Perfect Chocolate Cake

March 25, 2015
28 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Makes two 8-inch layers
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

What You'll Need
  • 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
  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.)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • ehamp
  • Nicole Malo
    Nicole Malo
  • Deb Searfoss
    Deb Searfoss
  • Eloise Karallis
    Eloise Karallis
  • Jen

86 Reviews

ehamp July 24, 2023
Mine collapsed
clintonhillbilly February 26, 2023
Delicious, nice strong chocolate flavor and simple enough for my 8 year old to make it herself!
Graccie21 December 19, 2022
Tiffany January 17, 2022
Made this cake with white frosting. Insanely delicious, easy, moist. My go-to chocolate cake recipe.
Granny S. October 10, 2021
I generally make the Hershey's recipe but instead of 1/4 cup of water and 1 cup of milk, I swap 1 cup of strong made coffee for it. The coffee gives the chocolate a boost. I also increase the cocoa to 1 cup, and use really good quality cocoa. This is our favorite cake recipe. The frosting for us is just heated cream and chunks of bittersweet chocolate bar added until it melts, then poured on top of the cake or cupcakes. Absolutely PERFECT chocolate cake recipe.
Nancy K. October 3, 2021
This recipe his recipe reads very munch like Hershey’s Black Magic cake, which uses buttermilk or sour milk. Perhaps that’s needed to keep it from sinking. I won’t bother with this, as the Hershey’s recipe has been a family favorite for decades—plus, it contains strong coffee instead of water, which makes it sing. We also start checking whether it’s done 5 minutes before the shortest baking time to ensure moistness. It’s not a recipe that needs updating.
Nicole M. January 17, 2021
The cake is delicious. I gave it a whirl even after reading some of the daunting reviews.

I mixed for two minutes—timed myself. Used one 9 inch round cake pan and cupcake tin bcs I don’t have other pans. I used less sugar in both the cake and frosting. I used raw cacao instead of cocoa for both cake and frosting. Added a couple of splashes of espresso into frosting (leftover from this morning).

Baked 33 minutes, did cave slightly. Then followed the cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Next I flipped onto parchment to cool on a rack. When I was ready to flip back and frost, slight thin pieces came off the top, but I frosted it and it’s great.

I’m intrigued with using Greek yogurt as a sub for an egg that one baker mentioned, but I forgot to try it. Maybe next time. My family is really enjoying this cake too.
Deb S. December 12, 2020
I disagree with the the negative reviews, this cake was delicious! I have multiple requests to make the cake again! It didn’t sink at all it was moist and amazing!
Eloise K. September 11, 2020
I don’t understand the naysayers, this cake was amazing! Easily the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made. It didn’t sink at all, And it wasn’t dry. It had a lovely chocolatey gooey flavour. Best icing ever. I did use really high quality cocoa powder and a little less icing sugar in the frosting - maybe this made it a success, I don’t know either way yum yum.
Jen September 3, 2020
It was a hit in my house. Only change was I added a splash of coffee to the frosting. I solved the bit of sinking by flipping the bottom layer upside down. You could
always fill the sinking part with chocolate chips while cakes were still warm then when you frost it it would cover the sunken part and be all gooey yummy when sliced. Like a lava cake!
Jen September 3, 2020
It was a hit in my house. Only change was I added a splash of coffee to the frosting. I solved the bit of sinking by flipping the bottom layer upside down. You could always fill the sinking part with chocolate chips while cakes were still warm then when you frost it it would cover the sunken part and be all gooey yummy when sliced. Like a lava cake!
nadiaghannam July 17, 2020
This is the worst cake I’ve ever had. I think you should take down the recipe. Something is just not right about it. Don’t make it, you’ll be sorry!
nancy E. May 30, 2020
The Chocolate Dump It cake on this site is the supreme chocolate cake recipe. Cannot do better
Megan January 16, 2020
I very much disagree with the other reviews. This is an excellent cake, and it always gets tons of compliments. I’ve made it about ten times. To keep it from sinking, ONLY beat the batter for two minutes. Time yourself. It makes an enormous difference in the appearance and thickness of your cake. I highly recommend it!
davepluimer January 15, 2020
I've made this twice - first as cupcakes/muffins and tonight as an 8" layer cake. Great results both times. Made as directed with XL eggs and Dutch processed cocoa (b/c that's what I had on hand). This is my go-to recipe for chocolate cake and icing point-forward.
elisa October 4, 2019
Count me into the THUMBS DOWN club on this recipe! If only I'd read it before I was halfway into the baking process. Just terrible. I've never been steered wrong by Food52, but after last night's fiasco, I'll never start cooking/baking before reading the comments. Please take down this inedible recipe; it's bringing down your reputation.
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 =)