Simple Moist Chocolate Cake (No Butter)

This is the easiest chocolate cake recipe ever! Moist, fudgy, and less sweet. Make a single-layer cake to keep it simple or double and triple-layer cake for birthdays and special occasions. Frost with chocolate ganache to satisfy your chocolate cravings!

single layer chocolate cake in a baking dish
round layered chocolate cake

Why you’ll love this cake recipe

I actually often call this my emergency chocolate cake because it’s simple and easy to make. No mixer is needed!

Here are the reasons why you’ll love it:

  • Less sweet – The amount of sugar in this recipe is less compared to other recipes making it even more irresistible. I promise you’ll keep on coming back for more!
  • You can make it 3 ways – A single-layer cake, double-layer, or even triple-layer cake.
  • Ganache frosting – My favorite chocolate frosting ever! The name may sound fancy but I find that it’s the easiest and simplest frosting to make. You will only need two ingredients to make it–cream and semi-sweet chocolates. That is it!
  • No fancy-schmancy elaborate decoration – Once the cake has cooled, pour and spread the ganache frosting on top it’s done! You can also decorate with icing sugar (chevron style or swirl) but that is totally optional!
  • No butter – This chocolate cake recipe does not use any butter in the cake ingredient or even in the frosting.

Ingredients

Here’s what goes into chocolate cake. There are no fancy ingredients in this recipe. It doesn’t even have butter!

flour, eggs, cocoa powder, oil, baking powder, baking soda, sugar

A few important things to note for some of the ingredients:

  • All-purpose flour – is highly recommended for this chocolate cake recipe.
  • Natural Cocoa Powder (unsweetened) – Use the best quality you can find. It should not have ingredients other than cocoa powder.
  • White Sugar – Use caster sugar or superfine granulated sugar. I don’t recommend using coarse sugar as it doesn’t dissolve easily.
  • Eggs – You will need two large eggs at room temperature.
  • Vegetable oil – canola or any neutral-tasting vegetable oil will do.
  • Vanilla Extract – the better quality, the better flavor.
  • Baking powder and baking soda – make sure it’s still active and not past its due date. Expired leavening agents cause cakes not to properly rise.
    TIP: To test the freshness, pour ¼ cup boiling water over ½ teaspoon baking powder. If it foams then it’s good. Otherwise, time to replace it.

See the recipe card for quantities.

slice of layered chocolate cake

The Secret to a Moist Chocolate Cake

There are three simple things you need to remember to make sure your cake comes out moist:

  • Carefully, measure the ingredients–using too much flour or not using enough liquid can cause the cake to become dry.
  • Mix the batter until just combined–don’t overmix!
  • Don’t overbake the cake–test the doneness of the cake a few minutes before the recommended baking time.

How to Make It

1. Preparation

Have all the ingredients at room temperature including the milk and eggs. To do this, bring them out an hour before beginning the recipe. This is a key step to making a soft, moist, and fluffy cake.

For a smoother workflow, gather all the tools like bowls, measuring cups, spoons, whisk, spatula, and baking dish before starting.

If using tin pans, grease the bottom and sides and line them with parchment paper.

If using a glass baking dish, grease the bottom and sides with oil. No need for parchment paper.

2. Make the cake batter

making the cake batter
  • Sift dry ingredients to remove lumps. This will help the powder incorporate well into the wet ingredients.
  • Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Stir well until sugar is dissolved.
  • Use freshly boiled water, to be added towards the end of making the cake batter. This brings out the best flavor of the cocoa.
  • The batter will be thin. Don’t worry. This is expected. The cake will come out moist, yet still sturdy and not crumble.

3. Baking

Make sure the oven is preheated for 20 minutes. This will ensure that it is ready at the right temperature by the time you’re done making the batter.

Place the pans in the middle rack where the heat sources are evenly distributed. If using two racks, switch the pans halfway through the baking time.

The cake is done when the toothpick inserted in the CENTER comes out clean.

What cake pan size to use

Single-layer chocolate cake (sheet cake)

Here are the recommended sizes:

  • Large sheet cake – use one 13″ x 9″ baking pan
  • Medium-size sheet cake – use two 10″x 7″ inches pans or a similar size

Here, I used a glass oven dish typically used for casseroles. It worked just as fine as a tin pan.

cake batter in glass baking dish

Double or Triple Layer Chocolate Cake

If you’re feeling fancy and want to make this cake for a special occasion like birthdays or anniversaries, you can make it into a layered cake.

These pan sizes work well for making a chocolate layered cake:

  • 2 layer cake – use two 9″ round pans.
  • 3 layer cake – use three 7″ round pan
chocolate cake batter in round pans

Can I make this into cupcakes?

Yes, definitely! This recipe will make about 20 regular-size cupcakes. Bake at 350f /180 c for 20 to 25 minutes.

Ganache–Best Frosting for Chocolate Cake

My go-to frosting for chocolate cake has always been and will always be GANACHE. It’s chocolatey and velvety. Just pure decadence! Plus, it’s super easy to make. You won’t even need a mixer.

