The most AMAZING buttermilk chocolate cake EVER


buttermilk chocolate cake

Okay, I am not kidding here, but I just made the most AMAZING buttermilk chocolate cake EVER! And truly, it was not hard at all. I originally saw the recipe in Marcy’s copy of February’s Portland Monthly magazine, and thought I should write it down, but I forgot. Then, while David was waiting that extra hour for me to finish with my dentist appointment, he came across it again and thoughtfully asked the receptionist to photocopy it for me. (Such a sweetheart!)

Since we were having a friend over for dinner, I thought I’d use that as an excuse to try out this new recipe. And it was… magic! Moist, rich, chocolaty, not too sweet and with just the right amount of depth and complexity. And did I mention beautiful? Gorgeously dark with a semi-matte, creamy ganache frosting. I’m never going to buy chocolate container frosting ever again. Now I know the secret – and so do you!

Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake

Once you pour the hot coffee into the batter, don’t be alarmed by its thinness.
“It’s definitely the thinnest cake batter I’ve ever worked with,” [Portland Baker
Melissa] McKinney says. As for the frosting, there’s no need to use fancy chocolate,
she says. “I just use semi-sweet chocolate chips and it comes out perfect.”

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted)*
1 1/3 cups canola oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups freshly brewed, extra-strong hot coffee*
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
24 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray, and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

2. Place flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix on low to combine. Keeping the mixer on low , add oil, buttermilk, then eggs one at a time. Add hot coffee in a thin stream, pouring down the side of the bowl. Add vanilla and mix until batter is smooth. Divide into pans and back until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool in pans for at least 20 minutes.

3. To make the chocolate ganache frosting, create a double boiler by filling a saucepan with 2 inches of water and bringing it to a boil. Place chocolate chips and cream in a stainless steel mixing bowl (I used glass) and set on top of simmering water, Allow mixture to melt–do not stir right away, When chocolate has melted, stir it with a whisk. Allow to cool at room temperature.

4. Remove cakes from pans. Place one layer of cake on a serving plate. Trim the top with a serrated knife to make it even (although I didn’t find this necessary). Place a scoop of ganache in the middle and smooth it out to the edges using a palette knife or spatula. Trim the top off the other layer and place the untrimmed side down on the top of the frosted layer, pressing gently. Spoon more ganache on the top and smooth it around the sides, adding more ganache as needed to cover. If you need to apply a second coat of ganache, put the cake in the refridgerator for no more than 15 minutes to set before adding a second coat (although I found myself with a surplus of frosting). Makes a single 9-inch layer cake.

My notes: For the cocoa powder I used Droste cocoa from Holland, which is like gold around here, but I really wanted to make it extra special. I also didn’t bother to sift it. For the chocolate frosting I used Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. And instead of the extra strong coffee, I pulled four extra long shots of espresso, enough to make the full 1 1/2 cups.

Postscript: In response to a comment below, I thought I’d add this paragraph from the article for those interested:

So what gives this recipe such staying power? It’s the oil, says McKinney. “Oil makes a moister cake, and allows it to last a week, whereas a layer cake made with butter becomes dry the next day.”  Plus, the hot coffee elevates the cocoa’s depth and complexity. The cake is versatile as well: The batter can be stored in the fridge for several days; stout can be used in place of coffee, it can even be made vegan (McKinney suggests using egg replacement and vanilla soy milk.) And the layers can be filled with whipped cream and fresh berries instead of ganache.

*Update* See this post on halving the recipe, with updated shape and photos!


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166 thoughts on “The most AMAZING buttermilk chocolate cake EVER

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  5. Most Amazing Chocolate cake is right!!! This delicious moist cake was perfect!! True that it was the thinnest batter ever ( thanks for warning b/c I was getting ready to add flour? Lol) anyway I followed the recipe exactly & it was delicious! The icing was more runny than I thought, my fault though I needed to let it sit longer to let it harden a bit but my 3 nieces were ready to eat!!! So we did…it was amazing!!!!

