Classic (One Bowl) Chocolate Cake

Classic (One Bowl) Chocolate Cake

I know I just talked about avoiding turning my oven on in the summer, but if I am going to turn it on it has to be for something 1- easy and 2- delicious. Also- it happened to be my husband’s birthday and he wanted cake and that’s what he got. Classic, rich, fudgy chocolate cake that is so easy to throw together I may be turning my oven on for it on a weekly basis.

I have never had too much luck with layer cakes, (they always seem to be lopsided or the filling ends up oozing out the sides,) so I was very proud that this baby was straight and pretty. (Though I still need lessons in decorating, “rustic swirls” seem to be the only trick up my sleeve as of now.) The fact that this cake is much more fluffy than dense helps with the layering too- maybe next time I’ll be brave and try 3 layers!!

Classic (One Bowl) Chocolate Cake

Oh funny story- as delicious as this cake ended up, you should have seen the two layers that I wasted my fancy cocoa powder on that ended up in the trash. I knew they looked a little weird and I was so surprised that they baked in 12 minutes (it should have taken at least 30.) I figured maybe my fancy cocoa powder was to blame so I left them to cool, thinking they actually didn’t rise much and I’d probably need a third layer. I start whipping up another small batch of batter and then a huge lightbulb goes off. SUGAR. Oh man yup- I just totally forgot to add sugar to the first batch. Isn’t it crazy how much more than taste it affects? I laughed at myself for a few minutes, cried a little inside and then started over.

Classic (One Bowl) Chocolate Cake

One last thing- I am having the hardest time getting inspired with summer recipes that both sound good/doable. It may be a combination of me being under the weather and not really feeling like sweets, or the heat, or just wanting to relax in the summer sun. Anyway- things may be a little slower over here for the next few weeks. I promise I’m not going anywhere, I just want to give you quality over quantity and I need to wait until more good ideas come my way. Feel free to pass some on and I so appreciate your patience. I will try to think of other ways to fill my blog space in the meantime too!

Classic (Easy) Chocolate Cake

Classic (Easy) Chocolate Cake

Yield: 1 8/9 inch layer cake


  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder*
  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 and 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For Frosting:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder*
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk or cream
  • Chocolate chips or shavings for garnish*


For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans, sprinkle with flour and line with parchment rounds. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, soda and salt.) Whisk together until well combined.
  3. Add all the rest of the ingredients- (eggs, buttermilk, warm water, oil and vanilla,) and whisk until smooth, clump-free and glossy. (Don't over-mix)
  4. Divide the batter evenly among the pans, and bake for 30-40 minutes, (depending on your oven,) or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting:

  1. In a medium-large bowl, combine the butter, powdered sugar and cocoa and mix with an electric mixer until the dry ingredients have been worked into the butter, and the mixture is thick and paste-like. Fold in the melted chocolate and then add the extract and 3 tablespoons of milk or cream and mix on high speed until smooth and fluffy. At this point, create thicker or thinner frosting by adding more milk/cream or powdered sugar as needed.
  2. Frost and layer cake as desired.


* I used dark dutch-process cocoa for both the cake and the frosting. Regular cocoa with work just fine though if that's what you have.

Cake recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Unsaturated Fat: 0g

Did you make this recipe?

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  1. What a beautifully frosted cake Audra! I love the anecdote behind it too. It’s so funny how easy it is to forget core ingredients sometimes. Dark cocoa powder yields the most divine chocolate flavor! This recipe sounds like a winner. Happy bday to your hubby!

  2. CHOCOLATE!! Can’t go wrong with anything chocolate. :-)
    I will probably be putting this recipe in my “to make-later” file, it’s just too hot for me right now. We have been getting temps between 100-103 here….eck!! I’m still not willing to do anything in my oven.
    I have baked some pretty nice sweets in the past where I also forget an item or two….LOL!
    Believe me, I do yell and jump up and down when I screw up, it just kills me to waste ingredients.
    But, this is how I learn, by my mistakes.
    Happy birthday to your hubby!

  3. I love your blog, I love this post! It’s so reassuring that someone else forgets ingredients and gets lopsided cakes!
    Although I miss when you don’t post, it’s totally fine to take a break and recharge. Just let us know when you’ll be back. Sure wish I had the problem of a hot kitchen – around Toronto it’s been a cool, dull and rainy spring. How about some Icebox pie recipes, or more ice cream/gelato recipes. One frozen yogurt recipe I can’t get enough of is the goat cheese one in the Momfuku Milk cookbook.

    1. Aw Carolyn you are so sweet. Thank you!
      Don’t worry- I’ll still be posting regularly, I just have a couple trips coming up and I don’t have it in me to get a lot of posts ready for when I’m out of town.

