If you’re a chocolate lover you’re going to adore this Ultimate Chocolate Cake Recipe! It’s rich and decadent, with a tender, moist crumb. Once you’ve whipped together this easy cake, you’ll never look back.
It All Starts with a Box
Like so many of my cake projects, this Ultimate Chocolate Cake Recipe starts with a boxed mix. (I make no apologies for that.) But, I can assure you, this mix gets doctored. . .and doctored again! Trust me when I say the end result is beyond amazing. In fact, it’s the best chocolate cake recipe I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot)!
We’re talking about a rich, dark cake so full of flavor that you won’t believe it started with a box. The texture is absolutely perfect! And, oh my. . .the things you can add!
I’m always excited when someone asks me to bake a rich chocolate cake for one of their special occasions because I get to load up the cake with goodies. It’s fun to fill the layers with things like ganache (or hot fudge), mini chocolate chips, chopped pecans, and even caramel sauce. Yum!
What chocolate cake mix should I use?
I start with a devil’s food cake mix because that’s my preference. You can really use whatever “type” of chocolate you prefer. I love something a little more robust than a milk chocolate cake.
This recipe (which calls for two boxed mixes) will make a traditional single-tier, three layer 9″ cake like the one you see in the picture below.
On the day I took some of these pictures I happened to be making a two-tiered baby shower cake (covered in my Dreamy Buttercream Frosting). That’s why you’ll see extra ingredients in the photo below.
Check out how my “Little Cuties” cake turned out.
Yep, that’s really a chocolate cake under there, underneath all of that orange ombre frosting!
You will probably want to choose my Chocolate Ganache Frosting so I am including the recipe below. But first, let’s start with the cake.
Ingredients for Ultimate Chocolate Cake Recipe
Are you wondering what goes into my chocolate cake?
You will find the full printable recipe for this cake at the bottom of this post. In the meantime, let’s take a quick look at the ingredients for this moist chocolate cake recipe. Here’s what you’ll need:
This cake comes together easily and you’ve probably got most everything you need in your pantry and refrigerator to pull it off.
- Devil’s Food cake mix
- large eggs
- coffee (I made mine with 1 teaspoon of instant espresso powder and 1 cup of warm water)
- room temperature butter (salted)
- vegetable oil
- instant chocolate pudding
Ingredients for Chocolate Frosting: Best Ganache Recip
I posted my Chocolate Frosting recipe in a separate post but it’s worth including here, too. You’re probably going to want to cover your cake in this ganache-based frosting. (Hey, chocolate on chocolate? Yes, please!)
I think it’s going to be just the ticket for your Ultimate Chocolate Cake. It’s going to be a rich chocolate explosion.
- milk chocolate chips
- semi-sweet chocolate chips
- heavy cream (or milk)
- Dutch-process cocoa powder
- salted or unsalted butter (your choice, room temperature)
- cream cheese
- Crisco (for piping/stability)
- powdered sugar
- vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
Now that you can see what goes into this cake and frosting, it’s time to start baking. If you read my 20 Must-Have Tools for Cake Bakers post, you already know what tools you’ll need but good pans, an offset spatula, and cooling racks are really important.
How to Make this Ultimate Chocolate Cake
If this is your first time making this recipe, pay close attention! You’re going to love this process!
- Start by pre-heating your oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine your dry ingredients (mix and pudding) in the mixing bowl, then add your butter and oil. Mix at low speed until incorporated. You could mix by hand in a large bowl but this is a thick batter, so you will get a workout! (You might be mixing a long time!) I use my stand mixer and choose the paddle attachment.
- Slowly work in the wet ingredients (coffee and milk), alternating between the two, adding a little at a time. I start with a cup of hot coffee (made with espresso powder) but bring it to room temperature before adding.
- Now it’s time to add your eggs. Crack them into a separate bowl (to make sure there’s no look bit of shell) then drip them into your cake batter, one at a time.
- Mix at medium speed to make sure everything is incorporated but don’t over mix!
- This is a thick, creamy batter. If yours is too thick you can always add 1/4 cup of water to thin it down. Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of your bowl so you don’t leave any batter behind!
- Fill your prepared pans halfway up.
- Now it’s time to bake your cake. Put it into your 350 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes. Be careful not to over bake!
Chocolate cakes often come out dry, but this one won’t, I promise! But, I’ll also tell you that I didn’t cook this cake quite as long as my traditional white cake. It only took 25 minutes and they were absolutely perfect.
Decorate your chocolate cakes
Allow your cakes to fully cool on wire racks. (You can even refrigerate them until they are chilled if you like.)
Level the cakes. I use a cake leveler but if you don’t have one, a serrated knife will do. Just do your best to keep it straight!
Now it’s time to stack and fill your cakes. Put the bottom cake on your cake board, leveled side up. Cover in a thick layer of the chocolate buttercream and add a ring around the edge to hold the yummy goodness inside. I went with hot fudge, mini chocolate chips, and chopped pecans. I usually add caramel to that mix, but didn’t have any on hand.
See the bottom of this post for more filling ideas! The possibilities are endless.
Stack the cakes, repeating the frosting/filling technique.
The top cake goes bottom-side up. Crumb coat your cake using an offset spatula then set in the refrigerator for half an hour.
When it’s “set,” go ahead and pull it out of the refrigerator and frost the cake.
Decorate your cake
I had to stick with the plan, (decorating the cake to be served at a baby shower), but since you’re working with chocolate frosting you’ll have a ton of options for decorating.
My favorite way to decorate a chocolate cake is with chocolate candy on top. You’ll leave a lasting impression if you load up your rich chocolate cake with more sweet treats on top. Here are a few of the chocolate candy cakes I’ve done over the years.
