This Hot Chocolate Cake is made with four layers of chocolate cake drenched in chocolate fudge sauce (aka like a thickened hot chocolate) and frosted with a marshmallow frosting. Top it off with more marshmallows and a drizzle of chocolate fudge sauce.
Hot chocolate is one of those things for me like s’mores. I don’t really like hot chocolate and I don’t really like actual s’mores but I LOVE anything hot chocolate flavored or s’mores flavored.
Why you’ll love this hot chocolate cake
- The cake has a more ‘milk chocolate’ flavor than traditional chocolate cakes.
- There’s a chocolate fudge sauce that tastes just like hot chocolate but has a thicker consistency – this fudge gets into every nook and cranny of the cake!
- The recipe is forgiving – works well with dairy free butter and milk, and gluten-free flour.
- It’s rich, sweet and super indulgent, just like hot cocoa should be.
Some other fabulous cakes to try this holiday are my chocolate ganache cake (for all the dark chocolate lovers), 6 layer Gingerbread Cake, the BEST Tiramisu Cake, Ferrero Rocher Cake, Brownie Cake, White Chocolate Cranberry Cake and Creme Brulee Cake!
- Flour: I use all purpose flour in most of my recipes and I HIGHLY recommend using a digital scale, as flour (and cocoa) is so often over measured.
- Cocoa Powder: make sure to use unsweetened cocoa powder. I use dutch-processed but natural cocoa powder also works. The color and flavor will be slightly less intense with natural cocoa powder.
- Baking Powder: I used just baking powder here. If you only have baking soda, you can just use 1 tsp of that instead.
- Sugar: I used granulated sugar in the cake but brown sugar would also work well in this cake. I don’t recommend cutting any out as it affects the texture and the flavor.
- For the frosting I used powdered sugar. You could reduce the amount used in the frosting but it may make the frosting too soft so make sure to refrigerate it a little before frosting.
- Butter: I like to use salted butter in my cakes but you can also use unsalted butter. Dairy free butter also works well.
- I recommend unsalted butter for the frosting though.
- Oil: I usually use a neutral oil like sunflower, vegetable or canola oil but olive oil also works well here as it pairs well with chocolate and is hardly noticeable.
- Eggs: make sure to use room temperature, large eggs.
- Place them in hot water for a few minutes if they’re cold.
- Sour cream: I love the combination of sour cream and milk for cakes. The sour cream can be replaced with plain yogurt or greek yogurt. Make sure it is unsweetened though.
- Milk: I use whole milk or 2% milk but any milk works fine, even dairy free milk.
- Marshmallows: I used marshmallows here and microwaved them until they were puffed and melty inside but marshmallow fluff also works fine.
- If you want, you could toast the marshmallows or the fluff like I did in the cupcakes before adding to the frosting as well. I didn’t want that because I wanted a nostalgic flavor and growing up we just had plain marshmallows in our hot chocolate lol.
Step 1: Make the cake first. Start by creaming the butter with the sugar for 1-2 minutes. Then add the oil and beat at full speed until it’s pale and fluffy.
Step 2: Add the eggs one at a time. Make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next egg. Then add the vanilla and sour cream, mixing just until they’re combined.
Step 3: Add half of the dry ingredients, followed by the milk and the other half of the dry ingredients. Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl well so it’s evenly mixed.
Step 4: Distribute the batter evenly. You should get about 11 ounces in four 8 inch cake pans.
Step 5: Bake for about 20-25 minutes. When the cake is done baking, it will release itself from the edge of the pan and spring back when you press on the center. Flip the cakes over onto a cooling rack or a tea towel right away. Allow them to cool completely to room temperature.
Chocolate Fudge Sauce
Step 1: Place the butter in the saucepan and heat it just until it’s melted.
Step 2: Add the sugar and cocoa powder, mixing until it’s smooth and then add the milk, whisking until it’s smooth.
Step 3: Bring it to boil and then turn the heat off and whisk for a few seconds.
Step 4: Pour the hot fudge into a heat resistant bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
Step 1: Beat the room temperature butter until it’s pale and fluffy, just a couple of minutes.
Step 2: Add the powdered sugar and salt, and beat until it’s smooth. Then add the vanilla extract, beating just until it’s combined.
Step 3: Place the marshmallows in a large bowl and microwave for 30-45 seconds. They should get puffed up, which means they’re melty inside. Remove them from the microwave and let them cool for just up to a minute or so.
Step 4: While they’re still a little warm and melty, add the marshmallows to the frosting. This will make your frosting warmer and softer so once it’s completely mixed. Place the bowl in the fridge for about 30 minutes, mixing halfway through. Depending on how warm it got and how warm it is in your house, it may take 60 minutes to firm up.
