Black Cocoa Cake

The best black cocoa cake I’ve ever made. I frosted it with a mascarpone whipped cream (also an espresso version) and topped with a dusting of cocoa powder. The cake has options for different size pans and layers and can also be made as cupcakes. 

I’m usually excited to share most recipes with you guys. I don’t usually make or post things I’m not excited about lol but I think this is the most excited I’ve been to post a recipe.

I’ve tested SO MANY chocolate cakes over the last 6 years. I’ve shared a handful – my 6 inch chocolate cake is really good but texturally it doesn’t go with all types of creams – it’s just not quite as versatile as I wanted. 

I have another 6 inch version but I always felt like it could be a smidge better but whenever I tweaked it, it didn’t do it for me. I also don’t love this one when it’s baked in an 8 inch cake. 

So I have a different 8 inch chocolate cake, which is also really good but again I always felt like something was missing and I just didn’t know what. 

And then one day I got it. This chocolate cake is the ultimate chocolate cake. I’ll never use a different recipe again because it can easily be adjusted to make any size and bakes phenomenal as cupcakes. 

I usually avoided using black cocoa because I don’t know why I was under the impression that it wouldn’t taste as good as dutch-processed cocoa but boy was I wrong. I thought maybe it was just me but it’s not, my kids loved it, my picky-non-sweets-loving-husband loved this cake, all my friends and family loved it so I know you’re going to love it as well. 

Why I love this Black Cocoa Cake

  • It’s super quick and no-fuss to make. There’s no mixer required and it’s really just two main steps. 
  • The flavor is on point. I’ve had “not chocolatey enough”, “too chocolatey but not in a good way”, etc. I’ve tested like a thousand chocolate cake recipes over the last 6 years and although I have a few posted that I liked, I LOVED this one and I don’t think I’ll ever use another version again lol. 
  • The cake is so soft and fluffy that if you pair it with a cream that needs refrigeration, the cake doesn’t get all hard and not good. But it’s also good at room temperature and it’s really not that sweet so it’s super versatile. 

Honestly, you could use this cake in any way. I have the adjustments for different sizes below but it would pair well with chocolate ganache, peanut butter frosting, marshmallow frosting, raspberry & chocolate, chocolate mousse, etc. 

Ingredients for Black Cocoa Cake

  • Flour: I use all purpose flour in most of my recipes BUT sometimes you just cannot beat the texture of cake flour. I highly recommend King Arthur’s Cake Flour. It is far superior to some alternatives in the grocery stores.
    • I have used the “homemade cake flour” trick by replacing 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour with cornstarch. 
    • I HIGHLY recommend using a digital scale, as flour is so often over measured. 
  • Cocoa Powder: I used black cocoa powder for this cake. If you can’t find that, I recommend using dutch-processed cocoa powder because it’s also alkaline.
    • If you’re going to use natural cocoa powder, it would be best to also substitute the baking powder for 1 1/2 tsp baking soda.
  • Baking Powder: to leaven the cake. I haven’t tested this with baking soda but it should work fine with about 1 1/2 tsp. 
  • Sugar: I used granulated sugar in the cake and I don’t recommend cutting any out as it contributes a lot to texture and it’s not overly sweet… it’s actually not very sweet at all (even though it seems like a lot).
    • I also used powdered sugar in the frosting and don’t recommend cutting any out. 
  • Oil: I like oil in chocolate cake recipes – any neutral oil, like avocado, canola, etc. is fine. 
  • Eggs: I use large eggs, make sure they’re room temperature. If not, then just place it in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes before using it.  
  • Sour Cream: I’ve used greek yogurt and sour cream in this recipe and they both work well. You can also use plain yogurt. 
  • Coffee: I use hot coffee in this recipe. I usually use Americanos but fresh brewed coffee is fine too. If you don’t want to use coffee, hot water will work as well, the flavor will just be a little less intense… The acid from the coffee also helps make it a little more tender and it’s not a noticeable coffee flavor so I do recommend the coffee.
    • I also used espresso in the mascarpone frosting. I did fresh brewed espresso but you could also just dissolve about 4 grams of espresso powder in 3-4 Tbsp of hot water and add that to the frosting instead. 
  • Vanilla: I like using vanilla extract for cakes and vanilla beans for frosting. Vanilla bean paste works for both as well. 
  • Mascarpone: I tested this with different brands of mascarpone, they all worked however, some of the mascarpone’s held a little more water than others. My favorite was BelGioioso Mascarpone but if you find something with an even higher fat content, use that. The cheese should be smooth and creamy (not wet and certainly not like cottage cheese or ricotta).
    • If you use another brand and you see water in it (usually at the bottom) , drain the cheese to avoid adding extra liquid to the cream but I recommend just finding a mascarpone with a thicker consistency.
    • Make sure the mascarpone is cold, straight from the fridge when using.
  • Heavy Whipping Cream: I recommend using the cream with the highest fat you can find and make sure it’s cold when adding it to the mascarpone.
    • When you do add it in, you’ll notice the frosting getting softer first, just keep beating at full speed for a few minutes and the cream will “whip up”, stiffening the frosting. Once it’s holding good peaks, stop beating so you don’t over-whip the cream. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

