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Chocolate Butter Cake with Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream

Look at those perfectly tender and buttery chocolate cake layers. This cake is super soft, yet strong enough for sculpted or wedding cakes. A little rum syrup and Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream are the perfect partners for this dark chocolate cake.

chocolate butter cake

How about we make a perfect chocolate layer cake? This is my go-to Chocolate Butter Cake filled and iced with Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream. This was the standard chocolate cake that I made for 10 years in my cake business.

The gorgeous dark chocolate color on this cake comes from the Dutch process cocoa powder. I love the super-fine texture and deep, dark color of this cocoa.

For years, this brand was only available in restaurant supply stores, but you can buy Cocao Barry Extra Brute on-line. (*Disclaimer, I earn commission for affiliate sales but I truly use and love this brand).  It’s the only cocoa I use.

So what is “Dutched” cocoa anyway?

chocolate butter cake

Cocoa beans are naturally on the acidic side of the pH scale. Cocoa that is not treated, often labeled “natural” or simply “cocoa”, is naturally acidic and has an acidic, fruity and slightly bitter flavor.

Dutched cocoa powder has been alkalized to neutralize the acid in the cocoa. Dutched cocoa has a deeper, darker color than natural cocoa and has a lighter, less astringent flavor. I like the gorgeous dark color and fudgy flavor of a cake baked with Dutched cocoa powder.

This recipe is basically a version of my Vanilla Butter Cake. I replaced 1/4 of the flour with cocoa powder, but otherwise it’s the same recipe. You can turn any cake recipe into a chocolate cake by replacing part of the flour with cocoa.

Like flour, cocoa has starches that will absorb water. Cocoa also has some protein, but not gluten. So you can’t replace all the flour with cocoa or you won’t have enough structure in the cake. I generally replace 1/4 of the total flour for a big chocolate flavor without compromising the structure of the cake.

Even though I used Dutch cocoa powder, which is not acidic, I kept the baking soda in the recipe. The baking soda is there to neutralize the acid in the sour cream and also deepens the chocolate color even more.

chocolate butter cake
chocolate butter cake
chocolate butter cake

Because we can never have too many chocolate cake recipes, here are a few other recipes you might want to try: Chocolate Genoise, Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Angel Food Cake, Black Forest Cake, German Chocolate Cake and Sacher Torte.

You might also want to try my Vanilla Butter Cake recipe. If you don’t want to choose between vanilla and chocolate why not make Marble Cake?

If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.

chocolate butter cake
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4.58 from 19 reviews

Chocolate Butter Cake

Perfectly tender and buttery chocolate cake layers. This cake is super soft, yet strong enough for sculpted or wedding cakes. Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream is the perfect icing for on this cake.
Prep Time30 minutes
Bake Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour
16 servings


  • 6 large egg yolks (room temperature)
  • 8 oz sour cream (room temperature, divided in 1/2)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 12 oz granulated sugar (1 ½ cups, cup separated)
  • 6 ¾ oz cake flour (1 ½ cups)
  • 2 oz Dutch process cocoa powder (½ cup)
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 9 oz unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 3 large egg whites (room temperature)

Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream


  • Preheat the oven to 350 °F regular. Line two 8"x3" round cake pans with a circle of parchment paper round or butter and flour the bottoms of the pans only, not the sides.
  • Combine 6 large egg yolks, ½ cup of the sour cream and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract in a small bowl, whisk to combine
  • Set aside ¼ cup of the sugar. Into a mixer bowl put the remaining sugar, sift in 6 ¾ oz cake flour, 2 oz Dutch process cocoa powder, ¾ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda and ¾ teaspoon salt. Mix on low speed to distribute the leavening. Add 9 oz unsalted butter to the flour mixture. Mix on low until the butter is incorporated and the batter looks like a paste. Add the other ½ of the sour cream to the flour and butter mixture. Increase the speed to medium and mix about 3 minutes until the batter lightens in texture.
  • Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixer on low, add ½ the egg yolk mixture, mix to incorporate. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the rest of the egg yolk mixture. Scrape the bowl and mix until incorporated. Set the batter aside.
  • Whip 3 large egg whites on medium high until they form soft peaks. Turn the mixer to medium low and slowly add the reserved ¼ cup of sugar. Turn the mixer to medium high and whip the whites to full peak. Fold the whites into the batter in 2 parts, folding just until there are no streaks of egg whites.
  • Divide the batter between the 2 pans and spread to level. Bake about 25-30 minutes until the center of the cake springs back when lightly pressed or a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
  • Cool 10 minutes in the pan and then turn out onto a cooling rack. When fully cooled, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 3 hours or over night before assembling.