Step 1: Once everything has cooled and the frosting is chilled, poke some holes into the top half of your cake and spread a thin layer of the chocolate fudge sauce. Keep spreading it around, trying to make it go into the holes.
Step 2: Spread a layer of frosting on top of the fudge sauce and then pipe a border of frosting around the edge of the cake. I do this border fairly short (in height) because we’re just doing a thin layer of fudge sauce in the center but make sure the border is secure and there are no disruptions or the fudge sauce will run out.
Step 3: Fill the border in with the chocolate fudge sauce and freeze the cake for 15 minutes or so. Repeat until the last layer of cake. I do the holes with the fudge sauce on top too and then freeze it for 30-60 minutes to make sure it’s sturdy before frosting the outside.
Step 4: Use the rest of the frosting to lightly frost the cake (if you want to frost the cake fully, you’ll need at least another half batch of frosting and if you want to decorate the cake, you’ll need another full batch but I recommend skipping the marshmallows for frosting and decorating).
Step 5: Place a bunch of marshmallows on top of the cake and then drizzle with the chocolate fudge sauce.
Expert tips on getting perfect hot chocolate 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 don’t do it for the cake part. The frosting is very sweet so feel free to use less of it between the layers or reduce the powdered sugar a little. This will make the consistency of the frosting softer though so you’ll likely need to refrigerate for a little longer than I did, before frosting the cake.
- Weigh your ingredients with a digital scale.
- Weigh the batter for each cake tin with a digital scale. I just place each cake tin on the scale and measure out about 11 ounces of batter into each.
Can I use a different type of frosting?
I included this section for people who are picky about their frosting like I am lol. I used American Buttercream because when I tested this with frosting that was less sweet, Ermine Frosting, the marshmallow flavor doesn’t come through… like almost at all.
If you don’t care and still prefer that, you can double this Ermine Frosting Recipe. What I did was pour the cooked mixture over 20 large marshmallows, cover it for 1-2 minutes to warm them up and then mix them into the whole mixture. Allow it to cool completely, I put it in the fridge to firm it up a little and then mix it with the butter. Again, I thought it still mostly just tasted like plain buttercream lol.
Even with just 20 marshmallows I feel like this frosting was not quite as stable as the American buttercream with 30 marshmallows. That’s probably why I couldn’t get the flavor to come through.
The same thing would happen if you used any European based butter like Swiss Meringue, Italian or French, etc. Those are much more stable than Ermine but they are incredibly difficult to flavor so I don’t think the marshmallow would ever come through. You could try a marshmallow extract though…
If you want to decorate this cake fancy (like pipe work, etc.) I would make a double batch of Swiss meringue buttercream or plain American buttercream to decorate (recipe in the recipe card but without the marshmallows – you can play around with the amount of sugar for flavor/consistency as well).
Frequently Asked Questions
This cake holds on to moisture really well because it’s drenched in fudge sauce so you can make it a few days in advance before serving. Store it covered in the fridge after it’s completely frosted.
You can bake all of the batter in two cake pans and cut them in half or bake them in three cake pans and just do three 18 ounce layers. Or you can do just two layers at a time if you have only two pans and then bake the other half.
If you bake all of the batter in two pans, there’s a higher chance the cakes will dome so when you go to cut them in half, you may have to trim them first and then you’ll end up with slightly thinner layers.
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.
I haven’t tested this cake as cupcakes but I do have a hot chocolate cupcake recipe if you want 🙂
Personally, this was my absolute favorite part of the cake. If I could drink it, I would… lol
You can skip it but you’ll lose some of the fabulousness, and it really is sooo easy!
How to store this hot chocolate cake
I usually just cover the cake with a cake dome or cover it with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for about 2-3 days but if it’s any longer, I recommend freezing the cake.
To freeze the cake, refrigerate it until it’s firm, then wrap it in plastic wrap, twice and then wrap it in foil and freeze.
To freeze slices, place them in an airtight container OR wrap them in plastic wrap and then place the container in a freezer bag, squeezing out all the excess air. Bring them back to room temperature by thawing at room temperature for a few hours before serving.
Thanks so much for reading today’s post, if you have any questions just comment down below.
If you make this hot chocolate cake, I’d love it if you left me a star rating or a review.
As always, have a blessed day and happy baking!
