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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4.62 from 21 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
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  • 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, see note)
  • 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.

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If measuring the flour by volume use the “dip & sweep” method. That is, dip the measuring cup into the flour bin, overfill it, then sweep away the excess.
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!

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  1. 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)


    1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. Hello,

    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!


    1. 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.

  5. 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!

    1. 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.

  6. If this is the chocolate version of your velvety white cake I’m super excited!! Thank you in advance. Will report back 🙂

    1. It is, sort of. It’s a chocolate version on my Vanilla Butter Cake and the Velvety White Cake recipe was a version of that.

  7. I have a question before making your chocolate cake. I notice on the cake photo of the layers that there is a dark line running through top and bottom layer–is that from the simple syrup? The reason I ask as I once made a chocolate cake recipe that had a thin under baked section and as a result couldn’t use it. Perhaps it wasn’t baked long enough. Your recipe sounds delicious and your white and vanilla cakes are outstanding!

    1. I couldn’t say for sure since it’s been quite some time since I took those photos. I’m guessing the line at the top is from the syrup. The one at the bottom could be too since I’m kind of messy with the syrup and the bottom layer sits on the cake board. I do know that the cake tasted great. I’ve made this recipe, literally, thousands of times for my cake business and it’s pretty reliable. Make sure you thoroughly scrape the bowl between steps of the mixing process and that your butter, eggs and sour cream are at room temperature. If you notice in the recipe the instruction to scrape the bowl is repeated several times. This is an important step for an evenly mixed batter. If you have sections of batter that aren’t mixed completely, you can get dense spots.

  8. I never take the time to review a recipe whether is top notch or not. I am today as your white cake and vanilla are the best I have ever made. This is now my go to recipes. I do some cake decorating as a side business so I am getting really good responses to your recipes. I just got on line to see if you had a good chocolate recipe and found your Chocolate Butter Cake recipe which I will try. I am wondering if I could do this recipe in three 7″ pans or four 6″ pans? If so, how much filling in each pan? Also what time adjustment do you think I need to make?
    Looking forward to this recipe!

    1. You can bake this batter in any size pan. Whatever the size, fill the pan 1/2-2/3 full. Of course the time will be shorter for smaller pans and also will depend how much you fill the pan.

  9. I want to add espresso to this recipe to enhance the chocolate flavor. How can I change the recipe to accomplish this?

    1. I would melt instant espresso powder in a little hot water and add it to the sour cream/egg mixture.

    2. @Eileen Gray, If using espresso powder as the commenter above mentioned, how much can be added so that it brings out the chocolate but does not taste like coffee? Also, can it be used as a substitution for the rum or is there something else I could replace the rum with? Thank you.

  10. Hi, Eileen.
    Thank you so much for sharing your recipes. I’ve tried your Lime Layered Cheesecake and I must tell you it is heavenly! Not only that, it came out looking exactly as you said it would, so it looked very professional. I wanted to have a go at your Chocolate Butter Cake but I have a question. You say we should bake the batter in two pans but then you talk about 4 layers (and the picture shows four layers of chocolate cake). Are we supposed to cut each cake batter in two?
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Liz. I bake the Chocolate Butter Cake in two pans, then split each cake horizontally to make 4 layers. But you can just make two layers if you prefer. I like four layers for more even distribution of the cake & buttercream. You can visit the Vanilla Layer Cake post to see how I split the layers and build the cake.

  11. Hello,

    Do you know approximately how many cups of batter this makes? I’m tying to decide if a double recipe would fit in my standard kitchenaid. Thanks!