You will notice that the depth of color on the buttercream totally depends on how much (or how little) cocoa powder you add. If you skip the chocolate chips and just use cocoa powder you’ll end up with a lighter product in the end.
Whether you’re making a birthday cake, wedding cake, anniversary cake, or a simple dessert for your family, this will hit the spot!
How to Store this Ultimate Chocolate Cake:
Because of the addition of cream cheese to the frosting, you should refrigerate in an airtight container, far away from pungent items like onions. Cake will stay fresh for up to a week. Bring it to room temperature before serving, as the refrigeration process can cause the buttercream to harden.
You can freeze this cake for up to two months in an airtight container.
Variations on the Ultimate Chocolate Cake:
- This recipe is perfect for cupcakes because it’s thicker than most. (Did you know that cupcakes release from their liners easier if the batter is slightly thick?) I had enough leftover batter from the “Little Cuties” project to make half a dozen cupcakes for my grandchildren.
- Out of butter or milk? Add some sour cream or cream cheese for a richer flavor.
- In the mood for mint chocolate? Make your ganache with mint chocolate chips.
- Add chopped Oreos to your chocolate cake batter and stuff more between the cake layers while stacking.
- Chocolate and orange go together beautifully! Cover this cake in my Dreamy Buttercream Frosting, but add orange zest. Use orange marmalade between the layers, along with the buttercream.
- Here’s another fun fruit angle: Add raspberry preserves between the layers and frost with my delicious Raspberry Whipped Cream frosting.
- Turn this cake mix into brownies by cutting back on the liquids. (Yes, you really can turn a boxed cake mix into brownies!) You can also add a tablespoon or two of all purpose flour to the mix.
For something a little different, why not try this Chocolate Olive Oil Cake from NYT Cooking. The addition of olive oil adds a slight bitterness, which pairs beautifully with the rich cocoa flavor. And if heaven to you sounds like a chocolatey dream, try out this Black Forest Icebox Cake recipe! It’s a soft and delicious dark chocolate cake with the perfect cherry cheese mousse.
That’s it for now, y’all! I can’t wait to hear your take on this yummy, moist cake!
A Funny Chocolate Cake Story
Thinking about chocolate cake has reminded me of that infamous Job Switching episode in the I Love Lucy show.
If you recall, Fred (Lucy and Ricky’s neighbor) baked a seven-layer chocolate cake. Only, the whole cake was only about an inch tall.
Hopefully your chocolate cake turns out better than that!
Learn more about doctored cake mixes, the theme of this blog.
For the master list of all doctored cake mix recipes on this site, visit Doctored Cake Mix Recipes, Master List.
About the Author
Janice Thompson is an author, baker, and all-around mischief maker! She has overcome a host of baking catastrophes, including a toppled wedding cake, to learn more about the baking process. Janice has published over 150 books for the Christian market but particularly enjoys writing recipes and baking devotions. To learn more about Janice or to drop her a note, visit her About the Author page.
- FOR THE CAKE:
- 2 boxes of Devil's Food cake mix
- 7 large eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup coffee (I made mine with 1 teaspoon of instant espresso powder and 1 cup of warm water)
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) room temperature butter (salted)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 ounces instant chocolate pudding
- FOR THE FROSTING:
- 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup heavy cream (or milk)
- 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 2 stick (1 cup) salted or unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 1 block (8 oz) cream cheese (room temperature)
- 1 stick (1 cup) Crisco (for piping/stability)
- 1 bag (7-8 cups) powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
How to Make the Ultimate Chocolate Cake
Start by pre-heating your oven to 350 degrees.
Combine cake mix, pudding mix, butter, and oil in mixing bowl. Mix at low speed until incorporated.
Slowly work in the coffee and milk, alternating between the two, adding a little at a time.
Now it's time to add your eggs. Crack them into a separate bowl (to make sure there's no look bit of shell) then drip them into your cake batter, one at a time. Be careful not to over mix!
This is a thick, creamy batter. If yours is too thick you can always add 1/4 cup of water to thin it down. Now it's time to bake your cake. Fill your pans halfway up. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes or until cake springs back when touched.
How to make Creamy Chocolate Frosting:
Start with room temperature butter and cream cheese. Nothing will wreck a batch of frosting faster than chunky butter and cream cheese!
Let's start with the ganache.
Put your chocolate chips and heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl. Place in the microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir. Repeat this process until the chips are melted. Add the cocoa powder. Stir, stir, stir until the ganache comes together then place in the refrigerator to cool down while you make the buttercream.
Time to work on that buttercream!
Place the cream cheese and butter into your mixer and whip until light and fluffy. (Note: if you use salted butter you can skip the pinch of salt that's recommended later on.) It's critical to get it as light in color and texture as you can. Now it's time to add the Crisco.
I know. You don't want to. You're afraid it will alter the taste. I promise, it won't. It will do the one thing you need it to do, the one thing that sets this apart from a runny cream cheese frosting. . .it will add stability. You'll need this if you plan to pipe your frosting. (If you don't plan to pipe it, feel free to skip this step but you will have to adjust the amount of powdered sugar you add.)
Before you incorporate the shortening, go ahead and add your extract. I used a butter vanilla emulsion but a traditional vanilla extract will be just fine. You can also add your pinch of salt at this time.
Time to add the ganache!
Make sure your ganache is cool but not too thick. Slowly work it into your butter, cream cheese, shortening mix.
Now it's time to add your powdered sugar! Be so careful. Turn your mixer speed way down and add it slowly.
Once it's all incorporated take your mixer back up to medium speed. Whip, whip, whip until fluffy. You're going for a light, creamy frosting here. (Note: you might need to adjust the amount of powdered sugar you add to get it to the texture you like. You can always add a bit of milk to thin it down if it's too thick. Likewise, you can add more powdered sugar if it's too thin.)