The death by chocolate cake is the perfect cake for the ultimate chocolate lover. This features three layers of ultra decadent, moist cake with big chocolate chunks. Then it's slathered with light and fluffy easy chocolate buttercream and a chocolate ganache drip. It's chocolate heaven (Get it? Because you died haha) in every bite!
This cake gets its amazing texture and a big flavor boost from dark, flavorful Guinness stout beer, Dutch-processed cocoa powder, espresso powder, big chocolate chunks, and even a little mayonnaise! This is hands down, the MOST amazing chocolate cake I've ever personally tasted. It's so moist I'd almost say it's on the verge of being too moist. Is that a thing? It's so full of chocolate flavor it's practically fudge.
When I first made this cake, halfway through I thought, "there is no way I'm making this cake again, it's taking way too long!" But then... I tasted it. And I died. I died a delicious chocolate death and then I was re-incarnated thankfully so I could go in for a second bite.
Before you start this recipe, I highly suggest you go through the ingredients to make sure you have everything on hand. There are some ingredients you might not have ready in your pantry.
I frequently get asked about substitutions so I will list them here.
Dark Beer - No this will not make your cake alcoholic. The alcohol cooks out but the fizzy nature of the beer and its deep dark flavor adds a TON of flavor to the chocolate. You can replace the beer with room-temperature coffee or water. If you use coffee, leave out the espresso powder. I prefer using Guinness beer because it already kinda tastes like chocolate!
Espresso powder - Again, the espresso powder will not make your cake taste like coffee, it just boosts the flavor of the chocolate and it's amazing! If you don't have espresso powder, you can also use an instant coffee mix. If you can't find either or you don't want to use it, just leave it out but trust me, the cake will not be as good without it!
Dutch-process cocoa powder - Natural cocoa powder like Hershey's is alkaline meaning it needs something like baking soda to make the cake rise. Baking soda can leave an aftertaste in your cake if you use too much. By using the dutch process cocoa powder, we can use baking powder to make our cake rise plus a little baking soda for flavor. If all you have is Hershey's replace half the baking powder with baking soda.
Mayonnaise - I know it might sound odd to be adding mayo to your chocolate cake but trust me if you want moist, mayo is the way to go! Mayonnaise is made from eggs and oil. Eggs and oil = moisture! If you don't want to use mayonnaise or you don't have any, you can replace it with oil but only use half as much as the mayo by weight, or your cake will be too oily.
BEFORE YOU START – Bring your butter, Guinness, eggs, and mayonnaise to room temperature and prepare the rest of your ingredients. Check out my blog post on room temperature ingredient hacks for more info.
For best results, use a food scale to weigh your ingredients. Converting this recipe to cups could lead to failure. Read my blog post on how to use a scale for more information.
Pro-tip – If you’re in the UK search for Shipton mills soft cake and pastry flour or flour that has a protein level of 9% or less.
Step 1– Preheat your oven to 335º F/168º C. Prepare your cake pans with cake goop or another preferred pan release. I used three 8" round cake pans but you can adapt this recipe to any size pan by using my cake batter calculator right above the recipe card at the bottom of this blog post. Optional: Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper to prevent sticking from the chocolate chips.
Step 2 – In a large measuring cup combine the beer, espresso powder, and vanilla. Whisk it all together.
Step 3 – In a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
Step 4 – Place softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium until smooth and shiny. About 30 seconds.
Step 5 – With the mixer on low, gradually sprinkle in the sugar. Mix on medium-high until mixture is fluffy and almost white. About 3-5 minutes.
Step 6 – Reduce the speed back to low. Add your eggs one at a time. Let the egg incorporate fully before adding in the next egg to avoid breaking your batter.
Step 8 – Next add in your room temp mayonnaise and mix until combined.
Pro-tip - If your batter is broken (curdled looking) your cake will not rise properly and you will get an un-cooked gummy layer at the bottom of your cake. So it's very important to make sure your eggs, mayo, beer and butter are all room temperature or even a tad warm so they mix together properly.
Step 9 – With the mixer on low, add in ⅓ of your dry ingredients and mix until almost combined. Add in ⅓ of your liquid ingredients. Scrape the bowl. Repeat the process two more times until everything is combined.
Step 10 – Mix in your chocolate chips or chopped chocolate at the end. These chocolate chunks take the death by chocolate cake over the top and make it ultra chocolate-y (is that a word?)
Pro-tip –Using finely chopped chocolate or mini chocolate chips is best, regular chocolate chips are too big and will sink to the bottom of the pan.
Step 11 - Divide your cake batter into your prepared pans (I like using homemade pan release, cake goop). I'm using three 8"x2" cake pans and I used a scale to make sure each pan had the same amount of batter in them so I get even layers. Totally optional haha!
