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March 30, 2012

Chocolate Cake... not from a box! (and it tastes amazing)

After a long hard battle competing against the mighty boxed cake, I have finally done it.  I made a cake that I think actually tastes better than my husband's favorite (and frequently requested...) cake from a boxed mix.  Why bother?  It totally bugs me that he has liked the boxed mix rather than my 'from scratch' chocolate cakes.  It is the same reason I continually make cookies other than is favorite chocolate chip.  Plain and simple pride. 

He has confirmed that he indeed likes this cake better.  I win.  It might have to do with the fact that Emma helped me make it... she's got his number!  So, I guess... we win.

I was inspired by Tessa from Nine and Sixteen - I used her "Love Me Forever Chocolate Cake" recipe as a starting place and added a couple of twists like using a hot cup of coffee instead of boiling water.  I also used melted butter instead of oil.  Not sure why, just thought melted butter would add great flavor.  Thanks for the inspiration, Tessa!

This recipe makes half a normal sized cake.  I am big into halving recipes - there are only two of us after all, and someone is going to be eating the cake until the platter is clean.  That someone is me, so I like to move the finish line a little closer to avoid having to buy new clothes. 

A Very Good Chocolate Cake
that's better than the box

1 cup sugar
7/8 cup flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons of melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup of hot coffee

In a mixer, combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda and salt.  Stir to combine.  Add egg, milk and melted butter.  Mix on low until combined.  Add vanilla and hot coffee.  Beat for 1 minute on medium high.

Line a 8-inch round baking pan with parchment paper, or spray it with non-stick spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Let cool.  Frost with Chocolate Frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

1 1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup of milk
1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa
pinch of salt
4 cups of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon of good vanilla

In a microwave safe bowl, heat butter and milk together in the microwave until the butter is melted, about 45 seconds.  Add cocoa and stir to mix.  Pour mixture into mixer bowl.

Add pinch of salt, powdered sugar and vanilla.  Mix together on high for 3-4 minutes until shiny.

Here are some more step-by-step photos of my process:




  1. oh this looks fantastic. I think I'll go right into the kitchen.. haha :)

  2. Heather10:48 AM

    Love you and your blog and how you include Emma into your world. Good momma! Btw, I just ordered my platinum Jack Rogers Navajos...can't wait to get them on Monday! And I now have your sister's kitchen as my inspiration for my own. I LOVE marble not granite in the kitchen!!!

  3. Anonymous2:37 PM

    mmm this looks sooo amazing! :) I Love your blog

  4. kellyt4:29 PM

    Just recently found your blog and love it, especially all the beautiful photography. It makes me want to cook everything on your site. I have already tried your peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (excellent!) and this cake looks like just the right thing for this weekend. I do have a question: what do you mean by 7/8 cup of flour? Does that just mean almost a cup of flour or is it a typo?

  5. Jenny, your recipes are always fabulous. I have made many of your recipes over the last couple of months from the homemade noodles, the filet,...I made the chocolate cake for my family tonight and I think that there could have been a mistake on the ingredients. Not sure, but my cake batter was very runny and it didn't rise like the cake you have pictured. I doubled the recipe so I wouldn't need to cut the one layer into two, and it would feed my three teenagers and hubby a bit easier than the one layer. The only other change I made was using cake flour instead of all purpose. I would love to know if I did something wrong or if I might have needed more flour than the recipe called for. All that said, this dense spongy cake that kind of broke into two is now a trifle and it is delicioso!! Thanks for your blog recipes, they are my favorite go to recipes I use often.

  6. Jenny5:37 PM

    Kellyt- it is 7/8's because the original recipe was 1 3/4 cup. Since I was halving the recipe, it translates to 7/8's cup. I hope that makes sense!

  7. Jenny5:44 PM

    Tammy - oh no! I'm not sure what could have gone wrong. The batter is very runny, and the cake is more dense than fluffy, so maybe using the cake flour had just enough effect to make the recipe not work so well. From what I understand about cake flour is that when using it as a substitution for all purpose, you need to add 2 tablespoons. Maybe that small amount could have made the difference? I'm sorry it didn't work out for you! Enjoy the trifle... That does sound good, too!

  8. That's what I get for using my cake flour ; ) It is delicious and I am sure I will make it again and again. Thanks for your quick response.