Black Cake

  1. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt until they’re evenly distributed.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the oil, sugar, eggs and sour cream until they’re well combined and smooth.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients over the wet and whisk just a little – about halfway. 
  4. Pour in the hot coffee and whisk until the batter is completely smooth.
  5. Scrape the edge of the bowl and give it a good mix. Pour into prepared cake tin(s). 
  6. Bake for 35ish minutes, until the tallest part of the cake, in the center, springs back when you press on it. If you’re hesitant, give it another minute or so.
  7. Let the cake rest for 10 minutes in the pan, then flip over onto a tea towel.
  8. Let the cake cool upside down for 30 minutes or so and then flip back over. 
  9. If it’s domed or if you want to add a soak (I did a double shot of espresso), trim the top off after it’s completely cooled and then drizzle the coffee on top. 

Mascarpone Frosting

  1. Beat together the cold mascarpone with the powdered sugar until it’s completely smooth.
  2. Add the vanilla bean paste and turn the mixer to medium speed. 
  3. Stream in the cold heavy whipping cream in 3-4 increments, stopping to scrape the edge of the bowl each time.
    • Once all the heavy whipping cream is added, it may seem soft so turn the mixer up to full speed and it should thicken and hold peaks within a couple of minutes. Don’t over-beat once you’ve reached this stage.
  1. If you’re adding the espresso, make sure it’s completely cooled before adding it and mix just until it’s combined. 
  2. Spread the cream on top of the cake and dust with a generous dusting of cocoa powder (I used dutch process here cuz I thought black cocoa might look funny lol. Natural also works fine). 

Expert tips on getting perfect black cocoa cake

  • Don’t swap ingredients unless I mentioned them in the ingredient section above.
  • Don’t reduce the sugar. I know a lot of people do that for some recipes but not this one.
  • Weigh your ingredients with a digital scale 
  • Weigh the batter for each cake tin to get even layers. 
  • Fresh brewed espresso is the best but if not, fresh coffee is second best. 
  • Make sure the mascarpone and heavy cream are cold before making the frosting.
  • Use hot coffee for the cake but make sure it’s cooled (or chilled) for the frosting.

What sizes can I make this black cocoa cake 

So I wrote the largest amount before that’s what I used in the photos – it baked two 8 inch cakes. They’re tall and I definitely would stack more than two of these ones but the recipe is the recipe card can make 

  • Two (tall) or three 8 inch cakes
  • Two or three (short) 9 inch cakes
  • 36 cupcakes 

⅔ of the recipe (easy to split if you weigh everything and use two eggs) 

  • Three (taller) or four (shorter) 6 inch cakes 
  • One 9×13” cake
  • 24 cupcakes 

⅓ of the recipe (easy to split if you weigh everything and use 1 egg) 

  • One (tall) or two (short) 6 inch cakes
  • 12 cupcakes

If you’re making cupcakes, I put 50 grams in each cupcake tin and bake for about 18-20 minutes. 

