CHOCOLATE BIRTHDAY cake

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Celebrate life with a chocolate birthday cake that’s completely irresistible! Moist, decadent and delicious, this Matilda chocolate cake was inspired by the movie! The rich chocolate frosting will have you licking the spatula.

In a family of chocolate lovers, this is our favorite dessert. It’s featured at parties year round. No birthdays on the horizon? Find an excuse to treat yourself to a yummy cake. Light a candle on top. You deserve all the joy!

PIN MATILDA CHOCOLATE CAKE!

Three-layer chocolate birthday cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting on green glass cake stand.

ABOUT THIS CHOCOLATE BIRTHDAY CAKE

Boxed cake mix can’t hold a candle to this homemade Matilda cake! It’s even better than Hershey’s chocolate cake recipe. It comes together with basic refrigerator and pantry items.

A birthday cake like this deserves a deeply-satisfying chocolate frosting. This cream cheese icing does not disappoint. Like my drool-worthy mint brownies, friends are always asking for the recipe.

NUMBER OF SERVINGS: This 3-layer cake is perfect for large gatherings. It serves 16 generous portions. If sliced event-style, per this cake server guide, it yields 24 pieces.

Slice of chocolate cake with silver candles and a metal fork.

PLAN AHEAD / MAKE AHEAD

Before starting, read the recipe instructions from start to finish. As with all homemade cakes, there will be some down time. The baked cakes will need time to cool in the fridge. The crumb coating will need an hour of chilling.

I recommend baking the layers of cake the day before. Chill them in the fridge overnight. You can go a step further by making the frosting and applying the crumb coating. The final frosting can be done the next day.

Matilda chocolate cake on a green cake stand with a slice of birthday cake and silver candles.

CHOCOLATE CAKE ingredients

This chocolate birthday cake comes together with just a few refrigerator and pantry items. Most are ingredients you may already have on hand!

  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Hershey’s Cocoa Powder, natural unsweetened
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Sea salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • Large eggs
  • Vanilla extract
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Espresso instant coffee granules
  • Boiling water
Ingredients for chocolate Matilda cake laid out on a white rustic tabletop.

CHOCOLATE FROSTING INGREDIENTS

  • Cream cheese (block-style, not from spreadable tub)
  • Butter
  • Hershey’s Cocoa Powder, natural unsweetened*
  • Vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar
  • Milk

*FOR DARKER CHOCOLATE FROSTING: Use Hershey’s Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder.

Ingredients for chocolate cream cheese frosting for a chocolate Matilda cake.

best cake pans

High-quality cake pans are a must for every kitchen. Mine are USA Pan bakeware. Carried by retailers like Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table, you can get them through the Amazon affiliate link below.

HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE LINERS FOR PANS

It’s important to line the bottom of cake pans with parchment paper.

When pans are prepped correctly, the moist chocolate cakes can be cleanly removed. Use this method even if your pans are non-stick. It’s like having an extra insurance policy for your chocolate birthday cake!

Making parchment paper liners is quick and easy!

  1. Place the round cake pan on a piece of parchment paper that’s slightly bigger than the pan.
  2. With a pencil, trace the outer circumference of the pan.
  3. With scissors, cut out the circle.
How to make parchment liners for round cake pans.

HOW TO PREPARE CAKE PANS

Here’s how to prepare cake pans for this moist chocolate cake recipe.

  1. Butter the bottom and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans.
  2. Line each pan with a circle of parchment paper. Smooth it out to remove air bubbles and creases. Butter the paper.
  3. Dust one cake pan with a few tablespoons of cocoa powder. Shake and rotate the pan until the whole interior is fully coated.
  4. Turn the pan on its side and tilt it over the second pan. With the heal of your hand, firmly knock out the excess cocoa powder directly into the lined and buttered pan. Repeat the process.
How to prepare 3 cake pans for baking a super moist chocolate cake.

BAKING PAN VARIATIONS

No round pans for this super moist chocolate cake? No problem. You can still make this easy dessert. Just use the bakeware you have on hand.

Below are 2 options that will fit the batter produced by this Matilda cake recipe.

