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I'm not kidding around when I say this is the best moist chocolate cake ever. Like ever ever. It's a family recipe from my in-laws*, and it's been made literally hundreds of time. Every single family birthday this cake gets whipped out, and it's the highlight of the day. And by the way, I'm going to be using the word "moist" many, many times in this recipe. You've been warned.
Credit where Credit is Due
This recipe belongs to my mother-in-law, Liz, who has generously agreed to let me post it here. She's the one who has been making this cake for, I kid you not, decades. The first time I had it, I knew I was going to have to marry her son. Because I could not live without this cake in my life. And you know. Him also.
*EDIT: I've recently discovered that this recipe is very similar to the Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake recipe. The icing is different, and the water is swapped out for coffee, but clearly - the inspiration came from this recipe!
This cake is simple, easy and produces results every time. You can use a stand mixer if you want, but mixing by hand also works. And: Yay! You don't have to destroy your entire kitchen with dishes because this comes together in one bowl.
How to Make Cake from Scratch
Making most types of cake from scratch really isn't that much harder than in a mix. The only time your saving yourself is measuring the dry ingredients. There is definitely a time and a place for cake mixes, but this isn't one of them. If you're cake is more than one layer high (this one is two), then we're officially in special occasion cake territory. And those cakes are just so much better from scratch. Like the best moist chocolate cake is only ever going to be homemade. While our family traditionally uses this chocolate cake for birthdays, it's also perfect to bring out at Christmas.
This is a pretty standard cake recipe. We're going to measure our dry ingredients, whisk them, and then add our wet ingredients (except the coffee) and combine. After everything's nice and combined, we add the hot, rich coffee which is going to take the flavour of this cake to another level (more on that later).
Next, we need to prepare our baking rounds (and this is key. I have thrown literal tantrums over a perfectly baked cake tearing itself apart because it was stuck to the bottom of the pan FOR NO REASON, omg FINE it was because I didn't use parchment paper even after my mom told me too), and there's nothing worse. We're not taking any chances and using both cooking spray and parchment paper. #NeverAgain.
Once we get our cake batter in the pans, the go into the oven for about 35 minutes. After that the cool in the pans for 15, and then we CAREFULLY take them out and let them cool the rest of the way on wire racks. At this point they're ready to be frosted, and eaten.
How to make the Best MOIST Cake Ever
To me, making the best moist cake comes down to one ingredient: oil. It's an absolute must for this recipe, and here's why. First, oil is liquid, and is liquid at room temperature, unlike butter. This means, because science, that the cake is going to have a more moist sensation, and remains moist for longer. Because butter solidifies at room temperature, the cake, as it cools, tends to get more crumbly. Second: butter is actually 80% fat and 20% liquid (water). When the dry ingredients interact with the butter then, they're mixing with both fat and water. Water + flour = gluten, meaning that you're cake is going to be relatively tough. That's compared to oil, which is pure, pure fat. If you want to read more about this, and how it works, check out this Bon Appetit article. And also, stop making your cakes with butter. Immediately. Chocolate cake without butter is the way to go.
There's a lot of info out there about using sour cream and mayo to make your cakes moist, but I haven't found this makes a huge difference for me. It's really all about the oil vs. butter.
What about Olive Oil?
Olive oil has the same effect as regular vegetable oil - but, it has much much more flavour. So this can be an absolutely delicious variation - you just have to be aware of all the flavours your using in the cake, and how they will interact with the olive oil.
Why Are we Using Coffee?
Apart from the fact that coffee is the elixir of the gods, it's because it makes the chocolate flavour so much more intense and delicious. This cake does not taste like coffee, I promise you. It tastes like the most decadent, rich and complex chocolate cake you've ever had. So even if you're tempted to skip it, don't. We're also putting it in the frosting for good measure.
Can you Freeze it?
Yes you can, as long as you haven't frosted it yet. Once the cakes have cooled completely, wrap them separately in plastic wrap and lay them flat in the freezer. They should keep for up to three months. To defrost, let them warm up on the counter, and then decorate as normal.
