This One Layer Chocolate Cake from scratch is a moist and decadent single layer chocolate cake made without cake mix. Baked in an 8 inch pan then decorated with a chocolate frosting to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and more.

One Layer Chocolate Cake on a pewter plate

One thing I’m known for is my 6 inch cake recipes.

Back in the day when I started posting them, there weren’t many flavors out there for small cakes.

Now you have classics like Small Vanilla Cake recipe and Small Red Velvet Cake then more fun flavors like Small Carrot Cake recipe and Lemon Raspberry Cake.

Surprisingly enough, one of my most popular questions is how to convert my Small Chocolate Cake recipe to an 8 inch chocolate cake.

Even though it’s bigger than dessert for two, sometimes you need a little more cake to share with family and friends for special occasions like birthdays and personal milestones.

That’s where this One Layer Chocolate Cake comes in handy.

At first I was a little hesitant since I focus on recipes for two. But most chocolate cake recipes out there make multiple layers, so I’m thinking a single layer chocolate cake is still acceptable for small households.

It’s a rich and tender one layer chocolate cake made with both semisweet chocolate and cocoa powder.

The best part is it’s still moist without using sour cream. I didn’t want to open a brand new container just for 1-2 tablespoons.

And since no cake is complete without frosting, I used my Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting to decorate.

I love the balance of the cream cheese’s tanginess with the decadent cake, but you can also use Small Batch Chocolate Frosting for a more rich chocolaty dessert.

Close up of one layer chocolate cake

Ingredients For One Layer Chocolate Cake

To make the best 8 inch chocolate cake recipe, gather the following ingredients:

  • Semisweet chocolate: Baking chocolate is made from ground cocoa nibs containing both cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Look for semisweet chocolate that is around 55% cacao.
  • All-purpose flour: The most standard flour in almost every pantry.
  • Cocoa powder: Adds a deep chocolate flavor you cannot accomplish with baking chocolate alone.
  • Baking soda: Leavening agent used to make your cake rise.
  • Espresso powder: Adding coffee really enhances the chocolate flavor. Don’t worry – adding a small amount won’t make your cake taste like coffee. It’s only noticeable if you omit it.
  • Salt: No bland cake here! Salt makes sure you get as much flavor as possible.
  • Butter: Not only does fat add flavor, butter also creates a tender crumb texture. Do not substitute margarine.
  • Granulated sugar: Sweetens the cake.
  • Brown sugar: Because brown sugar includes molasses, it helps make the cake a little more moist than using all granulated.
  • Egg: Use 1 standard room temperature large egg. Using a cold egg means the batter won’t rise as much.
  • Vanilla: Much like salt and coffee, vanilla enhances the chocolate flavor.
  • Buttermilk: The acidity from the buttermilk is needed to activate the baking soda. If you don’t have any, substitute whole milk plus lemon juice or vinegar. Don’t use skim or low fat as you’ll need that milk fat to keep the batter moist.
  • Coffee: As mentioned, coffee enhances the chocolate flavor. If you don’t want to use coffee, substitute beer or water.

How To Make A Moist Chocolate Cake

As mentioned earlier, I didn’t use sour cream in my batter. So how did I make a moist chocolate cake without it? By using baking chocolate (which uses cocoa butter), brown sugar, additional butter for fat, and buttermilk (or whole milk with vinegar). Please don’t skimp on the fat!

Slice of single layer chocolate cake

What is espresso powder?

Espresso powder is concentrated instant coffee crystals that can be dissolved quickly in liquid, similar to instant coffee but stronger in flavor.

It doesn’t add any noticeable coffee flavor. Rather it enhances the chocolate to taste more chocolaty, similar to adding salt to otherwise bland baked goods.

You can buy espresso powder at an Italian grocery store or the Italian section of your grocery store. If you can’t find it, you can use instant coffee (although the flavor isn’t as intense).

Some readers ask to leave espresso powder out. Although your single layer chocolate cake will work fine without it, please note it won’t be as chocolaty as intended.