  6. I made this cake last night (the cake only, I used a different frosting), and it was a huge hit! Incredibly moist, and a beautiful texture. It made so much batter! I ended up with two 8″ layers and three 6″ layers – two whole cakes. So just an FYI to others using the recipe.

  7. Fantastic! I think I should have let the ganache set a little longer before putting on cake but I was too excited to eat it. My whole family loved it! For the ganache I had a lot left over so either I didn’t put enough on or maybe a smaller amount of chocolate/whipping cream would be better to avoid excess.

  8. I made this yesterday with whole wheat pastry flour! Divine!!!

    Thank you.

  9. When does the whipping cream get used ?i did not see in the directions.

  10. The whipping cream gets used for the chocolate ganache frosting, when melted with the chocolate chips. See #3.

  11. This chocolate cake was just fabulous!I used olive oil instead of canola oil, brown sugar and replaced a cup of regular flour with whole flour. I also uses espresso coffee as you did. It has such a rich, soft and moist texture. Thank you for a fantastic recipe!

  12. I finally made this cake last week. I split it into two versions: one with the chocolate ganache like you have it, the other was what I called Raspberry Forest Cake. The first one was a little too rich for me but all the chocolate lovers I know liked it. (I don’t like chocolate that much, I like it as a small part of a dessert). The cake itself was delicious and moist! For the other cake, instead of cherries I used pureed frozen raspberries and fresh raspberries on top, whipped cream for the frosting and a sprinkling of chopped chocolate. It was awesome! Thanks for the recipe!

  13. I am wondering what i can put in instead of coffee??

  14. Thia cake looks so sinful! I can’t wait to make it! I’ve been searching for YEARS for a chocolate cake recipe and someone shared this pin with me on pinterest. I think this might cause a problem with my pregnancy weight gain. Sounds perfect forum babyshower next month and I’m sure my husband will love it too!

    I think I might skip the ganache, only because of the one commenters question of coconut frosting. That triggered a new craving for me and our gummy bear!

  15. Agreed. What do you use in place of coffee. I can always taste is and so can my kids.

  16. if I’m not mistaken you can substitute boiling water for the coffee. Some of Hershey’s recipes call for boiling water.

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  18. I made this cake last week for my nephews wedding & everyone loved it! Instead of covering it with ganache I filled it with ganache. It was a moist and delicious! A huge hit. Thanks for the recipe. 🙂

  19. way too much coffee taste- what coffee did you use? i used espresso shots from caribou and it was way too strong! Help!

  20. I tried it out, did a few alterations of my own, but oh my goodness!
    It was the best chocolate cake I ever made! Chocolate is not my favourite, still I could eat the whole thing by myself it was that good! It was soooooooo great, I just had to thank you for sharing the recipe!

    Have a great day,


  21. this looks amazing, look forward to trying it, but i guess i would add some ginger or spice it up with my favorite liqour. pinned to try.

  22. this is not the most amazing buttermilk cake

  23. Made it, loved it, passing out, thank you!

  24. I made this for my sisters birthday and everyone loved it!! my mom even loved it and she never eats sweets! now everytime we have a holiday they want me to make this cake!!! everyone must make this!!

  25. Can this batter be frozen and used later? I’ve made this cake two or three times, always the half recipe that you’ve devised, and it’s soooo good! Since it’s only my husband and me, even the half recipe can be a bit much (can’t believe I’m saying that!). So it would be nice to freeze and just make a few cupcakes at a time. Can I do this?

  26. That is a good question. I have no idea, but I’d love to know the results if you decide to try it yourself. 🙂

  27. What can I substitute for the coffee??

  28. Is this cake dense enough to hold fondant (it’s for a 2 tiered cake (4 layers)? Thanks! 🙂

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  31. Hi, this may be a silly question but I haven’t made ganache before. The recipe for the cake is there, and it seems the only two ingredients not used are the chocolate chips and the cream. Do you just mix these two ingredients together after the chocolate is melted to make the ganache?

