Dark Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream

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If you love dark chocolate, you're going to love our latest recipe for dark chocolate cake!

The dark chocolate cake layers are moist and decadent, and guaranteed to please any chocolate lover!

Moist and decadent Dark Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream

This dark chocolate layer cake joins a long list of go-to chocolate cake recipes in our Cake Recipes section!

In some recipes, as with our Chocolate Cake from Scratch, we use unsweetened cocoa powder to achieve the chocolate flavor. In others, as with our Milk Chocolate Cake and White Chocolate Cake, we use melted chocolate. Today, we are using both!

 How to Make Dark Chocolate Cake

**Make sure to check out the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full, printable recipe! Here is a quick rundown of our steps:

  • Preheat the oven (350F) and prepare your pans as usual. I like to grease, flour, and line with parchment paper to be on the safe side! We're using the conventional mixing method (rather than reverse creaming method) for this cake recipe. 
  • In a microwave-safe bowl, combine dark chocolate chips and milk. Melt in small increments in the microwave until the chocolate has softened. Be careful not to overheat! Gently stir the melted chips until there are no remaining unmelted pieces. Let the chocolate mixture cool down slightly before using.
  • Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside.
  • In another bowl, combine the melted chocolate/milk mixture and sour cream and set aside.
  • In the bowl of your mixer, mix the butter until smooth. Then, add the sugar slowly and mix until fluffy (about 4-5 minutes).  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until the yellow of the yolk disappears.
  • Add the dry ingredients alternately with the liquid chocolate/sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. (3 additions of dry and 2 additions of wet ingredients), mixing until blended. 
  • With mixer on low, slowly add the hot coffee and mix until well combined. (about 30 seconds). Coffee helps to bring out the flavor of the chocolate even more! The hot temperature also helps the cocoa to bloom.
  • Divide the dark chocolate batter between your cake pans and bake for about 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream

Today's chocolate cream cheese buttercream is actually a new recipe for us! It is a cross between American chocolate buttercream and our classic chocolate cream cheese frosting, and it provides a wonderful contrast to the dark, rich cake layers.

We tried a lemon version of this recipe recently when making our blueberry cake and liked it so much that we wanted to try it again.

What we love about this chocolate cream cheese recipe is that it is very easy to pipe with and isn't quite so soft due to the higher proportion of butter and powdered sugar.

While this frosting recipe doesn't call for as much cream cheese as our other chocolate cream cheese recipe, the delicious tanginess is still there and it gives the frosting a nice, creamy consistency--it also gives us plenty of frosting to fill, frost, and add decorative piping to our three layer cake!

This frosting comes together effortlessly as you first mix the softened butter, then add in the cream cheese, cocoa, powdered sugar, milk and salt. It is creamy, dreamy, and delicious (and makes just over 5 cups of frosting)!

Decorating the Dark Chocolate Cake

There are so many decorating options with this cake as the frosting is very easy to work with. We used a simple cake comb and star tip for a classic look.

Combing the cake and piped details

After frosting the cake, I smoothed around the sides with a bench scraper to even out the frosting before using a cake comb to add details.

If the frosting is too soft, or if you are combing away too much frosting, simply pop the cake in the freezer to firm it up a bit (15 minutes or so), and then continue- it will make the process much easier!

I smoothed over the top of the chilled, frosted cake with a warm spatula before adding small rosettes, shells, and stars with my star tip 21. (You can find more about star tip piping here: Basics of Piping with a Star Tip)

I kept things very simple with this cake design but I still love the look!

More Chocolate Cakes and Frostings

We've made so many chocolate cake recipes over the years!! You can see our full collection in our Roundup of Favorite Chocolate Cake and Frostings.

Some of our favorites are Classic Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Mousse Cake from mix, German Chocolate Cake, and Black Forest Cake.

Recipe FAQs

Yes! These Dark Chocolate Cakes freeze beautifully, just as with most of our cakes (from lemon cake to almond cake, strawberry cake and more).

Once the layers have baked and cooled to room temperature (or slightly warm), wrap tightly in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil. Then, pop into the freezer! They will stay fresh for up to three months.

To Thaw:  Place the wrapped cake layers onto the kitchen counter, and keep wrapped for 30-45 minutes. Then, unwrap and continue to thaw to desired amount. (Some bakers like to assemble their cakes while the cake layers are still partially frozen- they are less fragile.)

*Pound cakes and bundt cakes can be frozen as well, although they take longer to thaw.

Settling layer cakes is an optional step.

Cake tiers always settle just a bit after they've been filled and frosted.

They lose just a small amount of height as gravity kicks in and the weight of the cake layers slightly pushes the filling out from between the cake layers. This can cause bulges around the sides of your cake which is especially noticeable if you've already frosted around the sides of the cake with a smooth finish (rather than textured or piped). Ugh!

Settling the cake in advance is the best way to prevent those frustrating bulges! Simply fill the cake layers, wrap with a layer or two of plastic wrap (before frosting the cake), and place a weight of some sort on top-- not a crushing weight--just something that will add a light, steady pressure.

I often use a cake pan or two--or a medium sized book. Give a gentle push down or two and then allow the cake (with weight) to sit for at least few hours. Since this is a perishable filling, you'll want it to settle in the refrigerator.

Once settled, unwrap the plastic-wrapped cake and frost as usual. 

Yes, because of the chocolate cream cheese frosting, this cake needs to be refrigerated. Store in an airtight container or in the refrigerator.

For the best flavor and texture, remove the dark chocolate cake from the refrigerator a couple of hours before serving. This will allow the cake and frosting to warm and soften.

Yield: 15 servings

Dark Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Moist Dark Chocolate Layer Cake from Scratch with Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream! SO good!

