Yellow Layer Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting

Slice of Cake 3

Sometimes a classic is really the perfect thing.  I take pride in coming up with some interesting flavors, particularly in desserts.  Bananas foster cupcakes, Mexican hot chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting…. but sometimes what you really want is just a delicious slice of yellow cake with rich chocolate frosting. 

Yellow cake and chocolate frosting is a perfect, classic combination. Here I’ve ramped it up just a little bit by using an incredibly dark cocoa mixed with semisweet chocolate in the frosting.  The result is a moist, rich and sweet cake paired with a deep, dark, mellow chocolate frosting.  It’s just sublime.

Cake Pans

Layer cakes get a bad wrap, I think.  They seem like so much work.  But there are a couple of things you can do to cut down on the time and energy investment if you’re making one.  Parchment rounds is one of those things.   Did you know that you can buy parchment paper pre-cut to fit your cake pans??  Sure can.  Just butter your pan, put a piece of parchment on top of the butter and then put the batter in the pan.  You’ll save yourself a lot of hassle when it comes to taking the cakes out of the pan.

Chocolate Chips

For melting chocolate, use a double boiler.  It seems like more work, but you won’t risk burning your chocolate which will really set you back.  Just fill a larger saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down so that the water returns to a simmer.  Place your chocolate (chips or cut up bars) in a smaller saucepan and hold it over the simmering water, without allowing the bottom of the pan to touch the water.  Stir the chocolate constantly until melted. 


Use really good cocoa.  I got this Black Onyx cocoa from a new spice shop in town called Savory Spice Shop in Lincoln Square.  They have an astounding array of baking spices, cocoas and the like.  I picked up this cocoa which is rich and dark and added an unexpectedly smooth flavor to this frosting as well as some pumpkin pie spice, cake spice, and Mexican cocoa laced with cinnamon.  That Mexican hot chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting I mentioned has that cocoa’s name written all over it.

Cake Filled

Finally, enjoy the baking.  The baking and the cooling and the frosting are always cast as the hassle-filled effort before the reward, but I always think of those things as the reward.  The finished cake is just a bonus.  Check out my tutorial on how to frost a layer cake published earlier this week for a few tips on how to make getting the frosting from your bowl onto the cake a little easier, too. 

Slice of Cake 4


Yellow Layer Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting
Serves 12
Classic combination of yellow cake and chocolate frosting made modern with some rich dark chocolate cocoa.
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Prep Time
2 hr 30 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
3 hr
Prep Time
2 hr 30 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
3 hr
For cake
  1. 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  2. 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  3. 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  4. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  5. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  6. 1 3/4 cups sugar
  7. 4 eggs
  8. 2 teaspoons vanilla (bean paste if can, extract if you got it!)
  9. 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  10. *special equipment: 2-9 inch round cake pans, pre-cut parchment rounds
For dark chocolate frosting
  1. 2 bags good quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli)
  2. 1/2 cup dark cocoa (LOVE Black Onyx from Savory Spice Shop)
  3. 1/2 cup boiling water
  4. 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  5. 2/3 cup confectioner's sugar
  6. pinch of salt
First, make your cakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your pans by smearing the insides with a good helping of unsalted butter. Place a pre-cut parchment round at the bottom of each pan, pressing it against the butter.
  2. Sift flours, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl. If you're jut not gonna sift, put the ingredients in a large bowl together and, using a fork, stir well to combine, breaking up any lumps.
  3. Beat butter and sugar in a stand mixer or large bowl until pale in color, light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl before adding the eggs, one by one, mixing batter until egg is just incorporated before adding the next. Add vanilla and mix to combine.
  4. Add flour mixture in three portions, adding a third of the milk after each flour addition. Mix ONLY to combine after each addition. Do not overmix! You'll end up with a tough cake.
  5. Pour one half of the batter into each pan. Lift pans a few inches above countertop and drop a few times to get any air bubbles out of the batter. Place cakes onto the center rack of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. The tops of the cake will be golden and a toothpick inserted into the cake may come out with crumbs, but not with raw batter.
  6. When fully baked, allow the cakes to cool about 5-10 minutes on a cooling rack inside their pans. Run a knife around the edge of the cakes to release them. When cooled slightly, shake the pans gently to release the bottoms of the cakes. Using potholders to protect your hands, invert the cake pans, holding the cake in place with your other hand and wait for cake to release from the pan. Turn cakes out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Make the frosting
  1. Melt chocolate in a double boiler, stirring constantly until smooth. Combine cocoa and boiling water in a bowl, stirring to combine and until smooth. Allow cocoa and chocolate to cool to room temperature before continuing with the recipe.
  2. Beat butter, sugar and salt in a stand mixer or large bowl until light and fluffy. Add chocolate and cocoa mixture. Beat to combine.
Frost the cake
  1. Using a serrated bread knife, carefully cut off the rounded tops of the cakes. Place one cake face-up on a cake stand or plate. Spread about 2/3-3/4 cups frosting onto the crumb side of the cake and smooth out to the edge of the cake. Flip the second layer cake crumb-side down onto the frosting layer, then follow the instructions in my "how to frost a cake" post!
  2. Enjoy!!!
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
Milk Glass Kitchen


Leave a Comment

  • Dina September 27, 2013, 9:51 pm

    nothing like a classic cake with chocolate frosting!

  • Jesi December 9, 2013, 10:47 am

    I love that you didn’t add tons of extra confectioner’s sugar in your frosting. It’s so hard to find a dark chocolate frosting that isn’t mostly powdered sugar!

    • Kerry December 9, 2013, 11:37 am

      Thanks, Jesi! Yes, the whole point of the dark chocolate frosting is to provide a less-sweet counterpoint to the sweet yellow cake. Adding a ton of confectioner’s sugar would defeat the purpose! Hope you enjoy it!

  • Tiffany January 15, 2014, 4:06 pm

    I LOVEEEE this cake the frosting was also VERY good i love ghirardelli
    chocolate chips

    • Kerry January 15, 2014, 4:45 pm

      So glad you enjoyed it! It’s one of my favorites!

  • Christine March 9, 2014, 10:49 pm

    Your frosting recipe includes 2 bags of chocolate chips. Are these 12oz bags, so that the total amount is 24oz of semisweet chocolate?

    • Kerry March 9, 2014, 10:53 pm

      Yes! Two standard 12 ounce bags of chocolate chips for a total of 24 ounces. Hope you enjoy!

  • Jen March 23, 2014, 9:36 pm

    Wow! My husband is a huge yellow cake and chocolate frosting fan. I made these into cupcakes and the are AMAZING! My only concern is that they are so good I won’t be able to get away with box mixes ever again. Thank you so much for posting this!

    • Kerry March 23, 2014, 11:01 pm

      Awwww I’m so glad you enjoyed it!!! This is my go-to cake recipe. I use it as the base of pretty much every cake I bake and just add ingredients to change the flavor. I hope you’ll try out other versions as well!