The Perfect One-Bowl Chocolate Cake Recipe

chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream recipe

After testing so many chocolate cake recipes over the years, I’ve come really close to perfection only to miss the mark on the essentials of a good chocolate cake: moistness, fluffiness, and great chocolate flavor. You know, the kind with the slightly sticky crumb that just melts in your mouth and almost makes your eyes roll back in your head because it’s just that good. While my chocolate cakes of the past have been acceptable, this one I’m about to share is the absolute best I’ve ever had. No joke. It’s moist, decadent, and makes me so giddy I want to shout it from the rooftops!

one bowl chocolate cake recipe
chocolate cake recipe from scratch

The best part of this chocolate cake recipe is that it’s about as easy as a cake mix. It’s a one-bowl cake, meaning you basically put all the ingredients into one bowl (in the right order, of course) and whip it up into the smoothest chocolate cake batter ever. There are absolutely no complicated steps to this cake, which makes it super failproof and the perfect go-to chocolate cake recipe for your repertoire.

This cake is ultra-moist due to the vegetable oil base and the addition of buttermilk. I always make the buttermilk from scratch instead of buying it, because it’s so easy to transform whole milk into full fat buttermilk, and whole milk is something I always have on hand. Just mix it with white vinegar (exact recipe below), let it sit for about 15 minutes, and voila! Perfect buttermilk every time.

easy chocolate cake recipe by sugar and sparrow

You can pair this chocolate cake with almost any buttercream, but I’ve chosen to pair it with my favorite chocolate buttercream recipe to really enhance the chocolate flavor. In the past I’ve paired it with cherry, raspberry, almond, salted caramel, and vanilla buttercreams and those pairings have been super tasty.

buttercream rope border with sprinkles

The rope border on top of this cake was created using Wilton Tip 1M to pipe rosettes on top of one another around the edge of the cake. Then I topped it all off with one of my favorite sprinkle mixes ever – Rainbow Road by SprinklePop. I think sprinkles are the perfect finishing touch, but you can decorate however you’d like.

easy chocolate cake recipe by sugar and sparrow
5 from 12 votes
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Perfect One-Bowl Chocolate Cake Recipe

A moist, decadent chocolate cake that is so easy and quick to whip up, it’ll become a forever go-to. Top it with chocolate buttercream for the best chocolate cake ever. 

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 15 slices

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups (415g) all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 Cups (530g) white granulated sugar
  • 1 Cup (95g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch Process)
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 Cup (177ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 Cups (355ml) full-fat buttermilk*, room temperature DIY recipe in the notes
  • 1 1/2 Cups (355ml) hot water

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and prepare three 6-inch cake pans by spraying the sides with cooking spray and fitting the bottoms with a wax paper or parchment cake circle. 

  2. Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir on low for 30 seconds to fully combine them. Add the vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk and mix on low until just combined. With the mixer still on low, add the hot water in a slow stream, then turn the mixer to medium and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. The batter will be very thin. 

  3. Pour into prepared cake pans no more than 2/3 full and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting with chocolate buttercream or frosting of your choice.

Recipe Notes

DIY Buttermilk recipe: add 1 Tbsp of white vinegar for every cup of whole milk you’ll be using. For this recipe, add 1.5 Tbsp of white vinegar to a jar and top it with 1.5 Cups of whole milk. Stir and let sit for 15 minutes before using in the recipe. 

Make ahead tips: this cake can be made ahead and stored at room temperature, covered tightly in plastic wrap, for up to two days. Alternatively, you can cover with plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to two months before thawing to room temperature. 

Did you make this recipe? Let me know what you think in the comments below, or by tagging me on Instagram! I love to see your creations and hear your feedback.

77 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I tried it with the chocolate buttercream and it was delicious! Of course not as pretty as yours but my daughter already requested I make it for her birthday… Which is in October

  2. 5 stars
    I made cupcakes with this recipe this weekend. Best chocolate cake recipe ever! Only problem was my cupcakes were pretty sticky on top even though they were completely baked. Any idea what I did wrong?

