Today is National Chocolate Cake Day, so in honour of that I want to share my tried and true death by chocolate cake recipe. We used to call this cake 'Chocolate Temptation' in the bakery because it's just everything that a chocolate cake should be. Four layers of chocolate sponge are moist and dense, sandwiched with my rich chocolate buttercream frosting and with a surprise layer of chocolate ganache right in the middle. Top it off with a pretty chocolate drip and some buttercream rosettes and voila! The most perfect death by chocolate cake!
A Truly Reliable Recipe for a Classic
No matter how many new and interesting flavours appear, death by chocolate cake will always be a staple.
There is nothing worse than ordering a slice of chocolate cake, being all excited to devour it, then when it arrives you take a bite and it's.... disappointing. Sadly there are a lot of lackluster chocolate cakes out there but I promise you this one will NOT disappoint! It's dense, decadent, moist and has such an intense chocolatey flavour which is really driven home by the chocolate sponge, chocolate frosting AND chocolate ganache. Trust me, I do not call it a 'death by chocolate cake' lightly, this cake deserves its title!
The Science of this Death by Chocolate Cake
There are a few nerdy things that make this chocolate cake so spectacular. First of all, using vegetable oil instead of butter gives the cake a much more dense and moist crumb for that luxurious soft bite feeling.
Backing that up is the use of cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate. As I mentioned in my Ultimate Chocolate Brownies recipe, if you are looking for a fudgy texture it's better to use just cocoa powder as well as an additional fat (in this case, the vegetable oil), as the fat will stay soft at room temperature, whereas chocolate hardens and gives a firmer texture when it's set.
Lastly, the addition of the hot water allows the cocoa powder to melt and dissolve into the batter and be fully incorporated BEFORE baking. This means that the chocolate flavour has a chance to really seep into the batter and great that rich, decadent flavour.
How to Assemble and Decorate Death by Chocolate Cake
There are many ways to frost and decorate a chocolate cake! If you want to make it look exactly like mine then you want to cut each of the layers in half to make four thin cake layers. This way you can pack much more frosting into the cake and make sure every bite has a perfect ratio of cake and frosting! I also put a layer of chocolate ganache in between the middle two layers, to just add an extra punch of silky chocolate flavour.
In terms of decoration, you can spread this buttercream out to be smooth and perfect or you can dollop it on and create peaks and patterns - whatever you feel like. I think the beauty of a chocolate cake is that it doesn't have to be neat in order to look absolutely irresistible. If you want to do a chocolate drip like I did though, I recommend making it at least a little smooth to show off the drip.
When you come to do the drip, it's best to chill the cake for 15 minutes first, this means when the drip hits the cake it will immediately start to set and slow down, which makes it much easier to control how far the chocolate drips down the cake. It also helps if you microwave the ganache for just five seconds before starting - but no more than this or it will be too runny!
Chocolate Cake Variations
There is a lot you can do with this death by chocolate cake recipe. I have shared this as a classic version since it's National Chocolate Day, but you can add anything you like to it - nuts, berries, caramel, different kinds of frosting. You can also use this same batter to make chocolate cupcakes - it's the same base recipe I used to make my melt in the middle S'mores Cupcakes. This recipe will make about 18 cupcakes.
Get creative with it, add your favourite toppings and fillings and make the chocolate cake of your dreams! Be sure to let me know how they turn out!
Death by Chocolate Cake
For the Chocolate Cake
- 3 cups All-purpose Flour 375g
- 1 ⅓ cup Cocoa Powder 114g
- 3 cups Sugar 600g
- 2 teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 4 Eggs
- 1 cup Vegetable Oil 218g
- 1 ¼ cup Milk 300g
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- ⅓ cup Hot Water
For the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- 2 sticks Butter 227g
- 4 cups Icing Sugar 480g
- 1 cup Cocoa Powder 86g
- ⅔ cup Milk 162g
- 1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
For the Chocolate Ganache
- 300 g Chocolate chopped
- ½ cup Whipping Cream 119g
Make the Cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare two 8 inch cake pans
- Sift all the dry ingredients for the cake into a large bowl and stir together3 cups All-purpose Flour, 1 ⅓ cup Cocoa Powder, 3 cups Sugar, 2 teaspoon Baking Powder, 1 teaspoon Salt
- Add the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla and mix everything together until it is combined and there are no lumps4 Eggs, 1 cup Vegetable Oil, 1 ¼ cup Milk, 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- Add the hot water and continue to mix until totally incorporated⅓ cup Hot Water
- Pour evenly into cake pans and tap the pans on the counter a few times to release any large air bubbles
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean
Make the Chocolate Ganache
- Chop the chocolate into small pieces and put into a bowl
- Heat the cream in a saucepan over a medium-low heat until just before boiling, remove from the heat and pour over the chopped chocolate½ cup Whipping Cream
- Stir the chocolate and cream together until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is thick and glossy. Allow to cool before using300 g Chocolate
Make the Chocolate Buttercream
- Cream butter until smooth2 sticks Butter
- Add cocoa powder and beat together1 cup Cocoa Powder
- Add icing sugar, milk and vanilla and beat on high for 3 minutes until frosting is creamy4 cups Icing Sugar, ⅔ cup Milk, 1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
Assemble and Decorate
- Cut the domes off of the two chocolate sponges so they have flat tops
- Cut each cake in half
- Place one of the cake layers down on a plate or cake board and spread with chocolate buttercream, add another layer on top followed by more buttercream
- Before adding a third cake layer, pour some of the chocolate ganache on top of the buttercream and spread to the sides (don't add too much or the cake will be slippy. Add the third cake layer on top, followed by more buttercream and the final cake layer
- Once the cake is stacked, cover the whole thing in chocolate buttercream and either smooth it out. Put the cake in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes
- Once the cake has chilled, heat the chocolate ganache in the microwave for 5 seconds, just to soften it up a little, put it in a piping bag and cut a small piece off the tip
- Use the piping bag to pipe drips of ganache down the side of the cake, all the way around. Once you have all your drips, use the remaining ganache to cover the top of the cake, smooth it out and place it back in the fridge for 5 minutes
- Take any remaining chocolate buttercream and put it into a piping bag with a star nozzle, pipe rosettes on top of the cake and finish with some chocolate sprinkles