Here’s how to make it

steps on how to make ganache frosting
  • Heat the heavy cream – you can do this in the microwave or in a stovetop.
  • Pour over chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bars. DON’T STIR YET. Cover with a heat-proof plate and let it sit for 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt.
  • Uncover and stir gently at first then gradually whisk it swiftly until smooth and glossy.
  • Let it cool to thicken–30 minutes at room temperature for a glossy yet thick texture or 1 hour in the refrigerator until it’s spreadable like Nutella.

How to Frost a Single-Layer Cake

Once the cake has cooled, you can frost it right away, slice and it’s ready to serve! No need to transfer to another serving dish or spend time stacking and frosting multiple layers of cake.

how to frost sheet cake in a baking dish

For the single-layer cake, you will only need one serving recipe of ganache. Spread it evenly on top using a large spoon or spatula. Let it set in the fridge for 30 minutes to one hour before slicing.

How to Frost a Layered Round Cake

Frosting a layered cake will take a little bit of practice but you’ll get the hang of it. Tip: If the cake ends up having a dome shape on top, level it with a serrated bread knife before frosting.

how to frost layered round cake

Here are some helpful tools that will make the process a whole lot easier.

  • icing spatula – to easily spread the frosting around the cake
  • turntable – a convenient way to frost cakes; use a microwave plate as a substitute or a normal cake stand. You would have to rotate the plate as you frost the cake.
  • a cake board or flat plate – to support the cake as you move it around
  • parchment paper – to keep the edges clean.

For the double or triple-layer chocolate cake, you will need about 1 1/2 cups of ganache frosting.

chocolate cake with frosting and strawberries

Simple ways to decorate

Here are simple ways to decorate a chocolate cake without using any special tools:

  • Top with grated chocolate bars or chocolate chips – arrange as you like and make it simple but pretty.
  • Decorate with fruits like strawberries and blueberries
  • Drizzle with melted icing sugar – combine 6 tbsp icing sugar with 2-3 tsp milk. Place in a small zip bag. Snip the tip off the tip. Immediately, before the ganache sets, pipe parallel lines about 1 inch apart on the entire cake, stopping just short of the edge. Lightly drag the skewer through the ganache perpendicular to the white lines also 1 inch apart, alternating directions (first left to right, then right to left, and so on) and covering the whole cake. Allow the ganache and icing to set.
easy moist chocolate cake slice

Make-ahead Tips

Both the cake and the frosting can be made ahead. You can store it separately and frost it on the day you need it or store it frosted. See more tips below on how to store.

For the chocolate cake – let it cool completely. Wrapped tightly with a freezer-safe plastic wrap then place in a container. Freeze for up to 3 months, or refrigerate for up to 1 week.

For the ganache frostingfreeze for up to 3 months, or refrigerate for up to 1 week. Re-heat in the microwave in 30-second increments to make it spreadable/runny.

Storage and Shelf-life

For the frosted cake – store it in an air-tight container and refrigerate it for up to 1 week. I find the flavor of the cake, even more, better on the 2nd and 3rd day after the flavors have developed.

Watch the Recipe Video

slice chocolate cake with strawberry on top

Simple Moist Chocolate Cake (No Butter)

4.56 from 27 votes
This is the easiest Chocolate Cake ever! Moist, fudgy, and less sweet. This cake recipe is perfect for someone who craves chocolate cake but does not want to use a lot of complicated ingredients. Perfect for impromptu gatherings, surprise date nights at home, and birthdays.
Servings12 -16
preparation time15 minutes
Total cooking time35 minutes

Ingredients
 

Dry Ingredients

Wet Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 ⅓ cup white sugar (note 1)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil (i used canola)
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Ganache Frosting (see note 4 & 5)

Instructions

  • Pre-heat oven at 350f/180c.
  • To make a single-layer cake: Grease one 13"x9" large baking dish or use two 10"x 7" inches pan or similar size.
    To make a layered cake: For 2 layer cakes, use two 9" round pans. For 3 layers, use three 7" round pans. Grease the bottom and sides and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Cake

  • In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda. Add salt. Whisk until well combined.
  • In another bowl, combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, milk, and oil. Stir until well combined. Add to dry ingredients, beat until just combined. Pour boiling water then stir until smooth. The batter will be thin.
  • Pour batter into baking pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Ganache Frosting

  • Place chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate bars in a heat-proof bowl.
  • Heat the cream in a small pot over medium heat until it begins to gently simmer. (Do not let it come to a rapid boil). Pour over the chocolate, then let it sit for 5 minutes to soften the chocolate.
  • Uncover and gently stir at first then gradually whisk it swiftly until smooth and glossy. Let it cool to thicken–30 minutes at room temperature for a glossy thick texture or 1 hour in the refrigerator until it's spreadable like Nutella.
  • Spread evenly onto the cake (see video for a simple demo). Let it set in the fridge for 30 mins to 1 hour before serving.