Hot Chocolate cake
- 1 stand mixer or hand mixer
- 1 offset spatula
- 1 Round Piping Tip
- 1 piping bag
- 1 small bowl
- 2 8 inch cake pans
- 1 digital scale
- 2 1/4 cup (270g) all-purpose flour spooned and leveled
- 3/4 cup (60g) unsweetened cocoa powder spooned and leveled (I use dutch-processed)
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (120mL) vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup (225g) sour cream room temperature
- 1 cup (237mL) milk room temperature
Hot Fudge Sauce
- 1/2 cup (113g) salted butter cold or room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (120mL) milk
- 1/4 cup (20g) dutch-process cocoa powder spooned and leveled
- 2 cup (454g) unsalted butter room temperature
- 7 cups (840g) powdered sugar spooned and leveled
- 1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste OR vanilla extract
- tiny pinch fine salt
- 30 large marshmallows OR 2 cups (6oz) marshmallow fluff
- Preheat the oven to 350F/177C convection (325F/163C conventional) and grease and line four round 8 inch cake pans with baking spray and parchment paper (can do two at a time if you only have two pans)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt until they’re evenly distributed.2 1/4 cup (270g) all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup (60g) unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 Tbsp baking powder, 1 tsp fine sea salt
- Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and use an electric mixer to beat them at full speed for 1-2 minutes. Add the oil and beat for another 1-2 minutes at full speed.1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar, 1/2 cup (120mL) vegetable oil
- Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating for at least 30 seconds between each one, until it’s incorporated.4 large eggs
- Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix just until it’s combined.2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 cup (225g) sour cream
- Add half of the flour mixture, turn the mixer the low speed and stream in the milk. Add the other half of the flour mixture and increase the speed to medium for another 30-60 seconds, just until there are only a few streaks of flour left.1 cup (237mL) milk
- Use a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and give it one more good mix by hand.
- Distribute the batter evenly among the prepared pans, about 11oz in each pan.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edge of the cake releases from the pan or springs back when you gently press on the tallest part.
- Flip onto a tea towel or a cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature before frosting.
Chocolate Fudge Sauce
- Place the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat and swirl around just until it’s almost melted.1/2 cup (113g) salted butter
- Add the sugar and cocoa powder and whisk until they’re smooth and well combined.1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar, 1/4 cup (20g) dutch-process cocoa powder
- Stream in the milk as you continue whisking and then stir intermittently until the mixture comes to a boil.1/2 cup (120mL) milk
- Remove from the heat and whisk another few seconds. Pour the mixture into a heat safe bowl or jar, cover and chill until it’s completely cooled.
- Place the butter in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and use the whisk attachment to beat at full speed for 2-3 minutes. Make sure to scrape the edge of the bowl every so often.2 cup (454g) unsalted butter
- Add the powdered sugar, salt and vanilla and turn the mixer on to low speed, just until the powdered sugar is incorporated. Then turn the speed up to high for 2-3 minutes.7 cups (840g) powdered sugar, tiny pinch fine salt, 1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste
- Meanwhile place your marshmallows in a large, wide plate and microwave for about 1 minute (or until you see it swelling). Once the marshmallows are puffed, they should be melted inside. Allow them to cool for just up to a minute or so and then add them to the frosting (don't wait too long or they'll get really sticky and difficult to combine).30 large marshmallows
- Mix until the frosting is well combined with the marshmallows. The marshmallows will warm up your frosting and it may be too soft so place the bowl of frosting in the fridge for about 30-60 minutes, mixing at least halfway through.
- Once everything has cooled and the frosting is chilled, place the first layer of cake onto a flat surface and poke some holes into the top half of your cake. I like to use a kabob skewer or a cocktail garnish pick for this but any type of thin skewer will work.
- Spread a thin layer of the chocolate fudge sauce n top of the cake, trying to make it go into the holes.
- Spread a layer of frosting on top of the fudge sauce and then pipe a border of frosting around the edge of the cake. I do this border fairly short (in height) because we’re just doing a thin layer of fudge sauce in the center but make sure the border is secure and there are no disruptions or the fudge sauce will run out.
- Fill the border in with the chocolate fudge sauce and freeze the cake for 15 minutes or so.
- Place the next layer of cake on top and repeat until the last layer of cake. I do the holes with the fudge sauce on top too and then freeze it for 30-60 minutes to make sure it’s sturdy before frosting the outside of the cake.
- Use the rest of the frosting to lightly frost the cake (if you want to frost the cake fully, you’ll need at least another half batch of frosting and if you want to decorate the cake, you’ll need another full batch but I recommend skipping the marshmallows in the frosting for decorating).
- Place a bunch of marshmallows on top of the cake and then drizzle with the chocolate fudge sauce.