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Best Chocolate Birthday Cake

A classic, old fashioned chocolate birthday cake with a tender, moist interior topped with a rich, creamy chocolate frosting, this has birthday cake written all over it.

chocolate birthday cake

I’ve been baking this chocolate birthday cake since I’ve been in college.

We don’t need to ponder how long that is, but take my word for it, it’s been a very long time!

If you love chocolate cake than this homemade chocolate cake recipe is for you.

Stacked in three luscious layers, layered with a powdered sugar, chocolate frosting, this cake never has disappointed.

The recipe has been asked for countless times and though it is most often made for birthdays, Zoe just requested this on her last trip home.

She even asked that I not serve it to her bridesmaids who were coming to see photos of the wedding dresses she tried on.

We had another cake for them!

This cake has made countless people happy.

I wish I could find all the photos and show it to you through the years.

Dad and chocolate birthday cake

It has become a classic in our little family.

Along with Ilse’s Mocha Nut Cake this is the other cake that was always asked for by Alex and Zoe each year in August.

And to show them how much I loved them, I admit, I always made two cakes.

Then in October, Manservant always requested this until one year when I made him this and then he thought we might have to make alternate each cake every other year.

My birthday is in December and I have always requested a chocolate birthday  cake.

But alas, no one has ever made me one. If I receive a cake it is of the store bought variety, but I can’t remember the last time that happened.

Chocolate Birthday Cake with sprinkles

My father’s birthday was Christmas Day. He always received a cake. Or perhaps a trifle. 

My mother once gave me a lemon meringue pie for my birthday because one shouldn’t have two cakes so close to each other.

(No, she didn’t have twins!)

You know what? I hate lemon meringue pie. But guess who loves it? Yeah…my mom!

My mother always made my dad’s cake. And then she frosted it with canned icing doctored up with rum extract.

We still loved that icing but let me tell you, it is nothing compared to the frosting on this cake!

chocolate birthday cake with sprinkles

As I got older we often took the kids to visit their grandparents over the holidays and then I took on the baking of the cake.

Guess which cake I made?

I made it for my father when he turned 81 years and I believe I made it when he turned 86 and I sure wish I could make it for him now when he would be turning 89.

But sometimes when you blow out candles you don’t always get what you wish for.

Dad was adored by everyone and now on Christmas Day we have nothing to celebrate, unless of course Hanukkah happens to fall on December 25th.

However there is one thing I’ve learned and that is to celebrate each day.

Live it to the fullest and remember what Julia Child used to say, ” A party without a cake is just a meeting!”

I vote for parties. I vote for cake. I vote for chocolate cake!

me baking cake

This is a great from scratch, chocolate cake. It is a moist chocolate cake with a perfect crumb.

It’s not too chocolatey or rich and is perfect with vanilla ice cream or a large glass of milk.

Tips for Baking the Best Chocolate Cake:

Make sure the butter and eggs are at room temperature.

Do not substitute all purpose flour for cake flour. Cake flour creates a cake with a more tender crumb.

I love the unsweetened chocolate by Baker’s but if you have another favorite, use that instead.

Yes, this cake calls for boiling water. Do not cheat!

I find with many baked goods that the minute you smell it, often means they are done. Stick a toothpick in and find out.

Dad nd cake

Cake edges should pull away from the sides of the pan. Don’t overbake or your cake will be dry.

Because this cake is so moist you may have to rap a standard pan on the edge of a counter to get it to come out clean. My cake pans have removable bottoms. So worth it!

Flour the pans with cocoa, instead of flour.

To frost this cake, place one layer flat on the cake plate. Using an offset spatula or a knife, spread a thin layer of frosting on the top of this layer.

Turn the next layer over, so that the flat side is up. Frost again.

For the final layer, place the pretty rounded side up. Now frost all around the cake, turning as you go.

After that is finished, frost the top of the cake and decorate accordingly!

The best part of this cake, in my humble opinion, is the frosting. If you are a frosting lover please make at least 1 ½ times this recipe. You will use it.

My daughter informed me that she is now making this frosting to go with boxed cake mixes.

She decided it really is the icing on the cake!

alex and zoe 16

Please note that I made this homemade chocolate cake recipe for many years with a handheld mixer. Yes, it really does need to be beaten for 5 minutes, but I promise the time goes fast.

