That Chocolate Cake [recipe] – Winner of the Scharffen Berger Chocoholic’s Overdose

That Chocolate Cake Slice
We’re tying up loose ends in preparation of not only the start of a new month, but a brand (Chinese) new year. We’re cleaning out our queue, which includes a recipe and post for That Chocolate Cake.

Wait, which chocolate cake?
That Chocolate Cake, Cut
That Chocolate Cake. You know, That Chocolate Cake from Scharffen Berger’s Essence of Chocolate cookbook. That Chocolate Cake with rich, moist layers, and a thick, creamy frosting. That Chocolate Cake that you will bake every time. For all time.


That Chocolate Cake.

We originally baked the cake for National Chocolate Cake Day (January 27), but we had trouble typing up the post with all that frosting on our fingers. So we’re posting it up now. With a note that yes, yes we did get all kinds of greedy and actually baked an additional half-recipe to make a third layer for the cake.

We weren’t unhappy about that.

You won’t be either.

That Chocolate Cake

That Chocolate Cake

from The Essence of Chocolate cookbook

makes 1 9-inch round cake, 8-10 servings


for the cake:

Unsalted butter and flour for pans
2 cups granulated sugar
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup canola oil
1 cup whole milk
1 cup boiling water

for the frosting:

1¼ cups granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
5 ounces 99% Cacao Unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


To Make Frosting:

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and cream and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer for 6 minutes. Add the chocolate and butter and stir until melted. Pour into a bowl and stir in the vanilla.

Let the frosting cool, whisking gently from time to time. Don’t overwhip or you’ll create air bubbles.

To Bake Cake:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the parchment and the sides of the pans.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, mixing on low speed. Mix in the eggs, oil, and milk.

Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the water. The batter will be soupy.

Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then turn the layers out onto the rack and cool completely.

When the cakes have cooled, check the frosting. It should have the consistency of mayonnaise. If it is still too thin, allow it to cool longer.

To Frost Cake:

Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Spread the frosting with a hot palette knife or icing spatula to give the frosting a beautiful shine. Run the knife under hot tap water and dry with a towel. Spread about ¾ cup of the frosting over the top of the first layer. Top with the second layer. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake, heating the knife again as necessary.

That Chocolate Cake

by Sarah J. Gim on January 31, 2011 · 52 comments

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Anthony February 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Fantastic chocolate cake!!! I definitely will try this one!!! I am a Chinese, since you mentioned Chinese new year, do you wanna try this “apple dumpling recipe “?


ratatui February 1, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Just incredible!!!!Congratulations for this recipe!!!


Melissa February 1, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I went to D Bar a couple weekends ago in Denver and they serve something called “Cake and Shake”. Best piece of chocolate cake to hit my taste buds. I’m going to have to try making this cake to see if it’s close.


MaggieRose July 28, 2011 at 2:57 pm

I am also in Denver and lust for D Bar’s chocolate cake.

Did you ever try this recipe to compare? Did it measure up??

Laura Flowers February 1, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Yes. I now badly want that piece of chocolate cake! I bet you ate it without me. Sigh…



Dheerna Parmar February 1, 2011 at 6:03 pm

This looks beautiful! I have to try this and the frosting looks just perfect. Thanks for sharing.


Tanja February 2, 2011 at 8:01 am

And now I’m going to have to try baking it. It looks awesome.


Rachel Ossmann February 2, 2011 at 5:00 pm

When do you add the 1 c boiling water to the cake batter? With the milk? Combine it with the cocoa?


Rachel Ossmann February 2, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Just kidding, apparently I can’t read.

TasteSpotting February 2, 2011 at 5:07 pm

happens to all of us ;)

Des February 22, 2011 at 12:37 am

That cake was/is to die for. Way to go on the great recipe!


Laura March 6, 2011 at 11:14 am

The cake in the picture looks wonderful, but the recipe calls for only 2 layers. I’d like the recipe for the 3 layer cake in the photographs!


moi March 8, 2011 at 12:47 am

Oh. My. Goodness. You’re right. I’ll never make another chocolate cake recipe again. This is life changing. Eating a slice right now. It’s incredible.


Cathy March 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Oh, yum! This looks scrumptious!


Heather Hands April 11, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Thanks for the great find. I made this cake on the weekend, and it was amazingly delicious.


sophistimom April 15, 2011 at 11:41 pm

So simple, and so delicious. Thanks for posting this.


Alison April 26, 2011 at 8:57 am

Nice recipe but i could do it without the eggs.. thanks,..


fajas colombianas May 11, 2011 at 9:55 am

It’s like heaven in a plate! simple, delicious and scrumptious.


Neikya May 16, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Wow, this is the exact recipe for Hershey’s chocolate cake that’s listed on their box of cocoa except for the baking soda measurement. I’ve been using it for years. It’s a great cake.


Elizabeth July 1, 2011 at 8:27 pm

I’ve made this recipe and it is outstanding. Don’t skimp on the chocolate quality, use these exact ones or similar quality, you won’t regret it!


Stephanie O'Connor July 31, 2011 at 10:31 am

I made this cake the other day for a farewell, and oh my!! It was rich, decadent, and such a show stopper! It is definitely “that” chocolate cake for any momentous occasion! Thanks :)


Andy October 28, 2011 at 8:22 pm

I think there is an error with the baking soda measurement. I believe it should be 1 1/2 teaspoons NOT 1/2. I followed the “Scharffen Berger That Chocolate Cake Recipe” which is identical to this recipe except for the baking soda. The cake was super moist and the frosting is superior and puts butter cream to shame. This is a keeper.


