are 9″) and I made 1 1/2 of the fudge buttercream recipe which was *just* enough to frost and fill the cake. Bar none this is the best cake I have ever made!!! Thanks so much for this!

  66. good chocolate is always brown!! that cake looks soo good… I can’t think of a better birthday cake. 2 yrs in a row I’ve made my son’s birthday cake – I intend to make it again next year and bookmarking this recipe for it.. I know he and everyone else at his birthday party is going to love it!!!

  67. You are one good mama. That cake is beautiful! Jacob is a lucky kid.
    And you’re totally entitled to trying to wean him off chocolate gelato. If you do the laundry, you make the rules ;)

  68. Clau

    Happy Birthday Jacob!!!I am about to celebrate my first child’s first birthday next week and by popular request I will make your carrot cake (she loves carrots) but now I have to make those goldfish crackers too;)

  69. Liz S.

    Wow, Deb,
    Homemade birthday cakes rock! My Dad used to make me his mother’s pineapple upside down cake for my birthday back in the day.
    Your family members are very lucky!!

  70. Sue

    I have come online to day exactly the same as the previous post! Congratulations on your radio broadcast. Now I know what you sound like!! :-)

  71. avis

    Is there a reason you used a vanilla buttercream instead of a swiss meringue? I haven’t made a buttercream since I tried your SM (so amazing!!) and wonder if there was a reason you chose one here.
    I am making cupcakes for a birthday part later this week and wondered if I should try this frosting.

  72. Sarah Bragdon

    Happy Birthday to you Jacob! We celebrated our son’s first birthday on Saturday, Sept 21 with a plane cake too. (But.. I used a plane Christmas ornament sans hanging loop rather than try to freehand the plane myself.)
    Thank you for sharing all the hard work that went into Jacob’s cake. It takes courage to be honest and to share what is in your heart and kitchen. You’re a true inspiration to me and my cooking.

  73. Loren

    I’d like to make this as one layer in a 9×13 pan with frosting on the top. I see that Catherine (#87) halved the recipe to do this, but the recipe says that it makes 2 layers that are each an inch tall. So shouldn’t I just do the whole recipe to get one layer that fills (but doesn’t spill all over my oven!) the pan? Thanks, this looks delicious! My son’s birthday is not until November so I might have to make it sooner, you know, to test it out (-:

  74. Chocolate laundry tips!
    a) use fizzy water (if you have a sodastream machine, just use it out of the bottle) to wet the garment. blot & re-wet w/fizz until no more chocolate comes out, then apply stain remover.
    b) while in the UK, buy a Vanish stain remover soap bar (not liquid, it must be the BAR soap). actually buy several. Vanish soap is a-maz-ing, especially combined with the fizzy water. after step a) apply b), and then re-rinse with fizz.

  75. Deb S

    Made the chocolate cake today as cupcakes with the chocolate buttercream frosting. Delicious! Very fudge, moist and tender. I think this is now my favorite chocolate cake recipe! Thank you so much for the recipes – they are all wonderful.

  76. ChemKnits

    If Jacob is going to spell “Tchocolate” with a T, then you absolutely must get to know TCHO, a chocolate maker in San Francisco. I’m not affiliated with them in any way other than buying my emergency (bad day at work – pull a piece out of the desk drawer…) stash from them. The drinking chocolate is AMAZING. My local culinary specialty store carries the larger bars – I’m sure that there’s some in New York somewhere. Amazon has it, in case of emergency.

  77. kittentoes

    Yup, this is the fudgiest! I made it tonight, no frosting. Instead I topped it with pecans, streusel, and chocolate chips-boyfriend’s idea.

  78. Welcome to England Deb! Hope you’re enjoying it. Isn’t Bath beautiful? (Make sure you squeeze in (in every sense) a cream tea at the Pump Room). If you have a chance you should nip to a food shop (local tescos will do) and pick up a large tub of Green & Black’s Cocoa powder. It’s the best you’ll ever taste – and cheap, compared to US cocoa. Also, we all* swear by a bouillon powder here called Marigold. (larger supermarkets, or health stores; get the large tub. also not at all expensive). Hope to see you in Covent Garden tmrw!
    [*By “we all” I mean Nigella and Delia and, um, me…]

  79. Ale

    Hi Deb! I love the story and the cake! Glad to hear that I am not the only mom who got a specific cake order from a 4-year-old! My daughter told me she wanted “a cake of vanilla, with fresh strawberries inside, all covered with chocolate, strawberries and whipped cream on top”!

  80. Louise

    Totally second suggestions from ‘reluctant launderer’ if you can’t get these things in the US. Staples in my cupboard. If good quality chocolate is expensive back home, I suggest Green & Blacks 70% / 85 % bars too, or Lindt / Menier – all often on special offer in supermarkets if you buy more than one). Also Lyle’s golden syrup. And if you can find a Lakeland you might spend a few of our English pounds…..!

  81. Bunny

    Hey Deb! A quick question; my 1/4 sheet pan is just 1 inch tall, but some 13×9 baking pans are 2 inches tall. Can I bake the cake in my 1/4 sheet pans, or will they overflow?
    And enjoy England!

  82. Kathy K

    So glad to see this recipe made with a substitute for coffee. My granddaughter’s birthday is today, and I’m going to surprise her with this cake. I’m planning on making a 9″ 2-layer cake and will use any remaining batter for cupcakes!

    Thanks to Deb for the amazing recipe, and everyone who has made this cake and left such positive comments, I know that she’ll love it!

  83. hazelbite

    Deb, I LOVE that you make all of Jacob’s birthday cakes! I make my own son’s cakes every year (but one!) and think that Jacob will look back and have fond memories of his mother lovingly making his birthday cake every year, and that is something that can’t be replaced with a store bought cake. This “tchocolate” (love the kid enunciation) cake looks so good that I don’t think I can wait ’til March when my own boys birthday is to make this. Thanks for sharing!

  84. Aarthi

    Happy Birthday Jacob! Can an adult be smitten over a child’s birthday cake- I want the clouds and airplanes too! My birthday falls at the end of September and I am always envious of your beautiful creations for Jacob’s birthdays. I might just bake myself a mini version of this (6 inch pans) or convince my husband to do so. Is it too crazy to bake yourself your own birthday cake?

  85. Marie M.C.

    Happy Birthday Jacob — you have the world’s best mom (and dad)! I’m totally with Jacob on the chocolate cake. From the time I was four and old enough to request (demand) what I wanted it was chocolate cake. In fact, my mother turned the cake making duties to me when I was 7 or 8. Not kidding. I had a mother who loathed cooking and baking. (She was crazy about washing dishes. I wasn’t allowed to wash dishes until I got married at age 21. Weird.) I always used a plain whipped cream frosting (not a fan of buttercream frosting) until at some point I added a little cream cheese to the whipped cream. Devine. Oh, I used a Devil’s Food boxed cake mix from Duncan Hines. Which I loved — as did anyone/everyone I’ve ever served it to. Horrifically — Duncan Hines recently did something treacherous. They no longer have 18.5 oz mixes. It’s now 16 oz! (16.5?) Makes a huge difference. I read somewhere to add 2 (2.5?) ounces of flour to the mix. I haven’t tried that yet. I’ve been making my chocolate cakes from scratch. Using an Ina Garten recipe that has coffee in it. Super delicious and very easy. Hope you’re having a great time in England !!!!!

  86. This is lovely and your photos are so beautiful! i really love how you’ve laid out your photos and incorporated them into your story, lovely! Can’t wait to try out this recipe

  87. I’m so lucky. Every year, your Alex’ birthday is just before my Alex’ birthday. Guess where I get my cake inspiration? And I kid you not; the EXACT same thing happened around here! I was soooo keen on forcing your red velvet cake on her – well, myself, so I asked her ‘Sweetie wouldn’t you just luuuuuv a red cake this year’?! Beaming ‘Say yes! Say yes!’ from agressively convincing (attempted) round eyes. And then she went ‘No. Chocolate.’ Every day that I tried. So I’ve ‘resigned’ to this great-looking cake, which coincidentally (not?) came by at again, the exact right time. Here’s to little Alexes!

  88. Oh, and being Dutch I have to ask: What is (typical of) what you call Dutch process cocoa? And what is the difference with not-Dutch processed (as I read in the red velvet cake recipe)?

  89. Lynanne

    This cake is GOOD. I just used it to make a Minecraft cake for my boys, and ate a lot of scraps along the way. Wait til your son is a little older – you will go from airplanes to computer game cakes in no time flat!

  90. Dahlink

    This thread brings back many fond family memories. One of our favorite cousins remembers how her father used to make a perfect angel food cake each year for his wife’s birthday. Everyone had to tiptoe around the house until it was safely out of the oven and cooled. How sweet is that?

    On the other hand, I made a cake for my younger son’s first birthday, after many trials and tribulations. He took one look at it and tossed it on the carpeted floor. Not my favorite memory, but I can laugh about it now.

  91. Mary

    I made it!!! Yummy!!! I am so glad you warned about the batter looking “grainy and uneven” Because when I got to that point and it looked separated I thought I had done something terribly wrong. Thanks

  92. Kimberly

    Y U No Update?! Ha, totally joshin’ you. I understand you’re a’tourin’ across the pond. I just can’t help but think of that meme every time I come back to find this beautiful cake photo.

