Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

This Sour Cream Chocolate Cake is the only chocolate cake recipe you will ever need for birthdays and celebrations. Recipe with step-by-step photos.

sour cream chocolate cake on plate with slice removed

Sour-Cream Chocolate Cake

This is the chocolate cake recipe I turn to for every birthday party celebration in our family. And even if there is not a birthday event in sight, if I just simply have a craving for chocolate cake, this is quite simply, the best chocolate cake.

And once you have tried this moist chocolate cake with chocolate sour cream frosting, you will understand why it is the most delicious and perfect chocolate cake you will ever taste.

Why This Recipe Works

  • The sour cream gives the cake a slight tang to cut through the sweetness.
  • The sour cream also helps to keep the cake moist.
  • This cake keeps well several days, so you can make it advance for birthday parties.
sour cream chocolate cake on wire rack with spatula

Chocolate Birthday Cake

This is the cake that I make at home for my family. I like to keep it plain as photographed but, in recent years, I have had to relinquish some creative control and now let the children decorate their cakes with an assortment of sprinkles, Smarties, gummi bears and whatever else takes their fancy.

We also like to browse the cake decorating aisle of the supermarket where the kids will choose some sugar decorations for the cake.

Birthday Cake Recipe

If you need to feed a lot of people, especially a lot of young children, sometimes a large single layer cake is more practical.

For such occasions, I recommend my Easy Chocolate Cake recipe which is the same as below, but baked in one large cake pan instead of two.

slice of sour cream chocolate cake on stack of plates

Chocolate Cake Recipe

This recipe for Sour-Cream Chocolate Cake comes from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson. I am quite sure that this recipe was the precursor to the Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake in Nigella Lawson’s later book, Feast; both recipes are quite similar in terms of ingredients, although the latter boasts a speedier method using the food processor.

I’m a big fan of the Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake (which I made here for a birthday party for a friend’s daughter), but I make this Sour-Cream Chocolate Cake just as frequently and, for some inexplicable reason, I seem to prefer it.

How to Make Chocolate Cake

Step 1

Making a chocolate cake from scratch is so easy once you understand the basics of making a cake.

First, prepare the wet ingredients by whisking together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla extract.

white bowl with sour cream and metal whisk

Step 2

Next, measure all of the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt) into the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Add the softened butter.

Using the flat paddle attachment, beat everything together until the mixture resembles (chocolately) wet sand.

white mixing bowl with dry ingredients for cake batter

Step 3

With the electric stand mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients. Beat until everything is incorporated and you have a thick and smooth chocolate batter.

chocolate cake batter in large white mixing bowl

Step 4

Pour the batter into two cake pans which have been lined with baking paper on the bottom, and greased with butter on the sides.

Bake the cakes for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool completely on a wire rack.

chocolate cake batter in cake pans

Step 5

To frost the cake, cut out four thick strips of baking paper and place them on a large cake tray or cake stand. Place one cake on top of the strips of baking paper.

Spread about one third of the chocolate sour cream frosting over the cake.

Place the second cake on top, and top with another third of the frosting. Spread the frosting evenly, and cover the sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

chocolate frosting on chocolate cake on metal tray

More Chocolate Cake Recipes

Here are some more chocolate cake recipes you might enjoy:

Easy Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Coconut Cake

Chocolate Pound Cake

Marble Cake

Queen of Sheba Cake (Reine de Saba)

Salted Butter Chocolate Cake

Sunken Chocolate Amaretto Cake

Ultimate Chocolate Cake

sour cream chocolate cake on plate with a slice on smaller plate with vintage forks

Sour-Cream Chocolate Cake

5 from 6 reviews

This Sour Cream Chocolate Cake is the only chocolate cake recipe you will ever need for birthdays and celebrations.

  • Author:
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 10-12
  • Category: Cakes
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: International


For the chocolate cake

For the sour cream chocolate frosting


For the chocolate cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) (without fan).
  2. Line and grease 2 x 20cm (8 inch) round cake pans.
  3. In a small bowl or jug, lightly whisk together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla extract.
  4. Place the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and butter into the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the flat paddle attachment.
  5. Beat on low speed until the butter is incorporated into the dry ingredients. The mixture should resemble crumbly, wet sand.
  6. Slowly add the egg mixture and beat until the batter is thoroughly mixed.
  7. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans.
  8. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  9. Place the cake pans on a wire rack and let the cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, before turning them onto the wire rack to cool completely.
  10. I often make the cakes the night before serving and leave them to cool overnight.

