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

  1. Can I make cake pops with this recipe or do you think that the cake is too moist?

  2. baking soda leaves an aftertaste I can’t get use to. an I substitute baking powder and how much of it do I use?

  3. Hi – this looks delicious!! I can’t wait to try it. I was wondering if the cake will stand up to butter cream frosting? I am making a rose swirl cake and want to make chocolate cake with vanilla butter cream frosting…

    Thank you!

  4. Yummy moist cake cake but it takes longer than 35 mins to bake….

  5. I made this delicious cake 2 days ago. It was devoured at work in less than 1 hr. I will be making this again for Thanksgiving!!
    Sidenote- It takes approx. 45-60 minutes to cook depending on your oven. Also, I was not sure if I should refrigerate it. I did any way and it was fine.

  6. I replaced the canola oil for coconut oil ( you may need to melt it first if it is stored at a temp 76 or lower). Turned out great, and much healthier than canola oil! Great recipe. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Hi, I tried to bake a 1/2 portion and put in a 6″ spring pan. I found that it took a lot longer to cook and still ended up a bit splitting on top but “fudgy & damp”. It also was high when I removed it from the pan and then it fell after it cooled for a bit. Also, should the coffee be hot? We don’tdrink coffee and I purchase the single serving for recipes likes this. For this time, I mixed it with warm water. Not knowing if I should pour hot coffee into the batter incase it started to cook the eggs?

  8. I put my cake batter in two round 9 inch cake pans like the directions, but the batter overflowed into my oven while baking. I think it would have been better in three 8 inch pans. It looks like the picture shows three layers?

  9. Let me tell you. this is the only chocolate cake recipe I ever make! I love it! Moist, full of chocolate flavour, and holds a perfect shape. The coffee definitely does something in this cake, even though you cannot taste it.
    The mix yielded enough batter to fill two 8-inch pans and two 6-inch pans, giving me an awesome double layer cake (I made a Beauty and the Beast fondant cake for my daughter’s second birthday.)
    The last time I made this batter, I made an 8-inch layer cake with 15 additional cupcakes. If people are having problems, you probably filled your cake pans too high. You are only suppose to fill them to the halfway mark.
    i will continue using this cake 🙂 Thanks for the awesome recipe, I shared your recipe in regards to my Wilton Course 2 Final Cake.
    Ps. I always cook my cakes at 325F, it seems to help the top of the cake from doming.

  10. I used a 10″ spring form pan and it was perfect.

  11. Made this cake today, very disappointed. All I could taste is the canola oil, way too much oil!!!! Had to smother cake in whipped cream in order to eat it. Now I’m left with this huge cake that no one will eat.

  12. I just made this cake and it is chocolatey goodness! It’s very moist, holds it’s shape wonderfully without falling apart when cut, and was loved by everyone in the house (I love dark chocolate and nothing that’s too sweet….everyone else has a huge sweet tooth and their plates were all licked clean as well). Total bake time was 50 minutes and my 2 cake pans were pretty full when I put them in the oven….didn’t spill over though (I put a cookie sheet on the rack underneath) and all was well in the world 🙂

  13. If you use 9″ cake pans they need to be deep. My cake just ran over and made a huge mess. It is also taking a lot longer than 35 minutes

  14. This is a spectacularly wonderful cake. Hands down the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made. HOWEVER, I would challenge the ganache. I think it would be much better with a gorgeous buttercream, especially if you’re really going to make a two layer cake. It’s just not the best choice for a traditional two layer cake…too thin and difficult to really create a beautiful cake. Also, there is too much batter for two cake pans. I used the extra to make two small bundt cakes and drizzled them with the ganache which worked SO much better! So, when I make this again, it will be either small or large bundt cakes which are perfect for this recipe. Enjoy!

  15. Wonderful cake! Now my go-to chocolate cake recipe. Wish people would read the directions better – it says HOT coffee, so yes, this means hot coffee….that is why you pour it down the sides of the bowl – so it doesn’t cook the eggs.
    The person who tasted only canola oil – bet your oil was rancid. Canola oil is almost tasteless. You should keep it in your fridge and replace every couple of months. I too found that you had to bake it much longer than directions state.

  16. Absolutely terrible! Something is obviously off with the directions since a cake should never have more liquid than dry ingredients and it did exactly as I expected and overflowed in the oven, thank goodness I expected it and put a sheet pan under them in the oven. Way way way to much batter for the size pans told to use!

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