How to Make the Very Best Chocolate Cake

How to make the very best chocolate cake that’s rich and moist. Jump to the Very Best Chocolate Cake Recipe or read on to see our tips for making it.

Very Best Chocolate Cake Recipe

This particular chocolate cake is Beatty’s Chocolate Cake from Barefoot Contessa. It was the first from-scratch chocolate cake I ever made and I’ve been religiously making it ever since.

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Ina’s Genius Chocolate Cake

The secret is a cup of hot coffee in the batter. You don’t really taste the coffee, just more of the chocolate. At first, I was a little worried about the coffee, but who are we to question Ina?

The chocolate comes from cocoa powder, which makes the cake really easy to make. Simply combine dry ingredients — the usual suspects of flour, baking soda, baking powder and cocoa powder. Then mix into the wet ingredients which include buttermilk and vegetable oil — both help keep the cake moist.

Ina's Genius Chocolate Cake

For the frosting we went with a simple combination of melted chocolate, butter, powdered sugar and milk. It’s not what Ina calls for, but it never fails and tastes great. Sometimes we fill the middle with the frosting, but also like to add jam instead. In the photos, we used lingonberry jam (from Ikea). It isn’t too sweet and is really tasty with the chocolate cake.

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Recipe updated, originally posted March 2011. Since posting this in 2011, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne

How to Make the Very Best Chocolate Cake

  • PREP
  • COOK

The batter for this chocolate cake is inspired by Beatty’s Chocolate Cake found in one of Barefoot Contessa’s cookbooks — here is the book online. It was the first from-scratch chocolate cake we ever made and we’ve been religiously making it ever since. For the frosting, we stick to a simple chocolate buttercream.

Makes 1 double layer cake, 8 servings

You Will Need


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup buttermilk, shaken

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

1/2 cup jam

Chocolate Buttercream

8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened

3 1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons milk


  • Prepare Cake
  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter then flour two 8-inch round cake pans.

    In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

    In another large bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla then use a handheld mixer on medium speed to combine. Turn the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, mixing gently until they disappear and the batter is smooth. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl then with the mixer still on low, add the coffee and mix just until combined.

    Divide the batter between prepared cake pans then bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

    • Make Buttercream
    • Melt 8 ounces of milk chocolate either over a double boiler or in the microwave.Set aside to cool.

      In a large bowl, combine the softened butter, vanilla and salt. Use a hand mixer to beat on medium-low speed for about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar. Stop the mixer occasionally and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

      Add the milk and increase to medium speed. Beat for another 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the melted chocolate (should be at room temperature) and beat until combined, then increase the speed to medium and beat for one more minute.

        Place one layer, flat side up, on a plate or cake stand. Fill a re-sealable plastic bag with the corner cut off or a pastry bag with the chocolate buttercream. Carefully squeeze the frosting around the outer perimeter of your cake; this prevents the jam from oozing out.

        Add the jam to the center of the cake. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Butter and Flour Cake Pans: After buttering, add a little flour to the pan and tap the pan until there is a light coating of flour on the bottom and up the sides of the pan, discard any extra flour.
  • Melting chocolate in the microwave: To melt the chocolate in the microwave, add 3/4 of the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and place into the microwave for 20 seconds. Stir the chocolate and continue to microwave for 20 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until the chocolate is smooth and shiny. Add the remaining 1/4 of the chocolate and stir until completely melted and smooth.
  • If the frosting is dry, add more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it is creamy but still holds peaks.

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

AUTHOR: Adam and Joanne Gallagher

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20 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Yoshikeith June 21, 2021, 10:57 am

    Hello, I made this cake for Father’s Day, 2021. I made the frosting with 75 % dark chocolate. It was DELICIOUS! I will be making this cake again!

  • Mika May 2, 2020, 12:00 pm

    Your recipes are truly amazin! would you be able to create a video for this recipe or add photos to show how the consistency of the batter should be like?

  • Anna September 14, 2017, 12:32 pm

    Hi there! This looks delicious, but I am in the process of making this and I wonder about the vegetable oil. In the recipe you mention it but then in the directions it does not appear (as well as the chocolate powder). Could you please clarify this? Thanks a lot!

    • Joanne November 16, 2017, 5:34 pm

      Hi Anna, The recipe had a mistake (so sorry). It’s fixed now!

  • William Zeiber September 2, 2017, 11:00 am

    When I added the coffee the batter got very watery, is that normal? I followed the recipe exactly.

    • Joanne November 22, 2017, 4:23 pm

      Hi William, this is normal 🙂

  • Foodie January 27, 2017, 6:58 pm

    I baked it for my husband’s Birthday…..everybody just loved it….awesome cakel

  • Amber November 22, 2016, 6:46 pm

    LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! Made this cake for my husband’s bday and we ate it all in less than two days just the two of us. I did not put the jam on it, but it was so yummy with just the chocolate icing!! I love it so much that I am making it for Thanksgiving!!! I also fell in love with your brownie recipe, and I make them all the time and get so many compliments!! Thank you for sharing your recipes, and I can’t wait to try more!

  • Xiaolu April 25, 2011, 3:24 pm

    This is pretty much the same recipe as my favorite chocolate cake too. Isn’t it lovely how deep and rich the flavor is? And how moist it stays? Man I want to make it now just talking about it. Love the pairing with lingonberry and such a cute story about you 2 =D.

  • Taz April 18, 2011, 8:23 am

    oh yum, this look decadent! I love the sneaky layer of raspberry in the middle – divine!

  • Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen March 25, 2011, 3:37 am

    Well I certainly wouldn’t have any complaints if you served me a piece of this instead of the original cake, what a beauty!

  • Miri Leigh March 24, 2011, 11:40 pm

    Yum! This cake looks mouth-watering! Thanks for sharing.

  • holly March 24, 2011, 7:56 pm

    found this on foodgawker – cake is in the oven now, smells DELICIOUS, and starting on the buttercream – thanks!

    • inspiredtaste March 28, 2011, 9:03 am

      Holly – YAY, we hope the cake turned out as you expected!

  • Carolyn Jung March 23, 2011, 11:53 am

    Mmm, chocolate upon more chocolate. Ya can’t beat that! 😉

  • Amanda March 23, 2011, 8:49 am

    I just saw this on foodgawker… gorgeous!! 🙂

    • inspiredtaste March 23, 2011, 9:33 am

      Thanks, Amanda — that means a lot coming from you!!!

  • Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon March 21, 2011, 12:25 pm

    Chocolate cake never requires an apology ; )

  • Erin March 21, 2011, 10:08 am

    This cake looks completely delicious. And I think complaints are in appropriate if Lingonberry jelly is involved!

    • inspiredtaste March 23, 2011, 9:34 am

      Erin and Wendi — I agree. There were very few complaints, we were both too occupied with cake!


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