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The Best No-Nonsense Chocolate Cake Recipe I Have Found

I love chocolate cake. All chocolate cake. Don’t get me wrong. But sometimes you want just a simple, no-nonsense chocolate cake that’s not too rich and not too sophisticated. That is this cake: just the right amount of moistness, just the right amount of chocolateyness, just the right amount of everything. Works with Cream Cheese Frosting, vanilla buttercream, or basic chocolate frosting. Whatever you like best! Thanks, as always, to Martha.

Ed. Note Re: Pan Sizes, Batch Sizes, and Baking Times: If you are making the Thomas The Tank Engine Cake, or any other specially shaped cake and need to use pans with different dimensions, follow the guidelines on your pans to determine how many cups are needed to fill your pans, and how long you should bake your cake. This recipe makes approximately 6-7 cups of batter. If you are making a 15 x 19 sheet cake, for example, you will need to multiply this recipe by 1.5 to get the roughly 8 cups you need to fill it (plus a little extra). More detailed information about how to determine batch sizes and baking times is available here.

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper, and butter paper. Dust the pans with cocoa; tap out extra. If you are making the Thomas the Tank Engine cake, or any other specially shaped cake, I highly recommend using a healthy amount of Wilton Cake Release in lieu of butter and flour to grease your pans. For shaped cakes, it is especially important that you get the surface as smooth as possible, and greasing the old-fashioned way doesn’t always work in my experience. Apply the Wilton Cake Release with a pastry brush to ensure you cover everything.
  2. Sift cocoa, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar into bowl. Beat in oil, buttermilk, vanilla, eggs, and hot water one at a time, using a mixer set at low. Beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

  3. Pour batter into pans. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean; an adult should rotate the pans halfway through and remove cakes from the oven.

  4. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks, 20 minutes, before inverting to remove. Do not allow the cakes to cool in the pans longer than 20 minutes! Cool completely on racks, top side up, before frosting.