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Favorite Chocolate Cake Recipe

I think different versions of this recipe have probably been floating around for as long as cake mixes have been around, but I first found this doctored up cake mix recipe over at Kevin and Amanda’s a few years ago. And I haven’t made a chocolate cake any other way since.

My very favorite chocolate cake and chocolate buttercream recipe. Simple, decadent, and utterly perfect. | www.somethingswanky.com

I am absolutely and utterly in love with it.

I use it as the base for my chocolate poke cakes, Hot Fudge Sundae Cupcakes, Hot Fudge Cake Sandwich, and this Oreo Cheesecake Cake. So… basically any time I want chocolate cake.

My very favorite chocolate cake and chocolate buttercream recipe. Simple, decadent, and utterly perfect. | www.somethingswanky.com

Say what you will about cake mixes, but I have never (ever, ever, ever, ever, ever) tasted a chocolate cake made from scratch that tastes anywhere near as good as this doctored up cake mix cake tastes. I mean, just not even close.

Thanks to sour cream (or yogurt) and pudding mix, it’s super moist, in the best of ways. Mini chocolate chips give it a texture I can’t get enough of. It’s hardy and fluffy at the same time. And it’s deep chocolatey flavor is in a league of its own.

My very favorite chocolate cake and chocolate buttercream recipe. Simple, decadent, and utterly perfect. | www.somethingswanky.com

Oh. And I suppose I should talk about the frosting! I got so carried away with my favorite cake, I nearly forgot!

Meet my good old, stand by butter cream recipe. I’ll be posting vanilla bean butter cream recipe on another day, but I’ll go ahead and let you in on a secret: the chocolate and vanilla are basically the same recipe.

But hey, vanilla is for another day! We’re all chocolate in this post!

So. Chocolate. Butter cream. It’s good. Make it.

And put it on this cake.

Favorite Chocolate Cake Recipe


    For the Cake:
  • 1 box Duncan Hines devil’s food cake mix
  • 3 oz pkg instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 cup sour cream or yogurt (fat free or regular for both works fine)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
  • pinch of sea salt (optional)
  • For the Chocolate Butter Cream:
  • 1 cup butter, room softened
  • 4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2-3 tbsp. milk
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder


    For the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Beat together all of ingredients until smooth batter forms, reserving the chocolate chips.
  3. Mix in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula.
  4. Grease pan and follow baking times according to the directions on the cake mix box.
  5. Let cool before frosting.
  6. For the Chocolate Butter Cream:
  7. In a stand mixer, beat the butter until it's smooth.
  8. Add the remaining ingredients by adding the powdered sugar (1 cup at a time) and the wet ingredients (first the vanilla, and then the milk 1 tablespoon at a time) alternately, mixing in between additions until smooth and desired consistency.
  9. (ie, add 1 cup of powdered sugar, mix, add vanilla, mix, add 1 cup powdered sugar, mix, add 1 tbsp milk, mix, etc...)
  10. Add the cocoa powder, mix well. Add another tablespoon of milk if needed, and mix until smooth.

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Ashton Swank

Ashton is the owner and author of Something Swanky. Although first and foremost a wife and mother, she considers herself an online entrepreneur, freelance writer and photographer, and brand ambassador. Her focus is in food styling, food photography and recipe development.

38 comments on “Favorite Chocolate Cake Recipe”

  1. i struggle making scratch cake mixes–I blame it on the altitude1 This looks like a winner. Can’t wait to try it.

  2. This looks absolutely incredible. Measuring dry ingredients is so annoying, especially when I have to convert from cups to grams to weigh my ingredients because the recipe doesn’t include that info. So much easier to just dump premeasured powdered into a bowl and get mixing. I haven’t tried this recipe. I can’t wait.

  3. I’ve been looking for a “doctored up” cake mix recipe, so I’m really happy you posted this! Cake mixes are so much more convenient and doctoring them up so they taste homemade is a winner for sure. Pinning this!

  4. I’m all about doctoring up a box mix. This is gorgeous!

  5. I am right there with you about doctored cake mixes! I just stocked … found a great sale. I love the way you decorated your cake :)

  6. Okay, this looks really good, but the recipe doesn’t say what kind of cake pan or pans to use. The picture looks like an individual little four layer cake so I can’t go by the picture.

    • It just says bake according to the directions on the cake mix box- that’s where you’ll find the cake pan sizes and baking times :)

  7. Love those mounds of chocolate buttercream ;)

  8. Ashton I just had to wipe drool off my keyboard!!! LOVE!!!! LOVE this recipe!

  9. Is there a step missing? There is nothing after the number 10……

    Looks absolutely SCRUMPTIOUS!!!!

