Easy Chocolate Cake

easy chocolate cake recipe cake slice
This picture shows the cake baked in 9-inch rounds and filled and frosted with espresso buttercream.

The name is true but we turn to this easy chocolate cake recipe for its incredibly rich flavor, its deep, dark color and incomparably moist texture – and because it works every time. Every. Time. You don’t even need an electric mixer; it’s that simple! As a bonus, it happens to be vegan as well, containing no eggs or dairy.

Easy Chocolate Cake
Makes: Makes two 9-inch by 2-inch round layers or one 9-inch by 13-inch cake
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ⅔ cup sifted natural cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups room-temperature water
  • ⅔ cup flavorless vegetable oil, such as canola or safflower
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider or distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. Position rack in the middle of your oven. Preheat to 350˚ F. Coat the insides of two 9-inch by 2-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray, line bottoms with parchment rounds, then spray parchment. (Or coat the inside of 9-inch by 13-inch pan, line bottom with parchment, then spray parchment.)
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together water, oil, vinegar and vanilla in a medium bowl. Pour wet over dry and whisk until combined and smooth. Divide batter evenly in prepared pans. Firmly tap bottom of pans on work surface to dislodge any bubbles.
  3. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes for the 9-inch rounds (30 to 35 minutes for the 9 by 13-inch pan) or until a toothpick shows a few moist crumbs. Cool on rack for about 10 minutes, then unmold, peel off parchment, and place cakes directly on racks to cool completely. Cakes are ready to fill and frost. Alternatively, place layers on cardboard rounds and double wrap in plastic wrap; store at room temperature and assemble your cake with fillings and frostings within 24 hours.

Bakepedia Tips

  • Sift the cocoa before measuring to remove any lumps or you won’t get the proper measurement.
  • Natural cocoa, as opposed to Dutch-processed cocoa, will give you the best results in this recipe.

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38 Responses to Easy Chocolate Cake

  1. Faye August 22, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Hello.. Is it okay to use this chocolate cake recipe for a wedding cake? if so,How much of the batter do i need for a 12 by 3 inch round cake pan. My daughter is getting married in october and she asked if I could make the wedding cake. I’m very very flattered but nervous at the same time as although I love baking and have made loads of cakes for the family and friends, I have never made a wedding cake before. My daughter doesnt like fondant and she asked if I can frost the cake with chocolate ganache. Any tips please, would be very highly appreciated. By the way, we are using a 12, a 9 and a 6 in. pans.

    Thank you very much for your time.

    • Dede Wilson August 22, 2013 at 11:20 am #

      Hi and Thank you for writing. Yes, this is a great cake for large, tiered celebration cakes. I would suggest using 2-inch pans (the cakes bake so much more evenly), and bake as many layers as you need to create the height of the tier that you want. The amount of batter for this recipe here would fill ONE 12-inch by 2-inch cake pan. So you would make it twice to yield two-12-inch layers as a basis for one tier (unless you want super deep tiers and then you would be baking and multiplying further). 6, 9 and 12-inch sizes make the math easy. Your needs for the 9-inch would be half of what you figure for the 12-inch…and the 6-inch needs would be half of what you figure for the 9-inch. For the 12-inch I would use a cake core. Ganache would work beautifully. You could do a whipped ganache for the interior layers and a spread or poured ganache on top and on the exterior. Feel free to email me at dede@bakepedia.com with any further questions. Let us know what you decide to do and we would love to see pictures! We are posting community pics on our facebook page. – Dede

  2. Marianne boice September 11, 2013 at 3:38 am #

    Hi dede can I make this easy chocolate cake batter in to a cup cakes my friend want cup cakes now for her wedding thanks in advance

    • Dede Wilson September 11, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      Yes, you can! We do all the time. One of the things we like about this cake in cupcake form is that the batter bakes up quite level, allowing you the most versatility for decorating. Also, because it is oil based, this cake stays fresh longer than many which is a huge help when planning ahead for big projects like wedding cupcakes.

  3. Marianne boice September 11, 2013 at 3:43 am #

    Or do you have a cup cakes book?

    • Dede Wilson September 11, 2013 at 10:29 am #

      Thank you for asking! Yes, I have a book called A Baker’s Field Guide to Cupcakes and there is also a cupcake tower in Wedding Cakes You Can Bake. That one has pretty crystallized flowers on each Lemon Coconut cupcake.

  4. Sharon Cooke September 14, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    I really love the cake pictured above, is that a layer of ganache over the espresso buttercream frosting? If so, how do you get it on without dripping over the side? Did you put the cake in the fridge and get the espresso frosting cold? I’m so new at this and I want it to turn out like the picture…lol Thank you!!

    • Kristen September 15, 2013 at 11:14 am #

      Hi Sharon. The frosting in the pic is espresso IMBC (Italian Meringue Buttercream) and you probably know that it gets very firm when chilled. The cake is crumb coated with the IMBC, then chilled. After the final coat, Dede applied a border around the outer top edge at that time, then it went into the fridge again until firm. The border acts as a dam for the ganache. Have the ganache fluid, but not hot. Pour right onto the top of the cake and use a small triangular offset spatula to help the ganache abut the IMBC border. Chill again. Your instincts were spot on! Let us know if you make this cake and we would love to see a photo!

