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Chocolate Birthday Cake with Chocolate Ganache

4.77 from 13 community reviews

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A classic three-layer chocolate cake recipe, with moist chocolate cake and a creamy ganache filling and frosting.

A frosted chocolate layer cake on a white cake stand with sparklers on top.

If you’re anything like me, you’re forever searching for that perfect, basic chocolate cake recipe.

The one you can stack into impressive layers (without it falling apart) and lavish with creamy frosting. This cake is the one!

It bakes to a fine, moist crumb with an old-fashioned taste that’s a little bit devilish, and the layers are iced in an ultra-creamy chocolate ganache.

Slices of chocolate layer cake on white plates, with a fork, cake stand and cake knife on the side.

Baking a chocolate cake

Chocolate cake is the best thing to make for someone (as well as your own self!) to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or romantic moment. Are you with me?

In my book, milestones are always better when accompanied by some form of chocolate. And cake. Of course.

So, why not just whip up a chocolate cake from a mix? It’s easy and foolproof, after all.

A frosted chocolate layer cake on a white cake stand.

In my opinion, a homemade cake not only tastes much better, it also has that personal touch that comes from the heart, making each bite that much more special.

Plus when you make a cake from scratch, you’re in total control of the ingredients that go into it.

That includes everything from the flour, sugar, butter, eggs and perhaps most importantly in a chocolate cake — the chocolate!

What kind of chocolate do you need to make chocolate cake?

You’ll need two different kinds of chocolate to make the cake recipe. The chocolate ganache frosting is made with just heavy cream and chocolate.

To boost the flavor in the cake, I used both unsweetened cocoa and chopped bittersweet chocolate for the best chocolate experience.

  • Cocoa: This recipe uses the most readily available kind — Dutch-processed cocoa — which just means that alkali is added to the unsweetened powder to neutralize the acidity of the cocoa. This results in a rich, dark color and a smooth flavor.
  • Bittersweet chocolate: Dark (bittersweet) chocolate is defined by its cacao content. It has a higher percentage than semisweet chocolate, anywhere from 70 to 100 percent, and a bit less sugar as well.

Do you like your cake on the slightly sweeter side? You can use a good semisweet chocolate in this cake instead.

Slices of chocolate layer cake on white plates, with a fork, cake stand and cake knife on the side.

One thing you don’ t want to skimp on is the chocolate. For the best flavor and texture, be sure to use a good chocolate quality one (please, not chocolate chips!).

High quality chocolate is available in blocks, bars or smaller chunks or wafers for baking.

If your chocolate is in the form of a bar, you can use a sharp heavy knife to slice it into small pieces, although I sometimes just smack the wrapped bar on the counter to break it up easily.

Excellent brands to look for in your supermarket or online include Scharffen Berger, Calllebaut and Guittard.

Tips for making perfect chocolate birthday cake:

  • Quickly bring eggs to room temperature by immersing them in a bowl of very hot water for 15 minutes.
  • You’ll need three 8 x 2-inch cake pans to make the layers.
  • The baked cakes easily release from the pans as long as they’re brushed with butter and the bottoms are lined with parchment paper.
  • Trim a very thin layer off the tops of the cakes before icing if you prefer to make them flat.
  • A small offset spatula is a great inexpensive tool for easily spreading icing on cakes.
A frosted chocolate layer cake on a white cake stand with sparklers on top.
Chocolate Birthday Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Three Layer Chocolate Birthday Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Karen Tedesco
An essential homemade chocolate cake recipe, with a moist tender crumb and perfect deep chocolate flavor and a creamy ganache frosting.This is the cake to make for family birthdays, as well as for other special occasions that require cake!
Print Pin
4.77 from 13 community reviews
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Chocolate
Cuisine Baking
Servings 12 servings



  • 1 cup (85 g) unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 3 ounces (85 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 cups (500 ml) boiling water
  • 2 ¾ cups (350 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (240 g) 2 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache Frosting:

  • 1 pound (450 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream


  • Preheat oven to 350 (175 C) degrees {325 (160 C) for convection}. Butter (3) 8-inch cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  • Put the cocoa powder and chocolate in a heatproof bowl or large glass measuring cup and pour the boiling water over. Stir until smooth and let cool to room temperature.
  • Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.
  • In a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium-high speed. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, stopping to scrape the bowl as necessary. Stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 3 separate additions, alternating with the cocoa mixture.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans. Bake 30-35 minutes, shifting the pans from front to back halfway through, until the tops of the cakes spring back when touched in the center. Cool in the pan 20 minutes, then gently turn out and cool completely on a rack. The cakes can be made up to 2 days ahead. Wrap them in plastic and store at room temperature.