  93. Oh no! I meant to halve the recipe and just make one layer with chocolate buttercream on top, but at a critical moment I forgot and added the full amount of sugar. There was nothing for it but to make the whole recipe as stated. Sigh. Woe is me.

  94. Jo

    My four year old also refers to chocolate as “brown chocolate” because I do not like chocolate (yeah, I know!) but will occasionally eat white chocolate.

    She also always requests chocolate cake for her birthdays so this cake is definitely on the docket for birthday number 5.

  95. Carol

    I am a cake junkie and I must say – and I never do this – this is the best chocolate cake I have ever baked – MY GOD woman; how do you do it??? Kids are in heaven…thanks!!!!!!!

  96. london

    Hi it look amazing cake . i would love to do the same for my daughter ,but is ok to substitute the butter which goes inside the cake with oliv oil or any other type of oil?
    many thx

  97. Katie H

    This cake looks amazing, but I personally don’t care for American buttercream (gritty powdered sugar, yuck!). If anyone is like me, Bravetart’s German buttercream is unbelievably good.

  98. I love the cake! It is so cute but also really well done. I suck at drawing airplanes, especially with icing. And also it looks delicious and I would shove that cake in my face and be all what, it’s my birthday?

  99. celia

    I don’t know if this will help your yogurt problem, but Trader Joes has whole milk baby yogurt that is the thickest yogurt I have ever found. My baby insists on eating everything with utensils by himself. Yobaby was a train wreck. We have tried the vanilla and blueberry, they are nice. Banana is gross. They are currently advertised in their flier.

  100. Brin

    I made this cake for my friends birthday and it was wonderful! I used a cream cheese/whipped cream icing instead of the buttercream though. Beautiful dense chocolate cake!

  101. really cute cake! Do you have any pointers on how to have good penmanship on a cake. I am just awful at it. It takes me about 20 tries and even then it still looks like crapola, Haha…

    1. deb

      Rachell — Thank you. First, I have an unfair advantage, which is that I worked at a bakery in high school and counter people were responsible for inscribing cakes after the bakers left, so they’d leave out piping bags that were ready and of course, this is what we really did for fun — play/practice. Anyway, that’s all it is, practice. Just practice holding it so it can look more like your penmanship; you can also lightly scratch on the letters with a toothpick first.

      Kimberly — I’ve never heard of that meme! Alas, I’m back from the UK now and will hopefully have an update by tomorrow morning.

  102. Kristi

    I am about to make my saughter’s first birthday cake and want to do a chocolate ladybug cake – I have a 1/2-sphere shaped pan that can handle all the batter for a 2 layer cake. Do you think this recipe would work well for that? I am wondering if it will bake through ok, or if you have a suggestion for another one of your delicious cakes that might work better? Thanks!

    1. deb

      That should be fine, but it’s best to bake in glass pans at 25 degrees less. It may take longer, but will keep them from getting too dark/overcooked at the edges too soon.

  103. Elisa

    I just made this as a 3 layer 9 inch round cake for my niece’s birthday today. The fudge butter cream is so decadently and indulgently amazing! Because she is a chocolate fiend, she wanted chocolate icing as well, so I suggested also adding a raspberry glaze to the top that sort of runs thickly down the sides of the cake. It’s sitting in my fridge, and it looks sooooo good! I have to wait until her party to have a taste, right?

  104. Emily

    My daughter is insisting on a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for her birthday. This looks like a delicious option but I’m wondering what recipe you recommend for a chocolate frosting?

  105. Breezy

    I know which chocolate cake I’m making for hubby’s October 28th birthday! Since he was 5 (nearly 50 years ago!), he’s had a chocolate cake decorated with candy corn for his birthday. A tradition started because big sis grabbed a bag of those cc’s and decorated his birthday cake in 1965. We’ve continued the tradition each year unless he’s been deployed. Love your site, your wit, and your recipes!

  106. Wow. You must have been like “this lady is crazy. I’ll just leave her be in her fantasyworld”. Only now do I re-realize that you don’t have a little Alex. You have a little Jacob, and a -probably- big Alex. Sorry. My children ate my brain.

  107. Becky

    I made this cake for my husband’s 40th birthday this past weekend. He wanted a chocolate cake with white icing. Instead of the fudge bettercream I made 1.5 times the amount of vanilla buttercream. Then I took about a third of that and added raspberries with it in the mixer. I used the raspberry buttercream for the middle.
    Delicious! It was even better the next day and the day after that.

  108. Wuda

    Is this a moist but DENSE cake ??? I keep trying different receipes for moist but DENSE cupcakes – so they will hold up to tall frosting – and have not had much luck yet. Any recommendations for a moist and DENSE yellow or vanilla receipe also? LOVE your cookbook! Thanks!

  109. Robin

    Hi Deb!

    That cake looks amazing, but I actually have a question about the crackers (sorry, wasn’t sure if you would see my question if I commented on the older goldfish recipe). If I wanted to make these for my daughter’s 2nd birthday party (because she and all of her kiddo friends love them some cheese crackers), how far in advance could I make them without them tasting stale? The party is on a Saturday morning… I was thinking of making them on a Wednesday evening… Do you think they’d keep/still be good? How far in advance did you make yours?

    Belated birthday wishes to Jacob and thank you for having such a wonderful website!! (and cookbook :))

  110. Hi Deb,
    I’m attempting to make this sheet cake on the weekend (except with a salted caramel swiss buttercream icing and salted caramel filling) for my brother’s birthday. What type of knife do you recommend cutting the cake with? Is a serrated or a straight blade preferable?
    I can’t wait to try it!

  111. dani

    Hi Deb,

    I’m baking for a party next weekend and plan to do a decadent dark chocolate cake wrapped in salted caramel German buttercream, with a draping of dark chocolate ganache and topped with crushed honeycomb toffee. My go-to chocolate cake uses almond flour and the host is unfortunately allergic to nuts, so I’m now trying to decide between this cake recipe and your first choice as mentioned in the post – the double chocolate layer cake (shamefully, the only chocolate recipe I’ve tried from your site so far is the flourless chocolate souffle cupcakes with peppermint cream). Which do you think would be more suitable, or have you another in the archives you feel would be amazing with the toppings I’m planning? I’m hoping for something rich but not overly sweet, since I’m throwing all this ridiculous stuff all over it.


  112. I really want to make this cake but I am not fond of most butter cream frostings. In many cases it seems like I am eating cake with mounds of butter on top which I find very unappealing. My preference is to make either ganache type frostings that are chocolate and cream or the seven minute boiled type frosting which is mostly sugar. Can you recommend a type or kind of frosting I could make that would pair well with your cake or am I limited to butter cream? Many thanks! I love your cookbook!

  113. Glenda

    If I want to make this into cupcakes by halving the cake recipe, how should I adjust the buttercream frosting recipe? 1/2? or lesser? And how long do I need to bake the cupcakes for? Thanks!

  114. Andrea

    Aargh, just tried to make two layers but they baked up about 1/2 inch thick! Guess I’ll make a third layer. My baking powder and soda are fresh, any ideas?

  115. Morgan

    Made this cake for a bachelorette party and it looks great! Halved the recipe for the cake, and made two circular (9in) layers. They came out beautifully (and the crumbs taste great!) I left the filling amounts the same, and just REALLY filled inbetween. I left the icing out, as icing a cake kind of makes me terribly nervous. It looks and tastes (I can’t wait to have a whole piece) great!

  116. MM

    Made this for my daughter’s playgroup. I subbed normal cocoa for Dutch processed..and I made it as a single layer with vanilla buttercream tinted pink. Pretty! It was moist and fudgey but the flavour was quite strong, I enjoyed it but maybe it was a bit strong for kids. Could the cocoa have altered the flavour that noticeably? It was good so I will try it again as per recipe next time. Ps your cookbook is beautiful!

  117. Emily

    Two of my housemates have the same birthday, so I baked this cake for them and the rest of the campus ministry this week. It was absolutely delicious, and the international students loved it! Serves approximately 20 college kids. :)

  118. Hi Deb,

    I will be making this for a dessert party. In the section where you mention to keep it in the refrigerator over night if you are making it the day before – do you mean the whole cake, frosted and filled, can go in the fridge, and then take it out an hour before serving at the party?


    1. deb

      Jyoti — Yes, I had the whole thing in there for a full day, actually. It probably will be fine at room temperature, too (if you’re short of space) but I kind of like the semi-firmness from the fridge. It cuts more cleanly too after chilling. You can warm it up for an hour or so before serving.

  119. My kiddos requested chocolate cake with strawberry frosting for their birthdays (two days apart this month). This one looks really yummy, figured I would try it with chocolate frosting in the middle and strawberry frosting on the outside. I usually use dark cocoa powder; do you know how that would fare in this recipe?

  120. Heather

    I made this for my co-worker’s birthday, which was on Halloween. I dyed the vanilla buttercream orange and used some extra fudge buttercream to write on the cake. It was delicious! I’m already looking for an excuse to make it again.

    For those wondering, I made the cake in my 1″ quarter sheet pans, and though it rose to the very top, it didn’t overflow.

  121. Made this for an informal party to mark our Marriage (not the Actual Wedding Do) and it was ASTOUNDINGLY good. I’ve never made a cake anything like this big, and found the instructions dead easy to follow, and the cake to be incredibly moist with an amazing chocolate flavour. Everyone loved it, and it cut into 48 big pieces (I did 3 layers). Big fail though – didn’t take a photo to prove it – hoping someone else did! Thank you so much.

