Once you make this chocolate cake recipe, I suspect you’ll never be able to go back to any other chocolate cake recipe. The moist texture is unbeatable, and it has a deliciously rich chocolate flavor. What's more, it comes together in just two bowls (no mixer required!). If you're new to baking my Amycakes Bakery recipes, this chocolate cake bakery recipe is a great place to start.
About the secret bakery ingredient in this recipe
This bakery recipe uses Instant ClearJel, a type of cornstarch that serves as both a thickener and a binder. It’s tasteless and has no artificial ingredients. You can also use Instant Pudding mix (when it's listed in the recipe), which contains Instant Clearjel as the second ingredient!
It’s often used by professional bakers because it produces a smoother and glossier consistency than cornstarch, tapioca, or other starches. Even better, it enhances moisture and texture in cakes and thickens and stabilizes frostings. Here are a few brands I recommend:
Although it's not often available in grocery stores, it's sold in a variety of online stores--just make sure whatever you purchase is labeled as INSTANT (cooktype and original clearjel will not work the same). It's also frequently found in Amish Markets. (Learn more about Instant Clearjel in Baking→)
The best part about Mix and Match cakes is that you can get creative with your favorite flavors to make a dessert like no other. For example, how about a moist chocolate cake with Chocolate Ganache Filling and Peanut Butter Buttercream? Or alternate Vanilla Almond cake layers with this chocolate cake and creamy Vanilla Buttercream (We called that yummy combo our Zebra cake at Amycakes). The sky's really the limit when it comes to layers, fillings, and frostings. I can't wait to see what you create!
Thanks for Reading. ❤️
Moist Chocolate Cake: a Mix and Match Bakery Recipe
- 170 grams (1 ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp) All-Purpose Flour (I use Gold Medal)
- 1 ½ teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- ¾ teaspoon Salt
- 2 tablespoon instant clearjel (A food starch used in commercial baking that enhances moisture and texture in cakes. Please make sure it is labeled as "INSTANT." See Note #1)
- 26 grams (¼ cup) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (I use Hershey's)
- 100 grams (½ cup) Sugar
- 113 grams (½ cup) packed Brown Sugar
- 2 large Eggs
- ¾ cup Buttermilk
- ¼ cup brewed Coffee
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
- 3 tablespoon Dark Corn Syrup (or use light corn syrup)
- 1 ½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Chocolate Butter Mixture
- ¾ stick (3 oz) Salted Butter
- 43 grams (¼ cup) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (I use Nestle)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 1" tall ¼ sheet pan with parchment paper, then spray the bottom (on top of the parchment) and sides of the pan with cooking spray. Or choose a different cake pan(s) using the chart in my post about Half-Batches and Cake Pans.
- Using a sifter or fine mesh strainer, sift the first seven Dry Ingredients into a large bowl, then add brown sugar. Whisk until well blended. If you see any large brown sugar clumps, break them up and blend them in with your fingers.
- Combine Wet Ingredients in a separate large bowl and whisk until smooth and well-blended.
- Melt salted butter in the microwave (or over the stove) until just melted. Avoid overcooking. Add semi-sweet chocolate chips and whisk until melted and smooth (Whisk for 30 seconds to 1 minute--the heat from the melted butter plus the whisking will melt the chips).
- Pour Wet Ingredients into Dry Ingredients and whisk until incorporated. Pour Chocolate Butter Mixture over batter and whisk until smooth and lump-free. (A few teeny brown sugar lumps are ok and will dissolve as it bakes).
- Pour batter into the prepared ½ sheet pan and smooth out batter until even (an offset icing spatula works well for this). The batter will be about ¼ inch from the top of a 1" tall sheet pan.
- Allow pan to set for 5-10 minutes before putting it in the oven. This will give time for the instant clearjel (or instant pudding mix) to thicken the cake batter before it bakes, allowing for a better rise.
- Bake in the middle or top rack (avoid bottom rack) of a preheated 325-degree oven for 16 minutes. Without opening the oven, turn the temperature down to 300 degrees and bake for another 8-10 minutes. Check the cake at this point. See if it is done by lightly touching the top of the cake--try to avoid moving the cake pan or baking rack, which could cause an underdone cake to sink. If jiggly at all to your touch, bake for another 1-5 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick or small paring knife comes out clean when quickly stuck in the cake. A few moist crumbs on your knife are fine, but they shouldn't look wet.
- Allow cake to cool completely. To make a sheet cake, follow the Baker's Shortcut (Note #4), or choose your round cake size using the Cut and Stack method (Note #2). Leave the cake in the sheet pan, and using a slight sawing motion, cut the cooled cake into your desired cake size with cake rings (You can use a knife and the cake rings as a guide for any halve pieces that you cut.) Brush lightly with simple syrup (optional, Note #3).
- Wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap and freeze cake in the pan for 2 hours or overnight. (You can even bake the cake up to a week ahead of time and freeze). The cake will be much easier to layer if it is cold or frozen. To wrap the cake, place another sheet of parchment on top of the cake (this will prevent the plastic wrap from sticking to the cake), and wrap the whole pan with plastic wrap. (I pull the plastic wrap out and place the pan on top of it. Then I wrap 2-3 ways horizontally and one way vertically so that there are two layers of wrap on all sides of the pan including the bottom).
