Easy Chocolate Cake

slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate curls on white plate

Our family loves this recipe for easy chocolate cake! This box mix chocolate cake is super moist and chocolate-y because of the added buttermilk and cocoa powder, our recipe doesn’t call for pudding mix or coffee! Learn our cake mix hacks for how to make a box cake taste homemade.

I’m a fan of box cake mix recipes probably just as much as you are! They are super quick and convenient. 

I wanted to share this recipe because I know many of us don’t have lots of free time to be spending in the kitchen, but when you make something, you want it to taste good, right?

This easy chocolate cake recipe is perfect for all of us who like the ease of a box mix, but maybe want to doctor up the cake mix for more of a homemade taste. Plus, I feel that this doctored up version of a chocolate cake comes together just as quick as the box mix because you can still put everything into one bowl and beat it together.

slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate curls on white plate

What is an Easy Chocolate Cake?

I consider an easy cake to be one that starts with a box mix. Box cake mixes are great and very handy, plus they can be transformed into bakery style cakes with a few extra ingredients. You are essentially doctoring up a cake mix with a few cake mix hacks. 

How to Make a Box Cake Taste Homemade

It’s all about adding ingredients to the cake mix to give the cake better texture & taste.

Adding additional dry ingredients to the cake mix like flour, sugar and cocoa powder will improve the structure and texture of the cake.

Adding buttermilk will ensure your cake turns out incredibly moist. Plus the acid in the buttermilk punches up the chocolate flavor.

Adding additional eggs enhances the flavor and fluffiness of the cake.

Use butter in place of oil. Butter has more flavor than oil and improves the texture of the cake.

Easy Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • buttermilk: adds moisture & fat 
  • melted butter: adds moisture & fat 
  • eggs: binds the cake together by providing structure 
  • vanilla extract: adds that classic vanilla flavor
  • 1 box of devil’s food cake mix
  • sugar: adds sweetness and flavor
  • all purpose flour: adds structure 
  • cocoa powder: intensifies the chocolate flavor 
slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate curls on white plate

How to make Box Chocolate Cake Recipe

For this recipe you’ll want to use a 15.25 oz box of Duncan Hines devil’s food or chocolate cake mix. I know some boxes out there are 18.25 oz, so be sure you’re getting the right size. 

  1. In a large mixing bowl combine the buttermilk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract, cake mix, sugar, flour and cocoa powder, beat with an electric mixer until combined, 1-2 minutes.
  2. Spray a 9×13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely before adding frosting.

What Brand of Cake Mix to Use

I prefer Duncan Hines cake mixes, as do a lot of food bloggers, plus Wilton recommends Duncan Hines brand and Wilton is a cake powerhouse, so I trust their opinion. 

2 pieces of chocolate cake side by side on white background

Cake Mix vs. Doctored Up Cake Mix Comparison

The above image compares 2 pieces of cake – the one on the left is a chocolate cake mix, following the directions on the back of the box and the one on the right is our recipe for easy chocolate cake using a box mix.

You can see that the left one is pretty airy and spongy compared to the right one. The doctored up version (right) is incredibly moist and it’s more dense and rich, like a homemade cake would be. The doctored up one also has a deeper chocolate flavor.

How To Make Doctored Up Chocolate Cake Without Pudding or Coffee

The big thing for me when coming up with this recipe was I didn’t want to use pudding mix or coffee as elements to doctor up the cake mix.

Why?

There are already a lot of doctored up cake recipes out there that use those things. Plus, a common thing I saw people asking was “What can I use in place of the pudding/coffee?” So we’re bringing you a recipe that doesn’t use those items.

To make a doctored up chocolate cake you need to start with a high quality box of cake mix.

Then we added buttermilk and melted butter to increase the moisture and fat content and additional cocoa powder to amp up the chocolate flavor. 

slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate curls on white plate

How to Make Easy Chocolate Curls

My secret for making easy chocolate curls is to get a Hershey’s bar and use a vegetable peeler to make curls, it’s so simple! Be sure to hold the chocolate bar on the wrapper so the heat from your fingers doesn’t leave imprints on the chocolate bar. 

Frostings to Pair with Chocolate Cake

Looking for a doctored up white cake mix recipe?

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For a step-by-step of how to make this easy chocolate cake recipe, watch this short video:
Easy Chocolate Cake

Easy Chocolate Cake

Yield: 9x13 inch cake
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Our family loves this recipe for easy chocolate cake! This box mix chocolate cake is super moist and chocolate-y because of the added buttermilk and cocoa powder, our recipe doesn’t call for pudding mix or coffee! Learn our cake mix hacks for how to make a box cake taste homemade.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 & 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 box devil’s food cake mix, 15.25 oz
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder

Chocolate Frosting

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • dash of milk if frosting becomes too thick

Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine the buttermilk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract, devil’s food cake mix, sugar, flour, and cocoa powder, beat with an electric mixer until combined, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Spray a 9x13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely before adding frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

  1. Place room temperature unsalted butter in a mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer on medium and beat the butter for 1 minute, until whipped and fluffy. 
  2. Add in the cocoa powder, powdered sugar and vanilla extract, beat again on low for 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until everything is incorporated. 
  3. If the frosting is too thick, add a tablespoon of milk or heavy cream, and beat until creamy. 
  4. Spread on top of the cooled cake, add chocolate curls if desired. My secret for making easy chocolate curls is to get a hershey’s bar and use a vegetable peeler to make curls, it’s so simple! Be sure to hold the chocolate bar on the wrapper so the heat from your fingers doesn’t leave imprints on the chocolate bar. 

