Dark Chocolate Cake Recipe

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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.
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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!

Make it in a 13×9

Slice of dark chocolate cake made in a 13x9.

Sometimes you just don’t want to make a layer cake. Maybe you’re headed to a potluck, or a party, and want to bake up the cake in a 13×9.

Today’s cake is so easy to do this!

Follow all the instructions to making the cake batter. Grease and flour (or use baking spray or our homemade cake release) a 13×9 glass or metal baking dish.

Pour all the cake batter into the prepared pan. Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool completely then top with frosting and sprinkle with about 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips. Voila. Enjoy!

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

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Dark Chocolate Cake

4.76 from 37 votes
By: Aimee
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!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 16 servings


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
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  • In a bowl, mix flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.
  • In a measuring cup, mix together cooled coffee and milk. Set aside.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • To assemble cake, lay one layer of cake on a cake plate. Spoon 1/4 of frosting onto top of cake, spreading evenly. Top with about 1/2 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.
  • 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 1/2 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!
  • 13×9- Grease and flour 13×9 baking dish. Add batter. Bake for 40 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely then frost. Top with about 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips.


Serving: 1slice, Calories: 523kcal, Carbohydrates: 74g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 25g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g, Cholesterol: 70mg, Sodium: 188mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 61g
Course: Cake
Cuisine: American
Did you make this recipe?Mention @shugarysweets or tag #shugarysweets!

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

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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 May 1, 2023

Comments & Reviews

  1. the cake looks good but would have to omit coffee for water cuz I don’t drink the stuff and don’t like coffee in amything

  2. Happy Birthday and Thank You for all the
    Wonderful Recipes you have sent thru the
    Years I have used many of them❤️🎉🎉

  3. Happy Birthday Aimee! I think I will make this chocolate cake this weekend. From the Instagram person that friends you each and every time! Enjoy your week. That is a big birthday, but I have you beat by many years.

  4. 5 stars
    What a fantastic recipe! Intense, deep cocoa flavor (the addition of coffee is a major plus!), and the cake is so light and moist–and not too sweet, all the better to complement the rich, sweet vanilla buttercream frosting. I’ve made it a few times now, and it turns out great every single time–a true American classic. Many thanks, Aimee!

  5. 5 stars
    I am going to make this next week for our 33rd wedding anniversary, but I want to make a 1/4 sheet cake because I want to take it to our Thursday night marriage enrichment group and church. Do you suppose this would work if I doubled the ingredients and adjusted the bake time? TIA!!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing!! This was the best cake ever!! Your instructions were explained wonderfully . My daughter loved it!

  7. This chocolate cake recipe, what if we don’t want to add eggs? Replacement of eggs would be what?

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