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This article was taken from our August 2019 Issue

Signature Rich Chocolate Cake

You need to know that this is the BEST chocolate cake EVER—it is my signature recipe, and to date only my staff and my sister know it. It keeps everyone happy, even the ‘I don’t like chocolate cake’ people out there (you know who you are). It is rich and chocolatey, but at the same time light in texture. It has served me well for so many years and was the first cake I sold for money way back when. I might even go so far as to say that the feedback on the deliciousness of this cake from that very first sale is what gave me the confidence to become Magnolia Kitchen. It will continue to serve me well for years to come, and now that I am sharing it with you guys I know it will serve you well too.

Recipe from Magnolia Kitchen, Bernadette Gee, Murdoch Books, Photography by Lottie Hedley

Makes 3 x 18cm (7”) round layers


  • 365g (12¾oz) plain flour
  • 600g (1lb 5oz) brown sugar
  • 120g (4½oz) Dutch cocoa
  • 15g (½oz) baking soda
  • 250g (9oz) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp instant coffee, or 30g (1oz) shot of espresso
  • 370g (12½oz) warm water
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 120g (4¼oz) canola oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 260g (9¼oz) buttermilk


Preheat your oven to 170°C (325°F).

Prepare the cake tins with cooking spray or butter and line with baking paper.

Place the flour, sugar, cocoa and baking soda in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low to combine. Add the butter and mix on low until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. You could do this by hand but really, the stand mixer is the way to go.

In a separate bowl, dissolve the instant coffee in the warm water (or just use the shot of espresso), add the eggs, oil and vanilla and mix together. Add two thirds of the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix on medium-high until thick and fluffy. Add the remaining wet ingredients and mix well until combined and the batter is smooth. Make sure you scrape down the bowl and then continue mixing as the dry mixture can get stuck at the bottom and you really want a nice, smooth consistency.

Add the buttermilk and mix slowly to combine. There may be small chunks of buttermilk but don’t fret, this is normal. This batter is also wetter than the basic vanilla recipe so don’t panic if it’s not thick.

Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared tins (use your scales to get them all the same) and bake for 30-40 mins until a skewer or knitting needle poked into the cakes comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tins for 5-10 mins, then turn out onto cooling racks.

When the cakes are cool, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or overnight – this will make them easier to trim and ice.

This cake goes perfectly with EVERY type of icing. If you are after something classic, go for dark chocolate ganache. If you want to balance the rich chocolate cake with something lighter, use vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream.

You can also add coconut or frozen fruit to this cake to change up the chocolatey flavour profile. See our flavour inspos below for… well, inspo of course.


Replace vanilla extract in the wet ingredients with a teaspoon of orange oil.


Make the cake as per the recipe, then distribute 180g (6oz) of frozen berries evenly over the batter and bake as normal. If using larger berries such as strawberries or boysenberries, chop up before adding to the batter.


Add 150g (5½oz) of desiccated coconut to the dry ingredients at the start.