Yes, time really does go fast. This is my best chocolate cake and it brings back many memories of happy times and  the many different kitchens I’ve made it in.

This easy chocolate cake recipe is one recipe I’ve stuck with. And boy, it has stuck to me too! (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) 

 OK, regardless of your resolutions, make it a point to make this chocolate birthday cake at least once this year.

Perhaps it will become a new family tradition. Which is a really sweet idea!

Need More Chocolate?

Quick Chocolate Cake  (No mixer required!)

quick chocolate cake

Nigella’s Fudge Loaf Cake

Nigella's Fudge Loaf Cake

Chocolate Oreo Sandwich Cake

chocolate oreo sandwich cake

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chocolate birthday cake

Chocolate Fudge Cake

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 30 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 Minutes
  • Total Time: 55 Minutes
  • Yield: 12 - 16 Servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: AMerican


A classic, old fashioned chocolate fudge layer cake with a tender, moist interior topped with a rich, creamy chocolate frosting; this has birthday cake written all over it.


Units Scale

3 (1 ounce) squares of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate

2 1/4 c sifted cake flour (I use a fork and stir flour well to make it light)

2 t baking soda (even in Denver)

1/2 t salt

1/2 c butter (room temperature)

2 1/4 c firmly packed brown sugar (I always have dark so that is what I use but light is

3 eggs

1 1/2t vanilla extract

1c sour cream

1 c boiling water

Chocolate Frosting

4 squares (1 ounce ) Baker’s unsweetened chocolate

1/2 c butter

1 pound confectioners sugar

1/2 c milk

2 t vanilla


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour 3 9-inch cake pans.  (I use cocoa instead of flour)

Melt chocolate in microwave for 1 minute power level 7. Stir and then do 30 seconds power level 7 until it is melted completely. Cool.*

In a large bowl beat butter until soft and creamy. (If butter is not at room temperature you can soften it in the microwave in the paper wrapper for 10 seconds.)

Add the brown sugar and eggs and beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes at high speed. Scrape down several times during this process.

Beat in the vanilla and melted chocolate.

Stir flour, baking soda and salt with a fork to aerate and incorporate the salt and soda. Add flour mixture alternately with sour cream, beating well after each addition. Stir in boiling water slowly and mix well. Batter will be thin.

Pour evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 25 minutes or until sides of cake shrink from edge of pan and a tester inserted comes out with just a few moist crumbs.

Cool on rack.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Combine chocolate and butter in microwave safe bowl. Microwave on power level 7  until mixture is fully melted. Do this in 30 second intervals and whisk the chocolate and butter in between until melted and chocolate and butter are incorporated.

Combine sifted confectioners sugar, milk and vanilla in mixing bowl. Stir until smooth. Add the chocolate mixture. Beat until well combined. If frosting is too soft to be spreadable,  place bowl in a pan of ice water and beat with a spoon until frosting is thick and holds its shape. This can also be refrigerated and brought to room temperature before icing.


I always make 1 1/2 times the frosting recipe. It is so good.

*microwave ovens do vary

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star


Saturday 9th of December 2023

Happy birthday Abbe! My birthday is in the first week of December and I am THE cake baker chez moi, except once my husband purchased (from WF) a chocolate cake made with stout ... and I don't drink, hate the taste of beer, hate all alcohols. Lesson learned! Back to me baking. For my cake I make a flourless bitter chocolate torte filled with a hazelnut praline French buttercream topped with a whipped ganache mousse. Makes me so happy! I'm glad you also have a birthday cake which makes you happy. Happy birthday, Abbe.


Saturday 9th of December 2023

Wow! Your cake sounds fabulous and Happy Birthday to you! My husband once bought me one at Whole Foods, too! You made my day!


Tuesday 22nd of December 2020

What a beautiful cake! And Happy Birthday to your Dad, he looks so sweet! Happy Holidays Abbe!! Xo Anna and Liz


Monday 21st of December 2020

What a beautiful birthday cake! Those sprinkles really make it so festive and fun. Happy Birthday to your Dad!


Monday 7th of January 2013

Thanks so much Anu. To you, too!


Monday 7th of January 2013

Cake looks great and wish you a happy new yer