  9. jenny ~ if given the choice, the chocolate cake or emma in that striped outfit, i think i'd gobble emma up first. i'm glad mike is now converted! i love the addition of coffee to the recipe too. very ina garten-ish! :)

  10. Hi Jenny! I live in KC and I just helped your sweet mother in law at Lauren Alexandra yesterday. I used to follow the bliss list, but didn't realize you had started another blog. I am so glad she told me about it! Your daughter is precious...congrats!
    Melanie Knopke

  11. I just discovered your blog - it's so beautiful!! We have very similar tastes, and I can tell I will be enjoying all your posts yet to come. Love that this cake recipe is halved - and don't I know it! It totally irks me when family likes boxed mixes better - totally motivates me to find the magic recipe that beats the box!!

  12. I can say this recipe is fabulous! Love the layers...Homemade, definitely is the best! Thanks for the post.

  13. Great work and great ideas to learn about some delicious recipes

  14. Made this over the weekend - by far one of the best homemade chocolate cake recipes I have tried to date!

  15. Made it last night and I am officially in love with this!
    The batter was really runny but it baked up beautifully:)
    I may be your biggest fan!

  16. Anonymous10:08 AM

    did you use vanilla essence, or extract?

  17. Anonymous10:12 AM

    oh jenny, and how many tablespoons would a stick of butter be? :)

    1. Anonymous2:02 PM

      If you look on the package of butter it'll tell you.

  18. best easy chocolate cake ever! made it in an 8x8 square dish with just the frosting on top and some sprinkles (or sprainkles, as we say in our house to be funny) for the kids. truly delicious! gonna put a link on my blog to this recipe (is that legal?)!

  19. Anonymous2:03 PM

    1/2 c. of coffee was wayyy too much. First time I made this, it made my batter so runny I had to add extra flour. Second time I only used a tablespoon, and that seemed to be perfect.

  20. Anonymous1:55 PM

    I made this cake a couple days ago for a birthday. At first I thought I did something wrong because the batter was so thin, but the cake ended up baking perfectly. It is VERY dense and moist. I loved it.

    The frosting on the other hand, I did not care for at all. One tablespoon was far too much vanilla. I would definitely make this cake again, but with a different frosting.

  21. Has anyone ever made this chocolate cake into cupcakes? If so, how did it go?

  22. Anonymous9:14 AM

    the best cake batter should be thin it makes the cake more moist and it will stay that way even sitting out.

  23. I like moist cakes, so this recipe works well with me. I’m glad that your hubby admitted that this tastes better than the boxed mix because this cake is just divine! And, I think a glass of milk is the perfect partner for this chocolatey goodness.

    Berenice Ponder

  24. Anonymous7:27 PM

    I made this cake today for my husband's birthday! It is absolutely delicious!! It's so moist and 100 times better than a box mix. For those of you worried about the coffee in'd never know it was there unless someone told you. Believe me, I hate coffee and have never drank a cup in my life. If anyone would be able to taste it, it would be me. Lol! Also, the ingredients are everyday things that most people have in their pantry. This is definitely going to be my go to chocolate cake from now on. No more box cake for me!! One more thing, I also love the fact that it is a half recipe, seeing there are only two of us in my household too.

  25. Anonymous4:57 PM

    I have made this cake 3 times now so I obviously love it. Big fan of the half recipe it's a perfect amount of cake. Thank you thank you! Beautiful pictures as well.

  26. I don't usually bake, because I usually screw it up, and I don't usually write reviews either. I made this cake tonight and even though I kept thinking that I had messed it up( the batter seemed too thin, it didn't taste right, the frosting too stiff, etc) it turned out perfect! It was delicious, unbelievably moist and the layers looked so lovely. It was impressive. And the best part is that it was super easy to make. Yay! Thanks for a great recipe to have under my belt. This is the first time I've tried to make a homemade cake btw.

  27. Anonymous10:06 PM

    Planning on doubling this and making it into cupcakes for valentine's day. Any suggestions for modifying the baking time?

    1. Anonymous2:38 AM

      So I ended up making these and guessing on the bake time. 21 minutes was perfect. I made four dozen cupcakes. I found that they turned out lighter and fluffier as cupcakes than when I use this recipe for a cake, which I've done several times. Disappointed about that. I doubled it and filled my cupcake liners half way and came out with 30 cupcakes each batch.

  28. this is baking in the oven right now…i am a tiny bit worried as my batter looks soooo much thinner than yours does even though i followed the recipe exactly and understand how much 7/8's cup is. but other's mentioned their batters turning out runny as well and that their cakes turned out really moist and good, so i'm hopeful. :)


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