  122. Hi! I made this cake for my son’s 4th birthday yesterday with your Swiss buttercream frosting and it was a super hit! Thank you so much!
    I shaped my 2 9″ rounds into a dragon and used toblerones for the dragons spikes.
    I left the cake on the table with my son and his friends standing around and went into the kitchen to get knife and plates.
    They blew the candle, ate the toblerones by the time I returned.
    So no pics :( my party of 20 then proceeded to decimate the cake.
    I am amazed at how soft the cake was after being abused in the freezer and then the fridge!

  123. Jeri Lynn

    I needed to bake a whole bunch of mini cupcakes for a party this weekend. I started out making a doctored cake mix I had long thought of as my go to decadent party staple. I was surprised to learn it is no longer my favorite! Your cakes (specifically the everyday chocolate cake as well as this one which I made tonight) are officially my new favorite party cake recipes!

    Some changes I made: I didn’t have dutched cocoa. I remember on the Everyday Chocolate cake a discussion you had about the leavening change you needed to make if using regular cocoa vs. dutch cocoa. I used the ratio from that recipe to figure out the baking soda for this recipe. It turned out to be 3/4 tsp + a slightly heaping 1/8 tsp (or just over 6g). I also added 2 cups of mini chocolate chips because party cake needs chocolate chips in it! (If I was making regular cupcakes or an actual cake, I would probably use regular size chocolate chips)

    Thank you!

  124. Alison

    Just chiming in to note that i think the amount of flour called for in the three-layer cake recipe posted in the comments might have been based on a typo in the original post – by my math, 2 3/4 cups x 150% = 4.125 cups of flour, for 3 layers (rather than the 5 1/2 cups+ listed)

  125. Cari

    Hi Deb, I’m going to make this cake for my daughter’s first birthday as cupcakes and I want to pipe the vanilla frosting on the tops. Do I need to add more milk for that? Also, I made a test batch and the vanilla frosting came out a bit grainy even though I sifted the sugar. Do I need to beat the butter longer?

  126. Kiriel

    Hello! I just made this cake (like I literally just pulled the layers out of the pans). I did the conversions for 3 layers and mine are only about 1/2″ tall. My ingredients aren’t expired, so I’m not sure what went wrong. Any ideas? The only thing I could think of is that wilton’s batter guidelines say 7 cups for a 9×13 pan and the recipe only allowed for about 4.5 cups per pan. The cake itself tastes really good, but I’m concerned that once I level the layers (they baked mostly level, but not totally), I’ll be left with even skinnier cake layers.

  127. deb

    Hi Kiriel — I’m not sure what might have happened either. I would say that although I listed these as one-inch tall, there are definitely parts of each layer that were on the scant side of one-inch. But not 1/2-inch. Level it as little as you need to. I think with all the frosting, it will still have a nice final height. Re, Wilton — is that for 1-inch cake layers?

  128. AllisonB

    Hi Deb, I’m planning to keep the finished cake (frosted) in the fridge for 24 hours prior to partytime, as you have suggested. I’m wondering how (or if) I should cover it, since I’m pretty sure that it won’t fit under my round cake dome. Any tips for how to tent with plastic wrap without disturbing the frosting?

    1. deb

      I would just add some coffee to it — either ground espresso, instant coffee granules or try to replace maybe 1/4 of the buttermilk with chilled espresso.

  129. Leslie

    Alrighty, so I actually asked my almost 3 yr old boy what kind of cake he wanted too :), and he of course requested chocolate (he’s very addicted). However, it’s just going to be me and him and my parents eating the cake. So, if I just wanted to make this into an 8×8 cake (a fairly thick layer that I’ll then take out of pan and frost whole thing), would I quarter this recipe? I could just halve it and make a 9×13 one..but how thick are the layers? I don’t want to necessarily make a layer cake, but I don’t want a skinny cake either..not sure what to do.

  130. Lindsay

    For my 1-year old’s birthday I asked my 3-year old what his brother’s cake should be, and the answer was of course chocolate, chocolate, chocolate! I halved the ingredients and made a 9×13 slab of deliciousness which I cut in half and stacked to make a small layer cake. It ended up being about 4 inches high. Thanks for the recipe!

  131. Robyn

    I just made this for my FILs birthday and I ate some of the trimmings. WOW! It’s so good! I iced it with more of the filling and it’s perfect! Thanks for another great recipe.

  132. Deb,

    I am getting ready to make this with your peanut butter frosting between the layers and your buttercream frosting (colored purple, pink, and black, at my daughter’s bequest, a Monster High theme) for my daughter’s 8th birthday this Sunday and on a quest for the unparalleled vanilla, I consulted my bible of kitchen reviews, Cook’s Illustrated, and about the hit floor to read that McCormick’s Real Vanilla Extract (not their Imitation) ranked #1 in taste tests. However, my soul died a little, and I’m quite certain Ina Garten (whom I adore) would die several times over, at reading this (and I wholeheartedly disagree, especially when it comes to McCormick’s Imitation Vanilla Extract, which I’ve come to associate with bad quality vanilla, and in my mind, the reason Mrs. Garten extols us to use “good quality vanilla extract”

    Of course, note McCormick’s Pure Vanilla Extract, despite lacking a fancy bottle, is one of the most expensive per ounce!!!

    ….from Cook’s Illustrated, ‘Vanilla Extract’ published March 1, 2009, which you can only see if you have their premium membership, not sure if I can clip this then? eeek!


    “In two past tastings of vanilla extract, we reached a conclusion that still amazes us: It matters not a whit whether you use real or imitation vanilla, because you can’t tell the difference when you bake. But at a recent editorial meeting, we took a poll: Did that mean anyone had stopped buying the real thing? No. Our test cooks believed firmly that natural vanilla is the best choice.”

    1. deb

      JennaR — I read that from CI and was horrified. I mean, I think it’s great if they can’t tell and it doesn’t bother them. But I can taste imitation vanilla extract a mile away; it actually ruins a baked good for me. (Same with fake lemon or fake almond.) But it only matters that what you’re making works for you — I’m not going to come over and be judgy or anything. :)

  133. Alexis

    Hi Deb,
    Thank you for this recipe. I am making it for my sons bday party next weekend and I have two questions. I will be making and freezing the layers four days before the party. How much time do you think each layer will take to defrost? Once defrosted, I will ice and pop into the refridgerator the day before like you suggested. Do you recommend covering with plastic wrap?
    Thank you!

  134. Meg

    I plan to make these as cupcakes for my kid’s 3rd birthday as he requested chocolate with chocolate. How long do you bake the cupcakes? And, do you recommend using a cupcake liner in the pan? Thanks!

    1. deb

      Meg — Definitely with a cupcake liner. I didn’t note the time but most cupcakes bake in between 18 and 25 minutes, so check at the earlier number and if they need more time, check each minute or two thereafter until they’re done.

  135. Dorothy

    I am eating this for breakfast because I read a news article that says that it will help you lose weight. I went the easy route and halved the recipe and served it up in a 9×13 pan, with the fudge frosting. The whole recipe of fudge frosting was just enough to cover the cake (this should have come as no surprise since it’s a filling for a cake twice the size, but whatever).

    It was yummy but really rich. I don’t think I could eat it every morning for breakfast. Maybe just once a week. The cake is also delicious without frosting, so in my attempts to lose weight I think I’ll just eat a frosting-less cake every morning.


  136. mindy

    Hi Deb!
    Loren (entry 147) asked a similar question to the one I have. I’d like to make a single-layer 9×13 sheet cake using the entire recipe (rather than halving it), hopefully resulting in a thicker cake. Would I need to adjust the baking time for this? I’ve had other cakes collapse in the center from fudging (pun intended :P) the recommended size of baking pans (resulting in longer bake times) and I’m not sure if this would have the same effect. I look forward to hearing from you! Thanks!!

  137. Romi

    Hi Deb,
    How would the recipe proportions translate into a 9″ round pan? I plan to make a 3 layer cake for my daughter’s birthday.
    many thanks for sharing such a decadent recipe!

  138. Melissa S

    I made this cake last week for my sons 11th birthday. I used Valrhona cocoa powder in the cake and Ghiradelli baking chocolate in the chocolate butter cream. It was amazing. There’s no way to describe the intensity of the chocolate flavor; I actually has someone tell me there was too much chocolate (is there such a thing as to much chocolate?). Anyway, I paired it with the Swiss butter cream and it was divine. Thanks for another winner, Deb!

  139. Patrice

    Deb, it occurred to me as I was looking through your birthday cake archives that there was no post for Jacob’s birthday this year. Could this cake…perhaps…be going in your second cook book??? And if not, will you be posting on the blog? I hope I’m not alone when I say your birthday posts are my absolute favorite and I love seeing what you create every year for his birthday.

    By the way, your apple spiced cake is currently frozen in my freezer waiting to be decorated tomorrow. So far, so good!

    1. deb

      Patrice — You are so observant! To be honest, I made him a riff on this with a few changes and it wasn’t different enough at the time to warrant a new entry. Then I fiddled a bit more (a month after his birthday), and realized that it had turned into something I’d exactly included in the recipe list for the second book proposal, so it will probably land there once I work out the kinks. One way or another, it will be on it’s way to you when it’s done. (P.S. I had his 2nd birthday cake in the first book, the S’More Cake, so we missed a year then too!)

