If you love chocolate, can't live without chocolate, you dream of chocolate, this chocolate layer cake is for you. With four layers of dark chocolate cake iced with chocolate cream cheese frosting and chocolate ganache, it's very rich and decadent. For a sweeter cake, use chocolate buttercream frosting in place of the chocolate ganache.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Oil: any light tasting oil can be used in place of olive oil. Vegetable, canola, whatever you have on hand. Don't use melted coconut oil as it'll make the cake too dense.
- Cocoa: use natural cocoa for the best results here. We haven't tested with Dutch process.
- Sugar: use plain white sugar or cane sugar interchangeably.
- Make it dairy-free: use non-dairy milk, vegan cream cheese frosting, and the ganache linked is already made with coconut milk. It's adapted from this chocolate raspberry cake, so if you need a vegan version, just use that minus the raspberries.
If you want to use the ganache and cream cheese frosting as outlined, it's a good idea to make them ahead of time and refrigerate until you're ready to use.
Step 1: add the eggs to a large mixing bowl and whisk until combined, then add the milk and olive and whisk again.
Step 2: gently whisk the dry ingredients into the cake, mixing until no streaks of flour remain, but be careful not to over mix.
Step 3: divide the batter evenly between prepared baking tins.
Step 4: bake for 40-45 minutes, or until they pass the toothpick test. Cool the cakes fully before slicing and frosting.
Step 5: frost the cake in alternating layers, starting with the cream cheese frosting in the first layer, then a layer of ganache, followed by a third of cream cheese, then topped with ganache.
Step 6: frost the sides with the remaining chocolate ganache, using an offset spatula to get the semi-naked cake effect we've done here, or using the back of a spoon to make swoops if you prefer. Chill the cake and drizzle with melted chocolate if desired. Keep it refrigerated or in a cool place until serving, topped with fresh fruit or another decoration.
- Cool fully: make sure the cake layers are completely cooled before starting to ice them. If they're even a little bit warm, the frosting layers will melt and the structure will be compromised.
- Decorate seasonally: think spider webs for Halloween, red hearts at Valentines, fresh berries in summer, a chocolate sail for a birthday cake – whatever you like.
- Level the layers: cut the tops off the cakes to make them flat enough to layer. Place the cakes with the cut-side down onto the frosting.
This is a large cake, but you can cut the recipe in half if you prefer a smaller version. It might seem like a lot but it does keep quite well and can be frozen.
The cake isn't super light and fluffy because it needs to hold itself up for four layers. It's not dense, but it's no angel food cake – definitely a dark chocolate cake.
How to Store
Storage: the cake will keep well, kept in the fridge or in a cool place, for 2-3 days. The frosting does start to soak in a bit after a while, but if it's kept in the fridge it hardens a bit which prevents that from happening. The cake will be quite dense and fudgey when cold.
Freezing: place the cake in an airtight container or wrap very well in aluminum foil. Freeze for up to two months and thaw in the fridge before serving.
Why use oil instead of butter in chocolate cake?
Oil makes for more evenly moist cake, and is easier to incorporate than butter. It also means that the cake is slightly softer when stored in the fridge, because oil doesn't solidify like butter does.
Can I use chocolate instead of cocoa powder in chocolate cake?
You shouldn't try to substitute chocolate for cocoa powder in chocolate cake. This would make the cake very heavy and dense due to the added weight and additional fat.
Can I use hot chocolate mix instead of cocoa powder?
Hot chocolate mix has added sugar and sometimes added ingredients like milk powder, so it can't be used as a 1:1 substitute for cocoa powder.
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One-Bowl Chocolate Layer Cake
- Measuring cups and spoons or a digital kitchen scale
- 2 8-inch (20 cm) springform baking tins
- Mixing bowl
- 2 large eggs
- 3 cups milk
- 1 cup olive oil or another light oil, like canola
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Butter or coconut oil, for greasing the pans
- 1 batch cream cheese frosting
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 batch chocolate ganache
- Start by making the ganache, preferably the day before, if you're using it.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and grease two 8-inch (20 cm) springform baking tins.
- Add the eggs to a large mixing bowl and whisk until combined.
- Add the milk, olive oil, and vanilla, and whisk again to mix.
- Add the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the bowl and whisk again to mix. There shouldn't be any streaks of flour remaining, but be careful not to over mix.
- Pour the batter evenly between the two baking tins and bake, on the centre rack, for 40-45 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes should come out clean when they're done.
- While the cakes are baking, make the cream cheese frosting. Follow the recipe instructions, but add the 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the mix for a chocolate frosting.
- Cool the cakes completely before cutting off the domed tops to level them, then cut each cake in half lengthwise to create two layers out of each cake.
- Layer the cakes in the following order: cake, ½ cream cheese frosting, cake, ¼ cup ganache, cake, remaining frosting, cake, and then coat the top and sides with the remaining ganache.
- Chill the cake if not serving immediately, and keep leftovers refrigerated, wrapped well or in a sealed container.