Cakes Desserts Holidays

The Chocolate Cake

ina garten chocolate cake
chocolate cake with peonies for decoration

Part of the reason I started The Vanilla Bean Blog revolved around chocolate cake. I was interested in creating some kind of family food history, an idea sparked when I realized my family did not have a cake to call our own. We bought cake and we occasionally made cake, but no one ever requested a specific cake for birthdays, and there wasn’t one particular recipe that made us swoon.

How This Chocolate Cake Recipe Came to Be

I made chocolate cake after chocolate cake, only to come up with some not-so-great confections. Eventually, however, I stumbled on black magic cake. Black magic cake has a history of its own; it’s a Hershey’s original, developed sometime before the 1970’s and used as a label recipe in 1972. There are claims that the recipe goes back to possibly the 1930’s, but no one knows the exact date of its creation; not even the the Hershey Company could tell me when I reached out to them.

All the usual cake ingredient suspects are there: sugar, flour, eggs, cocoa powder, vanilla, and oil, but what makes this recipe unique is at the end of mixing, one cup of hot coffee is added to the bowl. As the coffee is gently stirred in, the batter turns into an unpromising dark sludge, but bakes up into a moist, delicious cake.

chocolate cake decorated with peonies
a chocolate cake with slice out of it looking at interior crumb

Over the years, I discovered a few things about black magic cake.

  • One, this cake has made the rounds. Many cookbooks and almost every website has some version in its pages; often hot water replaces the coffee.
  • Two, the cake sheds a lot of crumbs, and I’ve found chilling the layers before frosting them helps with this.
  • And three, an extra egg makes this my dream cake.

One night, when I was up too late making cakes, I accidentally cracked an extra egg into the batter (for a total of three). When the cake baked up, it was exactly as I dreamed it should be: moist and tender, with perfect chocolate flavor. Finally, I had my family cake.

slice of chocolate cake on white plate with gold fork

More Chocolate Cake Recipes:

a chocolate cake with slice out of it looking at interior crumb

Dreamy Black Magic Cake

Servings: 10 servings
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Cooling Time: 30 minutes
The very best chocolate cake with a moist, tender crumb, rich chocolate flavor, and perfect chocolate buttercream frosting. This recipe is based off Hershey's black magic cake, made with hot coffee and an extra egg.
Sarah Kieffer
5 from 4 votes
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  • 1/2 cup [120 g] sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup [120 g] buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup [112 g] vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups [284 g] all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup [200 g] granulated sugar
  • 1 cup [200 g] brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup [75 g] Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup [240 g] strong, freshly brewed coffee, hot

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 8 oz [226 g] semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 1/2 cups [3 sticks or 339 g] unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups [240 g] confectioners' sugar


  • Two 8 by 2 inch [20 by 5 cm] round cake pans


  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350F [180C]. Grease two 8 by 2 in [20 by 5 cm] cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the sour cream, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together the flour, granulated and brown sugars, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt on low speed until combined. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the buttermilk mixture. Increase the speed to medium and beat until combined, 20 to 30 seconds. Slowly pour the hot coffee into the batter and mix until just combined. Using a spatula, give the batter a couple of turns to make sure it is fully mixed.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a wooden skewer or toothpick comes out with the tiniest bit of crumb.
  • Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment paper, and let cool completely. Once cool, the cakes can be frosted right away or wrapped in plastic and refrigerated overnight.

For the chocolate buttercream

  • Pour 1 in [5 cm] of water into a medium sauce-pan over medium heat and bring it to a gentle boil.
  • Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over the pan of boiling water, being careful not to let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir constantly until just melted and set aside to cool slightly.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter and salt on medium speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and beat on medium speed until combined. Lower the speed to low and gradually add the confectioners' sugar. Beat on low, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the cooled chocolate and mix on low speed until no streaks remain. Use a rubber spatula to mix the frosting a few more times, making sure it is completely combined.

To Assemble

  • Arrange your first layer on a turntable or serving platter. Place (about) one heaping cup of buttercream on the first layer. Use an offset spatula to spread the buttercream evenly over the layer, all the way to the edges. Top the buttercream with the second layer of cake. Use the rest of the buttercream to frost the cake as desired. The cake can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.


*This recipe was originally posted as a variation of Ina Garten’s variation of this cake, so if you want that version, you can look here. Over the years I have added/substituted ingredients: brown sugar, sour cream, an extra egg, and a little more flour. 
*I like a half and half mix of buttermilk and sour cream, but if you don’t have sour cream on hand, you can use 1 cup [240 g] of buttermilk instead. Creme fraiche can also be used in place of the sour cream. 
*The cake layers can release quite a few crumbs at room temperature. I like to chill the cake layers before frosting. Holding them in the refrigerator or freezer overnight works well. 
*These cake layers do freeze well unfrosted! I wrap them in several layers of plastic wrap and keep them in the freezer for up to 1 month. 
I like to decorate my cakes with fresh flowers from my garden in the spring/summer months. Make sure to use flowers that have not been sprayed with pesticides. 

  • Reply
    Thursday, June 20, 2024 at 7:39 am

    5 stars
    My top chocolate cake. Simply nothing wrong.

  • Reply
    Thursday, June 6, 2024 at 3:59 pm

    5 stars
    Danke für das tolle Rezept und doppelt danke für die Gramm Angaben!

  • Reply
    Thursday, June 6, 2024 at 10:38 am

    I love your books and recipes but just wanted to check that when brown sugar is listed as an ingredient in your recipes, should it be light brown sugar or dark brown sugar?

