When it comes to chocolate cake, this tried-and-true recipe is, without a doubt, the best that I have found. It has been a birthday favorite in my family for years, and  I usually top it with an equally incredible homemade caramel frosting.  As if fabulous taste and perfect texture aren’t enough, this cake is so easy to make–it mixes up quickly in one bowl with basic pantry ingredients!

For our latest birthday celebration–February is a big birthday month in our family with three of them–I decided to revisit an even older frosting favorite, Foolproof Peanut Butter Frosting. I am such a big fan of chocolate cake with fluffy peanut butter frosting that I chose this combination for our wedding cake.  Though it wasn’t the pretty white cake that most brides select, it sure was delicious and most of the plates were crumb-less!

This light and moist chocolate cake is an old recipe from the Hershey’s cocoa canister.  For my son’s 12th birthday, I substituted my gluten-free flour blend, and the results were every bit as moist and delicious as the standard version with all-purpose flour.  Coincidently, my older son told us at dinner about a girl in his algebra class that had to go gluten-free recently.  She has said that so many of the store-bought products her mom has bought for her haven’t tasted very good.  My son decided she might like a piece of this cake, so we wrapped up a big piece and he brought it to math class the next day.  He said she was thrilled, which made us all happy.

My best tip with this cake is to monitor the baking time. The only way the cake will be dry is if it is overcooked. To be on the safe side, simply check a few minutes early since all ovens vary a little.

Hershey’s Cocoa Cake

Yield: 2 (9-inch round) cakes

Hershey’s Cocoa Cake

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I have made with this gluten-free flour mix with outstanding results)
  • 3/4 cups Hershey’s cocoa (regular, not Dutch)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (I typically use non-fat)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup boiling water

  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat with a hand or stand mixer until completely mixed, 30 seconds to one minute. Stir in the boiling water. The batter will be thin.
  2. Pour into two, well greased or parchment lined, 9-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. I always check a few minutes early but find 25 minutes is perfect in my oven. Keep in mind that dark-coated baking pans tend to cook a bit faster than light-colored pans. The trick to a perfect cake is to remove it from the oven when it is just cooked through, so check a few minutes early to avoid overcooking.
  3. Cool the cakes for 10-15 minutes in the pans, and then remove to baking racks and cool completely. Frost as desired.


Greasing and lining the pans with a round of parchment paper makes removing the cakes especially easy. I like to trace the pan on the parchment paper and then cut, leaving a tab to help release the cake.

Want to know something funny? This is the exact same cake as the one pictured above. Because people like to see the inside of the cake–and because I only like to make what we can eat–I cut the piece and then stuck it back and frosted right over it after taking the picture! The color of the frosting looks a little different because this picture was taken at night with the overhead lights on. Click on the photo for the Best Ever Peanut Butter Frosting recipe.

For fun, I often add a miniature peanut butter cup as a hint to what sort of cake it is. For the caramel frosting version below, I use a caramel Hershey kiss.

A previous cake with homemade caramel frosting. (Click on the photo for the frosting recipe.)