Dark Chocolate Cake Recipe

Looking for an intense chocolate cake recipe? This tried and true Dark Chocolate Cake is full of rich cocoa flavor. Topped with smooth vanilla frosting, the moist and sweet cake is perfect for any occasion!

You can never have too many chocolate cakes! This German Chocolate Cake Recipe is a favorite of our readers. Or give our easy chocolate cake a try, we’ve made it in a 13×9 for parties and potlucks.

Slice of dark chocolate layer cake with vanilla frosting and chocolate chips.

Why this Recipe is Best

When it comes to chocolate, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate–I love it all.

Today’s cake recipe is all about the elegant decadence of dark chocolate!

  • This cake recipe uses dark chocolate cocoa powder for a bittersweet chocolate flavor.
  • The dark chocolate taste is balanced with a sweet, creamy vanilla frosting that’s so delicious you’ll want to eat it with a spoon.
  • It makes a beautiful and tasty birthday cake for all the dark chocolate lovers in your life!

You’ll love indulging in a slice of this rich and decadent dark chocolate cake. You can also pair this with our favorite chocolate cream cheese frosting instead!

Ingredient Notes

Ingredients needed to make dark chocolate cake from scratch.

My traditional chocolate cake recipe is quite similar to today’s recipe. Here’s a few of the ingredient highlights!

  • Dark cocoa powder. Familiar brands like Hershey’s Special Dark work perfectly. For an even deeper color, try it with black cocoa powder!
  • Brewed coffee. This does not (I repeat, does NOT) give the cake a coffee flavor. We use coffee in many of our chocolate recipes because it brings out a deeper dimension of flavor in the chocolate. It allows the cocoa powder to bloom, dissolve, and taste amazing.
  • Vanilla extract. Using a pure good quality vanilla makes all the difference. Learn How to Make Vanilla Extract for the best vanilla flavor every time.

Easy Instructions

Step by step photos showing how to make chocolate cake from scratch.

Make the chocolate cake batter.

First, you’ll combine your dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine cooled brewed coffee and milk.

Beat together sugar and butter. Add in the eggs, then the dry ingredients and coffee mixture in batches.

Bake the cake layers.

Divide the batter between two round cake pans. Bake for about 25 minutes. Let cool before adding the frosting.

Add vanilla frosting.

Step by step photos showing how to frost a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting.

Start the frosting by beating butter for several minutes until pale and fluffy. Next, beat in the powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth.

Place one dark chocolate cake layer on a cake plate. Spread vanilla frosting on top. Sprinkle with mini chocolate morsels.

Add the remaining cake layer. Cover the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting. Let set for about 15 minutes.

Finally, add another layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake. Use your hand to press mini morsels into the sides of the cake.

Slice and serve!

Tips and Tricks

  • Use a straight edge spatula to smooth the final layer of vanilla frosting.
  • Make sure to grease and flour your cake pans before baking this cake. For even easier removal, add a circle of parchment paper to the bottom or the cake pans too. You can even use our homemade cake release for best results.
  • For best presentation, place strips of parchment paper on the cake plate under the first layer of cake. After frosting, remove the strips to reveal a perfectly clean edge and cake plate!
  • Frosting. Pair this dark chocolate cake with a tangy chocolate sour cream frosting for a delicious duo. Or use our vanilla sour cream frosting to keep that black and white contrast!
Vanilla frosted chocolate layer cake sliced and being removed from cake plate.

Recipe FAQs

What can I use instead of brewed coffee?

If you don’t have any coffee or prefer not to use it, replace it with hot water in this recipe.

Can I make this with regular cocoa powder?

Yes, but then it won’t be a dark chocolate cake!

Can I make this recipe with regular chocolate chips instead of mini ones?

You can use full sized morsels if you prefer. They tend not to stick to the frosting as well–and, of course, the larger size creates a difference in consistency.

What other frostings taste good on dark chocolate cake?

This cake would also be delicious topped with Chocolate Buttercream for the ultimate chocolate lover’s dessert! This Peanut Butter Frosting or this Chocolate Ganache Frosting are other tasty ideas.

Dark chocolate cake slices on white plate and topped with vanilla frosting.

More Cake Recipes

Yield: 16 servings

Dark Chocolate Cake Recipe

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Looking for a tried and true chocolate cake recipe? This dark chocolate cake is rich and moist and the perfect, from scratch recipe you want! Topped with a smooth and creamy vanilla frosting and your sweet tooth will be satisfied!


For the Cake:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup strong brewed coffee, cooled
  • ½ cup milk

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 ½ cup mini semi sweet chocolate morsels


  1. In a bowl, mix flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.
  2. In a measuring cup, mix together cooled coffee and milk. Set aside.
  3. In an electric mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar for 5 minutes, until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Slowly add in dry ingredients alternating with the coffee/milk mixture (about 3 additions of each).
  4. Pour cake batter into two prepared pans (2-9inch round cake pans, lined with parchment paper and greased and floured). Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Remove and allow to cool about 10 minutes before removing from pans. Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
  5. For the frosting, beat butter for 3-4 minutes until pale in color. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk. Beat an additional 3-4 minutes until fluffy and smooth!
  6. To assemble cake, lay one layer of cake on a cake plate. Spoon ¼ of frosting onto top of cake, spreading evenly. Top with about ½ cup of mini morsels. Add second layer of cake. Spread a layer of frosting around the sides of the cake and the top, very thin. This is your crumb coat. Allow to set about 15 minutes (or refrigerate). Apply final layer of frosting, spreading evenly and using a straight edge spatula to smooth. Using your hands in a cupped fashion, press mini chips around sides. Continue until all sides are done.
  7. Slice and enjoy!


