A moist Chocolate Buttermilk Cake covered in creamy chocolate buttercream and chocolate chips. This quick and easy chocolate cake recipe takes only minutes to make but tastes better than a box mix. It’s the perfect cake for parties, birthdays and celebrations!
Chocolate Buttermilk Cake = chocolate-covered bliss! ❤️
If you’re looking for a moist chocolate cake that’s quick and easy to make, look no further. This simple one-layer cake is perfect for chocolate lovers.
The (not-so) secret ingredient, buttermilk ensures this cake has a super soft crumb that stays moist for days.
And the frosting is a scaled-down version of my popular Chocolate Buttercream. It has real melted chocolate in it, which makes it super creamy and easy to worth with.
It takes only minutes to frost, making it the perfect chocolate cake recipe for birthday celebrations and special occasions.
Why you will love this recipe
- The cake is quick and easy to make (no electric mixer needed)
- Buttermilk ensures the cake has a moist and tender crumb
- The frosting is thick, creamy and oh-so-chocolatey
- This recipe makes a tall one-layer cake that takes just minutes to frost
Chocolate cake can be a fickle thing. Sometimes it’s a little too dry, too dense or not chocolatey enough. And while I love my tried and true Chocolate Fudge Cake recipe, I wanted to add a quick and easy, no mixer chocolate cake to my repertoire.
And that’s where this recipe comes in. A thick, one-layer moist chocolate cake recipe that doesn’t require an electric mixer.
My first attempt used melted butter, and while it looked great in form, it was too dense and dry.
I then switched to vegetable oil as the main fat, as it tends to lend itself to moist chocolate cakes, just like my fave Malteser Cake and my Small Batch Chocolate Cupcakes. However, the cake tasted vaguely of oil.
The third time around I went back to melted butter, but added a little more sugar, a little less buttermilk and a little more water. The perfect Chocolate Buttermilk Cake was born ❤️
Why use buttermilk in cakes?
Buttermilk is the answer to moist cakes that stay fresh for days. The acidity in buttermilk helps to act as a tenderiser in baked goods, resulting in soft and tender cakes, muffins, scones and pancakes.
Buttermilk can also help cakes to rise when it reacts with baking soda. It can add a slightly tangy flavour to baked goods, but you can’t taste the sourness in a homemade chocolate cake like this one. It’s there to influence texture and rise.
TLDR: Looking for a delicate and moist crumb in your cakes? Try buttermilk.
Ingredients for Buttermilk Cake
You don’t need any special ingredients to make this Buttermilk Chocolate Cake recipe – except for buttermilk.
For best results, I recommend using full fat store-bought buttermilk but I have included a DIY substitute below.
Here are some of the key ingredients you’ll need to make a delicious chocolate cake from scratch.
- Plain flour: Or all purpose flour.
- Cocoa power: You can use either natural cocoa powder or Dutch-processed cocoa powder in this recipe. I’ve used natural 100% cocoa in these photos, but Dutch cocoa will give you a slightly darker crumb. Either way, make sure your cocoa is unsweetened.
- Brown sugar: Soft brown sugar or light brown sugar is best.
- Caster sugar: Or granulated sugar.
- Buttermilk: I recommend using storebought full-fat buttermilk for best results. If you cannot buy buttermilk, you can make a substitute by adding 2 teaspoons white vinegar or fresh lemon juice to 1/2 cup full fat or whole milk. My preferred substitute is using 1/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream along with 1/4 cup full fat or whole milk.
See recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, use 1/4 cup full fat Greek yogurt or sour cream along with 1/4 cup full fat or whole milk.
How to make Chocolate Buttermilk Cake
One of the best things about this easy Chocolate Buttermilk Cake recipe is that you don’t need an electric mixer to make it. It’s a simple one-bowl recipe that comes together in minutes.
Here’s a quick rundown of how to make buttermilk cake. Detailed instructions are included in the recipe card below.
- In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, add butter, eggs, vanilla and buttermilk. Stir briefly just to break up the egg yolks.
- Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and start to mix by hand. Pour in hot water and mix until combined.
- Transfer cake batter to prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Leave your cake to cool for 10 minutes before carefully removing from the cake pan. Transfer cake to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
MAKE AHEAD INSTRUCTIONS: To make your Chocolate Buttermilk Cake ahead of time, leave it to cool completely before tightly wrapping in plastic wrap and placing it in the freezer.
When you’re ready to decorate and serve your cake, leave it to thaw at room temperature. Then frost and slice.
Ingredients for chocolate buttercream
This creamy homemade chocolate frosting is essentially an easy buttercream but with melted chocolate added into the mixture.
Using real chocolate not only ensures the buttercream is full of chocolate flavour, but it helps create a super smooth and creamy texture – perfect for frosting cakes!
Here’s everything you’ll need:
- Icing sugar: Or powdered sugar.
- Dark chocolate: I recommend using good quality dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate that’s somewhere between 50-70% cocoa.
- Milk: Full fat or whole milk.
- Chocolate chips: For decorating only – entirely optional.
Tips for perfect buttercream
The perfect accompaniment to my Chocolate Buttermilk Cake is my easy chocolate frosting. You only need four ingredients and an electric mixer to get started.
Just like a regular Vanilla Buttercream, this recipe starts by mixing your butter until creamy, then adding your sugar. Then you’ll add your melted dark chocolate.