Denso December 23, 2011 at 8:00 pm

I googled Chocolate and then got this page, the chocolate cake looks amazing, simple but elegant. Thanks for sharing!
Very funny thing, you post it at the first month of 2011, and I leave this comment at the end of this year. Merry Christmas! =D


Baked January 8, 2012 at 3:31 pm

We made this cake using some enhanced butter. Mmm… highly recommended.


Raphaela Santos January 16, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Gosh… I’m so confused about the frosting
I’m Brazilian and I never know the difference between the heavy cream and the canned cream we have here…. The heavy cream is fresh and doesn’t cut when it comes to a boil???
can I use any cream???


Bakerrr January 19, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Omg…. Essentially the best chocolate cake of life . Baked it for my dads birthday and was told it was to die for. I added strawberries on top; made it even better .
Definitely understand why it is called “that” chocolate cake


Hannah January 22, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Hi! I was wondering if I could use organic milk instead of whole milk? Would that change the flavor and outcome of the cake?


Letícia Alves Graton February 6, 2012 at 10:44 am

I tried doing this cake but all turned out wrong, the cake batter was too liquid because of the water and the cream was also too liquid I don’t know what I did wrong ://


Brittany February 13, 2012 at 5:00 am

Best recipe for a chocolate cake ever, and the frosting was great. I made it twice now; the first time with the original recipe and the second I had added orange zest and orange juice was sooo Yummmy. <3 thanks so much for the recipe.


Rodebloc February 13, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Great cake, I made it and it was a hit….awesome.


sherin February 21, 2012 at 4:28 am recipe..wt is heavy cream..can I use any cream???


Lou Lou March 1, 2012 at 6:31 am

I have made several different chocolate fudge cakes and was really disappointed with this recipe. My cake ended up like two hard slabs and the icing has taken over an hour to cool enough to use. Sorry won’t be using the again.


Connie March 11, 2012 at 10:20 am

OMG, I NEED to make this – it’s stunning and I can taste the chocolate from here! :)



Shannon April 3, 2012 at 9:52 am

I made this cake. Easy and AMAZING. I will never use another chocolate cake recipe.


Krisana April 15, 2012 at 7:31 am

My mother baked this cake for my little one’s birthday, and it was delicious! Very moist, and the sweetness was perfect! Thank you for sharing the recipe!


john April 15, 2012 at 8:09 am

i made this cake for my birthday a few years back not sure what to expect. having made it many many more times since then i can unequivocally say its the best damn chocolate cake EVER! nothing else even comes close


Erin June 3, 2012 at 6:30 am

I’m going to try this recipe today for a couple of friends’ birthday party. Excited :) Oh and for those who don’t know what heavy cream is-it’s also called Double Cream.


Janet July 25, 2012 at 7:16 am

I’ve been making this cake for years, and it has no equal. Just the most delicious, beautifully balanced chocolate cake. My sister, who doesn’t like cake, said it was fantastic. Love this recipe. :o)


kris September 11, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Hi. I would love to make this cake. I just have this dilema of baking cakes with more than one layer since i have a small oven and 2 cake pans won’t fit on the same rack. How do i go about this problem? Do i bake them together, with one pan in the middle rack and the other one in the bottom? Or do i just wait for 1 to finish and then put the other one after?


lynn September 15, 2012 at 4:24 am

Baked this cake. It’s absolutely awesome!


crystal September 28, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I just made this cake last night… AMAZING!! I ended up baking a 9×13 cake for about 29 mins… and I used 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda and baking powder per the Scharffen Berg recipe. I also used Scharffen Berg cocoa powder in the cake. It ended up being so moist and it had the perfect crumb. This recipe was very easy to follow thank you for sharing it!!


Sarah December 18, 2012 at 8:33 am

Does this frosting stay creamy at room temp or does it harden like most chocolate frostings….it looks great, I’ve been trying to find a frosting that stays creamy! Thanks


Laura May 10, 2013 at 8:01 am

Hi, first time on your blog, i’m italian food blogger and I don’t speak very well english but I know a fantastic cake like yours!



sarah June 3, 2013 at 2:37 am

ok so my cake is baking now but i’m kind of disappointed because the batter wasn’t enough for a 2 layer cake as I saw in the picture. I realize it said 1 9 inch cake but I saw the picture and then the directions also called for prepping two 9 inch pans so I thought it’d be enough. I suppose it’s OK if you want two thin layers…but I was making for a customer so I was afraid it’d look too short so I’ll have to make another layer as I only have enough to fill a third of the pan up.


Christine July 14, 2013 at 9:55 pm

This is simply delicious! I have to admit, I was a little skeptical of the frosting at first, but be patient, it is totally worth it! It took about 2 hours to cool. During the last half hour, I put it in the fridge and took it out to stir every 5 minutes. The cake is light and chocolatey, and the frosting has a deep chocolate flavor that is not too sweet. I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 to make 3 layers. It’s a hit with my friends!


Marty July 25, 2013 at 8:43 am

Sincerely the best chocolate cake I have ever had! We bake it for every birthday in my house and never get tired of it! Really, really moist and the frosting is delicious. Going to keep this recipe around for a very long time.


sami August 10, 2013 at 6:01 am

Just baked this cake, it looks gorgeous and i cant wait to tuck in tonight :-) thanks for this simple delicious recipe..!


Juju September 17, 2014 at 2:30 am



Hilary October 13, 2015 at 11:49 am

Looks great


Abby Hill Sharpe March 17, 2017 at 9:12 am

Hi! I was wondering how I would adjust baking time if I wanted to make this a “smash” cake size (in a 16 oz corningware dish!) Thanks!


Sue April 8, 2019 at 11:43 am

How much orange juice did you add? Did you lessen any liquid ingredient?


Baturra April 13, 2019 at 12:11 pm

I have successfully made the layered cake using three 8 inch pans.


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