This is truly the best chocolate cake in the history of ever. So simple (it’s a one-bowl recipe!) and so very decadent, rich, and moist.

If you’re looking for a tried-and-true chocolate cake that will not let you down, this is the one.

It has been my go-to recipe for over ten years anytime I need a classic chocolate cake recipe.

Piece of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting on white plate with chocolate pearls.

The History Behind the Best Chocolate Cake

A long, long time ago in a blogosphere far, far away, I posted a recipe for an unbelievable chocolate cake. I had fallen in love with the recipe after making it from a Martha Stewart cookbook I checked out from the library.

It quickly and soundly became my favorite chocolate cake. But just like any recipe that’s existed online for over ten years, over time, I’ve tweaked it to be a bit more user-friendly.

Many of you who already love that original recipe commented over the years how the quantities were a little quirky. And I can’t disagree (i.e. two eggs plus one egg yolk). Additionally, the cake batter quantity filled up two 9-inch pans very full to become extra thick cake layers (and it was almost too much batter to bake in a 9X13-inch pan evenly).

Thanks to your suggestions, I’ve tweaked that original recipe to fit standard cake pans, use friendlier ingredient quantities, and still come out as one of the best chocolate cakes of all time. If you can believe it, the old classic has become even more classic thanks to the updates.

Fork taking piece of chocolate cake on white plate.

Sift the Dry Ingredients

Yes, this cake is simple. Yes, it’s a one-bowl wonder.

But yes, I’m highly encouraging you (basically getting downright bossy, if we’re being honest with each other) to sift the dry ingredients:

  • flour
  • sugar
  • cocoa
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • salt

It makes a huge difference, especially because cocoa powder is notorious for getting those pesky lumps which don’t whisk/mix out very well. And no one likes to get a clumpy, dry cocoa powder bomb in the middle of a bite of cake.

Sifting cocoa powder, flour and sugar in mesh strainer into glass bowl.

Chocolate Cake Batter

After the dry ingredients are sifted, add:

  • warm water
  • buttermilk
  • oil
  • eggs
  • vanilla (no need to get a measuring spoon for this, just measure this with your heart 💕)

Get in there with a whisk (or an electric mixer) and mix everything until very well combined. Don’t mistake the small bubbles for lumps. Bubbles are normal, lumps are not.

Mixing chocolate cake batter with whisk in glass bowl.

Pan Sizes

This batter bakes up beautifully in two 9-inch round cake pans.

It also works well as a 9X13-inch cake.

As with any good cake, for the love of the m-word (hint: rhymes with hoist), don’t over bake the cakes. Better to under bake by a minute or so than over bake.

Cake batter in circle pans; baked cake in circle pans.

Cake + Frosting = Pure Joy

If I’m being honest, and this is coming from kind of a I-prefer-cookies-over-cake mentality, this cake is amazing enough to eat and enjoy without frosting.

It strikes just the right balance between rich and sweet. Soft and moist. It really is the quintessential, perfect chocolate cake recipe.

However, I would never discourage you from slathering every surface with frosting, either.

One of my favorite frostings is this magical, not-to-sweet vanilla frosting. And you can’t go wrong with this whipped chocolate buttercream or this classic vanilla buttercream.

Stay tuned, though, because I’ve been working on a go-to classic chocolate buttercream frosting, and I’ll be posting it very soon.

Frosting chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and offset spatula.

A Few Other Notes

  • I love the elegant simplicity of using chocolate frosting and then dropping on a few of these crisp chocolate pearls aff. link (also: those crispy little pearls are crazy yummy)
  • The recipe calls for natural, unsweetened cocoa powder (like Hershey’s brand), but Dutch-process cocoa can also be used for a darker, richer flavor. The cake may not rise as high if using Dutch-process cocoa.
  • If you have fallen in love with the original recipe there’s probably not a lot of reason to switch to this updated recipe unless the quantities of the older recipe have bothered you and/or you want more manageable layers.
Top down view of frosted chocolate cake with piece sliced.

Everyone Needs a Best-Ever Chocolate Cake Recipe

I really believe that. My mission will not be complete here on this blog until everyone has a go-to chocolate cake recipe in their back pocket.

A recipe that shows up for them time and time again. A recipe that never fails.

A recipe that doesn’t ask for much in return. And a recipe that will always, always be met with rave reviews.

This is that recipe.

It is the best chocolate cake, and it makes me really happy to put a placeholder here for this new and improved version. I’ve been making it this way for years and have zero plans to turn my back on that decision.

Piece of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting on white plate with fork.

One Year Ago: Easy Brookie Pie {Brownie + Chocolate Chip Cookie}
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Stuffed Cookies {Magic in the Middle Cookies} 
Three Years Ago: Chicken Banh Mi Flatbread with Incredible Sauces
Four Years Ago: Perfect Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Five Years Ago: Creamy White Chicken Chili {Stovetop or Slow Cooker}
Six Years Ago: One Pot Creamy Asparagus Bacon Pasta 
Seven Years Ago: Zucchini Pizza Crust {Low-Carb and Totally Amazing}
Eight Years Ago: Cream Cheese Banana Bread with Sweet Cinnamon Topping
Nine Years Ago: Fudgy Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars 
Ten Years Ago: Coconut Tres Leches Hot Chocolate 

piece of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting on white plate

The Best Chocolate Cake

4.92 stars (60 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (284 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (424 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (85 g) natural, unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (225 g) warm water
  • 1 cup (245 g) buttermilk
  • ½ cup (100 g) vegetable or canola oil (see note)
  • 2 large (50 g out of shell) eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Center an oven rack in the middle position.
  • Line the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans or one 9X13-inch pan (preferably aluminum, not glass) with parchment paper. Lightly grease the bottom and sides with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.
  • Add the water, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
  • Using a handheld electric mixer or whisk, mix the ingredients until well-combined.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
  • Bake the cakes for 28-35 minutes until the top springs back lightly to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean or with moist crumbs.
  • Let the cakes cool for 2-3 minutes in the pan(s). Run a thin knife around the edge and turn onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Notes

Oil: use a neutral flavored oil for the cake (not an oil with a strong flavor like olive oil)
Cocoa Powder: I always use natural, unsweetened cocoa powder (like Hershey’s brand) in this cake, but you can sub in Dutch-process cocoa if you like (the cake may not rise quite as high and the texture of the crumb may change a bit). 
Glass Pan: if baking the cake in a 9X13-inch glass pan, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and keep an eye on the baking time. 
Serving: 1 piece (1/12th of the cake), Calories: 330kcal, Carbohydrates: 55g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 33mg, Sodium: 254mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 35g
Follow @MelsKitchenCafe on Instagram and show me the recipes you are making from my blog using the hashtag #melskitchencafe. I love seeing all the goodness you are whipping up in your kitchens!

Recipe Source: adapted from this chocolate cake recipe by way of the Martha Stewart The New Classics Cookbook