What do I do with the Leftovers?
Ok, when you're making the best moist chocolate cake ever, there are not often leftovers. However, on the off chance you do find yourself in this enviable situation, here's what you're going to make:
This is a chocolate cake milkshake. And yes, it's as outrageous and ridiculous as it sounds. You're welcome.
The Best Moist Chocolate Cake
- Two 8" baking rounds **see notes**
For the Cake
- 1¾ C flour
- 2 C sugar
- ¾ C cocoa powder
- 1½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 C milk
- ½ C vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 C hot coffee
For the Chocolate Icing
- 2⅔ C icing sugar
- ⅔ C cocoa powder
- ¼ C margarine
- ¼ C hot coffee
Bake the Cake
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Prepare your baking rounds: Trace the bottom of your 8" rounds onto parchment paper. Cut the circles out, and then line the bottom of your pans with them. Spray the parchment and the sides of the rounds with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Combine the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Whisk until combined.
- Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Slowly stir until just combined. Add the coffee, and stir until just mixed. There might be a few lumps - this is totally fine.
- Pour the batter (it should be quite runny) equally into each pan. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn upside-down on a cooling rack to get them out. Flip them right side up again and let them cool completely, then frost.
Make the Frosting
- Combine the icing sugar, cocoa and margarine in a large bowl. Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, start on a low speed to mix the frosting. Gradually add the coffee, one tablespoon at a time. You may not need to use the full amount. Gradually increase speed until all the ingredients are combined, and the icing has a smooth and silky consistency. (See notes).
Nicole Tingwall says
Seriously one of the best chocolate cake recipes I've had! I licked the plate!
Thanks so much Nicole, I'm so glad you liked it!
Which coffee brand do you use? Is it espresso?,
Hi Dina, you can use any brand you like! Even instant coffee works. It's not espresso, though, I think a full cup of that would be very strong.
This recipe is divine! And it's true- there is really no other word for it than moist, but it's so good! I will be using this one again and again!
Haha, thanks Katie - I appreciate it!
Renee | The Good Hearted Woman says
Such a scrumptious cake! The coffee makes all the difference in the depth of flavor. We'll be making this one again!
Awesome! Thanks Renee!
This chocolate cake looks absolutely amazing!! I can't wait to make it for valentine's day coming up!
This would be perfect for Valentine's Day! Thanks so much Anjali!
Wow, what a moist, rich and decadent chocolate cake. Cannot wait to try this for my family - I am sure we will love it. Thanks for sharing your family recipe.
Thank you so much Pavani! Glad you liked it!
S N Khan says
Please make a vedio of its process making cake
Hey there! I will definitely try and get that done soon!
This is very similar to my mom's recipe which she always baked in a rectangular cake pan which Hershey bar glaze icing. Btw, I am 70 so this recipe has been around for a while.
Yes it definitely has. As I mentioned in the blog, I got it from my mother-in-law, who got it from her mom!
S N Khan says
Please make a vedio of its process making cake
Diana Lee-Padley says
Can this cake be baked in a 9X13 cake pan?
Hi Diana, yes absolutely. Just make sure you start checking if it's done around the 30-35 minute mark.
Not sure what I am doing wrong. I had to remake the cake, following exact measurements and order. Stir just until combined so I don’t overmix, and they have caved in both times. Any tips?
Oh no, I'm so sorry Shelley! I'm honestly not sure, especially since you're clearly not over-mixing the batter. There's only a couple of things I can think of: first, if you're baking powder is over 6 months old, that could potentially be the culprit. You can test it by putting a tsp of baking powder in a half cup of hot water. If it starts bubbling rapidly, it's still good. If you don't see any action, it's probably time to replace it.
The other issue could have to do with altitude. I live in Western Canada, so I'm at a higher altitude (although I've made it at lower altitudes as well). If you're closer to sea level, you can try making these adjustments:
I hope this helps even a little bit - I know how frustrating cakes can be!
Thanks for the tips! I will test it out.