  140. Patrice

    You know, I do what I can for the greater good of the Smitten Kitchen blog followers. (And I am fine waiting for its entry in your second book. I just don’ t know if I can stand the wait for the book itself!) I have definitely seen the S’More Cake in your first book, I’ve been eyeing it for a while, I just need to make it now. I ended up using your Apple Spice Cake to make a Serial Podcast inspired cake for my best friend’s birthday. I definitely recommend the podcast if you haven’t already started it. One of the best I have ever heard! Oh and the the cake turned out perfect. But you were right, it was monstrous! I got a work out carrying it on the subway (boxed, of course.).

  141. This chocolate sheet cake recipe was one of my favorite desserts growing up. My mom always referred to it as chocolate cookie cake until I’d turned up a bit and heard it referred to as a sheet cake. Thanks for sharing this article.

  142. Melissa

    Hi Deb, I’m making a bundt cake and using it for the dress of a doll cake for my daughter’s birthday. Do you think this cake will hold up or should I use a denser cake?

  143. JessB

    Made this in 9 in rounds for my daughter’s second birthday…delectable. I was in love with your one bowl chocolate cake and this is just as yummy! I will only use
    Dutch processed cocoa going forward.

  144. Trida

    Oh no!! I’ve just baked three layers of this cake for a birthday party on Saturday (50 people) put them in the freezer ready to assemble on Friday and now realised I FORGOT TO ADD THE SALT. Will this have affected the texture? The rise? The flavour? Please can someone advise whether I need to rebake as I don’t know how important a role the salt plays here. Greatly appreciate any feedback from anyone as Deb may not have time to see this. Thank you!

    1. deb

      Trida — Definitely don’t rebake over missing salt. It should bake up just fine. Salt does help build flavor, but you’ll be just fine. You can always add a pinch of salt to the frosting for contrast.

  145. Kay

    Hi Deb! I made this cake for my husband’s 30th birthday this coming weekend! I just had a quick question for you about the filling/frosting. I have both layers in the freezer right now, would you recommend filling and frosting it while the layers or frozen? Or thawing them first? Thanks!

    1. deb

      Kay — You can do it either way. If frozen, it will be easier to handle and trim/level, but you’ll want to make sure you give it a couple hours at room temperature or a few more in the fridge to ensure it has defrosted in the center before serving. Lucky husband!

  146. Kay

    Hi Deb! I made this cake this past weekend and I did frost/fill the whole thing while it was still frozen. I have to tell you that it was beyond a hit – people were raving about the cake ALL NIGHT! I made the recipe with the proportions you have listed above and we had about 40 people at our party – there was not a single piece leftover! Thank you for such a wonderful recipe, I cannot wait to make this again!

  147. Vanessa

    I made this last weekend for my daughter’s 5th birthday and it was a smashing success! Two children commissioned me to make *their* birthday cakes at the party (a bit awkward, but a wonderful compliment). Thank you for all the detailed instructions. Freezing the layers and doing the crumb layer of icing was new to me, but worked like a charm! Her cake was pink and decorated like a bed (for a “sleep under” party), so I was glad to not have chocolate crumbs peaking through. Thank you, thank you!

  148. Lauren

    Fudgy – yum! This sounds so good! I am hoping this cake will solve my 4yo birthday dilemma. I made 1 9×13 layer of your best birthday cake with a mix of 6 colors (think tie dye but prettier) for our Pirate Fairy birthday party. But then my daughter announces she must have chocolate cake! With a cherry on top! And pink and turquoise frosting! So…now, I’m changing gears to chocolate. But I only have 1 pan. Could I make the full recipe and back half and let half sit until the first layer is done? Would that be a disaster, aka total waste of good cocoa???

    1. deb

      Lauren — No, I do it all of the time. Just get it out as soon as you can safely, give it a quick wash and bake the second half of the batter.

  149. Erica

    Hi Deb- so excited to try this out for my son’s upcoming birthday! As I have an infant AND a toddler at home, I’m so excited I can bake/freeze this in advance and then frost with your Swiss Buttercream (I think my best bet since the party is at a park and the cake will be sitting out) the day before the party. I noticed that you transported your cake to another venue to serve-how do you recommend doing this? Do you think I need dowels for support inside? How to you wrap in in plastic wrap/cover it without mucking up the frosting? I’m so nervous the entire cake will be all over my trunk!

  150. deb

    I usually buy bakery boxes, so I don’t have to worry about taking anything home. There’s a baking supply shop on 22nd Street that sells what I need. So, for a 9×13 cake, I get a 10×15 cake board to put it on and a 10×15 box. It makes it very easy. If you don’t have access to this kind of stuff, just find a giant box you can put it in the bottom of. Have a cake board a couple inches larger than the cake makes everything very easy, because the frosting won’t bump into the sides of the box. Hope that helps.

  151. Vanessa

    Hiya Deb,
    I think there was a misprint on the recipe you posted in the comments for making a 3 layer cake- It calls for 5 and 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour. That’s doubling the flour rather than just increasing the amount by 50%. Sadly, I didn’t think about this when I made it the first time around… lucky for me I noticed before I remade the cake (the overly floury taste the first time around helped too;-)

  152. Naomi

    This is the most wonderful chocolate cake in the world. I made these into fairy cakes for my son’s nursery class – it made scads, and they are swoon-worthy. Making the cake itself (3 layer round) for his party on Sat. Thank you Deb – you have made me look clever, yet again ;)

  153. Priya

    Hi Deb, A real novice here with a strong desire to make our son’s third birthday cake and cupcakes for two separate occasions of celebration (having made his prior birthday cakes on a much smaller scale). Would you please give me any specifics that come to mind with regard to adapting this recipe for cupcakes (same temp I believe, length?, anything else)? I’ve been considering your “best birthday cake/best yellow cake” recipe instead; however in your earlier post you mentioned not having adapted it to cupcakes yet, so I’m thinking I’ll go with this even though it seems a bit more involved. Thanks for any help you can provide!

  154. Ida Lorenzen

    Dear Deb –
    My son would love a chocolate cake but WITH rasperries for his 4th birthday this weekend -he loves raspberries and strawberries(and chocolate:) Do you have ideas for how to fit in some raspberries into this cake, maybe?
    I thought of decorating with them somehow maybe instead of the vanilla buttercream, do you think it could fit with the filling etc? Because I wonder if it might be too much with the buttercream AND the raspberries..Or if I could think of some raspberry filling.. What would you do? Thanks very much for your advice- and thanks for your always throughly wonderful blog!

  155. Ida Lorenzen

    -Thanks so much for your fast reply- it looks delicious – but you see, my 4-year old has asked for a BIG chocolate cake..! I´m sure this one in even in chocolate version will be as impressive? (The idea came from a picture in a book where a puppy dog makes cake as a surprise for his fathers birthday,I´m afraid it includes some green and pink frosting and some m&m´s)- but certainly with raspberries..
    I thought of decorating your sheet cake with the raspberries but unsure if the taste might get lost in the buttercream.. (which I have never made before, here it´s more common with whipped cream for birthday cakes)
    Usually I make a layer cake with vanilla custard and marinated strawberries – but this year the request came very clear..
    And it´s so great the sheet cake can be made a day ahead, we will be 19..
    Thanks so much for your time and help – Ida

  156. Rachel Joy

    Hi! I LOVE you and your fabulous blog. Thank you for sharing your humor and cooking talents with us! Anyways… I am planning to make this cake for my niece’s fifth birthday party on Friday, but I am so intimidated by the idea of making a two layer SHEET cake. I have done it with round cakes, but how do you extract a 9×13 cake from a pan and it not fall apart? Any advice to calm these nerves? And a deeper layered cake question, how do you level off the top of the bottom level, just by slicing it with a knife? The fresh cut top always ends up with lots of cake crumb bits in my middle frosting layer, any advice there?
    Also considering just doing cupcakes as you said you did for Jacob’s preschool class. Which frosting would you recommend if I just do cupcakes? And if I decide to simplify things by just doing one frosting on the entire cake, which frosting? Or would that not be doing this cake justice?
    Thank you thank you!

  157. Camille

    Made this for someone’s last day at work. Flavours were absolutely delicious! And the cake was very forgiving – I only had one “proper” sheet pan, then used a small dimension glass pan and it worked fine. It was easy to take out of the pan as the recipe is written. I doubled the chocolate frosting and didn’t use the white buttercream because… chocolate. Standard trick of freezing then shaping worked as always. Thanks for another great recipe Deb.

  158. Jamie

    Hi Deb, desperately in need of advice! My boyfriend requested a chocolate mousse cake for his birthday and I have been totally unable to find a fitting recipe. I was thinking about making this cake with a chocolate mousse filling I found on Martha Stewart and a chocolate ganache topping. The only rub is that he wants a MINI cake. Sigh. If I halve this cake recipe, do you think it would work in 3 6 inch pans? Thank you!!

    1. deb

      Hi Jamie — I’ve got just the cake for you/him! This Double Chocolate Torte is a total showstopper — flourless chocolate cake base, mousse center, then whipped cream and fresh berries. You can halved it in a 6-inch round. Springform will make it easier to unmold. Good luck.