      Thanks so much for your suggestions! xo

  4. That cake looks beautiful! Makes me wish it was my husband’s birthday so I could whip it up ;)

  5. That cake is beautiful! I love the rustic swirls!

    Hmmmm what about sorbets or ice creams? Then you can mix in seasonal fruits and won’t have to turn the oven on? Ugh, I hate being stuck in a non recipe funk.

  6. I get so frustrated with my cakes when I can’t perfectly smooth them out….I don’t know why I have yet to try rustic swirls! Your cake is gorgeous and I’m definitely in the same boat with you in regards to lack of inspiration. I only like posting a recipe that I absolutely LOVE but sometimes a few days isnt enough time to make something I’m really crazy about!

  7. The Chocolate cake recipe looks super yummy. About using Dutch process cocoa for the cake batter. Somewhere
    I read that using regular cocoa for cake baking was better because the acidity would allow the cake a better rise.
    If anyone else has comments on this subject please reply — thanks!

    1. Hello! Usually you never want to use regular cocoa if a recipe called for Dutch process- but I always use Dutch in this recipe and it comes out great! :)

      1. I found the following on David Lebovitz’s blog:

        Because natural cocoa powder hasn’t had its acidity tempered, it’s generally paired with baking soda (which is alkali) in recipes. Dutch-process cocoa is frequently used in recipes with baking powder, as it doesn’t react to baking soda like natural cocoa does….However when a batter-based recipe calls for natural cocoa powder, do not use Dutch-process cocoa powder.

        1. Thanks Katie- David is the best. I think that since this recipe uses both soda AND powder- somehow it works out to use either. Martha has versions of this recipe with both kinds and I always use regular when I make cupcakes. :)

  8. I feel your pain with the wasted cake. I made a birthday cake last month for a friend. The cake was in the oven for about 10 minutes when I realized….I forgot to add the eggs! I had to whip up a second cake quick!

  9. I’ve got the cake in the oven now and can’t wait to try it! Yours looks so incredibly good.

  10. Once I made upside down cake, and halfway through the baking time I realized that I forgot the butter!

  11. I hope Andy had a great birthday, I know I would with this cake:-)

    It is hard to be motivated ALL the time! Lately the only thing I ever want to eat is ice cream so that doesn’t really inspire a ton of recipe inspiration.

  12. This cake looks so delicious! I’m not much of a cake froster mater yet either, but I think I’m getting there. :) Your cake looks beautiful, though!

  13. I love this cake recipe!! I use a slightly adapted version from Martha’s, but it never fails me and I love that it doesn’t require creaming a bunch of stuff together. So easy, and so good. Yours looks beautiful! I love the swirled frosting look, I do it a lot too. Simple and beautiful, as the best things are. :)

  14. This may sound a bit odd, but strawberries and basil really capture the essence of summer for me. There are so many lemon flavored things out there that it’s kind of ran into the ground (although I really love lemon). If you need a recipe, let me know. I do a pretty good Strawberry Basil cupcake.

  15. I am majorly impressed with your rustic swirls. I have a hard time with them personally. I have done that with leaving out the sugar before. Bummer it was with the good cocoa too:( I’m sure your hubbie appreciates your efforts though.

  16. That cake looks INSANELY fudgy delicious!! Totally worth heatstroke-by-oven.

    And I’ve totally had moments where I’ve forgotten key ingredients before….sigh. It happens.

  17. Gorgeous cake! I must try your recipe! And I’ve forgotten the sugar when making 4 full sheets for chocolate sushi when on the clock in a bakery. Oh, the self-loathing inspired by THAT one. Been there! Glad you started over so we could drool over your cake. :-)

  18. For someone who supposedly needs cake decorating lessons, this cake speaks volumes to the opposite! This is one gorgeous looking cake!! I love making chocolate cakes and I assure you, this one looks so good that the next occasion that involves cake baking, this will be the one I bake. Yum!

    1. Aw thanks Kate- you’re so sweet. You should watch me try to make smooth frosting though- always a disaster! :)

  19. I don’t like chocolate generally… but damn! Words cannot describe how much I’m looking forward to making this!

    I do have a stupid question though, European here so I’m not sure if T is the same as teaspoon? Feeling rather air-headed right now, but figured it was better to ask than to screw up such a work of art :D

    Thanks, and please keep sharing drool-worthy recipes!


  20. Love the rustic swirls! How do you make them? With a spoon, small offset spatula or something else? I use the same frosting recipe (with a bit more vanilla); i use Droste dutch-processed cocoa but it doesn’t look as dark! Beautiful cake!

  21. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! Baking this tonight for my boyfriend’s birthday tomorrow (and adding some letters and a toy car to the top)! Thanks for the recipe!

  22. Hi Audra! Sounds like you had a very hectic holiday season! Couple questions about your chocolate buttercream frosting: what speed would you use after adding the cream if beating in a stand mixer? And do you use room temp cream or cold?


    1. I usually beat all my frosting on high, and I think either room temp or cold is fine for the cream- it shouldn’t make a difference!

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