The Best Chocolate Birthday Cake

June 24, 2024
Shanika | Orchids + Sweet Tea

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This Chocolate Birthday Cake is the ultimate treat—rich, moist, and incredibly decadent. It's also super easy to make, perfect for beginners. Whether it's a birthday or just because!

The Best Chocolate Birthday Cake

Celebrate any occasion with the ultimate Chocolate Birthday Cake recipe! It's rich, moist, and super decadent, but also foolproof + easy enough for beginner bakers. Perfect for birthdays or any special event, this cake will make chocolate lovers swoon and is sure to make any celebration extra sweet. Vegan + Gluten-free Options.

Up close shot of slice of cake on a white plate with two forks and sprinkles.

I taught my husband how to make this Chocolate Birthday Cake recipe years ago, and he’s been perfecting it ever since. It’s my absolute favorite birthday cake (My Grandmas's Vanilla Birthday Cake and Strawberry Birthday Sheet Cake are close seconds), and with my birthday week here, I wanted to share it with you all!

This cake is my go-to for celebrations. After testing many chocolate cakes over the years, I keep coming back to this one. It’s easy to make, rich, and full of deep chocolate flavor, topped with delicious chocolate buttercream. Plus, I’ve included options for gluten-free, vegan, + cupcakes, so everyone can enjoy!

Indulging in this cake takes you to that comforting, nostalgic place. Trust me, you'll thank me later. And if you're a cake lover like me, be sure to check out our Best Cake Flavors for Any Occasion list next!

Jump to:

Is This Chocolate Cake Recipe Beginner Friendly?

Absolutely! No need to stress about your baking skills—I've got you covered! I'll walk you through how to make this AMAZING chocolate cake that will impress everyone. Whether you're a beginner or a pro in the kitchen, this cake is guaranteed to bring smiles and sweetness to your day! From start to finish it takes just 45 minutes!

Forward shot of two cake slices with birthdays candles on a plate with a yellow background.

Why You Will LOVE This Chocolate Birthday Cake

  • Moist + perfectly fluffy!
  • Simple and easy even for beginner bakers!
  • Creamy chocolatey frosting.
  • Classic rich chocolate flavor.
  • Perfect for birthdays and special occasions.
  • Layers of happiness in every forkful.
  • Totally decadent, and did I mention delicious?
Shanika holding a plate with two slices of cake with birthday candles, smiling and looking down.

How To Make Chocolate Birthday Cake

This happy birthday cake is super easy to whip together and doesn’t require anything special when it comes to ingredients!

Shanika blowing out candles on cake slices.


All you need to whip up this simple Chocolate Birthday Cake batter is:


  • All-purpose flour. I use organic flour from Bob’s Red Mill.
  • Cocoa powder. You can also use Cacao powder as well!
  • Baking powder. For leavening.
  • Sea salt. I love the play of salty and sweet here!
  • Ground cinnamon. This goes nicely with the chocolate flavor.
  • Organic cane sugar. For sweetness!
  • Large organic eggs. These act as a binder. You need them to be at room temp.
  • Unsalted butter. Make sure your butter is softened before adding to the cake batter. You can place a hot bowl over the stick of butter to soften it in about 5 minutes.
  • Vanilla extract. I always use the brand Nielsen-Massey  it's such good quality!
  • Vegetable oil. This adds to the moisture--- I like using olive oil or avocado oil.
  • Hot water + espresso powder. Mix together until dissolved. The flavor of coffee helps enhance the chocolatey flavor!
  • Dairy-free buttermilk. That's Almond milk + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice; You can sub with regular cow's milk, if desired.


  • Organic powdered sugar. Granulated sugar will make a grainy texture in your frosting, so opt for confectioner’s sugar.
  • Organic cocoa powder. This gives it the best chocolate flavor.
  • Unsalted butter. Softened at room temp.
  • Vanilla extract. Use pure vanilla extract for the best vanilla flavor. 
  • Almond milk. (You can use your fave plant-based milk or whole milk, if desired) Try my homemade almond milk!
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon.
  • Rainbow sprinkles. See my fave natural sprinkles here.


Here, I’ve curated a list of bakeware essentials that I use to achieve my favorite baking treats, especially with this Chocolate Happy Birthday Cake. Everything from my fave baking sheets, parchment paper, mixing bowls, and more. SEE THEM HERE!

Slice of chocolate cake on a white plate with slices in background, a spoon, and balloon.

Tips For Making The Perfect Chocolate Birthday Cake

TIP #1:

One thing that I’ve learned about baking a delicious happy birthday cake is having the right tools. As a basic—-you should have a cake stand (preferably one that has a turnstile table), spatulas (big + small), piping bags + tips, correct baking pans and parchment paper.