RECTANGULAR CAKE PAN, 9 x 13 INCH

Pour batter into a prepared rectangular pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes at 350°F. Cool Matilda chocolate cake before frosting.

CUPCAKE / MUFFIN PANS

For children’s parties, chocolate birthday cake slices can often be a messy situation. Make 36 cupcakes instead!

Line pans with paper baking cups. Fill them with batter 2/3 full. Bake 22 to 25 minutes at 350°F. Cool before frosting.

CHOCOLATE BIRTHDAY CAKE RECIPE

RECIPE PREP: Prepare three round 8-inch cake pans (butter, line and dust with cocoa powder). Adjust oven rack to the center position. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  • STEP 1: In the bowl of a stand mixer, add flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt. Mix on low.
  • STEP 2: In the meantime, stir espresso instant coffee in boiling water. Set it aside.
  • STEP 3: With the mixer still on low, add oil, eggs, vanilla, and heavy whipping cream. Blend. Add the hot espresso/water mixture. Mix until smooth.
  • STEP 4: Divide batter between the pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of each cake. If it comes out mostly clean, it’s done. Don’t wait until the tester comes out completely dry, or cakes will be over baked. We want tender layers for a super moist chocolate cake.
4 Images showing how to make a chocolate birthday cake, AKA Matilda chocolate cake.

HOW TO COOL THE CAKES: After 10 minutes, remove cakes from their pans. They may slightly deflate in the middle, but that’s okay. Later on we’ll be trimming the tops.

Transfer each cake to a sheet of waxed paper. Let them shed heat on the counter for 15 minutes. Chill in the fridge 2 hours or overnight.

Three freshly-baked layers for a super moist chocolate cake.

MAKE CHOCOLATE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

This easy chocolate cake frosting comes together in 15 minutes! But before you begin, make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.

  • STEP 1: In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together.
  • STEP 2: With mixer on a low-speed setting, add cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and half the milk. Mix until blended.
  • STEP 3: Slowly add in powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time.
  • STEP 4: During this process, gradually add in more milk until the mixture reaches a desired consistency. For icing a super moist chocolate cake, the frosting must be smooth and easily spreadable.
4 images showing how to make chocolate cream cheese frosting for a Matilda chocolate cake.

HOW TO FROST A CHOCOLATE CAKE

PREP WORK: With a long serrated knife, use a sawing motion to level the top of each cake. The layers of this 3-tier chocolate birthday cake should be the same height, as well as flat and even.

Trimming super moist chocolate cake layers by slicing the tops with a long serrated knife.
  1. Lay 3 strips of wax paper along edges of a serving plate, or cardboard cake round that’s 1 to 2 inches wider than the cake. The strips will keep the plate clean from frosting. Plop a dollop of frosting in the center of the plate. This will prevent cake from sliding around.
  2. Place first layer of cake in the center of plate with cut side facing down. It should sit partially on top of the paper strips. Brush away loose crumbs with a pastry brush. With an icing spatula or knife, spread an even layer of frosting on top, about 1/2 inch thick. Don’t frost the sides! Add second layer, with trimmed side facing down. Apply an even layer of frosting to the top, but not the sides.
  3. Add third layer. Brush away stray crumbs. Place a large scoop of icing in a small bowl. Thin it out with milk to make it super spreadable. It should be thinner than the rest of the frosting so it can glide right on with no resistance. Ice top and sides of cake with a very thin, even, smooth layer of frosting (1/16 of an inch thick). This is a “crumb coating.” Its job is to lock in the crumbs, preventing them from mixing with the final coat of frosting. Discard remaining icing from the small bowl, as it probably has crumbs. Chill cake in fridge for 1 hour or until coating has set.
  4. Now it’s time to frost the cake! Apply 1/2 inch of frosting to the top and sides. Remove and discard protective paper strips. Your chocolate birthday cake is ready to enjoy!
4 images showing how to frost a super moist chocolate cake.