Overhead shot of 8 inch chocolate cake

How To Make Single Layer Chocolate Cake

Here’s how to make your one layer chocolate cake from scratch:

  1. Sift your flour and cocoa powder then add your baking soda, espresso powder, and salt.
  2. Cream together butter and both sugars until smooth. The airiness will help your cake rise with a tender crumb.
  3. Beat in egg, vanilla, and melted chocolate, scraping down your bowl to incorporate all of the batter.
  4. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk and coffee, adding the flour in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions (begin and end with dry ingredients).
  5. Transfer the batter into your 8 inch cake pan lined with parchment paper.
  6. Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs (but not wet batter).

Close up of single layer chocolate cake

How To Decorate One Layer Chocolate Cake

You definitely can’t serve cake without frosting!

Since this is a single layer chocolate cake, any one of my small batch frosting recipes will work as they make enough without leftovers.

Are you a chocoholic? Cover it in easy chocolate ganache.

Love peanut butter cups? Decorate with peanut butter frosting, Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting, or a dollop of peanut butter whipped cream.

You can also brighten it up with fresh fruit using Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting, Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting, or Strawberry Buttercream.

Close up of 8 inch chocolate cake slice

How To Store Single Layer Chocolate Cake

If you’re using a room temperature-safe frosting such as buttercream, you can store your chocolate cake on the counter for up to 3 days.

However, if you’re using a perishable frosting such as cream cheese or whipped cream (or if your kitchen is really warm), refrigerate your cake for up to 1 week.

If refrigerated, let your cake sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before serving. It’s harder to taste if you eat it cold.

Why is my chocolate cake dry and crumbly?

Although I’ve tested my one layer chocolate numerous times to ensure it’s nice and moist, you may still encounter some issues. Here are some possible reasons why your cake may be dry:

  1. Overbaking: Make sure you’re using an oven thermometer so you’re baking at a true 350F and keep an eye on time.
  2. Too much flour or cocoa powder: Learn how to measure flour so you don’t end up with too much.
  3. Brown sugar isn’t fresh: Is your brown sugar hard and crumbly? It’s important it’s soft and moist or it’ll make your batter dry.
  4. Not enough fat: I made sure there was enough fat in the recipe as written, so do not adjust any of the ingredients and do not use skim or low fat milk.
  5. Overmixing: Once you add the flour, be very gentle and do not overbeat the batter. The more you work the flour, the tougher it’ll be after baking.
Close up of one layer chocolate cake

One Layer Chocolate Cake (8 Inch)

Yield: 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

This One Layer Chocolate Cake from scratch is a moist and decadent single layer chocolate cake made without cake mix. Baked in an 8 inch pan then decorated with a chocolate frosting to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and more.


  • 1 ounce semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (using the spoon and level method)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar (soft and moist, not dry and crumbly)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature (or substitute whole milk with 1 teaspoon vinegar added. Do not use skim or low fat.)
  • 2 tablespoons hot coffee (or substitute beer or hot water)

Pick One To Decorate


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease one 8-inch round cake pan then line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Add about an inch of water to a pan and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and place a heatproof bowl over top. Add the chopped chocolate and melt until smooth. Remove from the heat and cool for 10 minutes.

    Alternatively, add chocolate to a microwave-safe bowl then microwave for 30 seconds. Stir then continue microwaving in 15 second increments until melted and smooth.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa then stir in the baking soda, espresso powder, and salt.
  4. In a large mixing bowl on medium-high speed (with paddle attachment if using stand mixer), beat together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and creamy, about 1 minute.
  5. Scrape down the bowl then beat in the egg, vanilla, and melted chocolate.
  6. On the lowest speed possible, add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk and coffee, adding the flour in 3 additions and the liquid in 2 additions (begin and end with dry ingredients).

    When the flour is about 90% incorporated, stop the mixer and switch to a rubber spatula. Finish adding the flour by hand as you don't want to overmix the batter.
  7. Transfer batter to the pan. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few crumbs (no wet batter). Cool for about 15 minutes, run a knife along the edge of the pan to loosen, and invert onto a cooling rack. Cool right-side-up.
  8. Decorate with frosting of choice.

    Cover and store the frosted cake at room temperature for up to 3 days (buttercream only) or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week (buttercream, cream cheese, and ganache). For best results, let the refrigerated cake sit at room temperature 15-30 minutes before serving.


Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you think! Rate the recipe above, leave a comment below, and/or share a photo on Instagram using #HITKrecipes