Chocolate Birthday Cake

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This Chocolate Birthday Cake is a real treat! It’s made with moist, fluffy chocolate cake layers, brushed with chocolate syrup for extra richness, and covered in a luscious chocolate buttercream.

Why It’s So Good

The cake’s moist and tender texture comes from sour cream, buttermilk, and oil. The optional chocolate syrup adds extra moisture and boosts the chocolate flavor. The chocolate buttercream, made with dark chocolate ganache, balances the sweetness for a perfect finish.

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Cake

  • Room Temperature Ingredients: Use room temperature eggs, butter, sour cream, and buttermilk. Quickly warm eggs by placing them in warm water for a few minutes. For butter, let it sit in a warm place like inside the microwave (without turning it on).
  • Avoid Overmixing: Mix just until combined to keep the cake moist.
  • Scrape the Bowl: Scrape down the sides of the bowl while mixing the batter and frosting to make sure everything is well blended.
  • Baking Time: Bake just until done to prevent dryness.
  • Storing Layers: If not frosting right away, freeze the cake layers wrapped in plastic to keep them moist. No need to thaw before frosting.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 35 minutes
Course Dessert
Servings 12


Chocolate Cake Batter:

  • 2 cups allpurpose flour about 9 ounces
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder optional
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot coffee

Chocolate Syrup:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder

Chocolate Buttercream:

  • 1 cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate dark or semisweet (6 ounces)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To Decorate:

  • 1/3 cup rainbow sprinkles


Chocolate Cake Batter

  • Preheat Oven: Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and line three 8inch cake pans with parchment paper. Grease the paper and sides of the pans as well. You can also use two 9inch pans.
  • Mix Dry Ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and optional espresso powder.
  • Combine Wet Ingredients: In another bowl, mix the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, sour cream, and vanilla extract until smooth.
  • Blend Ingredients: Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Add the hot coffee and mix until smooth. The batter will be thin.
  • Divide and Bake: Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans. Tap the pans on the counter to release air bubbles. Bake for 3035 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool: Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. If not frosting immediately, wrap in plastic and freeze.

Chocolate Syrup

  • Make Syrup: In a saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and water. Heat on medium until it boils and the cocoa dissolves.
  • Cool: Let the syrup cool, then cover until ready to use. You may need to whisk it again before brushing it on the cake layers.

Chocolate Buttercream

  • Prepare Ganache: Melt the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate in the microwave in 1530 second intervals, stirring until smooth. Heat the heavy cream until just hot and pour over the melted chocolate. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  • Mix Butter and Sugar: Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder together. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter for 1 minute until creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar and cocoa, beating on low and scraping the bowl often.
  • Add Ganache: Add the cooled ganache and vanilla extract to the bowl. Beat on low until combined.

Assemble the Cake

  • Layer Cake: Place one cake layer on a plate. Brush with chocolate syrup, if using. Let it soak in for a couple of minutes.
  • Frost: Spread chocolate buttercream over the cake layer using an offset spatula. Add another cake layer and repeat brushing with syrup and frosting. Place the final cake layer on top and brush with syrup.
  • Cover Cake: Spread frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Smooth with a spatula and use a bench scraper for the sides.
  • Decorate: For a spiral design, place the tip of a small offset spatula at the base and spin the cake plate, moving the spatula upwards. Repeat on the top, moving from edge to center. Add sprinkles to the top and sides if desired.


Storage and Serving

  • Refrigerate: Store the cake in the fridge for up to 4 days in an airtight container.
  • Freeze: Wrap the cake in plastic and freeze for up to 2 months.


  • Buttermilk Substitute: Use regular milk with a teaspoon of vinegar if you don’t have buttermilk. Let it sit for 2 minutes before using.
  • Sour Cream Substitute: Greek yogurt can replace sour cream.
  • Coffee Substitute: Hot water can be used instead of coffee.
  • Cocoa Powder: Use unsweetened natural cocoa powder for best results. Avoid Dutchprocess cocoa due to the high amount of baking soda in the recipe.

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