chocolate cake

Mom’s Chocolate Cake with Cocoa Buttercream Frosting

Jump to Chocolate Cake Recipe

Original post, March, 28, 2012. Updated with a couple changes and new cover photo, March 21,2021

This is it. This is the cake of my childhood. It was the star at countless birthdays, picnics and Sunday suppers. My mom usually made it in a 9×11 Pyrex pan and frosted it with her boiled chocolate frosting, which is all kinds of fudgy goodness. My brother, Michael, would always cut a huge piece right out of the center of the cake. It made me so mad!! He was the only one of us who was brave enough to do that and, of course, he got away with it in the way only oldest brothers can. She also used to make it in two layers filled with chocolate pudding and frosted with whipped cream – so good!

This version is closer to the one I made when I baked at the restaurant, with a classic chocolate and powdered sugar buttercream. We sold lots of birthday cakes to go! I even once entered a local contest and won tickets to a U of O Duck football game for the best tasting cake in Eugene. I know some of you will find that amusing and, yes, it was the only Duck game I’ve ever attended.

Speaking of the Ducks, one of their biggest fans, my brother Pat, was in town last weekend for his birthday. Since it is also the cake of his childhood, I decided to make it for him. I even got his favorite ice cream, mint chocolate chip, to go with it because I am a very nice sister. Here he is with the girls, not sure what the large sticker on Ella’s head is all about…

Here’s a closer look. Trust me, you want to make this cake. It’s nothing fancy but, let’s face it, fancy doesn’t always taste that great. It’s hard to beat good, old-fashioned chocolate cake.
chocolate cake

Mom’s Chocolate Cake with Cocoa Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup canola/vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup milk
1 TB vanilla extract
6 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat two 8 inch round pans well with nonstick spray. I like to use one specifically for baking with a little flour in it…

With electric beaters or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar.

Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition, add vanilla extract.

Sift dry ingredients into a separate bowl.
Add 1/3 of the sifted mixture to the butter mixture and mix until combined.

Add 1/2 cup of the buttermilk, mix well…

then add another 1/3 sifted mixture, remaining buttermilk and last 1/3 sifted mixture, mixing well after each addition. Add hot water (tap water hot) and mix well. Batter should be a little glossy.

Pour batter evenly into prepared pans and tap them a bit on the counter to release any air bubbles.
Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20 – 30 minutes. Baking times will vary depending on your oven and altitude so watch closely and test with a toothpick until it comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely before frosting. I often make them a day ahead and refrigerate them so they are easier to work with.

For the frosting, combine butter, cocoa, salt, 2 TB milk, vanilla and powdered sugar.

Beat well with electric beaters or stand mixer fitted with wire whisk until fully combined.

A little at a time, add remaining powdered sugar alternately with remaining milk until fully incorporated. The frosting should be quite stiff at this point, continue to beat well until it becomes fluffier and spreadable. Add a little more milk if you need to.

When it’s time to frost, turn the first cake layer bottom side up (flat side) on to a cake plate and place a large glob (technical term) of frosting atop it.

Spread with your choice of tools. I use a 13 inch angled spatula but a large butter knife will do the job if it has to.

Place the second layer, bottom side up, evenly over the first and top with a super large glob of frosting.

Carefully, frost top and sides of cake – the super large glob will be helpful in that you can really cover the cake without getting crumbs in your frosting. It takes practice, I realize. Just don’t worry if you haven’t done it before. Sprinkles can hide a multitude of crumbs and it’s going to taste so darn good no one will care.
Once you have a semi-smooth layer of frosting, add another little glob on top

Then you can sort of make little waves/swirls in the frosting with your spatula or knife, if you so choose. At this point, it’s really up to you.

Kind of pretty though, huh?

Finish it off with some sprinkles and whatever else you deem appropriate and have a celebration!

Thanks, Mom…

This prayer encompasses what my mom valued and believed and what she taught us as children. We were so very lucky!


Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen