Choco Choco Birthday Cake

Choco Choco Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

Happy Birthday! Who’s birthday is it? I’m not sure, but it’s got to be someone’s birthday and I know they deserve this cake. Besides, any cake designated a birthday cake and adorned with candles just tastes better, in my opinion–especially chocolate cake.

Do you ever wake up in the morning and say, “That’s it, I’ve had quite enough chocolate in my lifetime. Please, whatever you do, don’t give me any more chocolate!”? Me neither. That would just be weird. And sometimes I wake up and realize that if I don’t have scale-tipping amounts of chocolate, most often in cake form, I may not make it through the day. Who’s with me? Is that a girl thing? A survival thing? A hormonal thing? Either way, that’s how this cake came to be, or at least how it came to be in my kitchen.

Choco Choco Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

It’s a super-chocolaty layer cake that has both dark chocolate and natural cocoa powder, as well as sour cream, butter, brown sugar and more. The frosting is as light as air and is made using a variation of the old-fashioned cooked flour & milk method, and it’s perfect for those who don’t like super sweet frosting, because it’s basically just creamy, chocolaty fluffiness (yes, I’m an adjective junkie). In addition to the flour and milk, it’s made using granulated sugar (no icing sugar), a double dose of dark chocolate (cocoa powder and melted chocolate), vanilla and glorious heaps of butter.

Choco Choco Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

So here’s what happened: I came across this recipe for this cake on epicurious one day, and it’s all I could think about for weeks (literally). I was really intrigued by not only the name (mile-high chocolate cake), the yummy photo and the very thought of all of that chocolate in one cake, but by the mixed reviews. It was so divided, and those who liked it, loved it and those who didn’t, really didn’t. This always fascinates me. I know it’s human nature to have a unique opinion, but how could it be so varied? It seems that those who didn’t love it had some issues with preparation, so that would explain that, but since several others loved it, I couldn’t resist giving it a try.

Choco Choco Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

Okay, so the cake layers do take quite a bit more time than the beloved one-bowl chocolate cake layers, for certain, but I really loved the taste and texture of this cake. It’s dense and moist, but above all it was very, very chocolaty. The frosting is the lightest chocolate frosting I’ve ever eaten, and the not-so-sweet factor allowed the chocolate to come through in full force.

I’m really excited to make another batch of this frosting again for a close friend, Danielle, who finds sugary frosting almost impossible to eat, yet appreciates chocolaty desserts. There’s also a good chance that I will make another batch simply for me to bathe in.

Instead of baking the cake layers in 2 standard round cake pans, I did 1 standard round cake pan and 1 contour cake pan, so that the top would be slightly domed, because I had other plans for decorating this cake, but when I started to frost it, I couldn’t get over how light the frosting was, and it just desperately wanted to be swirled by the spoonful onto the cake. So, next time I would probably stick with the 2 standard round cake pans. Turns out it’s simply one of those cakes that doesn’t want to be structured and fancy–it just wants to be rich & chocolaty.

So this weekend, whether you’re baking this or anything at all, bake up some memories–it’s good for the soul (yours and others’).

Or just let it all go and get wild.

Or both.

In other exciting news:

  • Check out this fun interview I did for the M.I.S.S. feature, “Women Making History.” I found their questions so refreshing!
  • My talented blogger friend, Heather from Sprinkle Bakes, is only weeks away (May 1st) from her new book release: SprinkleBakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist, but it is now available for pre-order. This book will be something special, I can guarantee it. Congratulations, Heather!
  • I’m working my through Ree’s new cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier, recipe by recipe, and I can honestly say that because of her and her books, my friends and family are starting to think I can actually cook.
  • I’m not sure how I just discovered it, but I’m loving HeyYoYo on esty for super-fun party and cake decorating doodads. Not only does she have an amazing array of goods, but she ships all over the world and for a really reasonable price. As someone in the seemingly far away land that is Canada, I so appreciate that shop-owner Amanda recognizes that shipping here for less than a fortune is doable. And her stuff is just way too fun.

So, here’s the recipe for this choco choco cake, and what I’ve done is listed the ingredients as found in the original recipe, and then added the weight measurements and my own method and notes. It may or may not be the messiest cake I’ve ever made, as far as the prep goes. I’ve no idea how or why, but my kitchen was invaded with chocolate and dishes, but it was worth it. As it always is.

Choco Choco Birthday Cake          {click to print}

(aka Mile-High Chocolate Cake from

Yield 10 to 12 servings

Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 3 1/2 hours


For the cake:

5 ounces (145 grams) good-quality dark or extra dark chocolate (semisweet or bittersweet), chopped (I used Callebaut Dark Callets)

2 1/4 sticks (9 ounces/260 grams) unsalted butter, softened

2 3/4 cups (11 ounces/315 grams) cake flour (not self-rising), sifted *see notes

1/4 cup (24 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process, such as Ghirardelli Chocolate Baking Cocoa)

2 teaspoons (12 grams) baking soda

1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder

1/2 teaspoon (4 grams) salt

4 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes

1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) granulated sugar

1 cup (7.5 ounces/220 grams) packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanilla)

2 cups (475 mL) sour cream

For frosting

1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) granulated sugar

6 tablespoons (47 grams) all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons (36 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural, not Dutch-process, such as such as Ghirardelli Chocolate Baking Cocoa) *see notes

1 1/2 cups (360 mL) whole milk

4 ounces (115 grams) good-quality dark or extra dark (semisweet or bittersweet) chocolate, finely chopped (I used Callebaut Dark Callets)

1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract (I used Nielsen-Massey Vanilla)

6 sticks (1.5 pound/680 grams/3 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature


Make the cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and put oven rack in the middle. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans, dust with flour or cocoa powder, tap out excess and set aside.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter until smooth. You can do this in the microwave in 20 second intervals, or in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water (be sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl). Let cool.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla on medium speed (I use #4 on KitchenAid) until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.

5. At low speed (I use #2 on my KitchenAid), mix in melted chocolate until incorporated, followed by dry ingredients in 3 batches alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with dry ingredients and mixing until each addition is just incorporated. *Don’t over-mix.

6. Spread batter evenly in pans (you can weigh batter in pans for perfectly even layers) using a small offset spatula. Rap pans several times on counter to eliminate any air bubble and bake on center rack until a toothpick comes clean and remove cakes from oven, about 35-40 minutes. *Be sure to not open oven before 2o minutes (with these cakes, ideally 30 minutes) to check cakes and take care to not over-bake.

7. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks for about 10 minutes, and then carefully loosen them from the edges of the cake pans with your small palette knife and gently invert cakes onto racks to cool completely (about an hour).

Make frosting:

1. Whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa powder and a pinch of salt in a  small heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add milk and cook, whisking  constantly, until mixture boils and is smooth and thick (5-8 minutes).

2. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in chocolate and vanilla, until smooth. Transfer mixture to a heatproof bowl to cool to room temperature, covering surface with parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming.

3. In electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until creamy, about 5 minutes, then gradually add cooled chocolate mixture, beating until frosting is fluffy and spreadable.

Assembly of the Double Chocolate Birthday Cake:

1. Cut each cake with one horizontal cut using a long serrated knife (I use the Mac Bread Knife for all my cake layering and trimming).

2. Put 1 layer on a cake stand or large plate (cut side up) and spread top with 1 1/4 cups frosting using an offset spatula (such as this Offset Spatula)

3. Repeat with 2 more layers, then add remaining layer (cut side down) and spread top and side of cake with remaining frosting. If frosting is too soft, put it in the refrigerator for a few moments, remove and carry on.

Sweetapolita’s Notes

  • This cake is dense in nature, but moist and very chocolaty.
  • To learn more about cake flour (and many others) or to make your own cake flour, check out this previous post).
  • If you don’t have unsweetened natural cocoa, and only Dutch process (cocoa that’s been treated with an alkalizing agent to neutralize the natural acidity of cocoa powder), you can make an adjustment and use it, but don’t straight out substitute it. You can add 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar, or 1/8  teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar, for every 3 tablespoons (18 grams) of Dutch process in the recipe to balance it out (thank Joy of Baking for that tip!).
  • I made the cake 2 days ahead and wrapped the uncut layers tightly in plastic wrap and kept on the counter (room temp).
  • I made the frosting right before needing it, but the recipe notes that frosting can be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered–bring to room temperature (about 1 hour) and beat until fluffy before using.
  • I frosted the cake and covered and chilled it (because of the sour cream and soft nature of the frosting) overnight, and it was still moist.
  • I found the small alphabet candles at a local bakery, but I can’t seem to find the same ones online for you to source (for those of you who may want to know). I’ll keep checking, because they’re so cute and fun.

Good luck & enjoy!


Share the Sweetness!


  1. Daniela Da Silva says

    That Cake looks amazing! I love reading about your baking adventures and really appreciate your advice on where to get things in Toronto/ your tip on a website that ships to Canada! It can behard to find supplies here sometimes!

    • says

      Thanks, Daniela! Yep, it’s always a challenge with the whole shipping to Canada thing, or at least for less than a fortune. HeyYoYo is amazing, and everything came quickly and packaged in such a cute way. Loving it!

  2. says

    Oooh this looks great. Growing up I never really liked chocolately desserts. I was a white cake with vanilla frosting all the way. Now, I have seen the light and everything is chocolate and delicious! lol

  3. says

    So, I’m making a birthday cake for my chocoholic father for tomorrow. I have the cake baked and was going to make a whipped chocolate ganache for the icing. However, this icing looks so incredible (and a lot like a vanilla one that I love), that I think I might just do this one instead.

    I’ve gotta say, I’m feeling kinda excited!

  4. says

    This looks like a lovely chocolate cake! And frost- Holy Heart Attack Batman, that’s a heck of a lot of butter! But I’m not into sweet frostings so maybe it’s worth splurging on all the butter just to try it out.

    • says

      Thanks, Becca! Yeah, it is a lot of butter, but it’s also a lot of frosting–tons! It really didn’t taste too buttery, which surprised me. It basically just whips up into air. Loving it!

  5. Connie @ Daydream In Color says

    That cake looks amazing! I think today must be one of those days requiring chocolate!

  6. Kathryn says

    This looks like the recipe that I used to use for my chocolate wedding cakes but then I discovered your chocolate recipe from your Chocolate ruffle cake and switched. Both are awesomely chocolate-y recipes! MMMMmmmmmm!I love a good sour cream cake!

  7. says

    This is almost exactly what I am planning to make soon for my best buddy. Mine will have an extra layer – chocolate ganache drizzled over the top. And sprinkles!

  8. Mary says

    Yummy………… I really would love to bake again. I am the only one who loves desert here, more chocolate the better life is!

    I tink I will attempt this cake before summer. Would this frosting recipe be good for the sides of a German Chocolate cake? Kathryn, perhaps the chocolate ruffle cake has a frosting that would be good on German Chocolate?

    I am new to your site Rosie, such inspiration and love of baking.

  9. says

    YUMMY! It’s my birthday today (for real!) and I didn’t have time to bake my own cake. So, of course, I’m gonna pretend this was intended for me.

    THANKS! You’re the best ;)

  10. says

    I am in love with flour frosting (just plain white) for chocolate cake, but I have always had a Suspicion that it is ever adaptable. This proves it. I have plans to make a pastry cream version (sort of like a French vanilla (pudding) buttercream) and one based on lemon or lime curd. So many possibilities:)

  11. says

    the waaayyyyyy to sweet frosting is probably why i’m not really a cake lover; don’t get me wrong, i’ll eat a slice of cake every now and again, but man, i usually end up scraping off the over-the-top sweet frosting. gotta say Rosie, this looks fab!!

  12. says

    HA! You are so sweet to make some random person a birthday cake. I’m sure someone enjoyed it ;-) This is such a fabulous layer cake. I wish I could dig into this with a fork right now (we can have cake for breakfast, right?)

    So glad you are enjoying Ree’s book. It has so many wonderful recipes.

    • Lara says

      I don’t feel like baking, but sure do feel like eating!! lol I am 22 weeks pregnant with my first set of babies, yep having twins!

      • says

        Wow, that’s amazing Lara! Congratulations! I remember that feeling well–I didn’t do much baking while I was pregnant either, or at least not until the end, but I sure ate a lot of baked goods! :)

  13. Erica says

    I’ve been SEARCHING for the perfect, not-too-sweet chocolate frosting! Thanks so much for this recipe!

  14. says

    This cake look verrrry good! simple as chocolat! I’ll bake this one for easter’s breakfast! with mini eggs!

    Thank you for the nice pictures!!


  15. says

    had planned to make chocolate cake today but didn’t quite get chance….am quite glad now that i’ve seen this as love to try out new chocolate cake recipes….intrigued by the flour based frosting as had never heard of it


  16. Melissa says

    Hi Rosie!
    I am new to baking but am inspired by your blog. I am enjoying it so far. I was about to order cake pans, to make this cake, and was wondering if I should purchase the 8 inch by 2 inch or by 3 or 4 inch. Thanks for your help!

    • says

      Hi Melissa,
      I personally like the 2″ pans, but it really is personal preference. I would avoid the 4″ unless you think you’ll be baking taller cake layers and then torting/slicing them. I recommend 2″ or 3″ for baking each layer separately. Good luck!

  17. Gerri says

    Rosie this recipe is delicious!!! I so appreciate the fact that you do not post a recipe until you have tried it and fallen in love with it. So far I have made 4 of your recipes and they are amazing. I now come to your blog knowing I can count on impressing the heck out of my family and friends with outstanding desserts. Oh and believe me I give you all of the credit and tell everyone I just don’t seem to go wrong as long as I make one of your recipes. Thanks for you dedication and hard work. Your pictures are great and the only problem I have is that I can’t decide which recipe is my favorite!!

  18. leng says

    hi there rosie!

    could i use this kind of frosting for making basket weave decoration? im planning to serve this cake in an easter celebration this sunday.


    • says

      Hi Leng! Actually, I really wouldn’t use this one, as it’s super light. My choice would be a Swiss Meringue Buttercream (chocolate, if that’s what you’re wanting)–it holds up the best for basket weave type piping. Best of luck and Happy Easter!

      • leng says

        hi rosie! thanks so much! made the cake already into cupcakes. a bit playing around and it was really nice. i topped it with cream cheese frosting, heavenly. but on sunday i will still make this cake with chocolate smbc.

        happy easter to you and your family as well!


  19. kristine says

    I’ve browsed through your creations and they’re wonderful! I’m excited to try some cake baking too- since my kids won’t stop bugging me after seeing your posts and pictures. hehehe. I have a question though about the baking process. Sorry, newbie here :). So far, i’ve only baked cupcakes and i’ve been wanting to try making layered cakes. Thing is, my oven can only fit 2 very small cake pans on the middle rack (most often required). Two 9″ pans would fit but they’d be cramped up in there and i read somewhere that there has to be space between pans. Is it okay to bake one layer or pan at a time? If so, do i keep the other pan inside the fridge while i wait for the other one to bake or do i just keep it at room temperature? Not sure if the batter just sitting out would affect the end result. I would really appreciate the feedback. Thanks and keep those goodies coming!

  20. Steph says

    Thank you for sharing this recipe, it looks perfect. I’m excited to make this cake on Friday! I was wondering if I could sub the whole milk for heavy cream?

  21. says

    All the layers and the chocolatey moistness makes me want to whip up the recipe right now! Your frosting recipe looks great – I’m horrible at making frosting, so I’m definitely using your recipe as a resource next time I make cake.

  22. Janna says

    I only just heard of boiled milk frosting. It isn;t really known about it Australia! I used your blog as inspiration for my Daughter’s First Birthday Cake. I made a Neapolitan cake, with pink ruffled icing, plus a vanilla smash cake for Abbie. The icing was a boiled milk frosting BUT I used STRAWBERRY MILK to give it a yummy strawberry flavour! It tasted amazing, and it looked so impressive to cut into the cake and see the 3 colours!

  23. Sarah says

    I made this cake last night (made your whipped vanilla frosting though, yum!). it tastes wonderful, although it made WAY too much batter. I used 2 8″ pans, and easily had enough batter for a third layer. Did I do something wrong?

  24. says

    I think I’ve lost my mind. I have seen this gorgeous post but can’t remember if I commented on it. So this is number one, or a new but duplicate one. Either way, it warrants some ooohs and aaahs and how delicious and amazing it looks!

    Besides, Choco Cake deserves twice the love. Or one big one.

  25. says

    This looks like the perfect baking challenge! It will be my birthday cake (on May 4th). I always bake my own because who else can I trust to make something yummy and fun? Lol. Thanks for the perfect chocolate cake, Rosie. Can’t wait to try it!

  26. Claire says

    I just made this cake it looks amazing I can’t wait to eat it tomorrow. I couldn’t find non Dutch process cocoa, I live in Australia and admittedly I didn’t look very hard. I just threw in some vinegar at some point in the cake making to up the acidity, it seems to have worked it rose really well and evenly.

  27. Melissa L says

    I absolutely love reading your Blog! You recipes have never failed me. I tried this cake tonight and failed. :( My husband…::::clearing throat:::: opened the oven to peak. I yelled at him to shut it..well at about 15 minutes left the cakes sunk. :( :(

    Did the opening of the oven cause this or did i miss something? Can you help?
    I need to perfect a chocolate cake by friday.

    Thank you kindly,

  28. Thumbe says

    This cake looks stunningly gorgeous. I’ve looked at it about 500 times since this post! But i’m finally attempting to make it this Friday – uber excited :). Had a quick question though, would you know if I can make it in a 6 inch version too? If so, would you know how many layers it’d make and how long the baking time would be? Thanks! x

  29. Karen Tan says

    Hi there,

    I love your posts and of course the recipes with the lovely photos. I plan to bake this yummy cake in a rectangular pan. Will this recipe work I wonder?
    I see that your cakes are mostly round in 3-4 layers…most of the time I bake for a bigger group (family is big)during birthdays….