  159. grace

    Needed a reliably great cupcake recipe for a 6 year old’s birthday party, so naturally I came here. Baked regular sized cupcakes for ~16 minutes. I did make the mistake of overfilling the cupcake liners, so I got some very tall domed cupcakes; next time I would not fill them any more than 2/3 full. (As a result, I got 31 instead of 32 cupcakes.) When I was frosting with the vanilla buttercream, I accidentally dropped one which was so very, not really sad since it became my taste test. This is indeed very fudgy chocolate cake and pretty perfect.

    The vanilla buttercream frosting and the chocolate version (per notes, half of the vanilla buttercream recipe mixed with 2 oz. of unsweet chocolate, melted) are super yummy. Next time, I might add a little bit more milk to lessen the slight grainy-ness, but that could also have been because I did not sift the sugar.
    I’ll report back on the response. Either way this cake will be in my go-tos, and I can see this cake easily turning into a very grown-up dessert with a little bit of coffee in it or topped with raspberries or orange-liquer frosting or strawberries on top and in the middle…

  160. Melissa

    Hi Deb, would it be possible to use the batter for two 9 inch round pans as well as cupcakes? How would I split the batter? Thank you in advance!

  161. Betsy

    This recipe was fantastic! Like others, I didn’t have access to dutch-processed cocoa unfortunately. I upped the baking soda as per Jeri Lynn’s comment (#227), and the cakes turned out perfectly! Thanks for this great, reliable recipe Deb – it was my nephew’s very first chocolate birthday cake, and he really enjoyed it. The cake layers were nice and fudgy, and the chocolate icing between the layers was delicious. One thing to note – this is likely an error on my part, but I had just enough icing to frost the cake. Anyone wanting to do a lot of decorating might want to increase the icing a bit.

  162. Meg

    This cake never fails me! I usually do part coffee part buttermilk. Just as an FYI, this batch makes four 6 inch round cakes. I have two small birthday dinners this week so took a punt this would yield me two small, two layer cakes and it was spot on.

  163. Evie

    I’ve got a question re the technicalities of baking a layer cake in a typical UK oven (UK ovens = far narrower than US ovens). You can only fit one 9″ cake pan in the middle rack. I’ve tried putting in two cake pans on different racks making sure to place the cake pans NOT directly above each (so it wouldn’t affect the circulating heat) and switching positions halfway through but the end result was less than satisfactory. So for the time being I appear to be stuck baking one cake at a time. So would I a) divide the recipe by 3 and bake the cake three times so to speak or would I b) make the entire recipe and then bake one cake at a time. And if b) would the wait time affect the baking powder/soda? And/or would I refrigerate the cakes until it’s their turn in the oven?

    1. deb

      Evie — I never have enough space in my oven for multiple layers, and even when I do, not enough baking pans. I make the batter, bake off layers one at a time and just try to work quickly to unmold, wipe them out, line them again and put the next layer in. Even though theoretically the baking powder and soda start working once it’s mixed, I haven’t had an issue with the later layers coming out flatter as long as I work quickly. I don’t refrigerate the batter until needed, though I suppose you could. Good luck.

  164. Daryl

    I want to make this cake for my son’s 3rd birthday party (the normal size – just 2 layers!), but would like to have chocolate buttercream frosting instead of vanilla. Can you just add melted chocolate or cocoa to the vanilla buttercream recipe, and if so, in what proportions? If not, do you have a kid-friendly (not too bitter) other chocolate buttercream you recommend for a 9×13, 2-layer sheet cake?


  165. Priya

    This cake and the frosting is the reason that, for the last 3 years, I cannot fit into my jeans in November (after birthday season for my family)!

  166. Monica

    Just tried this recipe out (same quantities as in the main recipe divided into 3 round Victoria sponge sandwich tins). I despaired that I hadn’t mixed in the dry and wet ingredients very well but all three came out lovely and moist looking. I doubled the icing recipe so I’d have plenty to work with and I had some leftover! FYI I saw you strongly advised against reducing the sugar but I went ahead anyway (300g brown sugar instead of 380g, and no white sugar). It tastes perfectly normal (well, as normal as amazingly moist chocolate cake can!) so I’m chuffed with the results and will be saving this recipe for all my chocolate cake needs! Thanks!! :)

  167. Sydney

    I want to make this cake tonight for a coworkers birthday, do you think adding peppermint extract to the chocolate buttercream will flow well?

  168. Anna

    Hi Deb! I want to make this cake for my son’s 4th birthday, but alas, he has requested not tchocolate but banilla. (Who is this kid?) Anyways, I was thinking of substituting your project wedding cake vanilla cake, but I’m just wondering about the proportions to convert that into 2 9×13 layers. I see above that you say this two layer fudge cake could be used to make a tall 3 layer 9 inch cake, but I’m worried I’ll be short on batter if I convert the other way around. What do you think? Thank you!!

  169. Nadia

    Thank you Thank you Thank you from Australia! Just made this cake filled it with a chocolate mousse and covered in ganache as my son doesn’t like butter cream but the cake was incredible! Moist and delicious! I’ve made a few of your recipes over the years – I have a four year old too – and loved them all. So thank you.

  170. Jeff

    I’m fixing to make the 3 layer version. Quick question: do you know the approximate volume of cake batter it yields, and is it going to be too much for my standard KitchenAid standing mixer?

  171. Jeff

    What I learned: by the time I added the buttermilk the mixer bowl was pretty darn full, so I transferred it to my biggest bowl to incorporate the dry ingredients by hand. The three layers are now safely wrapped in my freezer for next weekend. The buttery chocolate aroma was amazing.

  172. Jeff

    One more detail: I baked them at 300 degrees in a convection oven. They rose very evenly, minimal if any trimming will be necessary.

  173. deb

    Jeff — I’m glad it was a hit. I was just about to respond to your 3/19 query (I’m very behind this week) and see that it all worked out, which is good. I had remember it *just making* it in my 5-quart mixer bowl, i.e. it was stressful and it’s best to just do 2 layers at once. I never jotted down the volume of the batter, but will next time.

  174. Helen

    Hi Deb, I am exploring baking an approximately half a sphere cake for my son’s birthday (outer space, moon, astronauts…). I tried this recipe last night–poured half into a 9×13 pan, and half into the bowl, baked the bowl about 40 minutes longer than the pan, the top started cracking, and a wooden squer was coming out clean, but the cake fell quite a bit afterwards making me think that it did not cook through. (I admit–I have not cut it open yet to know for certain.) Do you have any suggestions for which batter will work best? Or what adjustments I should look to make to achieve the goal? (I have already tried to bake a portion of the batter from your chocolate peanut butter cake in a bowl, but after 2+ hours, I gave up. I think that batter might be too liquidy for this? I made cupcakes out of the rest of the batter and they were divine.) Thank you!

    1. deb

      Helen — This is my favorite tasting easy chocolate layer cake. But you might use this chocolate butter cake. It’s more solid and stable. It also tastes great, but less sticky/plush than this, which might make things easier. Not sure why it cracked and sank, however. Was it actually baked through in the end?

  175. Jeff

    Ok one last note about the cake which was actually frosted and served today. I happened to read on Serious Eats about organic powdered sugar, which uses tapioca powder rather than cornstarch as an anti caking agent. Why, l forgot, but the point is that since tapioca dissolves at room temperature and cornstarch does not, a smoother buttercream results. It was pretty darn smooth, and the cake was a big hit. Thanks!

  176. Amy

    I’ve never purchased Dutch process cocoa. Is it essential to the recipe or can you substitute unsweetened cocoa powder? Thank you for all your recipes. Your website is a great resource!

  177. Helen

    Hi Deb, the test spherical cake did not bake through–that is probably why it sank. However, a few days later I realized that my oven broke–did not maintain temperature after first reaching it. That would explain a lot of my baking failures in the last 2 weeks. So I went to bake all the cake layers in my mom’s kitchen, and it worked out perfectly! I did 150% of the cake recipe (2 9×13 layers, plus the half sphere which I plopped on top), with 3x the chocolate filling and 1.5x the frosting. it was a hit at my son’s birthday party. Thank you very much!

  178. Brittany W

    Hi Deb, Is the fudge buttercream filling lighter in appearance than the chocolate sour cream frosting from your Best Birthday Cake? It appears so, and I would like to make both for a two-toned cake, but would like to make sure. Thank you!

  179. Rebecca

    Hi Deb, I have a smaller oven (think older set in the wall). Do you have any suggestions as to changing the baking temp or the time? I am planning on making this for my daughter’s second birthday. Thanks!

    1. deb

      Rebecca — I have a pretty small oven (as in, the largest pan I can fit in it is a jelly roll) and used these temps and times. It shouldn’t affect anything so long as your temp reading is correct. Good luck!

  180. Courtney

    I just made this last night for a graduation party this weekend. I didn’t anticipate how thin the layers would be so I will be baking an additional layer tonight but WOW…the Dutch-process cocoa delivers such an intense chocolate flavor. I have never used this before and it was very difficult to find in Western New York, but so worth the wild goose hunt! Thanks, Deb! Another winner :)

  181. Pragya

    This may be a stupid question but can I just use the fudge butter cream for frosting as well? Or do I need to make any changes for using it as frosting?
    This is my first attempt on buttercream
    Thank you in advance :-)

      1. Pragya

        Thank You so much.
        Another question your way.
        I intend to make it as a round cake and have only 1 cake pan. Should I mix the batter separately for both or will it be ok to let the batter sit while first cake is baking?

