Beatty’s Chocolate Cake

Can you tell I have a thing for Ina Garten? haha. Well this is actually my favorite chocolate layer cake recipe. Aside from it being prone to sinking in the center, it is always SO delicious and moist! The cupcakes were no exception. They did sink slightly in the center though… but if you are going to frost them or just don’t care too much then it’s really not a big deal. Either way, the cupcake was so yummy! Moist and fluffy. A little bit too delicate to be eaten as a cupcake rather than with a fork as a layer cake, but it still works. The flavor was a fantastic balance between chocolate and sweetness. And again, there was quite a bit of coffee used so you can easily sub out some of that for hot water if that might bother you. I really do LOVE this cake : D It won’t make the most attractive cupcakes, but it tastes incredible!

* UPDATE * After much research and deliberation I have found a solution to the “sunken” cake problem. There are a couple of reasons that the cake may be doing this- not baked through completely, oven temperature too high, or too much leavening. I knew that I had been baking the cake through completely since it always tasted perfect, without any underdone “goo”. As far as the temperature…. maybe my oven was too hot? So I decided just in case I would turn it down a touch to 325°F. BUT! I think the real trick to solving this problem comes from too much leavening. The theory is that it “over-stretches the glutens in the flour, making the cake rise higher than it should during baking. The gluten can’t hold the structure as the cake cools, which leads to a sunken cake with a moist and dense center.” That excerpt comes straight out of the Martha Stewart Magazine, but I have further researched it online and it seems to be a universal truth when it comes to baking. The magazine also states that for most recipes, this guideline applies: For every cup of flour there should be one teaspoon of baking powder or a quarter teaspoon of baking soda. When I looked at this recipe, I didn’t know how to apply it since it uses both baking soda and baking powder- does that still apply when both are used? Regardless, the recipe did seem to ask for a lot of baking soda, so I decided to see what would happen if I just decreased it slightly from 2 teaspoons to 1 3/4 teaspoons. SUCCESS! Absolutely NO sinking : D And that was in a 9″ x 13″ pan! Which would be all the more likely to sink since the surface area is much greater. I really think that the decrease in leavening has truly provided a solution! I am just so happy that one of my most favorite chocolate cake recipes now has no flaws!!

See? No sunken center!

For a GREAT Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Recipe, click here.

For my Chocolate Cupcake Comparison, click here.

4.7 from 13 reviews
Beatty's Chocolate Cake
Serves: 24
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cups good cocoa powder
  • 1¾ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
  • Buttercream:
  • 6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (recommended: Callebaut)
  • ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line muffin tin with paper cups.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  3. Fill cups ⅔ way full and bake 20-22 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
  4. For Buttercream: Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don't whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.
For two 8" round cake pans or 9" x 13" pan- bake 35-40 minutes.

Adapted from Ina Garten

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Vickivc October 25, 2012 at 11:35 pm

I too was having trouble with the center of the cupcakes falling. I love this cake and was thinking this might be the problem. Greatfull to you for doing the math and experiment.


lmachell October 28, 2012 at 9:19 am

I hope my solution works as well for you as it did for me! I’d be interested to find out. I’ve only used it with a 9″x13″ pan so far. I’m curious as to if it will work with round cake pans or cupcakes.


hope September 11, 2015 at 12:45 pm

I’ve made this cake in the 8in cake pans and it worked fine. Everybody loved it.


hope September 11, 2015 at 12:47 pm

And I had no sinking in the middle at all.


Lynn Parry January 20, 2013 at 4:36 am

I have made this cake 5 times in two weeks, always having a fallen center to both layers of a 8inch cake. Tonight, I decreased the baking soda to 1&1/2 teaspoons and the center still fell just slightly so I plan on decreasing the soda yet another 1/4 teaspoon next time. The texture, taste, ratio of sweet to chocolate is perfect and has fast become a cake that draws in the compliments every time it is served. I am just perturbed by the falling of the center of each layer!


lmachell January 24, 2013 at 6:09 pm

I agree- I hate that it falls! But honestly, I believe it is due to the leavening- as you can see in my large 9×13 pan, I had no issues when I lowered the leavening. Pretty surprising since it is such a wide pan. Let me know if reducing the amount further helps with the 8″ rounds.


margaret wattle January 29, 2015 at 11:49 pm

I have made this cake for several years, the center fell each time. The hot liquid added at the end has to be boiling. Now the cake turns out beautiful. MW


Cheryl April 23, 2015 at 9:42 pm

I’ve made this cake several times – comes out great each time. I like the fact that the cupcakes come out flat as it makes decorating them easier.