RECIPE TIPS AND FAQ

  • WHY COOL THE LAYERS OF CAKE FOR 2 HOURS? It takes 2 hours for the middle of a cake to cool. If you apply frosting before cooling is complete, you’re in for a mess. As heat rises from the center of each layer, the icing will start to melt.
  • TIP FOR MAKING THE BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE: Use high-quality baking powder. This is a make or break situation! I recommend either Hershey’s or Ghirardelli cocoa powder.
  • WHY HOT ESPRESSO FOR THIS RECIPE? Coffee greatly enhances the chocolate flavor. It takes things to the next level. Additionally, the hot liquid helps dissolve the cocoa, reducing lumps in the batter.
  • WHY IS THIS CALLED A MATILDA CHOCOLATE CAKE? In the movie Matilda, there’s an iconic scene where Miss Trunchbull forces Bruce Bogtrotter to eat a giant chocolate birthday cake as a punishment. This super moist chocolate cake is just like the one in the movie!
  • WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVER CAKE TRIMMINGS? After trimming the top of a cake, save and freeze the leftover pieces. Use them to make cake pops.
  • HOW TO MAKE GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE CAKE: Cup for cup, substitute a gluten-free flour blend for the all-purpose flour.
  • HOW TO MAKE A DAIRY-FREE CHOCOLATE CAKE: Grease the cake pans with cooking spray. Instead of heavy whipping cream, use soy milk, coconut milk, or almond milk. For the frosting, use a dairy-free option.
  • HOW TO MAKE AN EGGLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE: For each egg, substitute 1/4 cup sour cream, OR 1/4 cup plain yogurt, OR 1/4 cup smashed bananas, OR 1/4 cup applesauce.
  • HOW LONG DOES CHOCOLATE CAKE LAST? When refrigerated, your frosted cake will stay fresh for 3 to 4 days. If the unfrosted layers are wrapped separately and frozen, they’ll freeze well for up to 3 months.
Chocolate birthday cake with candles on a green cake stand by a slice of Matilda cake.

MORE CHOCOLATE DESSERTS

If you loved this moist chocolate cake, you’ll go crazy over these desserts too! They’re ideal for parties all year round.

Piece of super moist chocolate cake on a white plate with silver fork and birthday candles.

MATILDA CHOCOLATE CAKE > RATE THIS RECIPE ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Friends and family say this is the best chocolate birthday cake recipe! If you agree, give this Matilda cake a 5-star rating in the comments.

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com
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Three-layer chocolate birthday cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting on a green glass cake stand.

Chocolate Birthday Cake


  • Author: Denay DeGuzman
  • Prep Time: 15 Minutes + 3 Hours in Fridge
  • Cook Time: 30 Minutes
  • Total Time: 45 Minutes
  • Yield: 16 Slices 1x

Description

This chocolate birthday cake is decadent and moist with the perfect crumb. It’s 8-inches across, and features a rich chocolate cream cheese frosting. Enjoy a 3-layer Matilda cake any time of year!


Ingredients

Scale

CHOCOLATE CAKE

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups Hershey’s Cocoa Powder, natural unsweetened
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons espresso instant coffee
  • 1 cup boiling water

CHOCOLATE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • 8 oz cream cheese (block-style, not from spreadable tub), softened
  • 3 sticks butter (1 1/2 cups), softened
  • 1 1/2 cups Hershey’s Cocoa Powder, natural unsweetened*
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 7 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup milk (or more, if needed)

*FOR DARKER CHOCOLATE FROSTING: Use Hershey’s Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder.


Instructions

CHOCOLATE CAKE

RECIPE PREP: Prepare three 8-inch round cake pans (see recipe notes below). Preheat oven to 350°F.

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt. Mix on a low setting.
  2. In the meantime, prep the coffee: add espresso instant coffee to boiling water. Set it aside.
  3. With the mixer still on low, add vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla extract, and heavy whipping cream. Blend. Add the hot espresso/water mixture. Mix until smooth.
  4. Divide batter between the pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of each cake. If it comes out mostly clean, it’s done. Don’t wait until the tester comes out completely dry, or the cakes will be over baked. We’re aiming for tender moist layers.

HOW TO COOL THE CAKES: After 10 minutes, remove the cakes from their pans. They may slightly deflate in the middle, but that’s okay. We’ll be trimming them later. Transfer each cake to a sheet of waxed paper. Let them shed heat on the counter for 15 minutes. Chill in the fridge 2 hours or overnight.

