Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting is a classic dessert that will never go out of style. Rich, moist cake studded with big chunks of chocolate is topped with thick swirls of tangy cream cheese frosting.

A two layer chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting on a white cake stand, decorated with pink and white flowers and greenery.

I think that I love cream cheese more than the average person. I wasn’t really aware of this until I was doing a video call with a couple of friends, while making myself a bagel, and they both were shocked and awed by how much cream cheese (and how much everything bagel seasoning) I put on said bagel.

I mean, I had just had a baby a few days prior, and my body was extra hungry. But honestly, I don’t even need to make excuses. I’m not embarrassed. The truth is, I just love cream cheese. Anytime, anywhere.

It can go savory in crab-stuffed salmon recipe and crockpot beef stroganoff. It can be used as the “sauce” on roasted cauliflower pizza. And my Baileys brownies wouldn’t be the same without their spiked cream cheese frosting.

Today, I’m sharing a recipe for the absolute best chocolate cake I’ve ever made, paired with, what else? Cream cheese frosting!

A slice of double layer chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting on a small white plate with the rest of the cake in the background.

Does cream cheese frosting go with chocolate cake?

Heck yes, cream cheese frosting absolutely goes with chocolate cake. While it is normally associated with red velvet cake or carrot cake (or carrot cake smoothies if you’re wild), I’m here to preach the gospel of cream cheese frosting for chocolate cake!

Our taste buds naturally crave a balance between sweet and sour. So the tangy, slightly sour flavor of cream cheese really balances out the sweet, rich chocolate cake.

The creamy texture of the frosting also complements the tender, moist crumb of the cake. Cream cheese frosting for chocolate cake is irresistible!

A dark, double layer cake with creamy white frosting, decorated with pink and white flowers.

What you’ll need for this chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting recipe:

  • dark chocolate – you will need 8 ounces of high quality dark chocolate for this best chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. I used Harvest Chocolate Ecuador Snacking Chocolate (chocolate cut into small pieces perfect for easy snacking or baking). It is a rich 68% dark chocolate with notes of hazelnut butter and toffee. This chocolate is also perfect for a yogurt parfait bar.
  • cocoa powder – using a high quality cocoa powder makes all the difference in chocolate cake (and Black Forest cupcakes). I used Harvest Chocolate Organic Cocoa Powder. With tasting notes of fresh cocoa and creamy banana, this cocoa powder is all natural, never “dutched” (an industrial process which strips the powder of flavor through chemical washing). Not today, friends!
  • all-purpose flour – the main dry ingredient in the cake batter, and what provides the structure of the cake.
  • granulated sugar – adds sweetness and creates a tender cake crumb.
  • instant espresso – this enhances the chocolate flavor, making it richer and more intense. Add this if you can!
  • baking soda – helps the cake to rise when it reacts with acidic ingredients like the buttermilk.
  • baking powder – helps the cake to rise when it comes in contact with liquid.
  • kosher salt – crucial in almost all baked goods to balance sweetness.
  • eggs – provide structure to the cake, and help it rise.
  • unsalted butter – we’ll be using this to add richness to both the cake AND the frosting.
  • buttermilk – provides moisture and helps create a tender cake. Use the rest of the bottle to make buttermilk blueberry muffins or buttermilk fried chicken tenders next week!
  • sour cream – provides moisture and adds richness and tanginess.
  • olive oil – provides moisture and adds a fruity flavor. More on this later!
  • vanilla extract – enchances the flavor of the cake and frosting and balances the bitterness of the cocoa.
  • hot water – more on this later. It’s crucial for this recipe!
  • cream cheese – the star of the cream cheese frosting for chocolate cake.
  • powdered sugar – this sweetens and thickens the frosting.
  • lemon juice – I love adding this to the frosting to make it even more tangy, which pairs so well with the rich chocolate cake. Buy a whole bag of lemons so you can make lemon margaritas or lemon smoothies, too.
A black and white later cake on a white ceramic cake stand with a bag of Harvest Chocolate snacking chocolate alongside the cake.

Use the GOOD chocolate to make the BEST chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting.