Let me know how it goes! I'm very invested now lol 🙂
Patricia @ Grab a Plate says
This is just awesome! Family recipes are the best. What a wonderful cake for any celebration! I also love your chocolate cake milkshake - mmmmm!!
The milkshake is definitely next level, NGL - you HAVE to try it!
Wow, what a beautiful cake. I'm seriously drooling just by looking. Have to bake this cake asap. My dad has a birthday soon... It will be a perfect opportunity to try your recipe. Thanks!
Thanks Natalie! Please let me know how it turns out!
Oh wow, this is chocolate cake perfection!
Thank you so much Katherine!
I bet it is the best moist cake ever. I mean the photos are absolutely mouthwatering!
Thank you Mahy! And it's definitely my all-time favourite cake recipe!
Wow! This chocolate cake looks so moist and delicious! I am all in for adding coffee to make the chocolate flavor come out even more. A chocolate lovers dream!
It totally is! Definitely my favourite cake in the world!
Coffee gives this cake a delicious depth of flavor and the cake texture is so tender and delicious!
Thanks Gwynn! So glad you liked it!
Loved this cake so much! Super intense chocolate flavor from the coffee - definitely a keeper!
Glad to hear it Sharon - thank you!
Tayler Ross says
I can attest, this is the best chocolate cake! It's a favorite here at our house!
Amazing, I'm so glad Tayler!
Susmit Bhagat says
This looks amazing! 😍🔥
Thanks Sus! Hope you give it a try 🙂
Thanks for this recipe! I've never made a cake with coffee before. Really brings out the chocolate flavor.
That's totally what I love about this cake Andrea!
Yum best cake ever, can confirm!
so glad you think so karly!
Anything with coffee is good with me and this really does look like the best chocolate cake.
Thank you so much!
Suja MD says
Delicious yet simple recipe that the whole family loved. Can’t wait to make it again!
Yay! I'm so glad Suja!
delish! thanks for this
Thanks so much Kisha!
Hi!! Can the icing be made with butter instead of margarine?
Hi McKenzie! I've personally never tested it with butter, but I assume it would be fine. I would just make sure it was softened before I added it!
Did not turn out. Followed directions and poured evenly into 9" cake pans. It promptly overflowed and smoked out the kitchen. Time for cake #2. 😐
Hi Jessica, I'm so sorry your cake didn't turn out. I have always used 8" cake rounds and have never had a problem with the cake overflowing. I'm in the middle of updating this recipe though, so your feedback is very much appreciated!
Mary Kate says
The same thing happened to me. I’ve been making for 50 years. No clue why other than it’s a good reminder that measurements by weight are more accurate by volume.
Very good cake; may have a little too much coffee for my taste but it is super moist. You definitely need to double the frosting in order to frost a layer cake. I made the icing with butter since we don't buy margarine.
Hi Robin, thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! I agree with you about the icing. I'm in the middle of updating this recipe right now, so I think I might just go ahead and make that change. And, if you wanted to make this cake again but cut back on the coffee flavor, you can always do half coffee and half water (or whatever ratio you think you'd like the best). Thanks so much again 🙂
Do you have to be careful adding the hot coffee so the eggs don't curdle?
Hi Lisa - this is a great question, I thought the same thing when I first started making this cake. But no, from my experience, the eggs have never curdled!
I’ve tried making this cake in a bunt pan, with a looser icing. It also turned out great! Cooking time was just a tad longer.
That's awesome Jessica, so glad to hear it! And thank you for that tip 🙂
Hi, can I use 2x 6 inch cake tins with this recipe? If so, how long should I bake it and in what temperature?
Hi Neri - I wouldn't recommend that. The recipe is too big for 2 6" cake pans, and I think the batter would definitely overflow. The smallest I would go is 2 x 8" pans, and it also works in 2 x 9" pans, although the cooking time is about 5 minutes less.
If you wanted to not use all the batter in the 6" pans you could definitely try that, I've just never done it before. I would say check them around the 15-20 minute mark, and keep checking every five minutes until they are done.
Hi, I haven’t made the recipe yet but could it be made as cupcakes ?
Also is the oven temperature listed a fan assisted setting or not?
