Perfect Chocolate Cake

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: This cake is ideal for a simple layer cake for birthdays and parties, but is also delicious on its own without frosting.

Adapted from Hershey's.
Posie (Harwood) Brien

Makes: two 8-inch layers
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 35 min


For the cake:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa (not Dutch-processed)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup boiling water

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
In This Recipe


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans. You can also make this in two 9-inch cake pans -- the layers will just be slightly thinner.
  2. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add in the boiling water and mix to incorporate.
  3. Pour the batter (it will be very thin -- don't panic!) into the prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (start checking after 30). The cake is ready when it starts to pull away from the edges and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan before turning the cakes out onto a rack to cool.
  4. To make the frosting: Melt the butter, then stir it together with the cocoa in a medium bowl. Add powdered sugar and milk in alternating turns, whisking until your frosting reaches a spreadable consistency (you may need to add a touch more milk). Add the vanilla and mix well.
  5. To assemble your cake: Add a large dollop of frosting to the first layer. Top with the second layer, add a thin crumb coat of frosting around the outside of the cake. Add your final, thicker layer of frosting. (It will help to freeze the layers briefly before frosting.)

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Reviews (68) Questions (1)

68 Reviews

Angela P. February 3, 2019
Should have read the reviews. Dry. Disappointing chocolate flavour.
Larry K. October 4, 2018
Suggestions: 1) replace the oil with a like amount of mayonnaise
2) make cream cheese frosting
My mother made the recipe from the Hershey’s cocoa
container for years with those changes.

You’ll love the results
YasminLeonora August 28, 2018
Really disappointed with this recipe, it came out very dry and with very little actual chocolate flavour. Unlike some of the other commentors on here, mine did not sink as I used 1 cup of sugar but either way the end result was still very poor.
This is the first F52 recipe that has let me down, such a shame.
roselee December 4, 2017
it is AMAZING if you add 3/4 cups of chocolate chips =)
FoodMakesFriends November 25, 2017
To confirm the many, many other reviews, which I did not read in advance of baking, this cake sinks, and is not presentable for a birthday cake. Probably the first f52 recipe that did not work out.
sjghaus November 13, 2017
This isn't a good recipe - it sank and tasted more like sugar than chocolate. Saved it with the chocolate ganache I made to frost it with.
Ann-Marie D. November 4, 2017
DELETE THIS RECIPE. I used the other food52 recipe (the Chocolate Bundt cake) that I've sold so many times. Moved countries, and it's just been a nightmare. So decided to try this one, and it sunk quite a bit. What is going on?
catalinalacruz October 13, 2017
Way too much sugar, typical of American cake recipes.
Stefanie July 11, 2017
No, no, no. This cake sunk and was not moist or tasty. I should have read the comments before making this. Don't waste your time.
saramarsh April 27, 2017
I've read the comments, and am now wondering, has this recipe been updated to fix the sinking problems? Has anyone figured out the reason for the sinking cakes? I haven't made the Hershey's cake or this one and am curious before I make either of them... Thank you!
X April 23, 2017
Anyone try cutting the sugar in the cake batter in half? A total of 5 cups of sugar (including the frosting) in one regular-size cake is going to be too sweet for us.
catalinalacruz November 4, 2017
I always halve the sugar. No problems with sinking.
Why cakes sink:
Francesca B. January 17, 2017
Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate chocolate cake has been my go-to chocolate cake recipe since I was in high school -- I used it as a base for a cookies n cream cake per the request of my oreo fanatic roommate back in college. Happy to see the recipe on here!!
Kara V. October 29, 2016
I also should have read the comments first! I have this cake 4 different times and it sank every single time. I thought I messed it up so I tried two different ovens and bought new baking powder/soda. This cake is delicious but am disappointed with the visual results.
Sheila H. October 21, 2016
Oh, the humanity! If I could just upload a picture, then my words would be unnecessary. 1/3 of the batter overflowed onto a baking sheet (the pans were looking too full- save by me). Cakes unbaked at 45 minutes, then sunk. This was my one shot at a birthday cake for a party. It's going to 100 degrees again today. I just put a box brownie pan in- thanks so much food52. Posie is a great cook, so I quickly made the batter without reading the comments section- MY BAD. Yes, take down this awful recipe before anyone else has to settle for a box. Yes, I will from now on read the comments. Lesson the way, it's MY birthday cake and party- how embarrassing.
Bill H. October 7, 2016
What happens if you use Dutch cocoa?
Emily H. September 16, 2016
This was a huge disappointment! I should have read the comments beforehand.

My cake sunk too and the frosting tasted like straight powdered sugar.
Celeste S. May 9, 2016
Yes! My mom has always used this recipe and it is the BEST.
sheila356 May 8, 2016
So disappointed. The texture was very course. I will go back to Mrs. Stein's chocolate cake or the original Hershey's Chocolate cake which is almost the same recipe, but it calls for a 1/2 cup of oil and 1 cup of boiling water.
Linda March 27, 2016
I seem to be not as lucky as some of the people who've had success with this cake recipe. My cake was sunken in the middle (like some have called out) and the cake turned out REALLY dry. Drier than the some of store bought cakes out there. I'm not a pro at baking so I was interested in this recipe because it seemed so easy to make, which it was but the end result was seriously disappointing. Not sure what I did wrong here. On the other hand, the frosting was good but I would suggest sifting the sugar and cocoa powder. Otherwise, you'll have clumps in the frosting.
Emilie March 21, 2016
I don't recommend making this cake and Food52 should seriously consider taking the recipe down, many others have apparently had similar results. I followed all directions exactly and am a fairly experienced baker. Cake really sunk and was way too sweet, not up to their recipe standards.