Classic Chocolate Cake

Hi friends,

This recipe is amazing and it’s a classic for a reason! I found it years ago on this blog and fell in love. It made its first published appearance in Good Housekeeping Magazine in 1927 and has re-appeared several times over the years with variations. (It’s also been re-appearing in my kitchen several times).

You can use three 8” pans, or four 6” pans, or even two 9” pans, depending on how tall you like your cake! This time I used four pans, these ones,  and honestly it might be a little too tall. It’s pretty dramatic, and makes for quite the situation when the time comes for slicing and serving it. Which is okay because most people I serve cake to are pretty forgiving and gracious, especially when cake is involved.


Cake Layers

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cups softened butter (or margarine)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk you can make it, mix 1 tbsp white vinegar per every cup of milk before you add it to the recipe)


  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease your pans thoroughly.

2. In a large bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In your mixer at low speed, beat the butter and sugars until blended. Increase speed to high and beat for about 5 minutes or until pale and fluffy, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.

3. Reduce speed to medium-low and add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Beat in vanilla until blended.

5. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beat just until batter is smooth, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.

6. Scoop batter evenly among your prepared pans. If necessary, stagger pans in the oven so that top pans are not directly above bottom ones. Bake 22 – 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre of cake comes out clean.

7. Cool in the pans for about 10 minutes.  Then carefully invert and remove cake from the pans, and rest onto wire cooling racks, you may need to loosen from sides of pans by running a small knife around the edge.

8. Let cool completely, about 45 minutes. If you like, wrap layers well and store at room temperature up to 1 day or freeze up to 1 month. Bring back to room temperature before frosting the cake.

9. To make your frosting combine cocoa and boiling water in a small bowl or a silicone prep bowl, stirring until smooth.

10. Use your mixer at medium-high speed to beat softened butter and icing sugar for about five minutes or until fluffy. Reduce speed to medium-low and carefully add melted chocolate, then cocoa mixture, beating until smooth and occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula. If frosting is too thin, refrigerate until just stiff enough to spread.

11. You can choose to carefully slice the rounded tops off each layer of cake with a serrated bread knife to set up up for a successful stacking situation.

12. When you’re ready to assemble the cake, place a smear of icing (about 2 tbsp) onto the centre of your surface to act as a anchor beneath your first layer. Firmly place the first layer onto that icing. Spread with about 1/4 cup icing (use more if you made less layers) Top with next layer, and spread with more icing. Continue until you’ve used all your layers.  Finish by spreading the remaining frosting over the top of the cake and the sides if you desire. Keep refrigerated to help solidify the layers.

That’s all folks! Let me know how it turns out for you and be sure to tag #marybethmakes and whether your guests are gracious when you slice it for them!