When baking, generally a thinner layer will get 20-25 minutes of baking and a thicker cake layer will get 30-40 minutes. 

Once it no longer looks wet, press on the center of the cake gently and it will spring back when it’s done baking. If it doesn’t spring back, give it another few minutes. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use all-purpose flour?

I have used the “homemade cake flour” trick by replacing 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour with cornstarch. The cake will work if you make them this way but they won’t be quite as soft and tender. 
I HIGHLY recommend using a digital scale, as flour is so often over measured. 

Can this be made gluten-free?

I haven’t tested it but pretty much all my other cakes work fine with a 1:1 substitute like Bob’s or King Arthurs so I don’t see why not.

Can this be made dairy free?

You can definitely use a dairy free yogurt or sour cream, whatever you find. For the frosting, I don’t like dairy free cheeses and heavy cream but if you have a preferred and trusted brand, use those.

Can I make this ahead of time?

This cake holds on to moisture really well so you can make it 1-2 days in advance before serving. The cream is also so you can make it and frost the cake in advance but I would dust it fresh with cocoa powder so it looks pretty.
Also I don’t like when things taste like “the fridge” lol so if you leave it uncovered it can get a weird fridge taste (maybe that’s just me?) so I recommend covering it but it’s hard to cover without messing up the frosting. A tall cake dome would work best if you have one. 

Do I have to use black cocoa powder?

I used black cocoa powder because this is my black cocoa cake and I love it but it should work just fine with regular cocoa powder. I just get mine on amazon.
If you can’t get that, I recommend using dutch-processed cocoa powder because it’s also alkaline.
If you’re going to use natural cocoa powder, it would be best to also substitute the baking powder for 3/4 tsp baking soda.

How do I know when it’s done baking?

Just like all the rest of my cakes, I test if it’s done baking by pressing gently on the tallest part of the cake. The cake will spring back if it’s done baking. If it stays indented, give it a few minutes in the oven, before testing again. 

How to store this black cocoa cake

If the cake is not frosted, keep it airtight at room temperature for a couple of days. If it’s frosted, store it airtight in the fridge for up to a week. 

The cake also freezes well. Just wrap the whole cake in plastic wrap and then foil and freeze. Or place slices in an airtight container and then place the container in a freezer bag, squeezing out all the excess air. Bring back to room temperature by thawing at room temperature for a few hours before serving or refrigerate overnight. 

Thanks so much for reading today’s post, if you have any questions just comment down below. If you make this fabulous black cocoa cake, I’d love it if you left a star rating or a review for me!

As always, have a blessed day and happy baking!

Love, B

black cocoa cake frosted with mascarpone cream and sliced into

Black Cocoa Cake

The best black cocoa cake I’ve ever made. I frosted it with a mascarpone whipped cream (also an espresso version) and topped with a dusting of cocoa powder. The cake has options for different size pans and layers and can also be made as cupcakes.
4.92 from 12 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 55 minutes
Course Cakes
Cuisine American
Servings 24 servings
Calories 367 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

Black Cocoa Cake

  • 360 grams (3 cups) cake flour
  • 120 grams (1 1/2 cup) black cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 21 grams (1 1/2 Tbsp) baking powder
  • 500 grams (2 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 240 mL (1 cup) canola oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 227 grams (1 cup) sour cream
  • 360 mL (1 1/2 cups) hot coffee I use Americano
  • 60 mL (2oz/1/4 cup) espresso (cooled) double shot *optional as a soak

Mascarpone Cream

  • 8 oz (1 tub) mascarpone cold
  • 120 grams (1 cup) powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla beans from 1 pod or extract
  • 320 mL (12oz/1 1/2 cups) heavy whipping cream cold
  • 120 mL (4oz/1/2 cup) espresso (cooled) 2 double shots *optional as a flavor
  • dusting of cocoa powder