CHOCOLATE FROSTING

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter together.
  2. With your mixer on a low-speed setting, add cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and half the milk. Mix until blended.
  3. Slowly add in powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time.
  4. During this process, gradually add in more milk until the mixture reaches a desired consistency. For icing a chocolate cake, we want the frosting smooth and easily spreadable.

HOW TO FROST THE CAKE

PREP WORK: Lay 3 to 4 strips of wax paper along edges of a serving plate, or cardboard cake round that’s 1 to 2 inches wider than the cake. The strips will keep the plate clean from frosting. Plop a dollop of frosting in the center of the plate. This will prevent cake from sliding around while frosted.

  1. With a long serrated knife, use a sawing motion to level the top of each cake. Layers should be the same height, as well as flat and even.
  2. Place first layer of cake in the center of plate with cut side facing down. It should sit partially on top of the paper strips. Brush away loose crumbs with a pastry brush. With an icing spatula or knife, spread an even layer of frosting on top, about 1/2 inch thick. Don’t frost the sides! Add second layer, with trimmed side facing down. Apply an even layer of frosting to the top, but not the sides.
  3. Add third layer. Brush away stray crumbs. Place a large scoop of icing in a small bowl. Thin it out with milk to make it super spreadable. It should be thinner than the rest of the frosting so it can glide right on with no resistance. Ice top and sides of cake with a very thin, even, smooth layer of frosting (1/16 of an inch thick). This is a “crumb coating.” Its job is to lock in the crumbs, preventing them from mixing with the final coat of frosting. Discard remaining icing from the small bowl, as it probably has crumbs. Chill cake in fridge for 1 hour or until coating has set.
  4. Now it’s time to frost the cake! Apply 1/2 inch of frosting to the top and sides. Remove and discard protective paper strips. Your chocolate birthday cake is ready to enjoy!

Notes

HOW TO PREPARE CAKE PANS

Butter the bottom and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. 

Line each pan with a circle of parchment paper. Smooth it out to remove air bubbles and creases. Butter the paper.

Dust one cake pan with a few tablespoons of cocoa powder. Shake and rotate the pan until the whole interior is fully coated.

Turn the pan on its side and tilt it over the second pan. With the heal of your hand, firmly knock out the excess cocoa powder directly into the lined and buttered pan. Repeat the process.

  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Birthday Cake, Matilda Chocolate Cake

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

CHOCOLATE BIRTHDAY CAKE > JOIN THE CONVERSATION

How do you serve a super moist chocolate cake? I like mine presented on a pedestal cake stand with silver birthday candles. I pair the slices with vanilla ice cream. Share your thoughts on this Matilda cake in the comments.

10 thoughts on “CHOCOLATE BIRTHDAY cake”

  1. Made this as requested by my now 10 y/o granddaughter for her birthday. Everyone loved it. But, I’m not sure what I did wrong…I followed the recipe and the cake had great flavor but it was very dense; more like a brownie. Did I over mix? Over bake? Help!
    The frosting was to die for though; I used the dark cocoa as suggested.
    Will try again as it is perfect for special celebrations for my chocolate loving family!

    Reply
    • Hello Stacey. Thank you for returning to ask this question! There are actually several things that might have caused this: 1. Baking powder or baking soda is not fresh. 2. Too much flour. Alway use the fluff, sprinkle, swipe method. Fluff up the flour inside the bag with a spoon. By the spoonful, sprinkle flour into the measuring cup until it’s overflowing. Run a knife over the measuring cup to even off the top and swipe away the excess. 3. For baked goods, overmixing is often the culprit. Mix ingredients until just blended. 4. The oven should be preheated before baking the cakes. Even if your oven indicates that it’s reached the desired temperature, wait an additional 20 minutes before baking just to be sure. You may also want to check the temperature of your oven to see if it’s running cold. // Happy 10th birthday to your granddaughter! From my kitchen to yours, I send good wishes for great baking days and many delicious meals! – Denay

      Reply
  2. Wow this cake looks so rich and chocolatey. Just how I like my cake!! Can’t wait to make this for my hubby’s birthday next month.

    Reply
  3. This cake is a chocolate fanatic’s dream! It is so rich and delicious! I already can’t wait to make it again!

    Reply

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