Recipe Notes & Tips:

  1. Sugar – Use 1 1/2 cups sugar if you’re serving this without the frosting.
  2. Cream – table cream/canned cream can also be used. Consistency will be thicker than fresh cream.
  3. Semi-sweet chocolate chips – can be substituted with dark plain chocolate bars. Chop them into fine pieces before adding the hot cream.
  4. Ganache frosting for a double or triple-layer cake – increase the amount of cream to 1 1/2 cups and chocolate chips to 1 1/2 cups.
  5. Heat cream in a microwave – Microwave cream on HIGH for 40 seconds. Stir then microwave again for 20 to 30 seconds until heated through.
  6. Milk and eggs should be at room temperature.
  7. Make it into cupcakes – This recipe will make about 20 regular-size cupcakes. Bake at 350F/180C for 18 to 22 minutes.
  8. Make-ahead tip: After the cake has cooled, wrap it tightly with a freezer-safe plastic wrap then place it in a container. Freeze for up to 3 months, or refrigerate for up to 1 week without frosting.
  9. Shelf life with frosting is up to 5 days. Store in an airtight container to keep it moist.
Jump to Video
Author : Mella
Course : Dessert
Cuisine : American-Western, Western
Keyword : chocolate sheet cake recipe, dark chocolate cake, milk chocolate cake
Nutrition Facts
Simple Moist Chocolate Cake (No Butter)
Amount per Serving
Calories
412
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
23
g
35
%
Saturated Fat
 
15
g
94
%
Cholesterol
 
51
mg
17
%
Sodium
 
440
mg
19
%
Potassium
 
234
mg
7
%
Carbohydrates
 
50
g
17
%
Fiber
 
3
g
13
%
Sugar
 
30
g
33
%
Protein
 
6
g
12
%
Vitamin A
 
299
IU
6
%
Vitamin C
 
1
mg
1
%
Calcium
 
89
mg
9
%
Iron
 
2
mg
11
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?I love hearing how you went with my recipes! Tag @rivertenkitchen or leave a comment below!

Originally published on Jan. 2020. Updated on Oct 2021 with new photos and video. Same great recipe!

Riverten Kitchen is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

*Recipe adapted from Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate cake.

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25 Comments

  1. 4 stars
    Great recipe! It was super easy to make and turned out perfectly. I substituted some of the ingredients, I used 1cup of hot coffee instead of 1cup of boiling water to bring out the chocolate flavour and I used butter instead of vegetable oil. It was delicious! 😁

  2. Hi! I have round pans, which could I use for 1 single cake? I’d be cutting it in layers once its done! Thank you!!

  3. 5 stars
    Cake was lovely but ganache didn’t set to a Nutella consistency no matter how long I left it. I’ll definitely make the cake again

    1. Hi Kay, what type of cream did you use? Try increasing the semi-chocolate chips to 1 1/2 cup up to 2 cups. The cream should be heavy whipping cream.
      Hope this helps.

      – Mella

  4. 5 stars
    Made a single layer cake with my kids and we all loved it! It came out moist and fudgy with just the right amount of sweetness.

    Will try the layered cake next time for my son’s birthday.

    Thank you

  5. 5 stars
    Made this for my husband’s birthday! I did 2 8×8 glass dishes for a 2 layer cake and they were finished baking a few mins early. I made a white chocolate cream cheese frosting just for the middle of the cake and did the ganache on top. Didn’t need as much ganache as it made, but it came out AMAZING! Thanks for sharing!

    1. The white chocolate cream cheese frosting sounds like a great idea! Glad you enjoyed this recipe 🙂
      – Mella

  6. 5 stars
    Made this for my daughter’s birthday and it was a hit! I used 1 1/2 cup sugar for the cake and regular chocolate chips for the frosting to make it sweeter for the kids.

  7. 5 stars
    I have only 1 tin, but I wanna bake layer cake, what do you suggest? Bake 1 layer at a time? or do you suggest I bake a full cake and slice them into half?

    1. Hi Irene, If it’s a 9″ pan – it takes 40 to 45 minutes to finish baking. If it’s an 8″ pan, I recommend baking 1 layer at a time.

      Hope this helps.

      Mella

  8. 3 stars
    At first, it was slightly difficult and then slowly I had got the hang of it toward the end. Overall, a very good dessert recipe and very useful especially for such events like birthdays, weddings, BBQ Party, baby shower, new job, etc.

  9. 4 stars
    It tasted great! I don’t know what I did wrong though because it came out more like a brownie consistency verses a chocolate cake bit the kids loved it!

    1. It’s close to brownie consistency because of the bread flour which is how I want my chocolate cake. You can definitely use all-purpose flour as a substitute. The consistency should be much softer. Glad your kids enjoyed this.
      – Mella

    1. Hi Swathi, this recipe has not been tested yet using buttermilk. I suggest sticking to regular milk for now.
      – Mella

  10. 5 stars

    How to make the pandesal well baked without having a crunchy outer layer? and do i only mix the bread flour and use the all purpose flour as an addition while kneading? maybe my dough came out dry.

      1. 5 stars
        Hi,
        Made this recipe into a layer cake covered it with buttercream and fondant it worked 🙂. Thanks for the recipe
        Archana

  11. 5 stars
    One lazy Sat afternoon, i was craving for something comforting when I remembered this cake that you posted on insta. It is not fussy to make yet it came out superb. Couple of days later I was looking for leftover but the husband has got to it first even the day before! ?