        1. Pragya

          Hi Deb, found the answer to my question in the comments section. My bad, I was looking only in the questions section.
          Now off to try it.
          Thank you again ☺

  182. Hi there!
    I’m going to make this for a 9 year old’s birthday party. He loves fudgey, brownie type things and even asked for a fudgey brownie cake. If I added the extra egg, would it make it more dense and brownie like?

    Thank you!

  183. emilyklash

    Deb, seriously, there is a reason you are legendary in so many of our households (You’re a first-name only in mine!). I made this recipe as cupcakes this weekend for my daughter’s 2nd birthday. It was a dream!! I scaled the recipe to 1.5, which yielded 48 cupcakes. I made the 1 cup butter amount of buttercream, the vanilla recipe above, and added 4oz chocolate. It was enough to frost 42 cupcakes, with a not-towering amount of frosting, and i just stashed the other 6 cupcakes in my freezer, you know, for a rainy day. The children, they have no discerning palette, but the adults in attendance were enamored! Thanks so much!!!

  184. Ashby

    This is the only cake requested in my house anymore. It’s a little sad, actually. I make a great bundt! My cheesecake is pretty delightful, too. And I can totally do pound cake. But alas, every birthday and cake-occasion (cakecasion?) all I hear is “the chocolate one, please.”
    Luckily, it’s a snap to make – not exactly one bowl, but no tricky techniques. And the initial step of melting blocks of chocolate with hot coffee feels so absurdly indulgent that I can’t help loving the process. It IS really soft and so moist that it can be tricky to get out of the pans without losing chunks – don’t skip the parchment circles and the greasing! Trust me.

  185. I made this last week for my daughter’s fifth birthday party. Everyone loved it! While I was flattered that someone asked which bakery we used, I was surprised by the comment given my improvised and not professional looking aluminum foil-covered serving tray. Nonetheless, the cake was a big hit and I’m so glad I, once again, turned to Deb’s website for birthday cake inspiration. The layers are indeed thin, so if I make it again I’ll increase the recipe by 1.5 to add another layer. A third layer is absolutely not necessary but would add to its ‘wow’ factor.

  186. Hi Deb – how thick do the layers come out in this recipe?
    I am planning to make this cake as the basis for this cake – – for my boy’s first birthday party on Sunday. I’m feeding a big crowd, and so am using a half sheet pan (18″x 13″), and wondering if I need to double your recipe to get two layers, or depending on the thickness of the layers, if I can butterfly the cake instead. Hope that’s not super confusing… thanks in advance!

  187. TerryB

    So many of your chocolate cake recipes call for Dutch process cocoa. I can never find it in my local grocery stores. I don’t live in the sticks, I live in Litchfield county CT. Can I use regular Hershey’s?

    1. I use Hershey’s all the time and have never had a problem. I occasionally spend the extra dough (for my babies!) and it does taste a little extra chocolatey but it doesn’t harm the overall deliciousness to use Hershey’s. I did just randomly discover that Penzeys sells Dutch process cocoa if you’ve got one.

  188. Perfect profile

    I have just made this as cupcakes. First time creaming butter and sugar for a cake, also first time making buttercream frosting. Turned out so great and my boy loves them! Since they are open crumbed and so delicate it is not easy to eat up neatly as cupcakes, though. I wish I had more butter to bake a sheet cake but we are out tonight. Anyway a superb cake indeed! Thanks for the recipe. :)

  189. Sarah Redman

    Hi Deb, Can this fudge buttercream be used as, say, a frosting to your amazing yellow sheet cake recipe from your cookbook? I am making birthday cupcakes and love that yellow cake recipe so. very. much. I typically use a vanilla frosting on top but am on the hunt for a chocolate frosting this year, by 5 year old request. Thanks!!!

  190. Beep

    My family is obsessed with this cake and none other will do. I’ve actually twice made 3-d constructed cakes by carving with a knife with it carefully frozen after layering–one penguin, one train, both successful. They always want chocolate buttercream for the frosting so I just scale up the filling but keep out a little white for decoration.

  191. Meghan

    I made this cake two days ago and it was a huge hit – probably the best cake I’ve ever made. I used regular cocoa (Fry’s) because I didn’t have Dutch processed, and it worked just fine. No issues with the cake not rising or noticeable problems with the taste (clearly…). I followed the recipe as written and had enough for three 9″ layers. The chocolate icing was enough to fill two layers, but I needed to 1.5x the white icing in order to have enough for the crumb coat, final layer and decorations.

    Thanks, Deb!!

  192. Julie

    I made this for my daughter’s first birthday and it was a huge hit. All of the adults complimented me on how delicious her cake was. Thanks!

  193. Ness

    Made this scaled down by half for cupcakes and they were delicious! At 350 for about 15 minutes (didn’t time it, sorry!) using very big muffin tins, made only a dozen, but that was perfect for what I wanted! Thanks so much for a nice and easy recipe!

  194. Kristin Harding

    If I am making this the day before and should store it in the fridge (fully frosted and finished), does it need to be covered? If so, and since I do not have a rectangular cake box, any suggestions on how to properly cover the cake?

    Thanks so much! So excited for this to be done! (First layer is baking now)! I am making it for my sons first birthday! Thank you for the inspiration and recipe!

  195. Marcia in NM

    I’m making this for a party and want to do a half sheet, single layer cake.
    Would the portions in the recipe make TOO MUCH batter for a half sheet pan?
    If so, no problem — can always do a few mini cupcakes to go with, but was concerned about filling the pan too full.
    Thanks, Deb! Your recipes have NEVER failed!
    ps Would ONE recipe of the vanilla buttercream frosting be enough for the half sheet?

    1. deb

      It might be too little? This makes a 3-layer 9-inch round. I’d usually use 2 layers worth of batter for a quarter-sheet (9×13) so you’d want 4 layers worth for a half-sheet. It’s going to be on the thin side. I think you could double this recipe entirely. I use a 1/2 cup-level (1 “stick”-level) of frosting to generously coat the top of a 9-inch round or 8×8. I’d use a 2-cup level to coat a sheet pan; you might have a tiny bit extra but better to have too much than come up short.

      1. Marcia in NM

        Thanks so much for super prompt answer, Deb — you rock!
        I’ll report back how this works.
        Just made your espresso chocolate shortbread cookies today and am SO SORRY I have to share them with my choir tomorrow morning. :)

  196. Erika

    Just took these out of the oven. I halved the recipe bc I don’t want a cake that big (thank you for the metric conversions—made it so much easy when trying to get to 2.75/2!) 2 round pans at 300F for 30 minutes and they look perfect. Haven’t eaten them, but the batter was amazing, :)

    I’m using cream cheese frosting bc that’s what the birthday girl requests!

  197. Hillary

    Hi Deb. I want to make this with all chocolate buttercream. Would I double or triple the chocolate buttercream recipe to have enough for the top and sides?

      1. Hillary

        Whoops, cake is long gone. I doubled the chocolate filling and used it in the middle and on top. Used the vanilla buttercream on the sides and also to frost a separate single layer 9 inch cake! Rave reviews!

  198. Emily

    Crisis! (well, as much as a cake-related crisis can *be* a crisis)

    I’m making a birthday cake (4 layer chocolate torte filled with white chocolate mousse and fresh raspberries, glazed with a dark chocolate ganache). I went to my standby chocolate cake, the Double Chocolate Layer Cake. It never fails me! Until last night. I scaled it down (1/3 of the total recipe) to fit 2 6-inch rounds, planning to split them into two. And the horror – the middle never rose. Stayed sunken. I was still able to split it into 4, and theoretically could disguise it with extra mousse to keep it level.

    However, I’m wondering – would you recommend instead that I halve this recipe and do the same thing? I’ve never made it before, so am nervous to branch out, but am wondering if a sturdier cake would help me to avoid the sunken middle problem.

    I think the problems with my (double chocolate layer) cake stemmed from possibly a too cool oven – I could bump it up to 325, although the instructions say 300?

    I’m so torn!

  199. emilyklash

    I have made this recipe twice, the first as cupcakes, as directed, and they were incredible!! I made it again last week for my brother-in-law’s birthday, as a four layer round cake. I used 9″ round pans, and thought that halving the recipe would work, but alas, the layers were very thin. So i ended up baking a second round (which, for the record, ended up being easier because then i didn’t have to split the layers, which i have decided is the most stressful thing i may have ever done). So, bottom line, the full recipe gave me four 9″ round layers. I both filled and frosted it with the fudge buttercream, because we just can’t get enough chocolate. I made a 3 cup of butter amount of frosting, and it seems outrageous but it was just enough.

  200. Jude G.

    The cake was amazing! I made it with a mocha whipped cream, and it was phenomenal! I got very nice comments, and the cake itself was very easy to make, yet delicious!

  201. I planned to bake one half-sheet (13×18) since I don’t have two 9×13 pans. After reading the comments I thought I’d use 1.5 times the recipe to make it a little thicker. Whoa! A huge amount of very fluffy batter (the tipping point for my Artisan model Kitchenaid) and I was very nervous it would overflow, but lo and behold, it was perfect. Baked to towering heights and cooled right to the pan’s edge. Sliced like a dream (very few crumbs.) Dense, truffle-like texture. For the buttercream, I used less sugar and more chocolate. Everyone loved it and wanted the recipe!