TIP #2:

One of the essential ingredient combos for a light, silky cake texture is baking soda/baking powder and acid ingredients (usually apple cider vinegar + plant-based milk for vegan cakes). When acid and baking soda/baking powder reacts, it creates bubbles and helps to create a nice rise for your baked goods, leaving an airy texture.

TIP #3:

One of my latest tricks to a perfect cake has been to ensure that ALL of my dry ingredients are sifted. Trust me, ya’ll—-this works! Making all the dry ingredients fully sifted makes things airy, as you’ve guessed it and allows everything to combine faster.

TIP #4:

Never over-mix! When creating a perfect cake, it’s so important to add the dry ingredients and wet ingredients alternately and as soon as everything is combined very well, THAT’S IT! Over-mixing creates a more dense cake.

Forward shot of chocolate cake on a white plate with a yellow background.

Perfect Occasions For A Slice Of Chocolate Birthday Cake

These events are a great excuse to eat cake!

  • Birthdays (It's in the title Haha!)
  • Anniversaries
  • Barbecues
  • Potlucks
  • Kids Sleepovers
  • Holiday Gatherings
  • Graduations
  • Baby Showers
  • Dinner Parties
  • Actually, any time is a good time for cake, right? Bake away for a little weekday pep-up!

Why The Ingredients NEED To Be At Room Temp

It’s always best to have cold ingredients at room temperature to ensure that the mixing process is more seamless and even. Please note that microwaving your butter last minute if you forget to leave it out at room temperature isn’t recommended. Microwaving often changes the consistency of the butter which doesn’t create a nice ‘creaminess’ when mixed.

Overhead view of 3 chocolate cake slices on white plates on a yellow table with candles and a fork.


Instead, to quickly soften your butter, run a plate and a bowl under hot water. Place the unwrapped butter on the hot plate and cover with the bowl. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. Then your butter should be nice and soft. You can also cut the butter into a few pieces to speed up the softening process even more.

Shot of chocolate cake slice on a white plate with a fork and balloons.

Can I Use This Chocolate Buttercream for Other Desserts?

This Chocolate Buttercream is one of my favorite recipes on earth and it’s crazy how simple, yet effectively delicious it is.

The buttercream goes perfectly with this simple cake, but it also goes well with any dessert you pair it with. After combining only a handful of ingredients, you get the best frosting ever!

Feel free to pair your frosting with any of these desserts:

Keep this recipe in your arsenal and pair it with your favorite sweets!

Up close shot of chocolate cake slice on a white plate with a fork with balloons.

Can I Make This Chocolate Birthday Cake Vegan?

Yes! To make this happy birthday cake dairy-free and egg-free, substitute the butter for vegan butter. Omit the eggs and use apple cider vinegar or ‘flax eggs’ as an alternative. See my vegan chocolate cake recipe for more tips!

Can I Use Other Types of Milk?

Absolutely! If you’d like to switch things up with the type of plant-based milk that you use—–that’s totally fine! The world of plant-based milk is constantly expanding. From the classics like coconut milkcashew milk, soy milk and almond milk, we now have delicious options like oat milk, and even potato and quinoa milk.

Chocolate Cake Recipe Q + A's

How to Store Chocolate Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Store leftover cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. Or freeze the cake for up to 3 months. To serve, defrost the cake for a few hours on the counter.

Cake Flour vs. All-Purpose Flour.

When it comes to the main ingredient of this entire recipe—-the flour, I enjoy using Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached White All-Purpose Flour, which is ideal for all kinds of baking, including this one.
However, I do occasionally use Super-Fine Cake Flour which adds a nice airiness and fluffiness to your cakes as well.

Can I Make Chocolate Birthday Cake Cupcakes?

Sure! To turn this cake recipe into individual cupcakes, simply divide the batter between about 30 cupcake wells. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the centers are set.

Can I Make this Cake Gluten-Free?

If you would love to make this happy birthday cake gluten-free, then substituting all-purpose flour with Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour is the easiest option. It’s a special blend of gluten-free flours, starches, and xanthan gum, which makes these donuts just as soft, fluffy, and airy as the original! They also have a great All-purpose GF flour that works great as well.

Shanika holding a slice of cake on a fork towards her mouth in a black/white suit.

More Amazing Cake Recipes to Try!

Now that you're on a baking kick with this Chocolate Happy Birthday Cake recipe, give these recipes that your entire family will love a try next:


If you tried this Chocolate Birthday Cake recipe or any other recipe on my website, please please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the 📝 comments below. And don't forget to tag @orchidsnsweettea_ on Instagram and hashtag it #orchidsandsweettea! I love hearing from you!