  32. Hi Amanda, The instructions written for #3 above contain the instructions for the ganache.

  33. I followed your recipe and made this yesterday. It turned out awesome. Have a couple of questions though…

    The cake batter was in 2 9inch round pans and it ballooned up a bit. I had to cut out a lot to layer the cake on top of the other. Any tip on how to avoid this? Did I bake it for too long?

    Can the cake be stored in the fridge? Or should we just leave it out till we finish it. It might be a week before it gets done.


  34. I’ve baked this in a bundt pan a few times now (filled it about 3/4 of the way and it rose up over the edge but did not overflow) at 325 for anywhere from 45-60 minutes depending on the oven. I’ve tried it with the chocolate ganache (milk chocolate chips), the Better Homes & Gardens caramel sauce, as well as without frosting – every time it has been delicious and a huge crowd pleaser. The cake is so moist and rich (without being too sweet) that it doesn’t really even need frosting – but it certainly doesn’t hurt!

  35. I bake all my cakes at 325° and they don’t “dome” quite so much if at all…just made this and it is awesome 🙂

  36. Just wondering what I could use instead of coffee??? Thanks.

  37. Instead of coffee, I used 1 bottle of Guinness Extra Stout beer. It was A-mazing!

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  39. This cake sounds perfect for the birthday cake I need to make for a co-worker’s celebration at work this week–I asked him what kind of cake liked, and he said, “Anything chocolate.” I’m wondering, has anyone tried instant coffee instead of brewed? If not, do you think it would alter the taste?

  40. Okay, you weren’t kidding! This IS the most amazing cake ever!!! Several of my co-workers couldn’t finish their piece because it was so rich, but they saved it for a snack for later. Wow–this was so moist and chocolately–the way you always wish cake would be while you’re eating dry cake!!! Definitely my FAVORITE cake ever. Now–just one problem that I need to fix to make it absolutely PERFECT next time: the ganache, while it tasted so smooth and chocolately and was an awesome satiny texture, was too runny when I was icing the cake. It just ran down the sides, and I had trouble keeping it around the sides of the cake. Is it okay to just use less cream next time, or would changing the proportions ruin the emulsification that makes the ganache?

  41. Hello! I need to make this cake 3 days prior to bringing it to a party. Do you suggest I keep in in the fridge or freeze in plastic wrap? I can’t wait to try it. Thank you!!!

  42. I live in 5280 altitude. Do you know if this will work in high altitude?

  43. Just keep in the frig.

  44. This is my go to chocolate cake recipe. I have made this quite a few times now and it turns out great every time. I made and brought this to a work potluck and it has been requested by my coworkers each and every potluck since! Thanks for sharing!

  45. hi, thank you so much for sharing this recipe. i try this today and it turned out great. So moist:) . i ave a question though, have you tried covering it with fondant ?i was planning to stack it 6in high and cover it with fondant.

  46. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups freshly brewed, extra-strong hot coffee. I don’t drink coffee but I love the flavor it gives chocolate. How much coffee grounds should I use to get extra-strong coffee?

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  48. I love anything with buttermilk. chocolate buttermilk cake, i’m there!

  49. So I made this wonderful cake and WOW!! Finally a recipe that I can call my favourite chocolate ever!! Made it in a rectangular tin, cut it in half and my husband and I have just finished one half of it. Not in on day I hasten to add, but in a few days. Kept it in the fridge, covered and had a little slice every day. It has stayed so moist and hasn’t dried out, which is a problem for me with other cakes. Made a chocolate ganache and added a few toffee pieces and it’s scummy. One question, do you think I could make cake pops with the other half of the cake or is it not dry enough?
    Thanks for posting a fantastic recipe.

  50. Sorry to meant to scrummy, not scummy. Sometimes the automatic spell check can’t spell!! LOL

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