This sour cream chocolate cake (and its amazing raspberry buttercream) has been a family secret for many years. We love this recipe for its fluffy crumb, moist texture, and rich chocolate flavor. It's the perfect birthday or Valentine's Day dessert!
See recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
- Want to make this a sheet cake? Cut the batter in half and bake it in a 9 by 13-inch pan. You may need to bake for a few minutes longer, but check it a little early just to make sure it's not overbaked.
- Don't want to make any icing? Use raspberry jam instead of the raspberry buttercream, and sprinkle icing sugar on top to decorate.
- Want to prep ahead of time? Mix together a batch of the dry ingredients up to 3 months ahead of time and store in an airtight container or zip-top bag until needed. Just make sure that you use fresh baking powder in the mix, as it loses its effectiveness after 3 months. You can also freeze it.
How to Make
Gather the ingredients, making sure they are all at room temperature.
- Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl to remove any lumps, then whisk until blended.
- Whisk together all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl until fully combined.
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, then stir until fully combined. Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to get all the flour mixed in--you don't want any streaks or lumps of flour in the batter.
4. Divide the batter among three 9-inch pans that have been buttered and lined with parchment paper.
Bake the cakes at 350°F for 17-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then remove from the pans and let cool completely on a wire rack, about another 40 minutes.
5. While the cakes are cooling, make the raspberry buttercream. Beat together the butter, salt, and jam until smooth. Sift in the powdered sugar and beat until fluffy.
6. Once the cakes have cooled, flip them over onto pieces of plastic wrap (the cakes will be moist and sticky) and peel off the parchment paper from their bases. Sandwich the cakes together with the raspberry buttercream.
7. Make the chocolate buttercream. Beat the butter until smooth, then sift in the cocoa powder and beat until well mixed. Scrape the bowl and paddle, sift in the powdered sugar, and mix until blended.
Add the vanilla and espresso powder to taste, then gradually add enough milk to make the icing a beautifully silky and spreadable consistency. Be careful not to overbeat, or the icing will have lots of air bubbles in it, making it hard to smoothly ice the cake.
8. Spread a thin coat of icing over the top and sides with an angled spatula, then scrape off the excess. This is called the crumb coat, and is a crucial step for getting a smooth, crumb-free finish.
9. Chill the crumb coated cake for 30 minutes to harden up the buttercream, then spread on the remaining chocolate buttercream. Pipe swirls of icing and top with chocolate curls as desired.
10. Slice the cake and enjoy!
Sour cream helps make it fluffy and moist, and its slight acidity helps counteract the sweetness of the other ingredients. For more information, read this article from Food Crumbles.
It's important to mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls before mixing them together. If you try to mix everything together at the same time, it's easy to overmix the batter.
Leftovers: Store leftover cake tightly sealed at room temperature for 2-3 days.
Freezing: You can freeze the whole cake layers by wrapping them in plastic wrap and then in foil, or you can freeze slices of the decorated cake. Seal the slices in a zip-top freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 month. Whole cake layers should keep for 2-3 months.
- Use good-quality ingredients for the best flavor and texture.
- Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature before you start. Cold eggs will not incorporate as well as room temperature ones. (Quickly warm them up by submerging them in warm water for 10 minutes.)
- Don't overmix the batter, or the cakes may be tough.
- Check the cakes a little before you think they may be done, as overbaked cakes will be dry. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
- Add a little milk to the icing if it is too thick.
- Crumb coat by spreading a thin layer of icing over the top and sides, then scraping most of it off. This will keep most of the crumbs from getting into the frosting later.
- Store in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Freeze leftovers in airtight containers or zip-top freezer bags for 1-3 months.
Other Cake Recipes
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Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
For the Cake
For the Raspberry Buttercream
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup seedless raspberry jam
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
- pinch of salt
Making the Cakes (25 minutes + 20 minutes baking + 1 hour cooling)
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter three 9-inch pans and line their bases with parchment paper.
- Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl, then whisk until blended. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl until smooth, then dump the wet into the dry and stir until no lumps of flour remain. Be sure to scrape all the way down to the bottom, but don't stir too long, or the cake will be tough.
- Divide the batter equally among the prepared pans, then tap the pans gently on the counter to release air bubbles.
- Bake at 350 F for 17-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake, or they will be dry.
- Let cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then remove from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack, about 40 minutes.
Making the Raspberry Buttercream (20 minutes)
- Beat the butter and salt until smooth in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the jam and beat until fluffy, then scrape down the sides of the bowl and sift in the powdered sugar. Beat until smooth.
- Flip the cakes over onto pieces of plastic wrap so you can peel the parchment circles off of the bottom. Use the raspberry buttercream to sandwich them together. Cover any leftover buttercream and store in the fridge.
Making the Chocolate Buttercream (45 minutes + 30 minutes chilling)
- Beat the butter until soft. Sift in the cocoa powder and beat until fluffy.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then sift in the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla and espresso powder to taste, and use the milk to thin the icing to a spreadable consistency. Be careful not to overbeat the frosting, or it will have big air bubbles.
- Crumb coat the top and sides of the cake by spreading a thin layer of frosting on, then gently scraping most of it off. This will trap most of the crumbs to keep them from getting in the final frosting. Chill the cake for 30 minutes to harden the crumb coat.
- Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining chocolate buttercream, then decorate with chocolate curls or shavings as desired.
- Use room-temperature ingredients to ensure a smooth, well-mixed batter.
- Warm up the eggs quickly by submerging them in hot tap water for 10 minutes.
- Don't overmix the batter, or the cakes may be tough.
- Check the cakes early, as overbaked ones will be dry.
- Icing too thick? Add a splash of milk or cream to thin it.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.