Chocolate Birthday Layer Cake Recipe

Move over, Betty Crocker Yvonne Ruperti

The frosting recipe is adapted from Cook's Illustrated.


  • Use a good quality chocolate for the best results.
  • 8-inch cake pans may be used. Baking time may be longer.
  • Make sure to use natural cocoa. Do not use Dutch processed or the leavening of the cake may be affected.
  • Do not over-soften butter or the frosting will be too loose. It should yield lightly to the touch (about 60°F).
  • If the chocolate is too warm, the frosting may be too loose. Just chill the finished frosting briefly until it thickens enough to spread.
  • This cake keeps at room temperature, covered, for 2 days. It can be made ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Recipe Facts

Active: 45 mins
Total: 2 hrs 30 mins
Serves: 12 to 14 servings

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For the Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

  • 1 1/4 cups sour cream

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

For the Frosting:

  • 20 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar

  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder

  • Pinch salt

  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled


  1. Make Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line bottoms of two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and lightly coat the inside with non-stick pan spray. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into large bowl; set aside. In medium bowl, whisk sugar, sour cream, oil, eggs, vanilla, and espresso powder until smooth.

  2. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until smooth. Evenly divide into pans and bake until cake is just firm and toothpick inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs, about 25 minutes. Let cake cool in pans for 15 minutes, then remove cakes from pans to completely cool on wire rack, about 1 hour.

  3. Meanwhile, make the frosting: In food processor, process butter, confectioners sugar, cocoa, and salt until completely combined and smooth. Add corn syrup and vanilla and combine until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add chocolate and process until just smooth.

  4. Assemble the cake:Place one cake (top side up) on serving plate. Spread about 1 cup frosting onto cake. Place second cake (bottom side up) on top. Frost top and sides with remaining frosting. Use back of spoon soup spoon to make swirls on cake. Decorate if desired and serve.

Special equipment

Two 9-inch cake pans, parchment paper, food processor

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
646 Calories
43g Fat
60g Carbs
7g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 to 14
Amount per serving
Calories 646
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 43g 55%
Saturated Fat 20g 99%
Cholesterol 83mg 28%
Sodium 194mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 60g 22%
Dietary Fiber 5g 19%
Total Sugars 39g
Protein 7g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 55mg 4%
Iron 7mg 39%
Potassium 225mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)