Up close shot of chocolate cake slice on a white plate with a fork with balloons.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

June 24, 2024
No ratings yet
Celebrate any occasion with the ultimate Chocolate Birthday Cake! It's rich, moist, and super decadent, but also foolproof + easy enough for beginner bakers. Perfect for birthdays or any special event, this cake will make chocolate lovers swoon and is sure to make any celebration extra sweet. Gluten-free Option.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 8 servings



  • 4 cups organic all purpose flour (See Notes!)
  • 1 cup organic cocoa powder (You can also use Cacao powder as well!)
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups organic cane sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temp.
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, organic (See Notes!)
  • 1 cup hot water + 1 teaspoon espresso powder (Mix together until dissolved)
  • 1 ¼ cups dairy-free buttermilk (That's Almond milk + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice; You can sub with regular cow's milk, if desired)


  • 5 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup organic cocoa powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup Almond milk (You can sub with whole milk or heavy cream, if desired)
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon


  • Rainbow sprinkles



  • Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease (with butter) AND line with parchment paper the bottoms of THREE 8-inch cake pans or THREE 6-inch cake pans (This makes thicker slices) or TWO 9-inch cake pans.
  • In a bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the milk and apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice) and set aside for 5-10 minutes until everything "activates" to create the dairy-free "buttermilk".
  • In a separate measuring cup, stir together the HOT water and espresso powder until completely dissolved.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt until combined.
  • In a bowl, add the softened butter and sugar, beating them together using a hand-mixer (on high-speed), until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the eggs (one at a time) followed by the vanilla, oil, and hot water-espresso mixture, mixing until combined. On low-speed, add in the dry ingredients followed by the buttermilk and continue to mix until combined and the batter is smooth, about 3-4 minutes. NOTE: The batter should be not too thick, yet slowly run off the whisk once lifted.
  • Divide the batter evenly into each of the cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick or butter knife comes out clean when tested in the centers.
  • Remove cakes from the oven and let them rest in the pan for 10 minutes or so before removing the cakes and placing them onto a cooling rack to fully cool. NOTE: Let them cool for at least 1-2 hours in a cool place.


  • Simply beat the softened butter in the bowl of an electric mixer (or using a hand-mixer) on medium-high speed, until smooth and pale. Add in the cocoa powder, powdered sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and milk, continuing to mix on medium-speed until you reach the desired consistency----smooth and fluffy. NOTE: Add more milk (1 tablespoon at a time if too thick) or powdered sugar (for more thickness).


  • Place the first cake layer on your cake stand and evenly cover the top with buttercream. Now, top with 2nd layer and add more buttercream atop that layer, spreading it over the tops and sides of cake, evenly and thinly. NOTE: If making a 3-layer, be sure to repeat step 1 of assembly once again before getting to the final layer.
  • Once fully frosted, add small little designs of the buttercream using a piping bag + tip around the sides and top of cake or add rainbow sprinkles as much as desired. Chill for 5 minutes to ensure that buttercream sets. Top with chopped chocolate or cacao nibbles, if desired for an additional bite.
  • When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator. Slice and enjoy!
  • Bon Appetit!

Tips & Tricks

  • STORAGE: Keep cake leftovers stored for up to 4-5 days in the fridge. Keep it in an airtight container to keep the cake from drying out. You can also freeze the cake tightly wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 3 months. Before serving, defrost the cake on the counter.
  • FLOUR: You can also substitute cake flour with all-purpose flour if you'd like.
  • CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES: This recipe yields about 30 cupcakes. Simply bake for 18-20 minutes instead, until centers come out clean.
  • GLUTEN-FREE VERSION: To make this cake GF, I recommend using a GF Flour Blend (Bob’s Red Mills has a great version!). **NOTE: If the cake mixture is too ‘thin + runny’, simply add additional GF flour, ¼ cup at a time.**
  • OIL: Instead of organic vegetable oil, you can always use coconut oil (melted), olive oil, avocado oil, or melted butter, if preferred.
  • BUTTERMILK: You can use either regular buttermilk (you may need an additional 2 Tbsps or more until desired consistency is met) or create a dairy based buttermilk by adding whole milk with 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. 
  • VEGAN OPTION: To make a delicious vegan version of chocolate cake, check out my Best Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe!


Calories: 1012kcal | Carbohydrates: 178g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 69g | Saturated Fat: 29g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 18g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 189mg | Sodium: 357mg | Potassium: 503mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 40g | Vitamin A: 1262IU | Vitamin C: 0.003mg | Calcium: 183mg | Iron: 6mg


Tag @orchidsnsweettea_ on Instagram and hashtag it #orchidsandsweettea

Xx, Shanika in script writing

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