Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

This chocolate cake recipe has a special place in my heart. I received it from my mom, who got it from her sister-in-law. It traveled by word of mouth, “Have you tried this new chocolate cake recipe? You’ll love it.” My mom even made it into cupcakes for my bridal shower.

Turns out, this special, secret family recipe is actually very close to Ina Garten’s Beatty’s Chocolate Cake recipe¬†and Hershey’s Black Magic Cake. Since my family has Pennsylvania roots, I’m guessing they got it from the Hershey’s cocoa box. I was a little disappointed when I realized this, after googling the recipe. This cake isn’t a secret: it’s all over the internet!

And just as well. Because this cake, it’s that good. It’s so good, I want everyone to have a copy of the recipe and piece of the deliciousness. Good cake, like most good things in life, is best when it’s shared with loved ones. So make this cake, and invite all your friends over. What’s that famous Julia Child quote? “A party without cake is just a meeting.”

The last time I made this cake, I used 3 8″ cake pans. I’ve done it in a 9×13 pan as well. Sometimes the center sinks in the 9×13, and Laura’s Sweet Spot recommends cutting back the baking soda to 1 3/4 tsp. for a 9×13. I haven’t tried this, but I will next time I make the 9×13 size. Cupcakes also work well. I even made 1.5 times the batter for a decorative cake pan shaped like Mickey Mouse. I like to pair this cake with a thick buttercream. This cake can handle frosting, and I like the contrast from bright white vanilla buttercream. Chocolate frosting is also an excellent option. Mmm, now I really want cake!

Serious Eats has a great tutorial on buttercreams. I used their vanilla-flavored¬†Italian buttercream this time. I was using really cheap store-brand butter, and to my horror, my buttercream separated. It looked like oily cottage cheese. I was so sad. I tried all the tricks I found online – I heated the mixture up, and that didn’t work. I tried cooling it down. I tried beating it until my mixer was warm to the touch, and there was no change. Finally, in desperation, I added more butter. It worked! I can only guess that this cheap butter had such a high water content that it broke the buttercream because there wasn’t enough fat. So, learn from my mistake, and buy quality butter for your buttercreams.

Chocolate Cake


  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. cocoa
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 c. hot coffee
  • 1 c. milk
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)


  1. Heat your oven to 350. Butter three 8" round pans, then sprinkle flour in the pans. Holding the pan over the sink or trash can, swirl the flour around until it covers the sides and bottom of the pan. Tap lightly to dislodge excess flour, and dump out the extra flour. You can also use two 8" pans instead of three.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. I use my stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir the dry ingredients until combined.
  3. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. The cake mixture will look crumbly.
  4. Beat the eggs into the milk, then pour the mixture into the cake batter. Stir together and scrape down the bowl.
  5. Add the cup of hot coffee, and stir. The batter will start to get pretty thin. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  6. Divide the batter between the pans.
  7. For round pans, bake 30-35 minutes.
  8. For cupcakes, bake 18-22 minutes.
  9. For a 9x13 pan, bake about 35-40 minutes (start checking at 30 minutes, though)
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Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

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