  202. Jori

    Making this for my own Tchocolate-obsessed 3 year old’s birthday party on Saturday afternoon. If I made the cake layers today, do you think I’d need to freeze tonight or would refrigerating be enough to keep it fresh? Would love to fill, frost, decorate tomorrow and refrigerate overnight Friday night…just don’t want it to taste stale. Thanks!!

  203. Monica

    Just made this (currently baking away in the oven) and it smells divine – but I found the batter to sit comfortably in a single 9×13 inch rectangular pan. Is anyone else finding this or have I done something wrong??

  204. Rachel Bruce

    after perusing the comments, I didn’t find the answer to my question, so here it is. I am making your larger recipe for this cake, of 52 servings, and I was trying to figure out how much i would need of the fudge buttercream to go on the top and sides. You wonderfully doubled the batter and inside recipe for it, but I am making this for my Grandmothers 75th and shes a chocoholic, so I need to know how many times to multiply the fudge buttercream. If you could get back to me with that, I would be exceedingly grateful!

  205. Erica

    I’m a huge fan of your recipes, and I adapted this cake for a gluten free family member, and it worked out great! I substituted the wheat flour for: 245g GF flour mix, 100g almond meal; and added a total of 3tsp baking powder (to make it more like Australian self-raising flour, because I’ve found over the years that if I convert a recipe to GF it needs a higher amount of raising agent). I then topped it with the peanut butter frosting from your chocolate peanut butter cake. It was the best GF cake I have ever made! I can’t wait to try the recipe as written. I used the peanut butter frosting because I’ve made your chocolate peanut butter cake (normal, not GF) and it was AMAZING, and peanut butter makes everything yummier.

  206. Grant

    This cake is wonderfully brownie-like! It came out of my greased pan perfectly and I was even able to level it pretty easily. I plan on making multiple batches of this to serve at a wedding (200 people)… today was just a practice run. Now to do that math…

    1. Grant

      By the way, I realized I baked this (the first time) at 350, which now explains why it only took about 25 minutes to bake. I just baked it again at 325 because I was trying to test out that trick of baking cakes at 25 degrees lower than their prescribed temperature to prevent them from doming… welp. Surprise surprise, just took another domed cake out of the oven. Oh well, guess this just means I need to make it again, meaning even more chocolate cake in my future…

  207. sarah

    hi deb – does the vanilla buttercream need to be increased for a 3 layer sheet cake? i only saw that the chocolate should be increased so just want to check. thanks!

  208. Denise

    I’m about to try making this with an egg substitute as my granddaughter is allergic to egg. Going to try silken tofu. Wish me luck!

    1. Denise

      I made a half recipe. I used 1/2 cup soft tofu, drained, for the 2 eggs, and subbed kefir for the buttermilk. Added about a pinch each extra soda and powder to make up for the lack of eggs. Delicious with the chocolate buttercream! Family loved it. Cake was a bit heavier and denser because no egg, but people preferred it that way. I was trying for lightness, though, so next time I will try doubling the baking soda and powder and adding more vanilla or maybe using vanilla bean to cover up any bitterness from the extra leavening.

  209. Mags

    Loved this! I made this for the birthday of two 30 years old guys (so, two ~4 year olds). It was a big hit! I normally go for the deep chocolate coffee-enhanced choice, but this felt like a bigger people pleaser and everyone kept raving. It was truly a fudgy brownie experience.

    I wanted it round for the top decoration, so I used my 9-inch pans – three layers was perfect with your bake times (but the entire process took a little longer given I only had two pans!). I traced the bottom of the pan to cut circular sheets of parchment paper for the bottom (and then buttered the top of it) and I’m sure that saved a lot of headache.

    I made all the pieces the night before the event and assembled in the morning. I used your freezing and crumb coat tips as well — life saving.

  210. Jo-Ellen Zeitlin

    I can confirm that this cake is beautiful and tasty even if, like me, you thought you had purchased dutch process cocoa, but instead bought guittard drinking chocolate. (Face palm. For real.) We’ll eat them tomorrow, but the cakes look moist and and crumbs were delicious, even if the layers did not rise as much as I had anticipated. Hopefully people will be too tipsy to notice.

  211. Trina

    Deb, have you ever tried making this in a 24” x 36” sheetpan?
    I’m doing a meal for 120 hungry university stomachs and I wanna make cake. Ever done a cake that massive? I wonder if the edges might dry out and the middle remain jiggly?
    What are your thoughts? I want your wisdom before I experiment and waste precious butter.

    1. deb

      Wow, never. But my oven fits a 13″x18″ or half-sheet pan, max. I was, however, thinking about trying a version at this size. It’s about 1.5x the size of a 10×15, so this recipe should be easy to scale up.

        1. deb

          I’m sorry — I thought I was responding to a question on the chocolate cake roll I posted last week! (I was looking for this comment everywhere on that post and couldn’t find it, thought I’d lost my mind.)

          So, to answer the question you’d actually asked about this cake: I actually think this could be fine scaled bigger. Now, it’s a thin cake so if your pan is warped it any way, it won’t be very forgiving. There’s probably little harm in baking it at 325 instead of 350 for a longer period of time, just so it bakes more evenly. I hope that helps; sorry about my confusion.

          1. Trina

            That totally makes sense. Thanks for clarifying! By the way, there’s a university campus in Canada with many happy tummies thanks to Your SK Genius! Thanks for all you do!

  212. Brittany W.

    I will pay you GOOD MONEY to figure out how to make a cake in the shape of a trash truck that actually looks appetizing and not tacky! It doesn’t even have to be green or brown! Ours are white and blue! But seriously, do you have a go to site for learning how to carve cakes into various shapes? Or maybe just recommend doing a flat sheet cake and drawing on a trash truck….? Help?

    1. deb

      I tend to default to the sheet cake + picture on it, so I might be the wrong person to ask. I start thinking about creating a cake structure and then I’m like, what am I, the Cake Boss? No, I’m not. Sheet cake it is. Plus it always seems like you’d need to make so much cake to have enough slices for a party and so much frosting, eesh. Here are a couple I’ve let my kids/family coerce me into: a bunny, a “subway map,” Sesame Street

  213. P

    Is it possible to turn this into the base for an ice cream cake? Trying to find a good option for a birthday party and while I love the ice cream roll idea from your most recent post, I’d probably have to make a few to serve the crowd!

    1. deb

      Yes, however, here goes: make it with oil instead of butter. The thing is, a neutral oil won’t be hard when it freezes, so the cake will be softer. A butter cake will freeze more solid, making it harder to cut and bite into.

      1. P

        Ahh thank you so much Deb! Quick follow up – how does this advice apply to frosting? Or is that something that defrosts relatively quickly so it can stay as is?

  214. ECHG

    I made this last week, a half batch to test it out, and again today for a 4 year olds birthday party. The whole batch made 24 cupcakes + one overly full 8″ square pan. I baked the cupcakes for 20 min.
    So delicious!

  215. Deanna Zinn

    I made this cake at 9:30 last night, as my son, who turned 31 today, wanted a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting and I wanted a new chocolate cake recipe. He asked me if I was making it homemade, and I said of course, because birthday cakes should always be homemade, at least in my opinion! He had one of the finished cupcakes this morning on his way out the door to work, and turned and said these are really good Mom! He sounded surprised! I don’t know why, I love to bake….but kudos to another great recipe! I ended up making 24 cupcakes and an 1/8 sheet pan!

  216. Jess

    Do you bake and frost the day before then pop it in the fridge frosted? Or just bake the cake, pop in fridge overnight and then frost day o’ party?

    1. deb

      If it’s just the cake, I don’t refrigerate it — no need. You can frost it day before or day of. Frosting also doesn’t have to go in fridge, but you can put it there if your kitchen runs hot or very sunny.

  217. Anna

    Hi Deb!
    I was thinking of making this cake and not sure where to get this ‘2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled’ Every baking chocolate I look at in the store has sugar in it. To add to the confusion there is dark baking light baking. What should I get for this frosting?

  218. Anna

    I made this. I have a question. It came out kind of dense. Is this how it’s suppsed to be? Or is it supposed to be airy and I did something wrong.

  219. ringo

    Oops! I forgot to put the granulated sugar into the cake! Well, that’ll teach me to bake on a school night.

    I haven’t tasted the finished product, but I’m hoping it’ll be fine? I did think the texture seemed more pudding-y than when I made this cake two years ago, but chalked that up to substituting the brown sugar for the coconut sugar I had on hand. Why are there two sugars, out of curiosity?

  220. Helen

    I am absolutely fascinated by how you speak about cocoa powder. As a UK resident, I can find nothing named as such here, except online (Valrhona here I come), and I usually use a supermarket-own brand cocoa powder, which is often all that is available. It’s either that or Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate, which is far too sweet and weak for hot chocolate, let alone baking.

    In the US, if you WEREN’T using Dutch process, what would the other option even be? Something weak, like our drinking chocolate?

  221. Kabes

    I made this as written in two 10 inch round layers, and they came out beautifully, baking up perfectly at 30 minutes each.

    The frosting/filling recipes as written were also perfect for splitting each layer into two, (for a total of four layers), and then frosting the outside. I did add a couple pinches of salt to both the frosting and filling recipes as they came out a bit sweet for my taste.

    The massive resulting cake was demolished in 6 hours. Thanks Deb!