A couple of things to prevent your cakes / cupcakes from sinking in the center —

1) Make sure you bake the cake or cupcake until they are really done baking and a toothpick when inserted comes out clean. An undercooked cake (even slightly undercooked) can sink in the center.

2) Careful that you do not over mix is the batter!

3). Make sure your oven has had plenty of time to the preheat to the appropriate temperature before putting your cake or cupcakes into the oven.

Those things should make for happier baking…


Audrey February 11, 2013 at 8:04 pm

you state 1/2 cups for measurement , what grammes is this equal to ?

Thank you

I’ve just made my 20 th sunken chocolate cake , I’m in my bed disgusted , not just sunken but with a hard top layer !!!!!


lmachell February 19, 2013 at 2:22 pm

I have no idea what the gram equivalency would be, but you can easily get the numbers converted through a google search. Good luck trying to fix your chocolate cake dilemma! I hate when a cake sinks..


Fatima March 19, 2013 at 5:46 am

I stumbled across your page by chance today and you arr an angel sent from heaven! When i started making this recipe my first 4 batches wer perfect, then they just all sank! I followed your advice and i dropped the baking soda to 1.5 tsp. I also only added half a cup of coffee and i baked at 170 degrees celcius instead of the usual 180….perfect cupcaked! Just a tip, only half fill the cupcake cups,p. Thanks a bunch!!!


lmachell March 28, 2013 at 6:14 am

Great tip- and I am glad to hear that the adjustment in leavening helped you!


Lucia lopez August 11, 2013 at 4:41 am

Hi i defenitly will try this recipe and ofcourse the adjustments, hope it will work. Wanted to ask any advice for high altitude (mexico city) and what sustitute can i use for buttermilk?

Thanks a lot


lmachell August 15, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Honestly, I know nothing about high altitude baking so I can’t help you there. But I can tell you that you can substitute the Buttermilk by using 1 Tb white vinegar mixed with enough milk to make 1 cup.


Shai August 23, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Oh my heavenly chocolatey delight! This cake is AMAZING. I wanted to make a black forest gateau for my hubby’s birthday so needed a good chocolate sponge cake mix. Holy Molie jackamolie, this cake is moist, rich, light, fluffy AND has the perfect sweetness. The only things I did differently to the recipe was use cherry brandy and chocolate liqueur in the hot water instead of coffee. I knew the alcohol would obvioulsy burn off in the baking, but I wanted to put some flavour in there instead of nothing at all. Also I didnt use the frosting recipe as its a BFG cake and I used 9 inch cake pans as I didnt have any others. It still turned out perfectly. I was a little worried about some reviewers stating that their cakes collapsed in the middle, but no such problems for me. I actually made it yesterday and kept it in a airtight container. I thought maybe the cake might dry out just a tad overnight, but I dont know how its possible; the cake is even more moist and rich today. I had sliced it in three hoping to make three layers of cherries and cream, but the sponge is just so soft and moist that the middle layer broke up a little. So even though my cake looks a little wonky (eek!) i know the texture and taste are going to be bang on!
Thank you Beatty/Ina and whatever forces of good brought this recipe to my cake lovin’ brain cells! I knew there was a good reason for all the fab reviews. (This is a review for the original recipe from foodnetwork.com but I will definitely be trying the cupcake adaptation, thank you!)


lmachell August 27, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Great review Shai! I agree- this recipe is ROCKING!


christina September 14, 2013 at 8:31 am

I’ve made many of these cakes and for the most part they don’t sink. I have to make sure all my wet ingredients are at room temp also that I bake the cake at 350 and for cupcakes 355. I usually b bake cakes at 325 but this cake had to be baked at s higher temp. I do occasionally get sunken cupcakes so I will also try the Less leavening.