Ganache frosting

  • Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl with the salt. Bring the cream to a boil then pour over the chocolate. Let stand for 10 minutes, then stir until the chocolate melts and the ganache is completely smooth. Cool to room temperature, until it's thickened to a spreadable consistency.
  • To assemble the cake, spread the cooled ganache over the top of each layer, spreading to the edges. Stack the cakes on a plate and spread the top and sides with more ganache to cover the cake.

Karen’s Notes and Tips

  • The cake will be have an even better texture if the layers are wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature, for one day before frosting and serving.
  • If you’re in a hurry to frost the cake, stick the ganache in the fridge for 15 minutes or so to cool and thicken it faster.
  • Semisweet chocolate can be substituted in both the cake batter and ganache.
  • To store the cake, cover lightly with plastic wrap and store at cool room temperature up to 3 days. In warmer climates, store in the fridge and bring to room temperature before serving.


Calories: 806kcal | Carbohydrates: 84g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 50g | Saturated Fat: 30g | Sodium: 574mg | Potassium: 451mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 50g | Vitamin A: 1157IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 91mg | Iron: 5mg

Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.

Did you make this recipe? Search @Familystylefood or tag #familystylefood on Pinterest
Recipe developer Karen Tedesco of the popular website Familystyle Food in her kitchen making a kale salad.

Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

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  1. 5 stars
    Hi! I made this recipe last year and it was a crowd pleaser! I was wondering on your thoughts/suggestions on making this into cupcakes ( for a celebration party)??

    1. Hi Heather – Yes, you can adapt this recipe to make cupcakes! The batter will make 24-30 cupcakes, depending on how you fill the baking cups. Bake them for 18-22 minutes, then cool and frost with the ganache.

  2. Lisa McKay says:

    3 stars
    This recipe was well written and easy to follow. It tasted great, but the cake was very, very dry. I weighed all of the ingredients and watched the bake time closely, Not sure where things went wrong.

    1. Hi Lisa – I’m so sorry your cake seemed dry! The crumb should be like a moist devil’s food cake. I just re-tested the recipe to be sure everything was written correctly. My cake did not turn out at all dry. The texture of this cake will get even moister if the cake is baked the day before frosting and wrapped in plastic. Since you said you weighed all ingredients, I can think of a few other reasons you did not get those results. Did you bake in a convection oven? If so, the oven temp. should be adjusted 25 degrees lower than a non-convection oven because the fan circulation makes the oven hotter. Also, if your eggs were jumbo that could also cause a dry cake. I hope that helps if you decide to try again!

  3. Can I use dark chocolate without changing the ratio of chocolate to cream?

    1. Marianne – As long as you use 1 pound of chocolate you will be fine using dark chocolate for the ganache.

  4. 5 stars
    Happiest birthday to you! Another reason I wish we had been able to celebrate together — this cake! I will make it soon, and eat it while celebrating you from afar. XO

  5. Hi Karen!! Belated Happy Birthday!! Hope you had a blast. Anyway, thanks for sharing your cake. I just realized that this recipe has no egg in it. First time I encountered such recipe. Thanks and Happy Birthday again.

  6. chocolate perfection, Karen! good for you for treating yourself…as wives & moms, so often we put ourselves on the back burner. you’ve inspired me to bake myself a cake for my next bday too! many happy returns of the day & enjoy the holiday season! thank you for the joy you bring others with your blog!

    1. Hi Taina, thanks so much for your thoughtful words! Enjoy your cake, too 🙂

  7. Happiest of birthdays! This cake sounds like an excellent way to celebrate. 🙂

  8. Many thanks for the good wishes, friends! You made my day. Yes, 29 years feels great!

  9. Happy birthday to you, Karen! I’m so happy to know that we share a birthday. I also made a chocolate cake (one spiked with red wine) but I have yet to post it. Late as usual. I hope you had a wonderful day. Abbracci, D

  10. Elynn and leah says:

    Happy 29th Birthday! Hope you enjoyed the cake! Thanks again for sharing your recipes.

  11. Shirley D says:

    Happy Birthday, Karen! My birthday cake is also ALWAYS chocolate! Enjoy the day …

  12. Happy Birthday! The advantage of making your own birthday cake is that you can get just what you want. Enjoy!

  13. Well, it is a beautiful cake, a beautiful image, and I hope you have a beautiful day. Happy Birthday!

  14. Eileen Blanchard says:

    Happy 26th Birthday Karen ! All milestones deserve CHOCOLATE!
    I love your blog and your recipes.
    Wishing you many more chocolate days !