An Easy Chocolate Cake for a Special Occasion

An Easy Chocolate Cake for a Special Occasion

My husband and I welcomed our daughter, Isabelle into the world eight weeks ago today. Now that we have our own family, I am eager to start our own traditions.

Growing up as one of six kids, our birthdays were made special at home by being able to select our dinner and dessert of our choice. We celebrated Ben, my husband’s birthday yesterday. I asked him in advance what he would like for dinner to start carrying the tradition forward and he chose “chocolate cake and macaroni and cheese.”

I am not above a boxed cake mix, in fact I’ve never made a cake from scratch. It was a risky choice but I decided to make the meal, cake included on my own. I turned to my trusted favorite, Ina Garten and she did not disappoint!

This cake is easy enough to make – and coming from someone who isn’t the best baker that’s saying a lot! It’s moist and chocolatey without being too sweet or too bitter. The frosting is creamy and flavorful and easier to spread vs what you’d find in a can. I think this recipe will become a go-to over the years to come, maybe even one day my daughter will request it for her birthday.


Butter, for greasing the pans (I used baking spray and never have parchment paper on hand. It worked fine!)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

2 cups sugar (I used cane sugar as that’s what I had on hand and it worked fine!)

3/4 cups good cocoa powder (Ghiradelli did the trick! I used it for the chocolate required below as well.)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk, shaken

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee (8 ounces! I used my Keurig)

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, recipe follows

Chocolate Frosting:

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (recommended: Callebaut)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used one unsalted and one salted)

1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon instant coffee powder (I skipped)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
  3. Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Frosting:

  1. Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

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