Hershey’s Cocoa Cake

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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
This recipe for classic chocolate cake mixes up quickly in a single bowl with ingredients you likely have on hand. It's light, moist and perfect for any celebration!
  • 2 cups (384g) granulated sugar
  • 1¾ cups (217g) all-purpose flour (I have made with this gluten-free flour blend with outstanding results*)
  • ¾ cups (60g) Hershey’s cocoa (regular, not Dutch)
  • 1½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (240ml) milk (I typically use non-fat)
  • ½ cup (112ml) canola or safflower oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup (227ml) 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℉ 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.

*When baking gluten-free: More recently I have used King Arthur Flour and Bob’s Red Mill cup-for-cup gluten-free flours with excellent results. I always use the same weight as for standard all-purpose flour (some GF blends are heavier than others) and allow the mixture to rest in the cake pans for 5-10 minute before baking. Resting allows the flours to absorb some moisture prior to baking and is especially helpful when rice flour is an ingredient. By following those guidelines with this recipe, nobody ever can tell the difference between GF and regular!

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

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 HERE for the creamy, mouthwatering, Foolproof Peanut Butter Frosting recipe.

For fun, I often decorate with miniature peanut butter cups to allude to the cake flavors. For the caramel frosting version below, I use caramel Hershey Kisses.

A older photo with homemade caramel frosting.

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  1. Elaine Embree

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been on a diet and have had no chocolate for nearly a year. With my birthday coming up and my weight loss goal almost reached, I asked my husband for a chocolate cake with fudge icing to celebrate. This will be perfect!!!! : )

    1. Ann

      First of all, I am incredibly impressed by your self-discipline! That is a long time with no chocolate! I think this will be the perfect cake for your well-deserved celebration. Happy birthday a little early!

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  3. The Better Baker

    I’m not even very fond of cake, but this one makes me want a great big bite. Beautiful – and sooo chocolatey! NICE! Congrats on being featured at Thursday’s Treasures.

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  7. Mary

    I have had this sitting on my FaceBook for a week or more and drool every time I see it……I finally made . OMGosh Thank YOU !!!
    Pinned , copied and pasted and still leaving it on my FB……..just hope no more drooling on my keyboard.

    1. Ann

      I love it, Mary! Thanks so much for the fabulous comment. It is so fitting that you left the comment today. It is my husband’s birthday and this is his all-time favorite birthday cake!

  8. Lisa

    Hi there,

    In the UK we dont use ‘cup’ as a measurement so I’m going to have a go at converting but what ‘cup’ are you using Metric, Imperial, United States customary cup, United States “legal” cup, or other?

    Thanks xoxo

    1. Ann

      Hi Lisa,

      I often use a kitchen scale to measure…and, of course, we use ounces more than grams in the United States. My one cup of sugar would be 7 ounces, for example, and my one cup of unsifted, all-purpose flour would weigh 5 ounces. Basically, this would be the U.S customary cup. I hope that helps and that you enjoy the cake!

  9. Amie L.

    For Father’s day I made the chocolate cake with caramel icing. Yum! I will use the icing for special occasions–it was a little challenging for the first time–and the cake recipe is a definite keeper!

    1. Ann

      I found that once I made this icing recipe the first time, it was easy. Sometimes, the concept of making something with a thermometer is daunting the first time around. I also find that if I prepare the icing a day or two in advance, it makes the whole process seem quicker and easier. Thank you for the great feedback, Amie!

  10. Darlene

    The Hersheys cocoa cake recipe brought back many fond memories of baking with my mom many years ago. This was one of her favorite recipes and our family loved it. I lost it and thanks to you, I found it again.

  11. Pat

    Just wanted you to know I just finished making my first Fountain Avenue Kitchen Dessert – “Best Ever Caramel Icing”! The cake looks beautiful and I tasted the remains of the icing – yummy! Thanks for giving me a caramel frosting recipe that works and does not take a week!

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  16. Gina Adams

    My mom made this cake from, LittltBlackSambo, story book.She mixed the soda in the milk and often used buttermilk. But always with carmel frosting.So good no frosting needed, a dense cake. She’d bake a cake before she went to work, was on the table when I got up for school. Good memories.

  17. Cindy callahan

    you make it so easy to make a cake I can’t wait to make this because it looks delicious I’m waiting for my son’s birthday cuz he loves buttepeanut butter frosting