  5. Dina October 21, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    your frosting looks great!

  6. Lara October 26, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    wanted to clarify if the recipe for easy chocolate cake does not use any eggs?

    • Dede Wilson October 26, 2013 at 7:53 am #

      Lara, it indeed is egg-less and works like a charm! This might be the most user-friendly, go-to cake we make. And, it happens to be vegan. Enjoy.

  7. Cheryne November 26, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    Hi Dede,

    I have used this recipe before and love the finished result but this time I need to two 12inch x 12inch sponges to sandwich together and cover with royal icing, could u please advise me if this recipe if suitable and if so measurements and timings if possible please?

    • Dede Wilson November 26, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

      OK, a little math. Double the recipe will fill one, 12-inch pan. If you have made this before you know that you can whisk the ingredients together by hand and if you have a really big bowl, by all means do it all at once. It will not, however, fit in a 5-quart standing mixer bowl if you try to do 4x the recipe. With 12-inch cakes I like to use baking cores and highly recommend them. As far as time, keep an eye…it will be longer than stated time, but pull when a few moist crumbs are still clinging. Don’t want to forget that the pan has residual heat!

  8. Ivette November 29, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    Do i use the same mesurements If I want to use 9in rounds?please advice thanks

    • Dede Wilson November 30, 2013 at 7:33 am #

      Yes, you can make the recipe as written, and choose to use either 9-inch or 8-inch pans, knowing that the dimensions will be different. You cannot go up to 10-inch, however.

  9. Ivette December 5, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    Can I use vegetable oil or do I have go use the canola and safflower oil?

    • Dede Wilson December 5, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

      Any flavorless vegetable oil is fine. Oils such as peanut and corn have too strong of a flavor, but a vegetable blend, labeled “vegetable oil” is perfect.

  10. Ivette January 18, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    Hi dede I want to know if I can use this recipe to make an 8 by 8 square cake
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    2 cups sugar
    ¾ cup cocoa
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1½ teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon espresso powder
    1 cup milk
    ½ cup vegetable oil
    2 eggs
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 cup boiling water

    • Dede Wilson January 18, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

      Ivette, I would be happy to help you with recipes that are not on the site. In the future you can email me at dede@bakepedia.com. Where did the recipe come from? I would think it would suggest pan sizes and shapes. If I had to guess I would say that this might be too much batter for one 8-inch square or it could possibly make one, big, domed 8-inch square but since it isn’t my recipe and I have not made it, these are just guesses.

  11. Ivette January 18, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    1½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened
    1 cup cocoa
    5 cups confectioner’s sugar
    ½ cup milk
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    ½ teaspoon espresso powder
    I also would like to know if this frosting is enough to cover an 8 by 8 square without wasting it

    • Dede Wilson January 18, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

      If you are just frosting the top of an 8-inch square, this would leave you with leftovers. See my notes below about emailing me directly.

  12. Ivette January 18, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    Hi dede the site didn’t give other pan sizes the recipe was for 9 in rounds thanks for giving your opinion It was something new I wanted to try. This is the link to website were I got the recipe http://addapinch.com/cooking/2013/01/25/the-best-chocolate-cake-recipe-ever/#.UscYiCW9Kc0

    • Dede Wilson January 18, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

      So it sounds like the recipe was for 2, 9-inch rounds. In general, a square pan has about 20% more volume than a round (so a 9-inch square is roughly 20% greater in volume than a 9-inch round). You will have almost 2x the amount of batter for an 8-inch square. But you could make two 8-inch squares! They might be a little shallow but you would have an extra to freeze. Or, make it into a two layer square cake!

  13. Bunny February 23, 2014 at 2:11 am #

    Hey Dede!
    I want to make this cake [actually, the one from your birthday cake book- isn’t is the same one?] this week, but was wondering how you measure the flour & cocoa. Could you post these ingredients in weight? I want to be sure my cake turns out great.
    Thank you!

    • Dede Wilson February 23, 2014 at 10:37 am #

      Hi Bunny. The cake is the same. I always sift cocoa before measuring and both the flour and cocoa are whisked (aerated) before being measured with the dip and sweep method. Make sure you are using properly calibrated measuring cups. As far as weight, please see my response to this same question in the comment section of this recipe

      As you will read in my response to the other poster, we do intend to add weights, but it is a complicated matter, so for now I suggest you whisk, dip and sweep. Let us know how the cake works out. It is one of my favorites.

      • Bunny March 10, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

        Hi Dede!
        First of all, thanks for the quick reply. It’s not not taken for granted that you offer such instant help to your readers!

        So anyway, I made the cake and wanted to report back.
        I made 1/2 recipe and baked it in a loaf pan [capacity of 6 cups].
        I measured the ingredients first [dip & sweep], then wrote down the weight. Here are my weights:
        192g flour; 202g sugar; 33g cocoa.
        Everything else I didn’t bother to weigh.
        Baking time was about 50 minutes, and the cake was delicious! Dense and tender at the same time.