    • Hi Lisa! That’s awesome this recipe worked out as cupcakes! I have never made it as cupcakes so I’m not sure why they turned out sticky on top. The only thing I can think of is that this cake is meant to be super moist. I’ll test it as cupcakes and see if I get the same result.

  3. Chad E Peterson

    5 stars
    Another great recipe. I did the caramel apple cake last week and this one yesterday. Both were awesome, I liked the caramel apple better, my wife preferred this one. Both cakes cooked up perfectly. For this one it did dome up and had to cut off about 1″ to level it off, maybe I had too much flour. This chocolate cake is a good medium density, not too light and not too dense. My wife and kids are excited to see which one I will do next week. Thanks for the great recipes.

    • Thanks Chad!! So happy to hear you’re loving the recipes! I think the doming might be solved using cake strips around the pan to help the cake bake more evenly, but I never use cake strips and always just trim off the dome to make my cakes level. Can’t wait to see what you’ll try next and thanks for all the wonderful feedback 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    I did this cake already twice in last ten days. It really is perfect, very moist, soft and easy to do. Thank you for this recipe! Love from the Czech republic 🙂

    • That is so wonderful to hear, Klara! I’m so happy you’re loving this recipe!! Love from Portland as well 🙂

  5. 5 stars
    Oh my goodness…sounds unbelievable. I wonder, I wonder if there is an amazing GF recipe??? As always, most amazing cakes ever Whit

    • Thanks so much, Ann!! I have yet to try making gluten free cake but I’ll totally let you know if I do!! 🙂 love you!

  6. I would like to make this cake but only have two 9″ cake pans. Will the measurements work?

    • Hi Kristin! This recipe will definitely work with two 9 inch cake pans with the measurements as is. Just make sure to fill the pans no more than 2/3 full and check them at 45 minutes to see if you need more time. Let me know how it goes!

    • Hi Donna! If you one-and-a-half the recipe (using 5 eggs) it should be perfect. Doubling it will work too but you’ll definitely have enough extra batter for a few more cake layers.

  7. 5 stars
    I love this recipe! With the same batter, I was able to make 1 round cake and about 15 cupcakes! The cupcakes just need 17 mins in the oven and they rose up. I had no issues with it.

    And they are moist and delicious, this recipe is a keeper!

    I did make the mistake of using cold milk for the buttermilk, so my milk didn’t curdle at all, I still put it in after the 15 min wait and it was fine.

    So thank you so much for this lovely and easy recipe!

    • Hi Tina! I am so happy to hear that you love the recipe AND were able to make some cupcakes with it as well! I have yet to try making cupcakes with it but now I can’t wait 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    Is there a way to rate this recipe more than five stars?! This was my first scratch made chocolate cake. I usually doctor up chocolate cake mixes because they’re fool proof and always moist, but this recipe is a game changer. I was skeptical at first because the batter was super watery, but the end result was perfection. This recipe yielded 44 cupcakes (using a 3.4 tbsp batter scoop). For me, it took 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven. They were the most moist and tender cupcakes I’ve ever made. Thank you so much for this recipe!

    • YAY!! I am so happy to hear that, Cat! I felt the same way having been used to relying on cake mixes for so long. I was so happy to finally create a chocolate cake recipe that’s about as easy as a cake mix + tasty as can be, and I’m elated to hear that you’re loving it too!!

  9. Alison Clark

    5 stars
    Hi I made these cakes today ready to decorate tomorrow but they seem quite heavy , is this normal ???

    • Hi Alison! They might feel heavy due to how moist they are, but how is the crumb? Is it soft and fluffy? Sometimes cakes can become dense if you overmix the batter, but this cake is meant to have a fairly fluffy, yet sticky crumb.

  10. Oh my goodness yes! I have tried my fair share of chocolate cake recipes, and I’ve finally found the winner! It’s moist, has the perfect texture, and great flavor! Thanks for the recipe!

  11. Planning to make this in 6” cake rounds. I’ve been having a problem where my cake is sinking in the middle in these small pans. It’s cooking too fast on the sides! And then sinking! Any thoughts ?