  222. Rose

    I made this for my husband’s birthday this weekend, and it got rave reviews at the party. I followed the recipe exactly, except for topping it with peanut butter frosting instead of the vanilla buttercream. This is going to become a yearly favorite.

  223. Barbara Barnes

    “I often put those racks right into the freezer, to firm up this very soft and tender cake before leveling and frosting it; it makes the process much easier.”
    This turned out to be key. It stabilized the layers. The cake was easy to make, and turned out perfectly.

  224. Selina

    Deb, I have the SK Every Day book with the party cakes… How do you feel about this recipe vs. the fudgy cake recipe in the book x4? I want a 9×13 2 layer like this recipe. The two recipes to the same outcome have different measurements. Of course I know you know, and that you brought this whole idea up of new ideas on older recipes, but wondering if you have an opinion on this particular cake!

    1. deb

      It’s very close but with slightly different proportions — you can use either. The one in the book is a thinner layer, ideal for a simple cake or for stacking.

      1. Selina

        Thank you! I make your cakes every birthday, but only for my two kids’ birthdays which are 6 months apart from each other. I feel like I’m re-learning each time. Guess more non-birthday cakes are in order!

  225. Amy

    Would you recommend making the layers ahead of time and freezing them? I am making cakes for my grandfather’s 90th birthday party. Unfortunately the party is six hours from my house, so my plan was to bake the layers ahead of time and them freeze them. I am slightly concerned that this cake might be too delicate.

  226. Gail

    Just making this now for a kid who likes cake (and dark chocolate) as much as the frosting of cakes.

    It reminded me of brownie batter as I was scraping it into the pans. I used two 9-inch rounds and the overflow filled 11 cupcakes.

    The batter is delicious and I’m hoping that the cake decorator (is, bday boy’s big sister) is able to manage with the crumb..

    1. Gail

      updating to add:

      I hate fussing with cutting parchment into “circles” (more like jagged octagons) so I just buttered the tins and the cakes did stick a little – but not too much.

      Freezing the layers before giving them a crumb coat worked well.

      Delicious dense fudgy rich cake. Ole! :)

  227. Anne

    So about how many kids did this feed? I know it was a long time ago! But trying to figure out if a three layer cake (taller narrower pieces) or a two layer cake (square pieces) is what I need… or do I need two cakes? :/

  228. Tricia

    Dear Deb,
    Are you there? It’s me, Tricia. Tomorrow my son is a year older. I’m a glass (ok, fine, three glasses) of wine into that night all mothers fear: Birthday Eve. He wants chocolate cake, “very much tall chocolate mommy,” with “alllllllllll the colors sprinkles and yellow.” (I know, right? Yellow.) How could I make his favorite cake (Texas sheet, no nuts, with mini chocolate chips on top,) into a cake that is “very much tall” and immensely chocolatey? Who would understand a first born (and for us, only,) son’s love for chocolate AND his mother bluffing the TX heat before turning on the oven?? Only you. Thank you for your cacio e pepe in my 1st trimester, your mini meatloaf (cold, on Hawaiian sweet rolls) in my 2nd trimester, your grilled peaches in my 3rd “Ohmygod is he DONE in there yet??” trimester. Finally, thank you for a perfect, easy, “very much tall chocolate” cake that this mom of a now 5yr old could make through misty eyes at 10:00pm. All the love to you and yours. -Tricia

    1. Kayla

      Wowowowowow if this isn’t motherhood in a nutshell. My littlest is turning one on Friday and I’m having FEELINGS so this review has me crying at my desk. (It’s fine everything is fine.) And SK got me through both of my pregnancies, too. Primarily the browniest cookies. Glad to know this gets the “tall chocolate cake” stamp of approval. I’ll make it this weekend!

  229. thefishiologist

    Made this today for my nephew’s birthday! Baked it in 3 8” round pans and stacked them. Made all of the icing as vanilla and added food colouring to make it a rainbow cake. Probably my best birthday cake to date – the cake was so fudgy and rich and good!

  230. Joanne

    How long do I cook 3 9” round cake pans? So excited to try this but it’ll be the morning of the party and I’ll be cooking the food after so don’t have time to screw it up. Thanks!

  231. Jen

    I used the cake part of this recipe (in a half sheet pan) to make Texas Sheet Cake (frosting from Stella Parks at Serious Eats: due to a weird situation where I had only enough natural cocoa for the frosting and needed a cake recipe formulated with dutched cocoa. Added the cinnamon and malted milk powder called for in Stella’s cake recipe to this and it worked like a charm! Just thought I’d share in case anyone wanted to take this cake in a different direction.

  232. Amy

    My family loved the cake, they thought the frosting was too sweet. how to counterbalance the powdered sugar? More unsweetened chocolate? I think the volume of sugar is important to make the frosting stand up.

  233. Emily

    This cake is THE cake. It borders on brownie like but still fluffy enough to be a cake. If you’re a fan of devil’s food cake this is the cake you need to make IMMEDIATELY. I half the recipe and make it like a grandma cake (baked in a Pyrex 9×13 and frosted only on the top) I’ve also made the recipe as directed and baked it as 3 round cakes for my 3 year olds birthday. It is a hit, always

  234. Myra

    I’m looking for a chocolate cake recipe to use in one of those mold pans for my daughter’s birthday. I’m wondering if certain cakes are more likely to stick no matter the greasing prep…is this one?

  235. Charlotte Castillo

    Hi! I made this cake for my sons birthday yesterday. It tasted like heaven. But I have to say I found that the buttermilk step made the batter look like cottage cheese and some of those small “cottage cheese” lumps Remained in the cooked cake.
    It of course didn’t affect the taste. I’m wondering ….. should I have mixed it for longer? I hate to beat a batter longer than required once the flour is added. Any tips would me MUCH appreciated!

  236. Julie

    I made this cake recently for my son’s birthday and it was delicious. It has the perfect fudge-like chocolate flavor without being overly sweet. I wanted to make a round cake and so I halved the batter recipe and used two 9-inch round cake pans, which I baked for 25 minutes. The layers came out slightly thinner than expected, but once I had the cake frosted it turned out to be the perfect height.

    This was my first time making a Layer cake from scratch, and following this recipe made the process surprisingly easy. Making this cake for my son’s birthday might become a tradition. Thank you, Smitten Kitchen!

  237. About six and a half years ago, when this post was published, I was groaning on the couch because I would have to miss my first trip to the Abergavenny Food Festival, and my tickets to see you speak there, as I was immobile with fatigue and morning sickness from being pregnant with my daughter. And now I’m looking up this cake for my son’s 3rd birthday! :)

  238. Natalia

    Hello! This is my children’s birthday cake request every year, so I make it more than any other cake. First of all, thank you for such a wonderful yet simple-to-put-together recipe. I’m wondering if you could give a conversion that would yield just 2 9-inch cake rounds? Every year I just make up some cupcakes on the side, but I’d love to be able to just make exactly what’s needed.
    Thanks for considering!

    1. deb

      Let me direct you to a slightly newer recipe. This cake is similar but a single layer, either an 8-inch square (shown) or a 9-inch round (what you’re looking for). Simply double everything for a 2-layer 9-inch round with fudgy frosting and filling. No need to use two egg yolks when doubling; you can use a full egg instead.

  239. Colleen

    Has anyone made this in a single pan, i.e. the full amount of batter but in one 9×13 baking dish for a taller, unlayered sheet cake? Would it work? Looking to make something simple but not too thin; open to any advice!

  240. Allison

    Do you have any suggestions for making this egg free? I want to make it for my daughters 1st birthday but she is allergic to eggs and nuts.

  241. Allison

    I ended up making the chocolate cake from your cookbook with flaxseed eggs. I did just under two “eggs” to replace the egg and egg yolk. It came out so good! It was a dense fudgey cake which I love. Inside I put your chocolate buttercream and vanilla on the outside. Total success!

  242. MaryAnn


    I was hoping to make a smaller cake. How could I adjust the recipe to make three six inch rounds? Bake time? Is there general reference I can use in the future?


    1. deb

      You can halve the recipe to make three 6-inch rounds. I detail some alternate sizes in the headnotes but it could be written more clearly. In general, all 9-inch round and. 8-inch square cakes can be neatly halved in 6-inch rounds.

  243. Grace

    I just made this for my sons first birthday! I used the filling recipe as the exterior frosting, and filled the inside with a raspberry and cream filling. It was enjoyed by all- I got tons of compliments
    :) I agree- valrhona makes all the difference.

  244. MLG

    Just wanted to say thank you. I made this cake for my son’s fourth birthday party – using the raspberry filling from your double chocolate layer cake and a whipped cream frosting. Delicious! Everyone love it!. Thanks much

  245. Lindsay Slobodzian

    Made a 1.5 recipe using two 9×13 pans plus one 8-inch square pan for the perfect minecraft cake for a crowd. Froze the layers for perfect stacking and frosting. The cake itself was a delicious, rich chocolate flavour (yes I used Dutch process). A keeper. I’ll use the fudge frosting filling again, but the vanilla buttercream was too sweet, so I’ll try a different frosting next time.

  246. Melanie

    Hi Deb,
    I just posted a question on your double chocolate cake recipe as I was trying to figure out which cake to make (decisions!) and as I consider this one, I’m wondering how I would work the recipe to fit two 6″ pans? I am not sure halving it is enough? Could you help?
    Thank you!