Hi Kate, I'm sorry for the slow response - my email stopped alerting me to when I get comments. These could definitely be made as cupcakes! It should make around 24 cupcakes, and they should take between 20-25 minutes. I would keep an eye on them though, depending on how full you fill the cups. Just make sure a toothpick comes out clean!
And the oven temperature is not with the fan assist 🙂
Amazing thank you so much!
In the interim I tried out the cake version and oh my word it was incredible! I have been looking for a “go to” chocolate cake recipe for ages and after making this I can confidently say I will never use another recipe again! Thank you so much!!! X
Oh my goodness, thank you so much Kate, you've totally made my day. And I feel the same way about this cake! Do let me know how the cupcakes turn out, I definitely want to know!
Is it very sweet , 2 cups is a lot of sugar
Hi Cindy, no I definitely don't think so. I think the coffee and cocoa help balance it out!
Question, do you add cool,warm,hot, or boiling coffee?
Hi Lucy, I add hot coffee. And the eggs have never curdled on me!
This is the best chocolate cake recipe I have ever made. I make all my cakes from scratch. This one is incredible. I have made the Hershey cake before. This one is better in my opinion. Thanks for the recipe!
Donna, you just made my day! Thank you so much, I'm so glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
Love how moist and delicious this chocolate cake is. Thanks for the recipe.
The best reciper EVER! Truly moist and scrumptious. I'm definitely saving and making it again. How can we make a molten version of it?
Hi Sally, I'm so glad you think so! I have no idea how to make a molten version, but youve inspired me - so I'm totally going to figure it out! Will keep you updated 🙂
Will this cake come
Out just as nice if I don’t divide the batter? I don’t plan on using frosting this time around. Should I bake it for longer?
Hi Jennifer - I think it depends on what type of pan you're using. If you're going with a 9x13" pan, I would cook it for 30-35 minutes at 350F. If you're going for a Bundt cake pan, it would definitely be longer, more like 45-55 minutes. I do know that other readers have said it turns out great in the Bundt pan!
Megan potts says
Perfect recipe in every way! Thank you for sharing it!
Yay! Thank you Megan, so glad you liked it 🙂
Thanks so much Megan!
Can you use decaf coffee?
Made these as cupcakes. Definitely overcooked the first batch, but they were still delicious. I’d say for regular sized cupcakes about 13-14 minutes is plenty depending on your oven. I have a gas oven. These were absolutely delicious. I made whipped cream instead of icing to top them with.
Hi Elizabeth - thank you so much for sharing - this is great info! I'll definitely update my cupcake cook times!
My husband said yum, yum and yum! Absolutely delicious!
Best chocolate cake recipe, definitely my go to for all future chocolate cakes.
So glad you loved this - and I'll pass your comment on to Liz! 🙂
Sorry Cara, I meant to address this to you just finished reading Elizabeth’s post.
My apologies. Great chocolate cake!
Oh my goodness no worries! I figured you must know her somehow, this is actually her recipe! 🙂
Can I substitute buttermilk for milk
I wouldn't recommend it for this recipe. Since buttermilk has acid, it actually effects the leavening process for the cake. To not have an impact on the results, you'll have to play around with the amount of baking powder used (likely removing the baking powder completely, and upping the amount of baking soda). I've never tried it on this recipe, but if you're looking for more info, try this link: https://www.thespruceeats.com/buttermilk-substitutions-measures-and-equivalents-1807462
Is icing sugar, powdered sugar?
Yes it is! Sorry, I live in Cananda, I forgot that we use a different term for it up here! 🙂
Is there a way to use this recipe for cupcakes??
Yes, this recipe is great as cupcakes! Just bake them for 22-25 minutes at 350F - it should make 24-30.
I made this cake in a 9 x 13 pan, but I frosted it with my own buttercream frosting recipe. My family raved over it. One of my girls said it was like "fancy restaurant" cake. I will definately save this recipe and make it again.
I'm so glad Carrie! Also, I think "fancy restaurant cake" is the best compliment I've ever been given! 😀