  • Make 1 recipe Italian Meringue Buttercream according to the recipe. When the buttercream is done, add 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (melted) and whisk until combined (see note). Add1 tablespoon dark rum (optional).
  • Divide the buttercream in 1/2, reserve one 1/2 for icing the cake, use the remaining for filling.
  • Place the bottom layer on your serving platter. Brush the layer generously with rum syrup. Place ⅓ of the filling buttercream on the layer and spread it evenly to the edges. Repeat with the next three layers. Ice the sides and top of the cake with the reserved buttercream
  • Serve at room temperature.


My Book
Kitchen Scale
KA Stand Mixer
Round Cake Pan, 8 x 3-Inch
Parchment Sheets

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When you add the chocolate to the buttercream, make sure both the buttercream and chocolate are room temperature. If you add the chocolate to cold buttercream the chocolate will solidify and form lumps. Also if the chocolate is very cold the same thing might happen.


Serving: 1slice | Calories: 403kcal | Carbohydrates: 52g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 116mg | Sodium: 179mg | Potassium: 159mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 40g | Vitamin A: 588IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 52mg | Iron: 2mg
Have you tried this recipe?Mention @eileen.bakingsense or tag #bakingsense!
Recipe Rating


Tuesday 13th of December 2022

Hi, I’m planning to make a chocolate layer cake, I have a whipped cream frosting recipe which I plan to use, but for the cake, I’m choosing between this recipe, your chocolate chiffon cake, and your chocolate genoise. Can you tell me the differences in texture and flavour between those three cakes and perhaps recommend one? (I tend to like super tender and dark chocolate cakes)



Wednesday 14th of December 2022

@Eileen Gray, I think I will use this butter cake recipe, thanks for the recommendations!

Eileen Gray

Wednesday 14th of December 2022

The Genoise is very light and spongy and needs syrup for another layer of moisture. The Chiffon cake is very soft, tender, moist and light. The Chocolate Butter cake is soft and tender and richer in flavor and texture than the other two cakes. Either the chiffon or butter cake would be tender. The chiffon is lighter and the butter cake is richer and more melt in your mouth (thanks to the butter). I think either the chiffon or butter cake would work with whipped cream filling.


Sunday 27th of November 2022

Hi Eileen, for a more chocolaty flavor, can I add more than 4oz of chocolate? Is there a maximum amount of chocolate I can add to the SMBC? Thank you in advance.

Eileen Gray

Sunday 27th of November 2022

I have tried adding cocoa melted in boiling water, but found that gives the buttercream a curdled texture. What type of chocolate did you use? You'll get more chocolate flavor with a higher percent chocolate. Higher percent means more cocoa solids and less sugar. For example, 72% chocolate is less sweet and more chocolatey than 60% chocolate. You could even try using unsweetened chocolate. If you want a super chocolatey frosting a better option than IMB would be whipped ganache. Allow the ganache to cool until it's soft but no longer warm, then whip it until it's light and airy. You'll need to use it right away to ice the cake.


Thursday 18th of August 2022

Would Wincrest Black Cocoa powder work instead of using the Cocao Barry Extra Brute? I already have the Wincrest so I just wanted to find out before I purchased the one you recommended. Thanks.


Friday 19th of August 2022

@Eileen Gray, Thank you. I will just use your recommendation.

Eileen Gray

Friday 19th of August 2022

I'm not sure. I've never used that brand. I don't think black cocoa powder is the same as extra brute. Any good cocoa should work though. I've made the cake with regular Hershey's cocoa with good results.


Sunday 27th of March 2022


I would like to use this to make cupcakes. Would it work to add the simple syrup to the top of the cupcakes or just skip it? It is for my teen's birthday. I also noticed your old-fashioned chocolate would that be better for cupcakes?

We have loved your coconut, chocolate chip cake, lemon curd and chocolate chip ice cream. We have loved all of your recipes thank you for sharing!



Monday 28th of March 2022

Thank you!

Eileen Gray

Sunday 27th of March 2022

Yes, this recipe could be made as cupcakes. You can brush the cupcakes with syrup or just skip the syrup. The old fashioned chocolate cake could also be baked as cupcakes. Either would work.

Daryl Hyde

Thursday 4th of February 2021

I really hate to ask this, as I feel I may be threatening the heart of the recipe: can you use regular hershey cocoa and can you replace the dark rum with regular run-of-the-mill rum? Apologies for the offense this question likely causes. I already have those ingredients, and would like to make it tonight!

Eileen Gray

Thursday 4th of February 2021

Absolutely you can make those substitutions. You might see that the cake is not quite as dark in color, but it will still be tasty. Any rum will help bring out the chocolate flavor.