Moist homemade dark chocolate cake layers are sure to please the chocolate lovers in your life! This cake would taste amazing with so many frostings and fillings- today we've paired it with a delicious Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes


For the Dark Chocolate Cake Layers

  • 1 stick + 5 tablespoons (185g) Unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1 ½ cups (300g) granulated/white sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 ¾ cups (322g) All Purpose Flour
  • ¾ cup (55g) unsweetened cocoa (measure then sift)
  • 2 teaspoons (10g) Baking Soda
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) Salt
  • 1 ¼ cups (177g) Dark Chocolate (We used Ghirardelli Chips, 72% cacao)
  • 1 cup (220g) milk
  • 1 cup (242g) sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla
  • ½ cup (110g) Hot Coffee

For the Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter (339g) slightly softened
  • 1 package (226g) cream cheese, slightly softened (do not used reduced fat or cream cheese from a tub or your frosting will be too soft)
  • ¼ cup (57g) milk- adjust as needed in small amounts to reach desired consistency
  • 7 ½ cups (863g) powdered sugar (measure then sift)
  • ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon (22g) unsweetened cocoa- lightly spoon into cup, level
  • off, then sift to break up any clumps.
  • ½ teaspoon salt (2g)


For the Dark Chocolate Cake Layers

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 8x2 inch round cake pans- I like to line my pans with parchment circles also. (You could also use two 9x2 inch pans.)
  2. In a medium size bowl or large glass measuring cup, combine milk and dark chocolate chips. Microwave for 20 seconds, stir. Microwave another 10 seconds letting it sit a minute to soften further, stir. Microwave another 5-10 seconds as needed. The chocolate chips should look softened but hold their shape at this point. Stir or whisk until completely melted. It will take a minute or so of stirring.
  3. Let the chocolate cool down slightly before using.
  4. In a medium sized bowl, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa, and salt. Whisk for 30 seconds to blend and aerate then set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the melted chocolate/milk mixture and sour cream and set aside.
  6. In the bowl of your mixer, add the butter and mix until smooth. Slowly add the sugar and mix on medium speed 4-5 minutes until the mixture has lightened in color, fluffy and has increased in volume. Add vanilla.
  7. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until the yellow of the yolk disappears.
  8. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the liquid chocolate/sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. (3 additions of dry and 2 additions of wet ingredients), mixing until blended. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of bowl with your spatula.
  9. With mixer on low, slowly add the hot coffee and mix until well combined. (about 30 seconds). Look over the recipe and make sure all ingredients have been added.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees for 22 to 25 minutes. The layers will be done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached.
  11. Cool in the pans 5 to 10 minutes then turn out

For the Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream

Add the slightly softened butter in the bowl of your mixer and mix on medium speed until smooth.

Add pieces of cream cheese to the mixing bowl. The cream cheese should be soft enough that it combines easily into the butter mixture.

Lower the mixing speed and add the sugar and cocoa slowly, along with the milk. Return to medium speed until well combined-Do not over mix. The longer it is mixed, the softer it becomes. If the frosting becomes too soft, refrigerate for 10 minutes or so to firm up.

Makes about 5 ½ cups of frosting. Cakes frosted with cream cheese frosting should be refrigerated until closer to the time of decorating.

Decorating the Cake

Decorate the cake however you like, this frosting is very easy to work with. If it becomes too soft, just pop it in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes. I filled and frosted the cake, smoothed around the sides with a bench scraper to remove excess frosting, and then used a cake comb to decorate around the sides. I used a piping tip 21 to decorate the top of the cake with small rosettes, shells, and stars.


1. The recipes works well for cupcakes. For standard size cupcakes, Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick into the center of the cupcake.

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  1. Can I use almond milk and dairy free chips and mayo in place of the sour cream? My grandson has a dairy allergy.

  2. Looks great but if I'm reading the recipe correctly there is one step omitted. The directions for the cake ends at step 9 where the coffee is added but stops there. How long do the layers bake and then cool in the pans? I would love to try this recipe, especially the frosting!

  3. Donna, Thank you, I have added that information. I hope you will enjoy the recipe.

    Suzanne, I am sorry but we have not tried using the substitutions you list so I can't say for sure what the outcome will be. I hope it works if you give it a try.

    1. This looks delicious and I am planning to make it for my husband’s bday. For planning purposes, can the cake be made and settle in the fridge overnight? Will storing the icing overnight in the fridge be okay too?

  4. Hi Dina, To settle in the refrigerator, wrap the layers in plastic to keep from drying out and also to keep them from absorbing odors from the refrigerator. I would also put in a cake keeper. To make well in advance, you could wrap the layers individually and then in aluminum foil, then freeze for up to 2 months. Storing the frosting in the refrigerator would be fine if you do not have time to prepare on the day you will be frosting the cake. Allow time for the frosting to warm up so it can be remixed or stirred with a spoon before frosting the cake. Once completed, the cake will need to be refrigerated because of the cream cheese frosting. To have the best flavor and texture remove from the refrigerator 1 1/2 hours before serving to allow time for it to warm up a bit. I hope you will enjoy the cake.

  5. Am I missing the amount of milk chocolate chips to use? I see the 1 1/4 cups of dark chocolate only. Also you must use natural unsweetened chocolate instead of Dutch unsweetened chocolate?
    Thank you.

  6. Hi Juliet, The recipe does not use milk chocolate chips, only dark chips. In the instructions that read " In a microwave safe bowl combine dark chocolate chips and milk --- this does not mean milk chocolate chips. Let us know if you have other questions.

    1. Whoops my mistake. I looked at it again and in step 2 read milk and chocolate chips as both chips. Got it now.