    Thank you!

  30. Megan says

    Hi Rosie!

    Question for you. If I make the frosting a day ahead of when it will be used, can I re-beat it with a handheld mixer with the whisk attachment? Basically the cake and frosting will be headed to a cabin where there is no stand-mixer, but a handheld….



  31. Pauline says

    Hi Rosie!

    Your cake looks awesome!!!
    I tried making this cake, it tastes marvelous. I face a small problem though, the cake curved down towards the center so it’s not flat at all, making a “V” look. Also, the cake I made looks much denser compared to your picture. Could it be due to overmixing? How long should it be mixed when putting the sour cream, dry ingredients into the chocolate batter?

  32. natalya says

    hey i know you posted this a while ago but do you have any suggestions in how i could “spice” this cake up a bit??

  33. says

    Hi Rosie,
    First of, let me start by saying you are an inspiration and i love your blog!

    im thinking of baking this cake, as the recipe is pretty much the same as my fav chocolate cake. I was wondering, is the frosting firm enough to be piped?


  34. says

    Dear Rosie,
    I discovered your website yesterday after watching video’s of you on youtube. I must say that I feel like I’m in heaven! Your website is great and very inspiring. I would like to ask something. Can you make frosting and put it in the freezer? And take it out when you need it ?

  35. Oshin says

    If I used White chocolate instead of dark in the frosting and just not added the cocoa powder for the frosting would it go well with the cake?

  36. Vanessa says

    I tried making the frosing but it’s way too liquid, its there something I could do at this point? I don´t have the ingredients to make it again :(

  37. Cony says

    Hi dear Rosie, I just found this lovely recipe which I am going to bake tomorrow for a friend’s birthday’s party. But I am in a place where I can’t find dark chocolate… so I wonder if I can use milk chocolate instead… what do you think? Thanks! x

  38. Jenna says

    Hi Rosie, in your opinion, do you think that these would make good cupcakes with a vanilla frosting? (I was considering topping them with the vanilla frosting from your “Classic Vanilla Butter Birthday Cake” post I’ve made the aforementioned vanilla frosting before…it was quite yummy. I am looking for a good chocolate cupcake recipe, and my husband doesn’t care for recipes that call for coffee and/or espresso. Thanks! :-)

  39. says

    I’m torn! I am making my bestie some birthday cupcakes for her birthday tomorrow and can’t decide whether these would be better than your chocolate birthday cupcakes with nutella frosting. I would like a nice dense and chocolate-y cupcake for her. Any thoughts?

  40. Kam says

    Hey! I love baking chocolate cupcakes and I was wondering if you have ever used coffee in your cakes before. I usually stir in chocolate chips with coffee and it gives the cupcake a moist chocolate flavor with a hint of mocha. I love your recipes and I’m so excited to try the vanilla bean cake. I’ve been searching for a good vanilla recipe. Thanks!!!

  41. Odessa says

    It looks sooo good! I want to try making it right away! If I were to use 6″ pans instead of the 8″, could I just cut the recipe in half? Would I need to reduce the baking time?

  42. Norma says

    I tried this cake today. In fact, it is still in the oven. I used two 9″ round pans and the cake is coming out the top of the pans. I don’t see how this could possible work in 8″ pans!? If you have any ideas, let me know. The batter sure tasted good!

  43. Norma says

    PS: The cake was done a few minutes early, before 35 minutes. Now it’s sunken in the middle. I don’t usually have this issue with cakes. Any ideas?

  44. Norma says

    PSS: Since it wouldn’t come out of the pans and I had to take it to my daughter-in-law’s birthday party in just an hour or so, I decided to just break the cake all up into chunks and layer it in a big bowl with cream cheese frosting! I stuck a big taper in the middle and called it a bowl cake, or a spoon cake, and everyone LOVED it!!

  45. Cynthia says

    I accidentally bought sweetened cocoa powder instead in unsweetened. Can I just omit the sugar or do you think it would affect the consistency?

  46. Cynthia says

    Just made this last night and brought it to work this morning. It went quickly.
    I am SO glad you posted this. I’d also seen the recipe on epicurious and decided against it because of mixed reviews, as you mentioned. Then I read this. :) Thanks for explaining the taste, texture and consistency. It gave me the courage to try it! I was wondering whether I’d love it or hate it. I LOVED IT!

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