You may remember from my chocolate creme brulee and brownie pie posts that I’ll be working together with my friends at Harvest Chocolate in Tecumseh, Michigan to bring you chocolate dessert recipes.

Elizabeth and Matt pride themselves on creating chocolate that is not only delicious, but ethically sourced and environmentally sustainable. They source their beans directly from farmers, ensuring fair wages and sustainable farming practices.

Their products are simply the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted, and the quality of their chocolate and cocoa powder truly makes this chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting recipe one of the best desserts I’ve ever published!

While I mentioned above that we used their Ecuador Snacking Chocolate to develop this recipe, any of their varieties (they also have Haiti, Costa Rica and Ghana) would work great in this cake.

A cake serving sliding a piece of chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting away from the rest of the cake. The cake is two layers and decorated with pink and white flowers.

Have your ingredients at room temperature!

Just like with blackberry muffins, it’s important to make sure that refrigerated ingredients like eggs, butter, buttermilk, sour cream and cream cheese are all at room temperature before you begin to make this recipe. Why?

Because trying to incorporate cold ingredients can create lumps and also cause the cake to bake unevenly. Room temperature ingredients emulsify into the batter and frosting more easily.

The reason for adding hot water to cake batter:

Hot water is one of the key ingredients in the cake batter. Adding hot water to chocolate cake batter helps bloom the cocoa powder, which intensifies its flavor and creates a more chocolately taste.

I just use tap water as hot as I can get it!

A two layer chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting on a white plate, decorated with pink and white flowers and greenery.

Be sure to use olive oil for this chocolate cake recipe with cream cheese frosting.

A unique ingredient in this cake batter is olive oil. A lot of cake recipes call for a neutral oil like canola or vegetable oil, but if you haven’t tried baking with olive oil, you should!

Not only does olive oil add moisture and richness, but its fruity flavor really complements the chocolate taste, too. Just like with citrus vinaigrette, use a high quality olive oil.

Does this chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting recipe need to be refrigerated?

Anything with cream cheese or buttercream frosting, including this chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, needs to be covered and stored in the refrigerator for food safety. So, just like with my lemon curd cake, get this into the fridge after you have your first serving!

For best flavor, bring the cake (or even just a slice or two) to room temperature before eating, if you can wait that long. If not, cold cake is one of my secret pleasures.

A two layer chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting on a white cake stand, decorated with pink and white flowers and greenery.

Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Prep Time: 36 minutes
Cook Time: 24 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting is a classic dessert that will never go out of style. Rich, moist cake studded with big chunks of chocolate is topped with thick swirls of tangy cream cheese frosting.

Ingredients

For the Chocolate Cake:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped, or chocolate chunks

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. Make the Chocolate Cake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper, then spray parchment with cooking spray
  2. In medium bowl, whisk flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, instant espresso, baking soda, baking powder and salt until well combined.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, mix eggs, butter, buttermilk, sour cream, oil and vanilla on medium-high speed 30 seconds or until combined. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  4. Add hot water and flour mixture. Mix on medium speed 30 seconds or until just combined, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl once halfway through. Do not over mix. Gently fold in chopped chocolate.
  5. Divide batter between prepared pans. Transfer to oven and bake 24 to 26 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of each layer comes out clean. Transfer pans to cooling rack and allow cake to cool in pans completely before turning cakes out to assemble.
  6. Make the Cream Cheese Frosting: In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, cream cheese, lemon juice and vanilla 2 to 3 minutes or until light and creamy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until all sugar is incorporated and mixture is smooth.
  7. To assemble, place one cake layer on cake serving plate. Evenly spread top of cake layer with half of frosting. Place 5 to 6 toothpicks in bottom cake layer before placing top cake layer over them. Spread top of cake with remaining frosting. Slice and serve right away, or store refrigerated up to 3 days.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 731Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 88mgSodium: 414mgCarbohydrates: 106gFiber: 3gSugar: 85gProtein: 7g

This website provides estimated nutrition information as a courtesy only. Nutrition information does not include any optional ingredients or toppings. You should calculate the nutrition information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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