Lara December 17, 2014 at 11:04 am

If you bake at 350 how long do you bake for? I’ve had problems getting the cake out the pan and I think baking at a higher temp may work. The last two times I tried the base of the cake in the pan has been a little too moist and sticks to the pan:(


lmachell January 9, 2015 at 5:39 pm

Try an additional ten minutes maybe.


Kelly March 21, 2016 at 8:05 pm

I always cut a parchment circle and place in the bottom of all my cake pans which helps the cake not stick.


Roylene Bynum October 12, 2013 at 4:19 am

This is absolutely my favorite chocolate cake, except I use extra cocoa and leave the coffee out.
I cut back the baking soda to ! and half teaspoon. Baked it at 325 because I used a dark pan.
I baked it right at 40 minutes. I always be sure my ingredients are room temperature. Thanks so much for the tips.


Jennifer October 19, 2013 at 11:08 am

Great post!! Just wondering if you think decreasing the leavening will also work if using this recipe for cupcakes. I recently made cupcakes that ended up having cracked, hard tops with a depressed center. Not sure why. The inside was very moist.


lmachell October 29, 2013 at 6:35 am

I think so. It’s definitely worth a shot!


Kim December 26, 2013 at 6:09 am

Made this for tonight’s Christmas dinner & it was a hit but it did sink. Easily covered up with the frosting, but thanks for doing the experiment. I will definitely try decreasing the baking soda!


Boma Tolofari Nwokocha February 15, 2014 at 4:38 pm

This recipe ‘am definitely going to try, because it sounds looks delicious.


Patricia Epstein February 15, 2014 at 5:53 pm

I have made this cake for at least 40 + years. It is the best chocolate cake. It’s also the cake that my family expects on their birthdays. My cake also sinks but have always just covered it up with frosting. My husband just finished making this for my birthday. I will try the tip about the baking soda the next time I make this.


Melissa February 22, 2014 at 10:16 pm

This cake has been my favorite for years but every time have had the sinking issues, with rounds, cupcakes or sheet. I was so excited to test your theory, so I went with the 9×13 and it still sank. :-(. Totally bummed but I live in high altitude too. I wonder if I can decrease the baking soda even more?


lmachell March 5, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Try it and let me know! Sorry that it didn’t work for you. As you can see from my photo, it worked well for me.


Liz Loach May 9, 2014 at 5:21 pm

I made this cake today – for a friend – 3 – 6″ rounds – I decreased to baking soda to 1 1/2 tsp ……. (and I made 3 little bear cupcakes – for tasters) and this cake rocks – soooo good!!!!


Anon June 10, 2014 at 12:44 pm

I used her recipe as is completely, except that I substituted coconut oil for vegetable oil. It did not sink at all.


Anon June 10, 2014 at 12:45 pm

By that I mean Ina’s recipe. 😀 The one time I tried it with vegetable oil, it san a bit in the middle.


Anon June 10, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Also, I live at more than 6,000 feet and never adjust for altitude. I just bake by sight and taste.


ARC July 5, 2014 at 3:48 am

Hi! I just wanted to ask, how tall is this cake if it makes two 8″ layers? 🙂 About 2″ in total or a little bit taller? Thanks!


Irma November 24, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Just made this fab cake for my MIL 80th birthday. The best darn chocolate cake I ever had! I used a bundt pan and made the recipe exactly as printed. No sinking! I made Ina’s ganache with 1 c. Chocolate.chips and 1/2 c. Whipping cream, melted in 40 sec. Microwave. And poured over the warm cake. Served it with Trader Joes cherries thickened with cornstarch,2 Tbsp. Brandy and a big dollop of whipped cream. Heaven on a plate!


pat December 12, 2014 at 3:35 pm

when baking in 9 x 13 pan did you grease the pan? should sides of cake pans be greased or just bottoms? I decreased soda to 1 1/2 tsp . Just a slight sinking. served it last night to rave reviews.


lmachell January 9, 2015 at 5:41 pm

I use non-stick spray in a glass pan.