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42 comments

  1. Hi
    First of all, can I say a huge THANK YOU for not including coffee or pudding – I’m allergic to both, so finding a lovely quick cake recipe like this without them is an absolute godsend!
    However, I live in the uk and I can’t get buttermilk in the shops near me. Is there a way to make it? So many us recipes call for it, but I have no way of buying it and no idea what it actually is or how to make it!!
    Thanks
    Donna xxx

  2. I have several of the Cake Mix Doctor books. Unfortunately they were written years ago, before they reduced the size of the cake mixes. I used to make her Darn Good Chocolate cake all the time but since they changed the size, it just turns out as good chocolate cake. I am glad this one incorporates the smaller size and can’t wait to try it!

  3. Hi Beth!
    I enjoy all your recipes, I would like to know if this recipe can be used to make layers or larger sheet cakes without compromising the flavor by doubling it?

    • Hi Iona! I would certainly think this cake could be used in a layered cake. I think doubling it would be fine, but the baking time would be affected.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful cake recipe!!! I made it for Cub scout campfire pack meeting (in case you don’t know, 8-11 year old boys and their family gathering for awards!!) and it was a huge huge huge hit!!! It’s yummy but on top of it, it’s SO EASY to make!!!! Please imagine bunch of boys faces covering with cake crumbs and frosting :) :) means, HAPPY FACE!!!!

    • Wooohooo!!!! We’re happy to hear this!

    • I used yogurt-worked fine!
      I also made a mistake.  I didn’t realize there was a frosting recipe and  I was afraid  I put in 2/3 cup of cocoa instead of 3 tbl!  Then I decided  to add one tsp of baking powder, thinking I had too much dry ingredients.  I was lucky, the cake was great!

    • Whew! So glad it came out well!

  5. This was very good. Sadly I flubbed the frosting with too cold butter. Do you have a white/yellow cake mix recipe?

  6. Can this cake be frozen? I like to try new things and make the portions to freeze. can the portion sizes be adjusted? this recepie did not show how may people can be served by the recepie?

  7. Am making chocolate cake with the buttercream icing, it calls for 1 cup of butter, but in method you say to cream butter and shortening, is this an error if not how much shortening are you supposed to use?

  8. Hi Beth,
    I fixed this cake for my grandson’s birthday and it was not good. The chocolate taste did not come thru in the cake, tho I have to say it was moist and beautiful. I looked at the recipe over and over and I do not see what I did wrong. Do you or anyone else have any ideas? The icing was excellent. Corrections please. I would like to use this again if I can solve this issue. Thanks for your recipe and for your help.

    • Hi Rita! I’m sorry to hear it didn’t turn out for you. I will say that a box of chocolate cake mix isn’t as chocolatey as a homemade chocolate cake mix – maybe you were expecting like a chocolate fudge cake? However this recipe is still really good and we use it a lot!

    • “For this recipe you’ll want to use a 15.25 oz box of cake white mix. I know some boxes out there are 18.25 oz, so be sure you’re getting the right size.”

      I almost wrote “white cake mix” on my grocery list, got down to the recipe and saw it was actually devil’s food. Perhaps this got Rita, too ;). Making for my son’s bday this weekend. Thanks for the recipe! 

  9. If you want a more chocolate cake try using the Duncan Hines chocolate fudge cake mix for this recipe. I also add a teaspoon of cinnamon because cinnamon also gives chocolate flavor a boost. I made a layer cake but followed the recipe except for the cake flavor and the cinnamon. Hope this helps you.

  10. Beth, I love this cake. Everything turned out perfect. So perfect that I am making this for my Mother’s Day cake for myself. I am going to add fresh strawberry to the top when finished. Thank you for a great recipe.

  11. I recently made this cake recipe and followed your instructions exactly. I did add 1/3 cup of coffee. The cake was moist and delicious. I used your buttercream icing but without chocolate. It too was delicious. Thank you for this recipe using the smaller cake mix size. I will be making this again.
    Nancy

  12. Unfortunately, I was so excited to make this that I picked up a Betty Crocker Super Moist Devil’s Food cake mix instead of Duncan Hines! :( Will an already moist cake mix still be ok to follow this recipe? I would like to make this asap for a birthday dinner.

  13. Trying this recipe now! Also was wondering why this isn’t printer friendly???

  14. While it turned out fine, I found that with all the additions to a boxed cake mix (sugar, flour, cocoa, buttermilk, vanilla) beyond the usual cake mix additions, you can just as easily make a better chocolate cake from scratch.

  15. Should the butter for the cake and also for the frosting be salted or unsalted? Thanks!

    • Hi Rachel! I always use unsalted butter – but it’s a personal preference!

    • It truly is personal preference! I really enjoy the tiny bit of salt to cut the sweetness in a super sweet chocolate frosting, while others have to watch their sodium intake or just dont care for it. Do whatever suits you and your family as its delicious either way.

  16. Can this be made as cupcakes? If so, how would you recommend adjusting the bake time?

  17. What would be the recipe if I’m trying to do 3 layer 8 inch pan.

    • Hi Sandra! Hmmm.. this is just a guess because I haven’t tried it myself, but I would probably double the recipe. That would give you plenty of batter for three 8 inch pans – probably even a little too much batter, maybe enough to make a fourth 8 inch pan!

  18. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, since staying at home, I am stuck and with these, I am able to make a delicious and moist cake for my teen girl. 

  19. Hi. Do I have to add the flour? And if I don’t, what will happen

    • Hi Leonda – adding the additional flour helps to improve the structure of the cake. It is crucial in our recipe.

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