        I did find two minor issues with the cake: First, it was kind of difficult getting the cake out of the pan. The instructions didn’t state to wait for the cake to cool, so I unmolded it right away. I did grease and line the pan with parchment- just on the wider sides, and the bottom [I used one strip of parchment], and funny enough, the cake stuck more to the parchment than to the exposed pan!
        I think it’s because the direct heat of the pan itself sealed in the crust.
        Should I have waited for a few minutes before unmolding?

        The second issue was that the outer crust of the cake [on every side] was a little sticky- I’m guessing it’s due to the high sugar content. Is it supposed to be like that?
        The only thing I could think about [not that I have any knowledge to back this up on] is that I used slightly less flour then the recipe intended and that somehow messed up the texture.

        The cake was delicious nontheless, so thanks for the recipe!

        • Dede Wilson March 10, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

          Thank you for the lengthy detail! It is of help to the community. Also, thank you for pointing out that I had left out cooling instructions; the recipe as been updated to suggest a cooling time before unmolding. I think possibly all your issues are due to the depth of the loaf pan and using this cake in a loaf pan. The crumb of this cake would not lend itself well to a deep, narrow shape. It has too loose of a crumb, in my opinion. If I had baked this cake in a loaf pan I think I would have tried a reduced temperature of 325 degrees. A slight stickiness can be seen in this cake, usually on the bottom (attached to the parchment), so that didn’t surprise me. I would say try it in the pan’s recommended and see if some of the issue are solved.

  14. Elizabeth April 30, 2014 at 11:14 pm #

    Good evening! I am new to this sight and I am already in love! Everything looks ahhmazing! I have already made the IMBC and it was heavenly! Thank you for all your expertise…I was looking for a chocolate “spongy” soft type of cake that will not get too firm upon refrigeration. I make a very delicious chocolate butter cake, but it is a bit too dense for what I am looking to achieve. Will this cake work? Any suggestions? Thank you so much in advance for your time!!!

    • Dede Wilson May 1, 2014 at 7:27 am #

      Welcome to our community! This cake, being oil based, does retain a softness and sponginess even with refrigeration that butter based cakes do not. I would definitely try it! As with most cakes, only bake until you see a few moist crumbs still clinging. Let us know how it works for you.

      • Elizabeth May 1, 2014 at 10:39 pm #

        Thank You so much Dede! I am so excited to join this wonderful community! I am so inspired already! Can’t wait to try this easy chocolate cake recipe. I will keep you posted on how it turns out! Wish me luck 🙂

        • Dede Wilson May 2, 2014 at 8:45 am #

          Good luck! It is an easy recipe…take your time and enjoy the process.

        • Elizabeth May 25, 2014 at 12:31 am #

          Good evening Dede! I just wanted to update & thank you on my success on the easy chocolate cake!!! Big hit! Everyone loved it. I have made it in the 9″ and cupcakes and the requests keep coming in for more cake!

          I admit I was skeptical at first… How can a recipe this simple be any good…I cannot believe how easy this cake was to make and how outrageously delicious it is.

          Thank you again for this recipe and for all that you do! I am so inspired every time I visit this wonderful community!

          I want to make a 1/2 sheet cake for my sons graduation, could this recipe work? Any help you can offer is so appreciated! Thank you tons!

        • Dede Wilson May 25, 2014 at 8:16 am #

          I am so glad you tried it and now you know how EASY it is to make a dark, moist chocolate cake that is really versatile, too. It will work in a 1/2-sheet size. Were you thinking an actual 1/2-sheet pan, either one or two layers? Here is a basic trick. Fill up your 9-inch pans with water to the level that the batter came up to. Pour that water into a 1/2-sheet pan to see what volume you have to play with and make adjustments from there.

  15. saidaj June 21, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    Hi Dede,

    Thank you very much for all the effort your putting into this website, it’s one of the most comprehensive ones I have found.
    I have actually tried this cake a few times now and every time it seems to be falling apart on me. I have tried baking it at a lower temperature as well.
    Can you please advise.

    • Dede Wilson June 22, 2014 at 9:39 am #

      Let’s see if we can figure this out. Are you using natural cocoa? Are your dry ingredients whisked together well? Is your leavened fresh? Is the water warm or at least room temp?

      Tell me more about what you mean by falling apart? This cake is usually very moist and if anything can be sticky! So I would love to know more…

  16. Amanda Anderson August 25, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    Hello 🙂

    This recipe sounds great.. I am thinking of trying this for a cake I am making which I am making in the form of a slab. ( 2 x 12inch squares side by side.) I have to write details on the cake so will be covering in fondant. Any suggestions to what icing recipe will be best for under the fondant. Thank you very much 🙂

    • Dede Wilson August 26, 2014 at 8:17 am #

      What do you usually like to use? A thin coat of Italian Meringue would work as would a think coat of a confectioners’ sugar based frosting. I would opt for the IMBC for both texture and level of sweetness reasons.

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