June 3, 2023


Qualified food specialists

Recipe: Best Chocolate Cake and Cupcakes

6 min read

We’re big chocolate cake fans in our family. And up until this point, this Best Chocolate Cake Recipe Ever from my friend Robyn at Add a Pinch has been my go-to. It is seriously the best. But, in all honesty, I don’t really fancy myself a baker. The preciseness of baking gives me anxiety. There’s too much chemistry involved.

Butter adds great flavor and the oil keeps the cake moist. (Stacey Little / Southern Bite)

So when I was recently looking for the best way to create a super delicious chocolate cake, I wanted to start with a cake mix. I know. Shoot me. But hang with me a sec…

Now, I learned a few years back that my favorite cakes have both butter and oil in them. The butter adds great flavor and the oil keeps the cake moist. So I knew it had to include both.

I’m also a big fan of the ever-popular White Almond Sour Cream Cake (WASC) that many bakers swear by. It starts with a boxed mix. So I wondered if there was a way to take a chocolate cake mix and use the same method from the WASC cake.

A quick Google brought me to the blog of Liz Marek. Sugar Geek Show is all about amazing cake and dessert recipes and cake decorating tutorials. Now, that sounds pretty simple, but her blog is so much more. When I tell you she is amazing, that’s an understatement. If you’ve got some time to kill, you need to click over and check out some of the ridiculously amazing cakes she has created. Wickedly talented is how I’d describe Liz.

This recipe makes about 36 cupcakes and the frosting will give you more than enough for decorative high swirls. (Stacey Little / Southern Bite)

Anyway, she has a recipe for a Chocolate WASC Cake that met all my criteria. It started with a boxed mix and included both oil and butter. And it was amazingly delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I only made a few tweaks after testing it about six times – you know, science and stuff. It was just so dang good as it was.

I love the flavor of my Buttermilk Chocolate Cake. I’ve been told that the unique flavor, in addition to the buttermilk, is created by heating the cocoa powder and allowing it to “bloom.” Keeping that thought in mind, I decided to test the recipe using hot coffee rather than the cold coffee Liz calls for. It could all be in my head, but I found that it did make a difference. That said, cold coffee will certainly work. And, no, your cake won’t taste like coffee. The coffee just works to intensify the chocolate flavor.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Why not just make it from scratch?” Well, I hear you. And here’s the deal: Starting with a cake mix offers us several advantages. It gives us a head start by eliminating some steps. It reduces the margin of error when it comes to measuring, meaning that there’s a much greater chance that your cake is going to turn out perfectly. And Liz’s blog also taught me that it has emulsifiers in it that a scratch cake wouldn’t have. Those emulsifiers also help ensure that the cake turns out perfectly.

Before serving, let the cake sit at room temperature. (Stacey Little / Southern Bite)

This cake gives you the best of both worlds. It’s got the reliability of a boxed mix, but the flavor of homemade with all the added ingredients.

So, why are we adding extra flour? Well, the additional flour, cocoa and sugar help to work as a cake mix extender so we have more batter, which means thicker layers of cake rather than the super-thin layers we’d get from a mix alone.

The decadent chocolate buttercream frosting recipe is my own creation and one I’ve been using for years. And now I’ve got the perfect cake to complement my frosting.

The combination of the two makes for a pretty mean cake, if I do say so myself. And it transforms easily into cupcakes as well.

The amped-up cake mix recipe will give you enough batter for about 36 cupcakes and the frosting will give you more than enough to pipe mile-high swirls on top.

When it comes to the frosting, starting with room-temperature butter is a must. And once everything is combined, the length of time you mix it will offer you a few differences in results. For dense, smooth frosting, you want to mix it until everything is just combined. If you want a lighter, fluffier frosting, mixing it a bit longer will give you that. Side note: Does anyone else use the terms frosting and icing interchangeably? I know they’re supposed to be different, but I use them both for the same thing. Old habits die hard, I guess.

Another tip from Liz: Chill your cake layers before frosting them. It makes them sturdier and a bit easier to coat. Then allow the whole cake to come to room temperature before serving.

This moist, fluffy cupcake is worth every single calorie. (Stacey Little / Southern Bite)

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Serves: 10


Best Chocolate Cake:

  • 1 (15.25-ounce) box devil’s food cake mix (I like Duncan Hines for this recipe)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups hot coffee
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 (2-pound) bag powdered sugar (7 1/2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (or more)


Best Chocolate Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and spray two 9-inch light-colored aluminum cake pans with nonstick baking spray with flour. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer, combine the cake mix, flour, salt, sugar and cocoa powder until well mixed.
  3. Add the hot coffee and mix to combine.
  4. Add the melted butter, oil and sour cream; mix to combine.
  5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  6. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix for about 2 minutes.
  7. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then turn the cakes out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

  1. Add the butter to the bowl of a mixer and mix until smooth.
  2. Gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing well after each addition.
  3. Add the salt and cocoa powder and mix well.
  4. Add the cooled chocolate and vanilla and mix well.
  5. Add the heavy cream to thin the buttercream to spreading consistency and mix to combine.
  6. Add more cream to make it thinner or more powdered sugar if you get it too thin.
  7. Once the cake is cool, trim off the domed part of each cake and frost with the chocolate buttercream.


  • To make cupcakes, line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners and fill each about halfway full. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes about 36 cupcakes.
  • The frosting recipe makes enough to generously frost the two-layer cake or to frost 36 cupcakes.
  • Cake recipe adapted from Sugar Geek Show Chocolate WASC Cake.

This recipe originally appeared on SouthernBite.com. For more great recipes, visit the website or check out ”The Southern Bite Cookbook.”

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