This rich, chocolaty Black Magic Cake gets its flavor from buttermilk, high-quality cocoa, and a bit of espresso. Perfect for the chocolate lover in your life!
❤️ Why You’ll Love This Recipe: This cake is easy to make with kitchen staple ingredients, but the result is always impressive. Dense, moist, rich, and coated in a silky smooth fudge frosting. What’s not to love?
Update: I always make this cake for my twin’s birthday. Now I’ve updated the recipe with new tips and photos to help you perfect it at home, too!
What is Black Magic Cake?
The Black Magic Cake has been posted about many times on many blogs with rave reviews, so I knew it was a great one. It’s a recipe on the Hershey’s website, and it’s often on the back of their cocoa package as well.
Coffee enhances the chocolate flavor in this cake, but since I’m not a coffee drinker, I opted to use just a bit of King Arthur espresso powder and hot water in place of the coffee. I also adapted the cake for high-altitude baking.
How to Make Black Magic Cake
This cake is fun and easy to make.
To start, if you have parchment paper, line the bottoms of your pans with it. It’s not a must, but it’s always a nice extra bit of insurance to ensure your cakes come out of the pan cleanly.
All of the cake ingredients should be at room temperature for even baking.
You will start making the cake batter by combining all of the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Then, add the wet ingredients.
You have to be careful here because you are adding boiling water and eggs in the same step. If you’re not careful, the boiling water will cook/curdle your eggs. I recommend the following order of steps to avoid this:
- Whisk your eggs and stir them into your buttermilk, then set them aside for a moment.
- Add the hot water, espresso powder, oil, and vanilla to the dry goods. Combine them with a mixer on low.
- Then with the mixer still on low, stream in the buttermilk and egg mixture. Bring the mixer up to medium speed as the liquid is absorbed into the batter.
- Mix until all ingredients are incorporated and the batter is fully formed.
The batter for this cake is very thin, that’s normal.
Once you pour batter into the prepared pans, give the pans a few taps on the counter to release any air bubbles from the batter.
Here are a few important notes about the ingredients in the Black Magic Cake:
- Use a good quality cocoa powder. Hershey’s is good, we also like the King Arthur cocoa powder. It works for all types of recipes, whether the recipe calls for Dutch-process or regular cocoa. It includes black cocoa for a dark rich color
- Make sure not to use low-fat buttermilk. Alternatively, if you are making your own sour milk, do not use skim milk. Whole or 2% will work just fine.
This frosting is luxurious and soft. It is not a stiff buttercream. In fact, it doesn’t pipe all that well, so go ahead and use a simple butter knife to decorate your cake.
Tip: For the frosting, the melted butter should be warm but NOT hot.
Because it’s made with melted butter, this frosting will be soft. If it’s too soft at first, let it cool a bit so the fats (in the butter) can stiffen. You can do this by leaving it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so. If you are worried that it will crust lay a wet paper towel over the bowl.
Assembling the Cake
If the cakes have small humps on the tops, you can either leave them or cut these off horizontally with a serrated bread knife.
When it comes time to frost your cakes, use a large spatula and spread frosting onto the first cake layer.
Next, add the second layer and frost the top and the sides. This frosting is easy to work with and spreads beautifully.
Leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for 1-2 days. If you choose to store in the refrigerator bring to room temperature before eating.
More Chocolate Dessert Recipes
- Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake is another dense, chocolate cake for the chocolate-lover in your life.
- Easy Brownie Cake Pops are delightful treats for a kid’s birthday party!
- Chocolate Cake with an Oreo Cheesecake Filling has the best of both worlds: spongey cake and tangy, creamy cheesecake.
Black Magic Cake adapted for High Altitude
- 1-¾ cups sugar
- 1-¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup Hershey’s Cocoa I used King Arthur All-Purpose Baking Cocoa
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 ¼ cup buttermilk or sour milk *
- ¼ teaspoon King Arthur Flour Espresso powder
- 1 cup boiling water
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Fudge Frosting
- ¾ cup 1-½ sticks butter or margarine, melted
- 1 cup Hershey’s Cocoa I used King Arthur All-Purpose Baking Cocoa
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans or one 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
- Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk (or sour milk), espresso powder, boiling water, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes (Batter will be thin). