in search of chocolate cake

For the third or fourth day in a row, let me mention that it has been hot here! Anyway, it means I don’t really want to turn on the oven. Still, I thought I’d ask if anyone out there has the Perfect Chocolate Cake Recipe. I’ve been searching for one for a couple of years now, and I have a pile of recipes to try (when it cools down). I’m looking for something chocolatey (duh) and moist, not too squishy yet not too hard. You’d be surprised at how hard it is to find the ultimate chocolate cake recipe! In a fit of madness, I made this little chart to try and figure out the key ingredients of chocolate cake:
chocolate cake spreadsheet.JPG
Maybe the chart makes me seem obsessive compulsive, but really, my laziness is stronger than my compulsiveness, so I don’t get very far. So how about it? Any chocolate cake recipes out there?

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36 Responses to in search of chocolate cake

  1. sharlyn says:

    Okay Mariko…that is a little obsessive compulsive. A good idea, just a little obsessive. I haven’t found THE chocolate cake recipe yet but my experience is that recipes that require buttermilk bake up on the spongey side. Can’t wait till you find THE chocolate cake recipe because I know it’s going to be good.

  2. Kathleen says:

    I’ve been a lurker, but did post about chocolate bread – maybe its the chocolate connection! Anyways, after trying a bunch of recipes for bday cakes, my family agreed that the Chocolate Cake recipe in the 12th edition Fannie Farmer cookbook is the best; Marion Cunningham revised that edition; states ice water is the secret. Also, have you tried The Best Recipe cookbook from Cooks Illustrated people? They have a master recipe for Chocolate Layer Cake – let them figure out the particulars and you can just bake!

  3. hope says:

    My all-time favorite–and it comes out perfect every single time–is the Triple Chocolate Cake in the Tassajara Bread Book. Here’s the description in the book: “Intense chocolate flavor and melt-in-the-mouth texture make this cake a delicious and satisfying chocolate dessert. Both the cake and the icing are only moderately sweet.” So true. This cake is moist, chocolatey and somehow manages to be fudge-y yet light and not cloyingly sweet. The secrets (I think): ground almonds and beaten egg whites. Let me know if you want me to email the recipe to you.

  4. Anke says:

    Sacher Torte
    is the chocolate cake of chocolate cakes here in Europe – but Hopes recipe sounds like a chocoholics fantasy come true…

  5. Jessica says:

    My stand-bys are Mrs. Milman’s Chocolate Cake at and the basic chocolate cake from The Cake Bible. The cake bible one is slightly firmer/drier. It’s great for decorating. Mrs. Milman’s cake is much more moist. The frosting is what sells it. Ganache–nothing but chocolate and heavy cream. I’ve been making it for the last several rounds of birthday parties and the parents always rave about it.

  6. hope says:

    wow- That sacher torte recipe looks great as well–how cool that I finally bought a springform pan just this weekend at IKEA! (It must be a sign that I *must* make this cake…). I should point out that the Tassajara cake is not sturdy enough for a stiff frosting, so if you are intending to make a heavily decorated B-day cake, this should not be your choice. If you want to make a slightly decadent dessert to follow on a light vegie meal, it’s perfect (only 3/4 cup butter). BTW, I have also been a longtime lurker- love your site- it’s a daily read.

  7. hope says:

    sorry, me again- clearly I am energized by chocolate. There is also the melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake at the Chocolate & Zucchini website (where you can also find a recipe for a choc & zuke cake!) go here:

  8. carrie m says:

    no cake ideas, but i thought of you when i read this article. have you heard about the krispy kreme drinks? seems right up your alley!

  9. AnnM says:

    Have you thought about a Texas Sheet Cake? They’re really chocolatey, moist, almost like brownies. I’m pretty sure that’s what got me through college.

  10. Stephanie VW says:

    To my husband’s family I am know as the auntie who brings dessert. Whenever there is a family birthday, my niece and nephews meet me at the door to see what I’ve brought… I’m attempting to carry on the tradition of my own dessert auntie, whose creations always put the recipe-book photography to shame.
    My recommendation for chocolate cake: Hershey of course! I’m not sure if it is still in print, but there is a hardcover Hershey’s Chocolate Lover’s cookbook with a recipe for Deep Dark Chocolate cake. The recipe is quite easy to make. It stays very moist thanks to last ingredient: boiling water. I LOVE THIS RECIPE.
    Also, for a chocolate cake that will make your family say “What the…?” there is the “Chocolate Blackout Cake” from the Canadian Living Cookbook published in 2002(????). You split two cake layers into four, spread a mousse-like icing between and around three layers, then crumble the fourth and stick the crumbs to the outside. Yummmmmmmmy! It’s messy and time consuming, but if you’ve ever had an issue with “imperfect” cake layers, it’s the perfect disguise. And, if you like DARK chocolate, well, this one is soooo good it’ll make you black out. Serve with smelling salts.
    If you need help finding these recipes, let me know!
    Love your site, long time listener, first time caller. Tee hee.

  11. Samantha says:

    Ok, I’m going to preface this by saying that there are about a zillion good chocolate cake recipes out there, and I am always willing to make more. But this cake, from King Arthur Flour’s website, is an absolute standby at our house. The recipe is endlessly flexible, it is moist and just the perfect density, and can be adorned with everything from chocolate ganache to a bit of sour cream or creme fraiche mixed with a touch of brown sugar. I usually make it with the applesauce and about 1 T. of oil (one of those little individual applesauce cups is perfect, I use the unsweetened ones).
    I’m usually ‘go go butter’ in recipes, but the applesauce and oil combo works out perfectly. But I’m sure it would be delish with just oil too. And note, this recipe can be vegan too… if anyone out there has vegan friends who just love chocolate cake. And you can even use some whole wheat flour in the recipe, it’s virtually undetectable. 🙂
    Variation: If you want a plain vanilla cake… just omit the cocoa and add 1 T. more of flour. I cut up some peaches the other day, put them in my cake pan, whipped up the cake w/o cocoa and added some almond extract. I turned the cake out to serve it… yum!
    (And I bet if you made the recipe w/o the cocoa, you could add some of that green tea powder and make a green tea cake. Fancy, eh?)
    So here goes…
    King Arthur Flour’s Original Cake Pan Cake
    350 degrees
    8 or 9 inch round or square pan (nonstick is best if you have one)
    1 1/2 C. AP flour
    1 C. sugar
    3 T. cocoa
    1/2 t. salt
    1 t. baking soda
    1 t. vanilla
    1 T. vinegar (I use plain old white distilled)
    6 T. oil or 1 individual serving container of applesauce + 1 T. oil
    1 C. cold water (coffee, milk, or a combo of 3/4 C. water and 1/4 C. amaretto, kahlua, dark rum, etc)
    Combine all dry ingredients in pan. Make three indentations. (you can mix this in a bowl too if you want, then pour the batter into the pan)
    Vanilla goes into first hole, vinegar into the second hole, and oil or oil/applesauce into third hole.
    Pour over your cold liquid (whatever you chose), and stir to just combine.
    Bake 30-40 minutes until done.
    You could easily double this recipe and make two layers. And it takes no time at all to pull this together, and you’ll pretty much always have the ingredients on hand.
    Let me know if anyone tries it, or if you come up with more variations!

  12. Tenise says:

    Okay, I am a longtime reader and lurker but I think that I have two of THE chocolate cake recipies. The first one was given to me during a recent death in the family, when I asked for it for comfort. And comfort it is! It’s called Death by Chocolate. Picture it: you take a standard devils food boxed cake, or make one yourself, and bake it, split it in half while stil hot, and make holes in it with a wooden spoon. Then you pour caramel and chocolate sauce over each layer and let it soak it. Then you repeat the process on the very top, but add melted white chocolate. Yum!
    Another option is The Ultimate Chocolate Cake from Oprah’s website! It’s a homemade sheet cake that you make without a mixer from scratch, then you make a hot icing and pour it over the top.
    It uses buttermik and the texture is like buttah.

  13. carolyn says:

    dude. chocolate cake. we need to talk. i’ll call ya later if work slows down.

  14. Jessamyn says:

    Hi Mariko!
    I just made this recipe from the Food Network site – it’s still moist and yummy 3 days later! Very easy, very yummy! Here’s the URL,,FOOD_9936_23846,00.html
    If that doesn’t work it’s called the Featherlight Chocolate cake and the recipe is from Gale Grand – the pastry lady with the braces.

  15. Cindy says:

    Hersheys Chocolate World makes GREAT chocolate cake that people “intown” call and order. It is soo moist.

  16. pj says:

    Try America’s Test Kitchen – they are more than obsessive when pursuing the results they want. I’ve also discovered over the years that cakes made with buttermilk are great. Also, one hint from good ole Joy of Cooking is to dissolve any cocoa into boiling water, then let it cool before adding. Oh, and I just remembered a great, simple cake we all like from either Bon Appetit or Gourmet (website: called cocoa a go go – it’s always gone before I can bother to frost it. I’ll send you the recipe if you can’t locate it on their site.
    In other news, I still haven’t made anything from the Rebecca #22 you snagged for me, but I think of it and you often.

  17. Donna says:

    The all-in-one-pan recipe from Regan Daley’s “In the Sweet Kitchen” is the one I always seem to return to – here it is in .pdf version Yum!

  18. JStrizzy says:

    Nope, nothing to offer. But when you figure out which recipe is The Recipe, I expect you to let me in on it.

  19. MJ says:

    Mm, chocolate cake. I recommend the Trianon, a sinfully delicious cake I’ve made a couple of times. It’s from Lora Brody’s “Growing Up on the Chocolate Diet”. Do not substitute anything in the recipe–THIS IS CRUCIAL–and you will be rewarded!

  20. Hannah says:

    I posted an awesome one last week on my blog. The cake is called “Death by Chocolate Cake” Need I say more? 🙂

  21. Nathania says:

    Key ingredients: good quality chocolate (try Valhrona or Scharfenberger) and cocoa powder. Buttermilk or sour cream for moisture.

  22. yummy! says:

    How about the perfect chocolate ganache to go with the perfect cake when you find it.
    -One cup whipping cream
    -One bag of chocolate chips or 8oz? maybe more, whatever the weight of a regular bag of chips (the better the quality of chocolate the better frosting, of course).
    Heat the cream, do not boil. Pour into bowl, add chocolate, and mix until chocolate has melted. Let cool in the fridge. Once it is cool, whip until you get soft peaks.

  23. Sarah says:

    I will preface this comment by saying that I am not much of a chocolate cake recipe connoisseur – I tend to go for the box mixes, myself. That said, my favorite chocolate-cake-from-scratch recipe is actually the bottom of “Black Bottom Cups” – a cupcake recipe from the Pillsbury cookbook which has a dark chocolate cakelike layer on the bottom with cream cheese dropped on top, making a 2-layer concoction. I have never tried to make only the chocolate layer, but I’m sure the more inventive and creative amongst us could. Or you can just make it with the cream cheese, which makes it yummy like cheesecake.

  24. Lori says:

    The best chocolate cake I have ever made came from the cook book “New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant”…its called “Perfect Chocolate Cake” and the name totally fits!
    The recipe is a bit long so I’ll email it.
    Love your blog!

  25. Darlene says:

    Just make a plain old MiracleWhip cake. A winner every time and so easy to make. No eggs and no shortening. E-Mail me if you want the recipe.

  26. Juliana says:

    I offer you my full support and enthusiasm in your quest, Mariko. It has also been a life-long crusade of mine to find the perfect, most divine of chocolate cakes and I have tried many a chocolate cake recipe, only to be disappointed time and time again. Then I discovered a divine just about flour-less chocolate cake in an issue of Cook’s Illustrated, but I made it a few times and then lost the recipe. And that one is of the very-moist ilk. Now I have a “Dark Chocolate Layer Cake” recipe from the Moosewood Book of Desserts that is pretty darn good (it also has the boiling water and cocoa combination that seems to be a theme in some of your readers’ comments). Maybe we’ll have a chocolate cake bake-off when you’re up here, as long as it won’t slow down your completion of the 26.2 hilly marathon miles.

  27. rae says:

    looks like you’ll be up to your eyeballs in chocolate! think you should organize a ‘perfect chocolate cake’ bake-off. i’m partial to warm chocolate lava cake and fresh raspberries. dang, think i just gained 3 lbs reading your blog!

  28. Kelli says:

    Here’s the “Wacky Cake” post from my blog — turns out it’s the same as Samantha’s King Arthur Flour recipe! She beat me to it. It really is great cake, if not the most beautiful in the world… =)

  29. Gina says:

    Try Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Ganache Cake. I think it’s printed in “How to Eat”. Yummy!

  30. MaryM says:

    I’m emerging from long-time lurkdom, too! Your blog is fantastic. Is flourless OK? The caramel sauce in this recipe is unremarkable, but the cake is quick and amazing. (Sorry the link is so long — you could also go to and do a search on flourless chocolate caramel).

  31. susan says:

    i don’t have the recipe with me, but the moosewood cookbook has a really super great one!!! it’s dark and moist and not too sweet, it’s beautiful… the cookbook i had the recipe in was one of those small quick reference types, not a big book… i esp. like that the description of the cake calls it an ‘adult’ cake…

  32. elizabeth says:

    Yum! I’m not a great chef or baker… but I’ll be glad to try any of your cakes!

  33. josie says:

    You’d might like this one — it’s a brownie recipe from Nigella Lawson, but it’s scrumptious and might work out well as a single big chocolate cake.
    You need:
    – 375 g soft unsalted butter
    – 375 g best-quality dark chocolate
    – 6 large eggs
    – 1 tbsp vanilla extract
    – 500 g caster sugar
    – 225 g plain flour
    – 1 tsp salt
    – 300 g chopped walnuts (optional)
    (a tin measuring approximately 33x23x5

  34. Tiffany says:

    If I feel like chocolate cake I always turn to and only turn to
    Book: AT THE TOMATO, one of my fav recipe books from a well known cafe here in Vancouver,BC. My book practically opens itself up to splattered page 111 for the handed down, moist, deep chocolate delight recipe “Mom’s Old-fashioned Chocolate Fudge Cake”
    If you are still in need of a recipe let me know and I will email it to you. I think I have to go make one now!

  35. Jennifer says:

    Mariko, I think that this book is right up your alley: Rosie’s Bakery All-Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed No-Holds-Barred Baking Book. I’ve never met a recipe in it that I didn’t like….the Chocolate Sour-Cream Cake Layers, Fudge Cake, and Velvet Underground Cake are to die for.
    Jen in Tokyo
    *happily sipping my mattcha frap in this insane heatwave*

  36. Reid says:

    Hi Mariko,
    Here’s a recipe for chocolate cake that I’ve used for many years. It’s very light and has a very nice crumb. Good luck.
    Chocolate Cake
    4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

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