Instructions
 

Black Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350F (I use convection cuz my oven runs really hot at the bottom – conventional is also fine) and grease and line two 8 inch baking pans with baking spray and parchment paper (see blog post for other cake pan sizes).
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt until they’re evenly distributed.
    360 grams (3 cups) cake flour, 120 grams (1 1/2 cup) black cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp fine sea salt, 21 grams (1 1/2 Tbsp) baking powder
  • In a separate large bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, eggs and sour cream until they’re well combined and smooth.
    500 grams (2 1/2 cups) granulated sugar, 240 mL (1 cup) canola oil, 3 large eggs, 227 grams (1 cup) sour cream
  • Sift the dry ingredients over the wet and whisk them together, just a little – about halfway or so.
  • Pour in the hot coffee and whisk until the batter is completely smooth and all the dry ingredients are combined.
    360 mL (1 1/2 cups) hot coffee
  • Scrape the edge of the bowl and give it a good mix. Pour into prepared cake tin(s).
  • Bake for 35ish minutes, until the tallest part of the cake, in the center, springs back when you press on it. If you’re hesitant, give it another minute or so.
  • Let the cake rest for 10 minutes in the pan, then flip over onto a tea towel and let the cake cool upside down for 30 minutes or so before flipping back over.
  • If it’s domed or if you want to add a soak (I did a double shot of espresso), trim the top off after it’s completely cooled and then drizzle the coffee on top.
    60 mL (2oz/1/4 cup) espresso (cooled)

Mascarpone Frosting

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl with a hand mixer), beat together the cold mascarpone with the powdered sugar until it’s completely smooth.
    8 oz (1 tub) mascarpone, 120 grams (1 cup) powdered sugar
  • Add the vanilla bean paste and turn the mixer to medium speed.
    1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • Stream in the cold heavy whipping cream in 3-4 increments, stopping to scrape the edge of the bowl each time.
    320 mL (12oz/1 1/2 cups) heavy whipping cream
  • Once all the heavy whipping cream is added, it may seem soft so turn the mixer up to full speed and it should thicken and hold peaks within a couple of minutes. Don’t over-beat once you’ve reached this stage.
  • If you’re adding the espresso, make sure it’s completely cooled before adding it and mix just until it’s combined.
    120 mL (4oz/1/2 cup) espresso (cooled)
  • Spread the cream on top of the cake and dust with a generous dusting of cocoa powder (I used dutch process here cuz I thought black cocoa might look funny lol. Natural also works fine).
    dusting of cocoa powder

Notes

This makes two tall 8 inch cake layers – I did not stack them, just frosted and served individually. See blog post for other size options. 

Nutrition

Calories: 367kcalCarbohydrates: 41gProtein: 5gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0.04gCholesterol: 51mgSodium: 158mgPotassium: 131mgFiber: 2gSugar: 27gVitamin A: 418IUVitamin C: 0.2mgCalcium: 93mgIron: 1mg
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Recipe Rating




  1. 5 stars
    Im not a Mascarpone Frosting fan. I cant eat anything with coffee in. So what other kinds of frosting can I use?

  2. 5 stars
    This cake is delicious. I made a cream cheese chocolate mocha frosting because I didn’t have any mascarpone in the fridge Going to a dinner party tomorrow night and am going to make it again. Might use 9” pans cuz the 8” pans made for two thick layers.

  3. Haven’t made yet as too hot to be baking, but 1st coolish day I’m going to try it! Sounds heavenly!!!!

  4. Could the layers be stacked? This recipe looks like the one I have been searching for but I would like to make a layered cake.

  5. Not sure about the advice that you can use baking soda in place of baking powder. I was reading that black cocoa powder is heavily alkalinised, and you need acidic (regular) cocoa powder to react with baking soda.
    But your cake looks delicious and I am planning to try it.

    • Baking soda reacts with anything acidic so sour cream and coffee will still create the reaction we’re looking for.
      To keep it as close as possible to the black cocoa I recommend a dutch processed cocoa though!