Chocolate Cake With Vanilla Bean Frosting

March 16, 2021
1 Ratings
Photo by Food52
  • Prep time 40 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Makes 1 (9-inch) cake
Author Notes

A classic combination of chocolate cake with a fluffy and light whipped cream–style frosting. This recipe makes an ideal naked cake, where frosting is only in the center and on top, with exposed sides—or just thinly covering the cake all over, so that the layers are visible and show through. This is a great make-ahead cake, because the whipped cream frosting is a version of my cheater’s whipped cream—the cream cheese stabilizes the mixture, making it thicker and also allowing it to retain its texture and volume. Made in advance, some of the moisture from the frosting soaks into the cake layers, making them fudgier in a really delicious and nostalgic, icebox cake sort of way. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

What You'll Need
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Chocolate Cake With Vanilla Bean Frosting
  • 1 1/4 cups (107 grams) cocoa powder
  • 1 cup (228 grams) boiling water
  • 1 cup (226 grams) sour cream
  • 3 cups (595 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 8 ounces (226 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups (545 grams) granulated sugar
  • 5 large (284 grams) eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces (56 grams) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
  • 8 ounces (226 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped (can sub 1 tablespoon vanilla extract instead)
  • 1/2 cup (56 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (353 grams) heavy cream
  • Sprinkles or candy, for finishing (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray, line the base with parchment, and spray the parchment.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the cocoa powder and boiling water until well combined. Whisk in the sour cream. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to combine.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  4. Add half of the flour mixture and mix to incorporate fully, and scrape the bowl well. Add half of the cocoa mixture and mix to combine, then scrape the bowl well. Repeat to add all of the flour and cocoa mixture.
  5. Add the melted chocolate and mix to fully combine. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and spread into an even layer. Transfer to the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.
  6. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely.
  7. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream cheese, vanilla bean seeds, and powdered sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the cream in a slow, steady stream and whip until the mixture is thick, 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Assemble the cake: Use a serrated knife to remove the domed top of the cakes. Place one layer on a cake turntable, platter, or cake stand. Scoop a few heaping spoonfuls of frosting onto the cake layer, and spread into an even layer. Place the second cake layer on top.
  9. Apply a thin all over “crumb coat” of the frosting, and chill the cake for 10 to 15 minutes. Frost the cake with the remaining frosting. Alternatively, the frosting can be divided between the center and top only for thicker layers and for a naked cake look. The cake can be served immediately. Or, if desired, refrigerate for 1 hour (and up to 24 hours) before serving, for fudgier cake layers. Just before serving, decorate with sprinkles or candy, if using.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

1 Review

Droplet November 9, 2020
Dear Erin, I love your recipes and your devotion to everything you share with us, but please pay more attention to the ingredient measurements, as published. To a trained eye, off-amounts stand out right away, but to a novice baker they directly transpire into discouragement and waste of good resources. No matter what way you measure, there is no way 3 cups of all-purpose flour would weigh 595 gm. Neither do 4 ounces equal 56 gm. I love the elegant combination of dark layers with white vanilla bean frosting and would like to make the cake as it was originally created, as a nod of respect to you, rather than using one of my other chocolate layer recipes as an alternative. Please advice. Smiles.