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, plus tips for making chocolate cupcakes.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Print
Sour-Cream Chocolate Cake
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: Serves 10-12
- Category: Cakes
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: International
This Sour Cream Chocolate Cake is the only chocolate cake recipe you will ever need for birthdays and celebrations.
For the chocolate cake
- 200 g (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 200 g (1 cup) caster sugar (superfine sugar)
- 200 g (1 1/3 cups) plain flour (all-purpose flour)
- 40 g (1/3 cup) cocoa powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 150 ml or 170 g (2/3 cup) sour cream or crème fraîche
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
For the chocolate frosting
- 80 g (3 oz) milk chocolate (e.g. 42% cocoa, semi-sweet chocolate)
- 80 g (3 oz) dark chocolate (e.g. 70% cocoa, bittersweet chocolate)
- 75 g (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 125 ml or 150 g (1/2 cup) sour cream or crème fraîche
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 1 teaspoon golden syrup
- 300 g (2 1/4 cups) icing sugar (powdered sugar), sifted
For the chocolate cake
Make sure all of the ingredients are at room temperature before starting.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) (without fan).
- Line the bottom of 2 x 20cm (8 inch) round cake pans with baking paper and grease the sides with butter.
- Place all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture is well-combined. The batter should be thick and smooth.
- Alternatively, if you do not have a food processor:
- Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the flat paddle attachment.
- Slowly beat in the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Beat on low speed until all of the ingredients are incorporated.
- In a small bowl or jug, lightly whisk together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla.
- Slowly add the wet ingredients to the mixer, and beat until the batter is thoroughly mixed.
- Pour the batter evenly into both prepared cake pans. I generally find that the weighed batter for each cake is approximately 430 g.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Place the cake pans on a wire rack and let the cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely. I like to cool the cakes with the bottom facing up, so that the top of the cakes can flatten as they cool.
- I often make the cakes the night before serving and leave them to cool overnight.
For the sour cream chocolate 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. If you have an induction stove, you can melt the chocolate and butter directly in a saucepan over low heat.
- Once the chocolate has melted, take the bowl off the heat and let it cool slightly.
- Stir in the sour cream, vanilla extract and golden syrup.
- Measure the icing sugar (powdered sugar) into the bowl of an electric stand mixer.
- Using the flat paddle attachment, slowly beat the chocolate mixture into the icing sugar (powdered sugar).
- Beat on medium speed until all of the ingredients are well incorporated.
- The frosting should be thick enough to cover the cake, but soft enough to spread easily.
To assemble the cake
- 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.
- Place one cake on top of the baking paper.
- Spread about 1/3 of the frosting over the cake in a thick layer.
- Place the second cake on top and spread another 1/3 of frosting over the cake.
- Use the remaining frosting to cover the sides of the cake.
- Once you have finished frosting the cake, carefully remove the pieces of baking paper.
- Leave the cake to set for at least 1 hour before serving.
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.
The cakes can be baked the night before serving, but the frosting should be made at the last minute.
OVEN & STOVE TEMPERATURES
All recipes on this website have been tested on an induction stove and/or with a conventional oven (i.e. an oven without fan). All recipes on this website state temperatures for a conventional oven, unless otherwise mentioned. If you have a convection oven (i.e. an 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
This recipe was first published on 23 November 2015. It has been updated with new photos and more comprehensive recipe notes.