As you start mixing, you can gradually add your milk until you have a dreamy, creamy frosting.
Here are my tips for ensuring perfect chocolate buttercream every time:
- Use softened butter: The foundation of a smooth and creamy buttercream is softened butter. If your butter is too cold, you may end up with lumps in your frosting and you’ll also increase the risk of over-mixing.
- Sift your sugar: It is incredibly important to sift your sugar (you can even do it twice) so it easily incorporates with your butter. This will also prevent lumps or a gritty texture.
- Make sure your chocolate is cool: Your chocolate should be completely melted and smooth but it shouldn’t be hot. It is ok if it’s still a little warm.
- Add milk gradually: Add your milk, one tablespoon at a time, until you have your desired consistency. You may need more or less milk but remember – you can add milk but you can’t take it away, so go slow.
- Finish your frosting by hand: Once you have finished your frosting, swap the electric mixer for a spatula and give it one last stir by hand. This helps to get rid of any air bubbles.
How to store Buttermilk Cake
Keep unfrosted Chocolate Buttermilk Cake tightly wrapped in plastic wrap in an airtight container at room temperature.
Once frosted, you can store your cake in the fridge in an airtight container. Bring your cake back to room temperature before serving.
- Weigh your ingredients: For best results, I highly recommend weighing your ingredients using a baking scale. It’s very easy to over-measure ingredients like flour and cocoa when using cup measurements.
- Avoid over-mixing your cake batter: Once your batter is combined, you can stop mixing. Over-mixing can result in a dry or tough cake.
- Don’t over-bake your cake: You’ll know your cake is ready when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Your cake should no longer have a sticky or wet top.
Frequently asked questions
I recommend using storebought full-fat buttermilk for best results. If you cannot buy buttermilk, you can make a substitute by adding 2 teaspoons white vinegar or fresh lemon juice to 1/2 cup full fat or whole milk. But my preferred substitute is using 1/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream along with 1/4 cup full fat milk.
This Chocolate Buttermilk Cake should be moist, not dry. Adding too much flour and/or cocoa powder will result in a dry cake, so be sure to measure your dry ingredients using a baking scale. Also, be careful not to over-mix your cake batter, or over-bake your cake.
Yes. You can easily slice this cake in half to make a two-layer cake if you prefer. You can use the buttercream to frost in between the cake layers.
Yes. This recipe will make around 16-18 cupcakes. Check them around the 18-20 minute mark – you’ll know they’re ready when they spring back lightly to the touch.
A gorgeous one layer chocolate buttermilk cake with real chocolate frosting.
Chocolate buttermilk cake
- 120 ml (1/2 cup) hot water
- 210 grams (1 and 1/2 cups) plain flour or all purpose flour
- 40 grams (1/2 cup) cocoa powder, sifted
- 90 grams (1/2 cup) brown sugar
- 150 grams (3/4 cup) caster sugar or granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 170 grams (3/4 cup or 1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 120 ml (1/2 cup) full fat buttermilk
- 115 grams (1/2 cup or 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 375 grams (3 cups) icing sugar or powdered sugar, sifted
- 100 grams (2/3 cup) dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate (50-70% cocoa), melted and cooled
- 1–2 tablespoons full fat or whole milk, room temperature
- 50 grams (1/3 cup) chocolate chips
- Chocolate buttermilk cake
Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F) standard / 160 C (320 F) fan-forced. Grease and line an 8-inch round cake pan with baking or parchment paper.
- Boil the kettle and pour out 1/2 cup of hot water and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, add flour, cocoa powder, sugars, baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir briefly.
- In a separate bowl, add melted butter, eggs, vanilla and buttermilk and stir briefly using a fork just to break up the egg yolks.
- Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and start to stir using a spatula or wooden spoon.
- Pour hot water down the side of the bowl and continue to stir until chocolate cake batter is combined and smooth. It will be a thin batter – that’s ok.
- Bake cake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave cake to cool for 10 minutes before carefully removing from pan and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Chocolate buttercream
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter using an electric mixer on medium speed until pale and creamy.
- Add half the sugar and one tablespoon of milk and beat until combined. Add the remaining sugar and beat until smooth.
- Add melted chocolate, ensuring the chocolate is still smooth and melted but is not hot. Beat until the chocolate is completely mixed through. If frosting is too thick, add an extra tablespoon of milk.
- Generously frost the top and sides of the cake using a spatula. Sprinkle over chocolate chips.
Cocoa powder: You can use either natural cocoa powder or Dutch-processed cocoa powder in this recipe. Make sure your cocoa is unsweetened.
Buttermilk: I recommend using storebought full-fat buttermilk for best results. If you can’t get hold of buttermilk, you can make a substitute by adding 2 teaspoons white vinegar to 1/2 cup full fat or whole milk. My preferred substitute is using 1/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream along with 1/4 cup full fat or whole milk.
Layer cake: You can easily slice this cake in half to make a two-layer cake if you prefer.
Storage: Cover unfrosted cake in plastic wrap and keep in an airtight container at room temperature. Once frosted, store cake in the fridge in an airtight container. Bring cake back to room temperature before serving.
Freezer instructions: Once baked, let your cake to cool completely before tightly wrapping in plastic wrap and placing it in the freezer. When you’re ready to decorate and serve your cake, let it to thaw at room temperature. Then frost and slice.