Step 12 – Bake at 335º F/168º C for 40-45 minutes (baking times will vary depending on the size of the pan you use) until a toothpick comes out cleanly but with a few sticky crumbs. Don't overbake.
Step 13 – Let your cakes cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes. Flip the pans out onto a wire rack and cool fully.
Pro-tip - To easily remove cakes from the pan, place the cooling rack on top of the barely warm cake pan. Hold the cake pan and the cooling rack together with your hands, one on top, one on the bottom. Flip the cake pan and the cooling rack over and set them both down so the cake pan is now on top of the cooling rack. Lift the pan off.
Step 13 – To cool completely, gently wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and chill until they are firm enough to handle. You can flash chill them in the freezer for an hour if you need to cool them quickly.
EASY CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM STEP-BY-STEP
I love pairing this cake with easy chocolate buttercream, Swiss meringue buttercream, or chocolate cream cheese frosting. Just add ¼ cup sifted powdered sugar or ¼ chocolate ganache (you can use the leftovers from your drip) and add it to my regular cream cheese frosting recipe.
Step 1 - Add the pasteurized egg whites and powdered sugar into the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix on low for 30 seconds to combine.
Step 2 - Add in your sifted cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla extract. Then bump the speed up to high.
Step 3 - Start adding in your softened butter in small-ish chunks. About the size of a large marshmallow until you have added it all.
Step 4 - Continue letting your buttercream whip on high until it is light and creamy and tastes like chocolate ice cream. This can take 10-15 minutes or more depending on the strength of your mixer or if your butter is cold. If it still tastes like butter, keep whipping!
Pro-tip - If your butter is not mixing in, it might be too cold. Take out 1 cup of your buttercream mixture and microwave it for 15 - 30 seconds until its JUST melted. Not hot! Pour the mixture back into your mixing buttercream and it will help it come together.
GANACHE DRIP STEP BY STEP
Step 1 - Microwave your chocolate for 30 seconds to warm it up
Step 2 - Heat your heavy cream until it just begins to simmer. Do not boil your cream or it will cause your drip to split. Learn more about making the perfect ganache drip here.
Step 3 - Let your ganache cool to 90ºF before dripping. I usually make my drip right before I start frosting my cake. By the time I have done the crumb coat and the final coat of buttercream, the drip is ready to use.
DEATH BY CHOCOLATE CAKE ASSEMBLY
For more information on how to make your first cake step by step, check out my how to make your first cake tutorial.
Step 1 - After your cakes have cooled and chilled so they are easier to handle, cut off the domes with a serrated knife to level them.
Step 2 - Place your first layer of cake on your cake board or on top of your cake platter and fill it with chocolate frosting. I like to go for about ¼" of buttercream. Try and keep the frosting level with an offset spatula. Repeat with the next layer.
Step 3 - Cover the entire cake in a thin coat of buttercream. This is called the crumb coat and will lock in those crumbs! Then freeze the cake for 20-30 minutes to set the buttercream.
Step 4 - Apply the final layer of buttercream and smooth with a bench scraper or your offset spatula. Level off the top with your offset spatula.
Step 5 - Send the cake back to the fridge for 15 minutes before you do the drip.
Step 6 - Place your cooled ganache into a piping bag and snip off the tip. Don't make the hole too big. Drip one drip on the side of the chilled cake to make sure it doesn't drip too far. If it does, it might be too hot and need to cool before you do the drip.
Step 7 - I used my leftover buttercream and ganache to make some swirls for the top of the cake with another piping bag and a 1M piping tip.
Just look at that gorgeous chocolate dessert! If you're going to experience death by chocolate, this is the way to do it! Even though the drip and the swirls are super simple, they look truly gorgeous!
Pro-Tip - I always keep my frosted cakes in the fridge. The frosting acts as a barrier and keeps the cake fresh but NEVER serve a cold cake. Cold cakes taste very dry because the butter is cold. Always take your cakes out of the fridge a few hours before you serve them. I've even gone as far as microwaving my cake slice for 10 seconds if it's too cold.
For this recipe yes. Cake flour is a low-protein flour that results in less gluten development during the reverse creaming stage. You cannot do the flour/cornstarch trick or the cake will get over-mixed and taste like cornbread. If you only have all-purpose flour, try my easy chocolate cake recipe.
I promise your cake will NOT taste like mayo! It adds a lot of moisture to the chocolate cake for that yummy stick to your fork texture. You can also use plain Greek yogurt or sour cream, but the flavor won't be the same.
You can use water or coffee. The Guinness intensifies that rich chocolate flavor, it doesn't make the cake taste like beer and all the alcohol cooks out.