    • Hi Katie! If your cake pan is repeatedly making your cake recipes sink in the middle, I would get some baking strips for the sides of the pan. They will make your cake bake more evenly. The sinkage might be from something else though, a few culprits are: oven temperature is too hot (even if it says it’s the right temp), too much rising agent (baking powder/soda) in the recipe, using baking powder thats over six months old, and overmixing the batter. This chocolate cake recipe has been tested a ton, so it shouldn’t sink unless there are other factors like the ones mentioned above. I’d suggest getting an internal oven thermometer just to make sure the oven isn’t running too hot + check that your baking powder is fresh + try baking the cake with baking strips just in case. You can find baking strips at your local cake decorating shop or online here: https://amzn.to/2ElNRB6 And PS I hope you love the chocolate cake recipe!!

  12. 5 stars
    Finally I found a very good cake, thank you for a great recipe! I baked it for my 11 birthday daughter and everybody enjoyed it

    • Thanks, Jibi! The buttermilk helps to add extra moisture, and I’ve got a DIY buttermilk recipe in the notes section (just add white vinegar to whole milk). If you don’t have white vinegar on hand I’m sure you could just use whole milk and be totally fine 🙂

  13. Lorraine F

    I used 3 round 6×2 inch pans and had lots of batter left over…im thinking to half the recipe next time. Or am I using the wrong cake pans?

    Fantastic cake, even better recipe than he last one I tried. And that one was pretty darn good too. Thank you!

    • Hi Lorraine, so happy you are loving the recipes! I use the same size pans and fill them 2/3 full and I do remember having a little extra batter left over. It’s hard to get the amount of batter exact in recipe writing and I’m still learning! If you half the recipe, your cake layers won’t be as tall but if you’re ok with that, I’d say go for it! Just be sure to lessen the baking time to accommodate thinner layers.

  14. Hi!! I just wanted to say that I have done it 4 times already and it is an amazing recipe. Thank you so much for sharing! I did it with the DIY buttermilk cause they dont sell that in Mexico. I also added a little less water, around 1 cup only and it stayed an hour on the oven (not sure if this is do to my oven temperature). It performs great everytime and is my new go to chocolate cake. Cant wait to try more of your recipes 🙂

    • Hi Maria! I am SO happy to hear that you’re loving the recipe! Thanks so much for letting me know, that totally makes my day! 🙂

  15. Vicky Adjei

    Just tried this recipe! A mouthful of awesomeness!! The only lil problem was that I could feel bits of the granulated sugar in the cake. Any thoughts?

    • Hi Vicki! So happy you love the recipe. The only things I can think of about the granulated sugar: 1) the hot water wasn’t hot enough or 2) the batter wasn’t mixed enough at the end of the recipe. If there were granules of sugar in the final cake it would mean that they hadn’t melted/fully incorporated. Next time, try boiling the water and then taking it off the burner for about a minute before pouring it in at the end and make sure you mix for the full 2 minutes at the end.

  16. Hi, I want to try out your recipe as i’m trying to find the most perfect moist soft chocolate cake ever for my friends birthday party. I just wonder how much ml of vegetable oil you mean with 3/4 cup and also the ml of hot water. As living in Belgium we don’t use cup measurements. Thx ahead for a quick response 😉

    • Thanks for catching that, Elke! I will add the ml measurements to the recipe for the vegetable oil and hot water!

    • Hi Kellianne! I’m not exactly sure how many cups of batter this recipe makes, but it’s enough to fill three 6 or 8 inch pans 2/3 of the way full. I hope that helps!

  17. I’d love to replicate this for my daughter’s birthday! How did you get the sprinkles so perfect?

    • Yay, Becky! This will make a great birthday cake! For the bottom part of the cake, I pour sprinkles into the palm of my hand and gently press them onto the cake. Then, I place the sprinkles one by one on the top two thirds of the cake by pressing them onto my finger and touching them to the cake. This video shows the same process on a different cake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hWwaFvcYHY&t=3s

  18. Philisha Naidoo

    Good day
    i love this recipe , however if i dont have a stand mixer , can we still beat this by hand and for how long ?