Lara December 16, 2014 at 8:16 am

I love this cake! No sinking yay! But I always seem to undercook or it is hard to get out the pan. I use convection oven at 325 for 40 mins… Then struggled to get out the pan and seems moist at the bottom. Done this twice… Any ideas? We still ate every last crumb but not in a very presentable state:)


Renee January 3, 2015 at 5:11 pm

I make this same cake but instead of oil I use vegetable shortening, same amount. Regular or butter flavor. I have never had it sink. I make this in 8 inch rounds, 9×13, and jelly roll pan. Hope this helps.


Jo January 6, 2015 at 12:27 am

omg!!! No, not the cake, your “sunken cake” comment! I have a recipe from my mom for our chocolate cake that starting sinking years ago. I tried everything I could think of and still, the damn thing sinks in the in middle. Yes, even the cupcakes too! I refer to it as my Titanic cake. Tastes fabulous, never under-cooked or gooey, but always sunken. Sometimes, when I’m really lucky, it just gets dippy. My recipe also calls for both baking soda and baking powder. After reading your comment I’m going to tweak it again. Thank you, thank you!


Flor de María Curiel January 29, 2015 at 12:14 am

Hello, all! I’ve been reading your comments and would like to address the high altitude conundrum. I live in a town outside Mexico City, nearly 7000 ft (aprox. 2130 mts) up in the mountains. Perfect results with no sinkage using 1 extra Tbsp of flour and reducing baking soda to 1.5 tsp. Eggs in Mexico tend to be medium, so used 3 eggs in stead of 2 extra-large. Baked for exactly 40 min at 350° in square aluminium 9″ cake pans. I have been tweaking on my own for some time with this recipe ’till I found you, et voila! Fluffy, moist, chocolate heaven with no sinkage. Hope this helps y’all mountain people!


Katie February 8, 2015 at 6:07 pm

Hi! Just wanted to say that I made this for my husband’s birthday yesterday (we are newly married and I really wanted the first birthday cake to be perfect 🙂 …and it was PERFECT! I used a 9×13 with the recommended 1 3/4 tsp baking soda, no sinking. But at 325 I did have to leave it in there for at least 45 minutes – at that point the center definitely appeared wet, but was perfect when we served it. No crunchy top. Thank you so much for sharing this! It will be a family favorite for sure.


Lecia March 13, 2015 at 8:54 am

Love these as a cupcake and will definitely be trying it as a cake. Thankyou for your cupcake comparison blog, I have been looking for a lovely chocolate recipe for months and months and would never have found it without your help. I will also try her vanilla recipe that you recommend. Many thanks for your help and keep up the good work 🙂


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Barb August 18, 2015 at 10:17 am

Wondering if anyone ever wrote Ina and asked her why her cake sinks.


Carolyn October 3, 2015 at 9:33 pm

This is one good cake, so who care if it sank in the middle, just means more frosting in the middle..


Jan November 18, 2015 at 10:22 pm

Am I reading the frosting recipe right? A raw egg? I dont think so!! HERSHEYS has a one bowl buttercream thats very good and NO egg! It doesnt need it.


Manny December 7, 2015 at 6:52 pm

I made 2 dozen cupcakes following the recipe but baked at 350 for about 22 to 24. At that point, the toothpick did not come out completely cleaned however, after about 5 mins of resting in the pan on the cooling rack, I tested again and the toothpick had no crumbs. The cupcakes were amazing: very moist and not too sweet despite the 2 cups of sugar. I finally found a decent tasting and moist chocolate cupcake recipe. Oh, and the cupcakes did not sink at all!!! It was nice and flat which is perfect for piping. Thank you!


Sharie Smith April 5, 2016 at 12:46 pm

I need to take the cake to Chicago for a birthday party, can I make the frosting, refrigerate it and frost the cake when I get there ?


Chontel April 18, 2016 at 7:49 pm

I had some leftover buttercream frosting and my husband requested chocolate cake. I am not a big chocolate fan, but I indulged him. I have been looking for a chocolate cake recipe that I would enjoy as well and decided to give this one a shot. Oh. Man. I ate 3 pieces. Like I said, I am not a big fan of chocolate, but this cake was so moist and delicious that I couldn’t resist! No more searching for the perfect chocolate cake recipe. I have found it. Thanks!


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