For the sour cream chocolate frosting

  1. To make the frosting, melt the chocolate and butter in a bain-marie or a bowl over a pan of simmering water, taking care not to let the bowl come into contact with the water.
  2. Once the chocolate has melted, take the bowl off the heat.
  3. Stir in the sour cream, vanilla extract and golden syrup.
  4. Measure the icing sugar (powdered sugar) into the bowl of an electric stand mixer.
  5. Using the flat paddle attachment, slowly beat the chocolate mixture into the icing sugar (powdered sugar).
  6. The frosting should be thick enough to cover the cake, but soft enough to spread easily.

To assemble the cake

  1. Cut four thick strips of baking paper and place them on a large plate or cake stand in the shape of a square. The baking paper is to help keep the serving plate clean while you are frosting the cake.
  2. Place one cake on top of the baking paper.
  3. Spread about 1/3 of the frosting over the cake in a thick layer.
  4. Place the second cake on top and spread another 1/3 of frosting over the cake.
  5. Use the remaining frosting to cover the sides of the cake.
  6. Once you have finished frosting the cake, carefully remove the pieces of baking paper.
  7. Leave the cake to set for at least 1 hour before serving.

Kitchen Notes

As this is one of my go-to recipes for birthday cakes, I thought it would be helpful to also provide baking times when using different sized cake pans.

12 cm (5 inch) round cake pan
Fill the pan with batter to about 2 cm from the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

16 cm (6 inch) round cake pan
Fill the pan with batter to about 2 cm from the top. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

23 cm (9 inch) round cake pan
The above recipe can be used to fill one cake pan of this size. To make a double-layer cake, double the above recipe and use two pans of this size. Fill the pan with batter to about 2 cm from the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

26 cm (10 inch) round cake pan
The above recipe can be used to fill one cake pan of this size. To make a double-layer cake, double the above recipe and use two pans of this size. Fill the pan with batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

The nutritional information is higher than it should be because not all of the frosting is required to ice this cake.

The cake keeps well for several days on a covered cake stand.

If you don’t have an electric stand mixer or electric beaters, or if you want to make this cake using a quicker method, simply place all of the ingredients for the cake into the bowl of a large food processor and blitz until you have a thick and smooth cake batter. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe.

The cakes can be baked the night before serving, but the frosting should be made at the last minute.

This recipe is adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson.

All recipes on this website state temperatures for a regular oven (i.e. a conventional oven without fan). If you have a convection oven with a fan, please consult the manufacturer’s handbook on how to adjust the temperature and baking time accordingly.

To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.


  • Serving Size: 12
  • Calories: 529
  • Sugar: 43.5g
  • Sodium: 312.1mg
  • Fat: 30.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 61.1g
  • Fiber: 2.3g
  • Protein: 5.6g
  • Cholesterol: 94.8mg

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment below and share your photos by tagging @eatlittlebird on Instagram and using #eatlittlebird

sour cream chocolate cake


This recipe was first published on 23 November 2015. It has been updated with new photos and more comprehensive recipe notes.


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  1. This cake looks just perfect! I want a thick slice with my 11.00am mug of coffee!

    Happy Birthday to your little man!

    • Eat, Little Bird 27 November 2015

      Thanks, Angela! I’m getting ready to make three birthday cakes this weekend … my little guy is pretty excited about the big day! 🙂

  2. Louise | Cygnet Kitchen 12 December 2015

    You had me at ‘chocolate’! I bet this cakes tastes as good as it looks. Happy Belated Birthday to your son, I hope he had a wonderful day! x

    • Eat, Little Bird 13 December 2015

      Oh thank you! My son is still celebrating 🙂 It’s so cute when he sings Happy Birthday to himself that I can’t quite tell him yet that he needs to wait another year 😉

  3. James 22 July 2016

    I couldn’t get this recipe to work, seems like too much dry ingredients compared to wet.

    • Eat, Little Bird 22 July 2016

      Hi James, sorry to hear that this recipe didn’t work for you. This recipe produces quite a thick batter, but it should still produce a nice, moist cake. Did you use an electric stand mixer or did you do everything by hand? If the latter, my guess is that it would be a bit difficult to mix the butter into the dry ingredients by hand, and maybe that’s why the cake didn’t work out?

      If making this cake by hand, I would start by creaming (with a bowl and wooden spoon) the butter and sugar together until it is light creamy, and then adding the rest of the dry ingredients, followed by the wet ingredients. I hope this helps.