    • Hi Philisha! You can totally use a hand mixer for this cake recipe. Just follow the same speeds and timing in the instructions and you’ll be good. Let me know how it goes!

  19. 5 stars
    This is a great recipe! For me this recipe yielded two 6″ cakes, one 7″ cake, a tray of mini cupcakes, and a ramekin of cake, so it was a lot more than expected, but better more than not enough I suppose.

    I was wondering how long this cake lasts in the fridge though. I have enough cake domes and icing (from your provided buttercream icing recipe) to make cakepops, but wanted to make sure the cake was still okay. Thank you!!

    • Hi there! So happy you love the recipe! It yields a lot of cake batter (enough for three 8-inch layers!) and I’m working on paring it down for smaller cake sizes. For storing the cake, it’ll last up to two days wrapped in plastic wrap at room temp or you can store it in the freezer (tightly wrapped) for up to two months. I prefer either of those methods as opposed to the fridge just because if the cake isn’t frosted the refrigerator will dry out the cake more quickly. Let me know how the cake pops go!

      • Thank you for the info! The cake pops were very well received. Gonna have to make them again! <3

  20. Sue Wright

    My daughter made this cake and raved about it. She made it in three 6″ pans, however I have 8″ pans. Will the amount of batter best fit in 2 – 8″ pans, or can I bake it in 3 – 8″ pans?

    • Hi Sue! So happy your daughter loved this recipe! I’m sure you will too. It makes quite a lot of batter, enough for three 8 inch pans! Just make sure you fill them no more than 2/3 full and you’ll be good.

  21. The Best!
    Whitney, I’ve tried many – too many – chocolate cake recipes, with no success. But this recipe is the bomb! The crumb is chocolatey, delicious AND tender. To die for. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. And for your beautiful cake decorating ideas which are so unique and inspire me.

    • Hi Carol! So happy you love the recipe and thanks for the kind words! I feel the same way about this chocolate cake recipe, it’s one of my very favorites. Glad it’s brought you chocolate cake success too!

  22. Hi Whitney! I’m planning on using this recipe for my daughters 3rd birthday cake – I was wondering if the cake is easy enough to cut in half to fill with buttercream? I only have an 8/9” round tin (not 100% sure which) so was going to just do a two layer cake… will these measurements suffice? Thank you! Excited to try 🙂

    • Hi Claire! This recipe makes quite a lot of batter, enough for three 8 inch cake pans. The layers can be easily cut in half for filling with buttercream, but if you do it that way the layers will be about 1 inch tall instead of 2 inches tall. Alternatively you can just bake the cake layers in two intervals to have two 8-inch layers and the layers will be taller. Does that make sense? I hope you love the recipe!

  23. 5 stars
    Would this work for a 13×9 cake pan? I’ve made this recipe twice now and it’s the best chocolate cake recipe I’ve tried Ave that my family and friends love. I’m needing it for a take along cake in a disposable pan

    • Hi Tricia! I’m so happy you love the recipe! I’ve never tried it in a 13 x 9 pan but I’m sure it will work. I would bake at 350 and check it at 40-45 minutes to see if it needs more time.

  24. Could you use black cocoa mixed with black gel food color to make a black cake?? I know the flavor will be a little different….

    • Hi Breanna! I’ve never tried baking with black cocoa but I hear it’s amazing. It’s definitely worth a try (let me know how it goes if you do!). You could either use black cocoa or use regular cocoa and add a few drops of black food color gel to make the cake black.

  25. Wish me luck I’m about to attempt this for my daughter’s birthday will post the outcome

  26. This cake sounds wonderful. I have to make a chocolate cake for someone with a dairy allergy, would I be able to substitute soy or almond milk when making the buttermilk?

    • Hi Diane! From what I’ve read online, soy milk is the best substitute in cake recipes because of the high fat/protein content. I’ve never tried it myself but it seems like it works great! Let me know how it goes if you try it.

  27. 5 stars
    OMGosh! I thought I had a great chocolate cake recipe but mine didn’t even hold a candle to this one. Heavy, dense, just sweet enough. My new favorite. People rave about it everywhere I take it. Now, if you just had a vanilla or almond version 🙂

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