Years ago, my friends and I started a tradition of a fall picnic. We’d see each other so often in the summer months but then suddenly after Labor Day it was like we all burrowed into our holes and didn’t come out until spring. So mid-October became our fall picnic where we’d get together at a park, bring pots of chili, soups, spiced cider and pumpkin cupcakes. Food was the focus in the beginning years. I can recall one year bringing beer cheese soup, gumbo another year, and there was upside-down pear cake…it was all about enjoying fantastic food with great friends.
We’ve taken a hiatus from the tradition. No particular reason other than each family has grown and has become busier. Drinking beer on a Sunday afternoon and eating ourselves into food comas is harder to pencil in. Reality bites sometimes (pun intended).
But because the fall picnic was a beautiful thing and will return again down the road, I thought my favorite chocolate cake recipe was appropriate to share this time of year. It’s a cake worthy of an occasion such as this, as well as birthdays, anniversaries, holidays… really anything that calls for a celebration.
This is THE BEST chocolate cake and chocolate frosting. You do not need to know much more.
The cake is moist and tender, similar to a box cake. But it’s not a box cake! The frosting will blow your mind.
Since we know I cannot decorate a cake for the life of me, I tried the naked cake technique here, adorning this tower of chocolate heaven with fresh flowers.
This would be lovely decorated with golden yellows and rusty orange colors for Halloween. Or even deep purples and greens for a sophisticated look.
I am loving the coral color!
If you have ONE recipe in your back pocket…make it THIS one. Be known as the person who makes “the best chocolate cake.” You will always be prepared to celebrate when the occasion comes along.
- Prep: 15 mins
- Cook: 30 mins
- Total: 2 hrs
- Yields: 12 servings
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare two 9″ cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring.
For the Cake:
Add the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.
Add the milk, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla to the flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce the speed and carefully add the boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.
Divide the cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove the pans from the oven and allow the cake to cool for about 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely.
For the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
Add the cocoa to a large bowl or the bowl of standing mixer. Whisk through to remove any lumps.
Cream together the butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.
Add the sugar and milk to the cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, turn the mixer onto a high speed for about a minute. Repeat until all of the sugar and milk has been added. Lastly, add in the vanilla.
If the frosting appears too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears to wet and does not hold its form, add more powdered sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.