  10. We are getting close to birthday season at our house… and I think this will end up making at least one appearance… looks amazing! I have one Martha Stewart chocolate cupcakes recipe from scratch that I like… but I always love a good doctored cake mix. Hard to beat!

  11. Hello chocolate goodness! I am all about doctored up cake mixes too. I am so glad to hear you say that you prefer these over scratch cakes. No offense scratch cake lovers, but no other cake even comes close to a cake mix that has been doctored up. Love the cute little cake too!!!

  12. The picture looks layered? How many layers of cake did you bake?

    • 2 – 9″ rounds (but I cut smaller circles out of the center of the cake, so it would fit in to my frame easily). I split each layer into two, which is 4 layers.

  13. Hey Ashton! Great recipe, thanks for sharing! I’m totally with you on the whole from scratch/box cake mix thing. I would try for a LONG time to make cakes from scratch, but none of them were as good as the box! So I eventually just stopped trying, but this recipe sounds like something I would be interested in giving a shot.

    Quick question though: is there anything special you like to do for flavors other than chocolate? I’m assuming you just get the corresponding flavor of pudding and everything else is the same, right? What about a yellow cake? Thanks!

  14. Oh this looks so yummy! I wish I had this in front of me right now.

  15. Thanks for sharing this!! Can’t wait to try this chocolate cake:)

  16. you make me want cake, and I don’t even like cake…gorge pics Ashton

  17. Oh my gosh! Normally, I’m not a chocolate kinda girl, but I am totally drooling over this!

  18. such incredible chocolatey goodness!!!

  19. This looks heavenly! That icing is so fluffy and the cake looks super moist!

  20. Why do you use Devil’s food cake rather than a chocolate cake mix? Just wondering because I’ve never tasted Devil’s food and want to make sure this cake is really chocolately. Thanks!

    • It’s my favorite :) I don’t know why there’s even a difference at all, but I think it’s moister and has a better flavor. A Wilton instructor turned me on to it several years ago, and it’s the only one I’ve used since!

  21. Have you tried Jell-O Devil’s Food Pudding? That’s my faaaavorite, I bet you’d love that if you love Devil’s Food cake!

  22. Hi!
    This recipe and your zebra cupcake recipe are pretty similar besides the chocolate milk.
    Which version do you prefer.
    And what’s the difference in the outcome?
    Thanks :)

    • They’re the exact same recipe :) I just re-published it in a way that I thought people would be more receptive to. I like using chocolate milk, but I changed it for this recipe because people don’t usually have it on hand. Either way, it’s really great.

  23. Just discovered your blog and am enjoying browsing. I have a very similar recipe which my family calls the “OMG Chocolate Cake” because it’s so good. I haven’t made it since the Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, and Duncan Hines downsized the volume of their cake mixes by 3 oz. because I’ve been afraid it won’t come out as well. It sounds like you’ve made your cake both before and after the decrease by the cake manufacturers. Have you noticed a difference?

  24. I love to bake and most of the time the homemade stuff is better than packaged. But I agree with you on the chocolate cake, heck, I even like yellow boxed cakes better. I keep trying different recipes with cake flour, regular flour, blah blah but the texture just never comes out at good and as for the flavor, you can add a variety of extracts and goodies to disguise the fact that it’s a box.

  25. How did you get it to look like a momofuku cake? Or is it an individual one?

  26. So I just made this cake but I’m curious as 2 what other icing do you use whenever u don’t use this chocolate buttercream one? I’m trying 2 decide & I just can’t make up my mind. I’ve spent Hours on ur site & I know u like things that r different. But just wondering if u have another icing recipe that u use when sum1 doesn’t really want the chocolate on chocolate. NE way, I Luv Everything about ur site so far! & I CANNOT Wait until morning, when I frost the cake and actually get 2 sit down & dive N2 my chocolate cake!! Thanks a million 4 sharing ur vast array of recipes & knowledge on desserts with us!!

  27. Just mixed it & put it in the oven.  My mix was like a blob-I had to spread it in the pans.  Hopefully it will be okay.

  28. It was delicious!  This will be my go-to chocolate cake.  Both the cake & frosting were easy to make as well.

  29. The cake & frosting were so easy to make. I was nervous about how it would turn out b/c of its blob-like consistency. It was delicious. Super moist & chocolatey. 

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