This Classic Chocolate Cake is the best and the only chocolate cake recipe you'll ever need! It has tall layers of soft, airy chocolate cake, with a creamy, buttery, melt in your mouth soft chocolate buttercream frosting. It's the perfect cake for birthdays, celebrations or any occasion.
Line the bottom of three 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper (using some butter to stick the paper to the bottom). Brush/rub the sides of the pan with butter as well. Dust the sides of the cake pans with Dutch cocoa powder as well. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 325°F (160-165°C).
Place the hot water and cocoa powder in a jug and whisk to dissolve the cocoa powder in the water. You should have a thick and smooth paste. Stir in the buttermilk, vinegar and vanilla, and set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda together into a bowl. Set aside.
Place the butter in the bowl of your mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it’s light and fluffy, at medium speed for about 2 - 3 minutes.
Add the sugar and salt into the mix, and mix for a further 4 - 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Remember to scrape down the sides and the bottom to make sure that the sugar is well incorporated. Beat the butter and sugar mix further if needed (until light and fluffy).
Mix in the eggs, one at a time, about 20 - 30 seconds per egg. After adding 2 eggs, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom. Start the mixer again and add the final 2 eggs. Once the final egg has been whisked well into the batter, stop the mixer and remove the bowl.
The chocolate milk and flour will be mixed in by hand with a spatula, but can be done in the mixer as well (see recipe notes).
Add a generous ⅓ of the flour mix and fold it into the batter using a spatula. When the flour is mixed in half way (with some white streaks visible in the batter), add ½ of the chocolate milk mixture into the batter.
Using a spatula, fold in the chocolate mixture until it’s mixed in half way (with dark chocolate streaks now visible in the batter).
Next, add another generous ⅓ of the flour mix and fold it into the batter using the spatula.
When the flour is almost completely mixed in (some white streaks are OK at this stage), add the final bit of the chocolate milk. Fold in until almost fully mixed in (some dark chocolate streaks are also OK at this stage).
Add the final bit of flour, and fold it into the batter until it’s all FULLY incorporated. You should now have a smooth chocolate cake batter, free of lumps and white flour streaks.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans - about 18.7 oz (530 g) per pan. Mix and fold the batter before measuring it into each pan.
The total bake time for the cakes is between 25 - 30 minutes, but make sure to rotate the cake pan once, half way through. The cakes will be done when they are springy to the touch in the center, and the sides are just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. A clean toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean at this point.
Remove the cake pans from the oven and allow them to cool for about 10-15 minutes, until the cake pans can be handled.
Carefully flip the cakes out of the pan, and place them on a cooling rack (parchment side down), until they're completely cooled down. If you won’t be frosting the cake immediately, cover the cake layers with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.
On the day you're frosting the cake, make a double batch of the chocolate buttercream frosting recipe found here. Remember to only add cold whipping cream to get the desired fluffiness.
Using a large ice cream scoop (¼ cup capacity), add 3 - 4 scoops of buttercream on top (about ¾ - 1 cup).
Evenly spread the buttercream using an offset spatula, leaving about a ½ inch gap at the edges (see pictures and post for more details).
Place the second cake layer on top, and gently press down. Repeat with the buttercream, followed by the final cake layer (making sure the flat side of the final cake layer is facing up). Gently press this cake layer into the buttercream below and make sure all the sides and surface are level and straight.
Apply a thin crumb coating on the cake. Make sure to fill the gaps at the edges of the cake layers to make the sides straight and smooth. Add the crumb coating to the top of the cake as well. Refrigerate the cake for about 30 mins - 1 hour (or more) until the crumb coating is set. If you'd like to leave the cake in the fridge for longer at this stage, make sure to loosely cover it with plastic wrap.
When the crumb coating has set, coat the cake with the rest of the buttercream. Free style the frosting pattern, or use a cake scraper to get nice, smooth, straight edges. Use icing/pastry tips, or chocolate shavings/sprinkles to decorate. Serve.
Volume measurements are approximations only. For accurate and consistent results, use a kitchen scale to measure ingredients.
Notes on mixing the cake batter with a stand-mixer for the final step
You can mix the chocolate milk and flour into the batter using the STIR setting (or the lowest speed) on your stand mixer. If you do use the stand mixer, make sure to mix the batter for as little as possible, because you can easily end up over-mixing the batter.
Notes on baking the cake layers
To get more even, equal-sized cake layers, you can use baking strips to wrap around the cake pans (this is optional).
You can choose between a dark chocolate buttercream or a sweeter chocolate buttercream following the recipe in the link above. I prefer to use the sweeter buttercream for this classic chocolate cake.
Notes on cutting the cake
Use a warm, dry knife to get clean cut lines for the cake. I dip the cake in hot water and wipe the blade before cutting into the cake. I do this for every cut I make to prevent messy looking cake slices (so I keep a jug of hot water near by to dip the knife in).