3 tsp= 1 Tbsp
- Read my article Instant Clearjel: a Magical Little-Known Bakery Ingredient to see why I think this ingredient is worth having in your pantry. Instant Clearjel must always be whisked thoroughly with other dry ingredients before being added to wet ingredients to avoid clumping. I have tested this recipe with the following Instant Clearjel brands: Hoosier Hill Farm, Prepared Pantry, and Ingredion. Make sure what you purchase is labeled as “Instant.” Cooktyle Clearjel is a different product that does not work the same in cakes.
- When baking cakes in a sheet pan, the cake bakes more evenly (flatter on top and with no dark edges), and you get to choose your cake size after baking by cutting the cake out with cake rings. Read more on how to bake and layer cakes this way in How to Bake and Layer Cakes Like a Pro: 5 Easy Steps.
- Simple Syrup is optional, but I use it to seal in the moisture for cakes that will be refrigerated or frozen. While the cake cools, make a simple syrup by combining 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until the sugar is dissolved after whisking, about 20-30 seconds. You can also make a larger batch of this (1 part sugar to 1 part water) and keep it in the fridge if you’re doing a lot of cake baking. Always cut the cake with cake rings before brushing the cake brush simple syrup, to avoid the cake being too sticky when cut.
Amy, can you leave the coffee out of the cake? I really don't like coffee flavor and can always tell when it's added to chocolate cake.
Hi Cindy! You can replace the coffee with water. 🙂
hi Amy what size of a sheet pan for this recipe do I use.
A 1x batch uses a 1/4 sheet pan and a 2x batch uses a 1/2 sheet pan. The pans I use are linked under the "equipment section" in the recipe card! 🙂
Elizabeth C. says
Hi Amy! Just wanted to start off by saying this is the first of your recipes I have ever made - even got the instant clear gel off Amazon so that I could follow your recipe exactly (and as a side note, I LOVE your use of it and appreciate your science behind it!). My Mom always told me to add vanilla pudding mix to vanilla box cake mixes, so I knew you were on to something! Now for the cake - holy mother of God! This cake is my definition of a perfect cake! I love a moist cake that is dense but not in a dry way, dense in like the crumbs want to hold together kind of way and can stand alone from the frosting and still be out of this world moist. Ha - I really love this cake! I am an Instant Cleargel convert. I do want to tell you though, and please don’t take offense because I truly don’t mean for it to be, I used your 1X conversion from a sheet pan to 4 6” round pans (I’m a home baker and just don’t have access to a sheet pan and cake round cutters) and in my opinion, for what it is worth, I think it may benefit to only distribute between 3 6” pans. I have not tried it… yet! But I think sizing down to 3 pans instead of the 4 pans would be beneficial because the cake is SO moist and tender and if you don’t handle with extreme care when flipping out of the rounds, it is prone to breaking and I think that if maybe there was more structure it may happen less. I could be wrong though, so please take it for what it is worth!! I don’t think this would be an issue if you replicated your process of freezing it in the pan as you do in your sheet pan (sadly my freezer isn’t even large enough to fit a sheet pan :(). But regardless of my equipment issue, this is a superior 5 star recipe and I will continue to use it and recommend it to anyone! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe online! And if you want to send me a rage email, I would completely understand! I am looking forward to trying your other recipes! Again, thanks so much for sharing!!
Hi Elizabeth, thanks so much for your comment! It's always helpful to hear what works best for other people (and so glad you loved the chocolate cake recipe)! I like to do four pans because they bake more quickly and more evenly, but I have heard from a few others that they also prefer three rounds instead of four! So I think theat's great! I still freeze my round pans containing the cake and frost them from frozen, which is a lot easier to layer (though getting frozen cake out of round pans is a lot harder than with the cut and stack method. I've found dipping the bottom of the cake pan in a larger pan of hot water helps, until the sides of the cake will thaw/ unstick and I can flip it out of the pan). If you have better luck with the 3 pans, let me know! 🙂
Hello Amy! This recipe sounds amazing. I would like to make it this weekend but I’m having trouble finding instant clearjel. For vanilla cupcake recipe I used instant vanilla pudding. Is that possible here or is there a substitute? Thank you.
Thanks, Cassie! You can use chocolate instant pudding--the same amount that's in my Chocolate Ganache Cake (which is the same chocolate cake base, it just has ganache filling). It's 3 Tablespoons chocolate instant pudding mix in place of the ICJ in a 1x batch. I hope that helps!
I always loved your cakes and cupcakes and am so excited that you are sharing your recipes! For the moist chocolate cake recipe, should I use full fat or low fat buttercream? Should the cocoa powder be natural or dutch-processed, or does it not matter for the recipe? Thank you for the help!
Hi Sarah! I'm glad you'll be trying the recipe! I have only made this with low-fat buttermilk as it is easier to find (I use braums buttermilk) but I would think you can use full fat as well! I recommend natural unsweetened cocoa powder--I use Hershey's. 🙂 I hope you enjoy the recipe!