Old-fashioned Chocolate Cake (aka Tony’s Birthday Cake)


Tony loves chocolate cake.  So when I first saw this recipe in Bon Appétit in September 1995, I knew that I’d make him one for his birthday that December.  And I did.  And he loved it.  And I’ve been making it for his birthday just about every year since.  It really is just a good “old-fashioned chocolate cake”.  It’s rich and moist and chocolatey and dense and pretty darn simple.  I love the addition of chocolate chips in the cake.  And the cocoa frosting is thick and fudgey…I could eat it off a spoon (and often do!)  And I love that it’s three layers!  It’s become a family favorite and a great birthday tradition.


The Birthday Boy with his birthday cake

Silver Creek Pictures 076

For his 50th…made it into a quarter-sheet sized cake with a cute picture of little Tony

PS  The day after his birthday this year, our son Kyle’s friend Steven was over and was eyeballing the one leftover slice.  It was hard to give it up, but I did.  This was the text he sent later, “Dude.  Tell ur mom I wish it was my b-day so she could make me one of those chocolate cakes.  Good lord!  Best chocolate cake I’ve ever had.”  Steven’s birthday is May 31.


For cake
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water
1 cup corn oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

For frosting
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar
8 tablespoons (about) whole milk
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Make cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Sift first 5 ingredients into medium bowl. Mix water, oil and vanilla in large bowl. Whisk in dry ingredients. Divide batter among pans. Sprinkle 1/2 cup chocolate chips over batter in each pan.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 15 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen cakes. Turn cakes out; cool completely.

Make frosting:
Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in 3 cups sugar. Beat in 6 tablespoons milk and vanilla. Add cocoa and remaining 2 cups sugar; beat until blended, thinning with more milk if necessary.

Place 1 cake layer, chocolate-chips side up, on platter. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Top with second cake layer, chocolate-chips side up. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Top with remaining cake layer, chocolate-chips side down. Spread frosting over sides and top of cake.

(Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; let stand at room temperature.)