  • The coffee in this cake just deepens the chocolate flavor. It does not make this cake taste like coffee in any way! If you absolutely must remove the coffee, just replace the ½ cup coffee with water.
  • To keep frosting off cake plate, lay strips of parchment paper under the first layer of cake, all the way around. Once frosting is applied, carefully remove strips of paper!

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 523Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 188mgCarbohydrates: 74gFiber: 2gSugar: 61gProtein: 4g

*Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietitian for special diet advice.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Just try to resist a second (or third) piece of this easy Dark Chocolate Cake!

About Aimee

Aimee is a dessert lover (specifically rice krispie treats), workout enthusiast, self-taught foodie, and recipe creator.

Learn more about Aimee.

Affiliate Disclosure:**There may be affiliate links in this post! By clicking on them, or purchasing recommended items I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love! Thank you for supporting Shugary Sweets! See my disclosure policy for more info**

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Posted on July 13, 2021

Comments & Reviews

  1. Happy belated birthday! You make 40 look great! And this is my favorite cake combo, chocolate cake with vanilla butter cream 🙂

  2. Happy almost 40th! I turn 40 this year too and I think this needs to be my months before 40 birthday cake! Looks amazing!

  3. I have been craving chocolate cake like nobody’s business. I’ve tried making it a couple of times but it never came out just right. This cake however looks like chocolate cake perfection! Must make it soon.

    1. I love chocolate cake!! Deep dark chocolate cake 🙂 Good luck if you try it (and enjoy)!

  4. Oh, girlfriend this looks right up my alley! Might have to make this for Lemon Sugar soon!! 🙂

  5. I’m 46 and I feel like my 40s have brought me clarity in that I finally figured out who I am, I’ve settled into myself. A real time of acceptance. I will say that so far this has been the hardest decade of my life, maybe the clarity that comes with age. Whatever. Remember this, age is truly just a number, it’s how you feel inside about yourself! Rejoice & embrace the changes that come next!

    1. Thank you Beth for these words!! I think clarity does come with age. And I think the hardships come from not only from getting older, but also less self centered and we see more around us!

  6. Happy Birthday Aimee! And I was looking for a chocolate cake for my hubby’s birthday next week. This may be it! Though I have other plans for the frosting.

  7. Happy almost birthday! I want to make this cake and it is nowhere near my birthday! I had a hard time turning 30. I just had my daughter 6 days earlier and baby blues had set in hard that day. Since then, birthdays have gotten much easier!

    1. 30 was a breeze for me!! So far 40 hasn’t been too bad, but I don’t think it’s hit me yet, LOL.

  8. Happy birthday my sweet friend! I’ll be hitting 35 this winter and it has never really bothered me until recently. Now that my oldest is in Kindergarten and making friends…well their moms and dads are like kiddos themselves! lol

    1. You look so young I’m sure you fit right in! See you can get away with being young! Thanks for the birthday wishes 🙂

  9. HAPPY, HAPPY 27TH BIRTHDAY!!! you do not look almost 40, and I am pretty good at guessing.. I’m also 57.. till December… My one was born when I was 34, few months before 35, like my dad.. He was 34 Ault my birth, 35 two months later.. Enjoy, its worth it!! Love your blog!!!BIG FAT HUGS FOR THAT DAY!!!!!=)=)

  10. Happy Birthday Aimee…:-) You look so young, you don’t look like 40, I tought you’re under 30. You’re so lucky to have 4 kids . I will be 32 on 21st July and I don’t have any kid yet. My mom was 19 when she had me. That’s life….the important thing is happiness.
    Love your cake, nice blog. Keep posting!
    Regards from Germany

  11. Happy Birthday! I can tell by looking at the color of this cake that it is absolutely amazing and perfect for a 40th birthday!

  12. Happy Birthday, Aimee! I remember when I was younger I thought 40 was old, but now that I’m getting to be 30, 40 doesn’t seem old at all…haha! Have a wonderful birthday celebration 🙂

  13. You make such lovely delicious cakes..beautiful pictures..thanks for sharing the recipe will certainly try this delicious cake.

  14. Aimee, continue to celebrate your life! Your timeline is close to mine; just one problem. My son didn’t co-operate. He didn’t have my one and only grandchild until he was almost 37. So, at 57 I thought of myself as an old grandmother. But, the best thing is I didn’t feel old and still don’t! Just blessed! Enjoy.

  15. STOP IT YOU ARE NOT OLD! Old is like, way way down the road. You still have all the energy to run this awesome blog and make these fantastic cakes! I think you’ll be just fine heehee. 😉 I hope you have a lovely birthday though, Aimee (with more cake!).

    1. I do have lots of energy. But the 10 cups of coffee a day might help with that 🙂 Thanks for the birthday wishes Jess!!

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