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Sunday, June 9, 2024 at 3:57 pm

      Hello! Light brown sugar unless noted.

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Wednesday, July 10, 2024 at 9:01 pm

      Hi Helen – Thank you for the kind words! The brown sugar is always light unless specified as “dark”.

  • Reply
    Thursday, June 6, 2024 at 10:04 am

    I am going to try this. I have a very old recipe I have made for 40 years and nothing has topped it yet! I will give yours a try!

  • Reply
    Saturday, December 23, 2023 at 3:20 pm

    Hi Sarah
    I see you are providing metric measurements on your recent posts now. Are you able to edit this post and provide metric measurements as well? Most recent post you mentioned the difference of just 1 cup of flour – it would be so much more accurate if this recipe had metric measurements pls.

  • Reply
    Thursday, July 13, 2023 at 4:32 am

    5 stars
    This is a copy of Ina Garten’s Beatt’s Chocolate Cake. Give the Queen some credit if you’re gonna life her recipe!

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Thursday, July 13, 2023 at 8:49 am

      Hi Jake – This cake is similar to Ina’s, but Ina’s chocolate cake is also the Hershey’s chocolate cake from the back of their cocoa cans that has been around since 1972, and is also sometimes called Black Magic Cake. I write about trying to find the origins this in my first cookbook – no one knows where this recipe originated but it has been around since possibly the 1930’s.There are 1,000s of variations of this recipe, all similar in nature. I do find citing inspiration important when it comes to recipes, and do so as much as possible, but in this particular case the recipe is part of “the Canon” and no one owns it.

  • Reply
    Thursday, March 16, 2023 at 7:09 pm

    5 stars
    Hi Sarah! Love your recipes and have been following your journey for years 🙂 Thank you for sharing all your beautiful recipes.

    Just wondering if you are able to add metric conversions as I’ve done a few baking courses and it keeps coming up that measuring with cups is very inaccurate. Would love to bake your cakes accurately, if possible.

    Thank you!

  • Reply
    Tuesday, March 7, 2023 at 8:29 pm

    I have made this multiple times and it never disappoints. Even people who claim not to like chocolate cake fall in love with it. I have only made the chocolate frosting once using Trader Joe’s chocolate and it was amazing. I also use Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa and a dark roast coffee. The other times I’ve paired it with a carmelized white chocolate swiss buttercream and that is to die for. I’ve also made it into cupcakes, the batter makes 24 cupcakes easily. Thank you for this fabulous recipe.

  • Reply
    klayde marie
    Friday, June 3, 2022 at 3:25 am

    looks great! want to give a try but am wondering if you tried as cupcakes or other mini cake molds? thanks!

  • Reply
    Tuesday, October 26, 2021 at 1:11 am

    Nice Article, Thanks for the post. Niranjan

  • Reply
    Wednesday, October 20, 2021 at 7:20 am

    Thanks to the author’s very comprehensive description, I was able to completely fix my dilemma after reading this post. I posted my review on the essaytoolbox review, which you may read. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

  • Reply
    Friday, October 1, 2021 at 5:58 am

    Very informative

  • Reply
    Tuesday, September 28, 2021 at 2:35 am

    Very informative

  • Reply
    Monday, September 20, 2021 at 4:55 am

    What a wonderful Article! Thanks for this information.

  • Reply
    Arhan Khan
    Friday, September 17, 2021 at 6:20 am

    thanks for information

  • Reply
    Kelly Hubbard
    Thursday, August 26, 2021 at 10:58 am

    I love how you prep food. It is just one of the things I have learned from you. This is going on next week’s menu. I prefer the reds and orange for stuffing, and for some reason I like the horizontal cut. I think it is because of the proportion of filling to pepper. Anyway, thanks again. I really appreciate you.

  • Reply
    Friday, August 20, 2021 at 9:36 am

    Nice post, Thanks for sharing Niranjan

  • Reply
    Wednesday, August 11, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    It’s 9pm and I’ve not had any dinner yet. Looking at this chocolate cake is making me starving!

  • Reply
    Monday, August 2, 2021 at 4:43 am

    Thanks for sharing such a good and informative article posted here. I really appreciate your efforts and Thanks a lot for sharing a piece of wonderful information which I am looking for a longer period of time. balloon bouquet

  • Reply
    Wednesday, July 28, 2021 at 2:43 am

    What a Fantastic Post!! Love your work.

  • Reply
    Ashley Jones
    Tuesday, June 22, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    Love this recipe! We use it quite often. I double the carrots and celery and add minced onion flakes to it and use Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice. After a couple hours check it to see if it needs a little bit more water added.

  • Reply
    Jonathan Gutierrez
    Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 3:51 am

    If you have many video recipes you can create tiktok profile and post all of it there. From this article you will know how to get followers for your profile on tiktok

  • Reply
    Tuesday, March 16, 2021 at 7:19 am

    wow looks super delicious can’t wait to try this cake at home and present it to my loved ones

    • Reply
      alok Gupta
      Thursday, July 1, 2021 at 9:54 pm

      Wow! Not only do the cakelook delicious, but the photography is so fantastic as well! (Almost) too beautiful to eat.

  • Reply
    Melissa Weiss
    Wednesday, March 10, 2021 at 6:22 am

    The recipe is fire! I cooked the cake and, OMG, it was SO delicious. You need to make a youtube video where you are cooking the cake and use to get additional hundred of subscribers to more people watch the recipe and cook this chocolate piece of heaven.

  • Reply
    Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 2:13 am

    Wonderful piece of Inforamtion
    visit : for Cakes in Mumbai.

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5 from 4 votes

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