  4. Alex 17 January 2017

    Ah, what a beauty! Put sour cream in or on anything and it is sure to be a hit 🙂

  5. Julie 19 February 2017

    Have made this before and perfect.
    This time however my chocolate topping was too runny.
    Can you help?

    • Eat, Little Bird 19 February 2017

      Hi Julie,
      If the icing is too runny, you can always try to “thicken” it with some more icing sugar. Just try adding a tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you want. Sometimes, the type of icing sugar makes a difference, i.e. if the icing sugar is too fine, you generally need more icing sugar than normal. Hope this helps!

  6. Many manyyy Thanks!!! for offering this very simple and amazing recipe. It is too simple to understand by Everyone. Again Thankyou so much!!!!

  7. Jess 20 June 2017

    This is the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made. Thank you xx it was hard to share.
    mixture was a bit dry and hard to work so I added a dash of milk before spreading into the pans.

    • Eat, Little Bird 28 July 2017

      Hi Jess,
      Many thanks for your feedback! I’m glad you enjoyed this recipe, and I agree that it is “the best” chocolate cake 🙂 Sounds like you are an experienced baker, as a dash of milk would definitely make the batter easier to work with if it feels a bit too dry or thick. Ingredients work differently in different climates and in different kitchens, so thanks for sharing your tip!

  8. Alma Romero 15 August 2017

    Hi, the cake looks delicious, I have a question, for the buttercream can I substitute the chocolates for Nutella? Than you!

    • Eat, Little Bird 16 August 2017

      I’ve never tried to make the frosting with Nutella but you could certainly try and I think it would be pretty well 🙂 You may not need the same quantity of Nutella. Please let me know if you try it!

  9. Teri Sutton 24 August 2017

    Has anyone tried to freeze this recipe? I’ve made lots of times fresh but would like to be able to freeze it.

    • Eat, Little Bird 26 August 2017

      I’ve never tried freezing this recipe, sorry. Our freezer can barely fit a tub of ice-cream 😉 But from what I’ve read elsewhere, others have had much success in freezing the un-iced sponge cakes.

  10. Mamabakes 9 October 2017

    How about if i make it as a cupcake?what is the temperature and how many minutes?

    • Eat, Little Bird 9 October 2017

      I haven’t tried using this recipe for cupcakes yet, although the thought has crossed my mind several times. Hopefully someone else will be able to answer your questions.

  11. Julia 13 April 2018

    mmm…this CHOCOLATE CAKE looks delicious!!! I️ just drooled!!!

  12. HL Vietnam 27 April 2018

    This is amazing! I tried this for my brothers birthday and it’s a winner. I’m a chocolate person so my eyes was instantly drawn to this recipe, the sour cream was a plus factor. The taste just blends so well together!

    • Eat, Little Bird 6 May 2018

      Wonderful! I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed this recipe. It is the ONLY chocolate cake I make for birthdays and parties – everyone always loves it and I’m glad you enjoyed it too!

  13. Mink 19 July 2018

    Hi, Made the cake today, I’ve got nice crumb, moist, the only thing is I don’t get the same color of cake as yours. Very light in chocolate. Overall it’s a nice cake! Thank you.

    • Eat, Little Bird 24 August 2018

      I’m glad that you enjoyed the cake! What type of chocolate did you use? I use chocolate with 70% cocoa content (Lindt brand usually), and I find that this and dark chocolate in general gives a nice, rich brown colour to cakes and chocolate frosting. If you used chocolate with less cocoa content, this might affect the colour of the cake. The type of cocoa powder you use can also make a difference. But what is most important is that the cake tastes good 🙂

  14. Stella 1 September 2018

    I followed the recipe but it turned out SUPER SUPER dry. What happened?

    • Eat, Little Bird 1 September 2018

      Hi Stella,
      Did you use the fan on your oven? My recipes are for oven temperatures without fan, so using a fan could make a difference. Also, all ovens are different so you might have to adjust for a few minutes either side of the recommended baking time. Sorry that the cakes turned out dry!

  15. Madeleine 14 October 2018

    I made this cake for my daughter’s birthday this weekend and it turned out absolutely perfect! The cake was nice and moist and everyone just loved it. I’ve never received so many requests for a recipe before! For the frosting, I used slightly more milk chocolate as we were mostly feeding kids. Next time, I will definitely make a larger size!

    • Eat, Little Bird 15 October 2018

      That’s wonderful to hear! So glad that everyone enjoyed this recipe. I always look forward to making this cake 🙂

  16. Meghan 16 October 2018

    Excellent recipe! Made this for my co-worker’s birthday at the office and everyone loved it. There was a bit of leftover frosting but it was so delicious.