Espresso powder is commonly used in baking to bring out the chocolate flavor. It is made from coffee beans that have been brewed, dried, and ground into a fine powder. It's much more concentrated than instant coffee but won't add any coffee flavor to your cake.
You can make your own espresso powder, or substitute it with dark roast instant coffee. It won't bring the same rich, roasted flavor, but it will do the trick if you're stuck.
Dutch-processed cocoa powder and natural cocoa powder are not the same. Dutch-processed is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acidity, making it have a stronger flavor and a darker, almost black color. If you can't find Dutched, you can use regular cocoa powder instead.
Cake Batter and Frosting Calculator
Select an option below to calculate how much batter or frosting you need. Adjust the servings slider on the recipe card to change the amounts the recipe makes.
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Note: measurements are estimated based off the vanilla cake recipe using standard US cake pans and sizes. Measurements used are for 2" tall cake pans only. Your results may vary. Do not overfill cake pans above manufacturer's recommended guidelines.
- Stand Mixer
- Paddle Attachment
- Whisk Attachment
- 1M Piping Tip
- Piping Bag
- Offset Spatula
Death By Chocolate Cake
- 14 oz Stout Beer Like Guinness (Room Temperature)
- 1 ½ tablespoon Espresso Powder
- 2 teaspoon Real Vanilla
- 14 oz Cake Flour
- 1 teaspoon Baking powder
- 2 teaspoon Baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoon Salt
- 6 oz Dutched Cocoa Powder
- 10 oz Unsalted Butter Room Temperature
- 16 oz Granulated Sugar
- 4 Large Eggs Room Temperature
- 6 oz Mayonnaise Room Temperature
- 6 oz Mini chocolate chips
Easy Chocolate Buttercream
- 4 ounces pasteurized egg whites
- 16 ounces powdered sugar
- 16 ounces unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 2 ounces cocoa powder sifted
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate
- 4 oz Heavy Whipping Cream
Death By Chocolate Cake
- NOTE: It is SUPER IMPORTANT that all the room temperature ingredients listed above are room temperature and not cold so that the ingredients mix and incorporate correctly.
- Heat oven to 335º F/168º C. Prepare cake pans with cake goop or another preferred pan release. I used three 8"x2" round cake pans. Use the cake batter calculator above this recipe card to adjust the recipe to your size cake pan. Optional: Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper to prevent sticking from the chocolate chips.
- In a large measuring cup combine the beer, espresso powder and vanilla. Whisk together and set aside.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda and set aside.
- Place the softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Cream until smooth and shiny. With the mixer on low, gradually sprinkle in the sugar. Mix on medium high until mixture is fluffy and almost white. About 3-5 minutes.
- Reduce the speed back to low. Add your (ROOM TEMP) eggs one at a time. Let the egg incorporate fully before adding in the next egg to avoid breaking your batter. Add in your mayo and mix until combined.
- With the mixer on low, add in ⅓ of your dry ingredients and mix until almost combined. Add in ⅓ of your liquid ingredients. Repeat the process two more times until everything is combined.
- Fold in the mini chocolate chips and divide the cake batter into your cake pans. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes until a toothpick comes out cleanly but with a few sticky crumbs. Don't over bake.
- Let your cakes cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Let fully cool then gently wrap in plastic wrap and chill until the cakes are firm enough to handle. You can flash chill in the freezer if you need to cool them quickly.
Easy Chocolate Buttercream
- Sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder to remove any clumps.
- Place pasteurized egg whites, powdered sugar and cocoa powder in the bowl of your stand mixer.
- Attach the whisk, combine ingredients on low and then whip on high for 5 minutes.
- Add in your softened butter in chunks. Add in vanilla and salt. Whisk on high until light and fluffy.
- Optional: Switch to a paddle attachment and mix on low for 15-20 minutes to make the buttercream very smooth and remove air bubbles.
- Microwave your chocolate for 30 seconds to get it warm
- Heat cream on the stove over medium heat just until it starts to simmer. Do not boil. chilled cake.
- Pour over chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. If you have lumps, place the bowl into a microwave for 30 seconds and whisk. Let the ganache cool to about 90º (barely warm to the touch). Place the ganache into a piping bag and drizzle over the top of your frosted and chilled cake.
Cake flour sources: UK - Shipton Mills Cake & Pastry Flour 6. I always keep my frosted cakes in the fridge. The frosting acts as a barrier and keeps the cake fresh but NEVER serve a cold cake. Cold cakes taste very dry because the butter is cold. Always take your cakes out of the fridge a few hours before you serve them. I've even gone as far as microwaving my cake slice for 10 seconds if it's too cold. 7. You can replace the Guinness in this recipe with another type of stout beer or room temperature water or coffee, but it will not have the same taste. 8. You can replace the mayo in this recipe with room temperature greek yogurt or sour cream, but it will not have the same taste.