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Classic Chocolate Cake

If you need to learn how to make chocolate cake from scratch, this easy homemade chocolate cake recipe is a perfect place to start. It appeared on a can of Hershey's cocoa way back in 1943. I tried it, my boys liked it, and I've been making it ever since. —Betty Follas, Morgan Hill, California
  • Total Time
    Prep: 15 min. Bake: 35 min.
  • Makes
    15 servings


  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1-2/3 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup baking cocoa
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/3 cups whole milk
  • Confectioners' sugar or favorite frosting


  • In a bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating until smooth after each addition. Pour batter into a greased and floured 13x9-in. baking pan.
  • Bake at 350° until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. When cake is cool, dust with confectioners' sugar or top with your favorite frosting.

Classic Chocolate Cake Tips

How do you make a cake super moist?

There are several ways to ensure your cake is deliciously moist. First, make sure your ingredients are at room temperature before beginning. Second, avoid overbeating your dry ingredients as you add them to the batter. Lastly, add the milk alternately with the dry ingredients, always beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Keep in mind swapping ingredients, like the whole milk called for, will change the texture and moistness of the cake. Check out more tips like this in our ultimate guide to baking cake.

Which chocolate is best for cake?

Unsweetened cocoa powder is recommended for this cake. It is rich in cocoa butter and dissolves perfectly into the batter to create a nice, smooth texture and strong chocolate flavor. To learn more about each chocolate type, check out this chocolate guide.

How do you know when this cake is finished baking?

You will know your cake is done when either a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Test the cake at the minimum baking time. If the toothpick still has batter or extremely moist crumbs on it, continue baking and test again at the maximum baking time.

Does using salted vs. unsalted butter make a difference?

Unsalted butter is traditionally recommended for baking, as it allows you to control how much salt goes into your baked goods. It also has a light, fresh and smooth flavor that is the perfect template upon which to build your cake. If you do use salted butter, simply adjust the salt in your recipe accordingly, keeping in mind that most butter brands add about ¼ teaspoon salt per ½ cup butter. Learn more about the differences between salted and unsalted butter.
Nutrition Facts
1 piece: 257 calories, 10g fat (6g saturated fat), 67mg cholesterol, 368mg sodium, 38g carbohydrate (23g sugars, 1g fiber), 4g protein.
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  • ajinmn
    Dec 8, 2020

    This cake was fine, but I won’t make it again. My family preferred my normal go to chocolate cake recipe. This one isn’t as moist or flavorful.

  • Donella
    Nov 30, 2020

    I have been making this since the mid 60's. Best chocolate cake ever. My mom use to make it also.

  • Terrie
    Nov 8, 2020

    If you love chocolate you will love this chocolate cake. Family loved it. Will make again.

  • JoyceNokleby
    Nov 7, 2020

    A 1940s recipe from home (think GRANDMA'S!) would use sour milk, butter milk,rather than fresh, etc. You would get it FRESH from the cow and use it as it aged. Hundreds of recipes from my grandmas had GO OUT TO THE BARN, GARDEN, HEN HOUSE, etc recipes. Using this theory (hard to do because of all the cultured states they come in now) I age whipping cream in the back of fridge still sealed. Dates are at least a year old. Same for my cottage cheese for recipes. Cultured creams are horrid to use. My aged creams become the butter of my grandmas' time. No flavor, no salt. The first commercial butter had a packet of yellow dye to blend in as well as suggest amount of salt to add to please the taste. I use unsalted butter only. And small public creameries can also get you the products without the yellow dye added. Going to try this cake recipe... Would you give the trade off with the egg size...a farm recipe LARGE egg compared to what some buy at the grocery...from extra large to small eggs...can be a difference is the duty of the egg.Thanks. .

  • Robert
    Nov 7, 2020

    Very good, super-easy basic chocolate cake.. Seems like older recipes often call for more salt or soda than we now think is necessary. Somebody's palate is far more discriminating than ours if they think this tastes too salty or too much like soda. Unsalted butter would have been hard to find and a rarity in 1940s kitchens. Margarine might have been more common in those more frugal times and considering rationing in the war years. We think this is improved slightly by using sifted cake flour and a teaspoon of vanilla, but that's personal taste -- not at all necessary. It is just fine as written. Three caveats: Don't over-beat the batter when adding the milk and dry ingredients. And, know your oven and know your altitude. Both can affect outcome. With our oven and where we live, we rarely have to bake a cake quite as long as a recipe calls for.

  • Heather
    Oct 26, 2020

    Wonderful cake, simple recipe with rich flavor. I made a Halloween graveyard out of this cake for work, everyone loved it. I will use this one again.

  • Ema
    Jun 30, 2020

    Great cake, I made it with a honey based icing that worked perfectly.

  • Janice
    Jun 17, 2020

    Excellent. tried it at home. but for a faster recipe try this.

  • Nepta
    May 20, 2020

    Loved you recipe! Will surely try! Checkout the inspired: <a href="">BASIC CHOCOLATE CAKE without cream</a>

  • Jada
    May 17, 2020

    I enjoyed this cake. I also used unsalted butter and all I had was 2% milk and unsweetened cocoa (not bakers) still came out pretty darn good. I made a chocolate whipped topping which was a nice touch. Thanks!! I’m a newbie to baking and try a lot of recipes I find online. This didn’t disappoint.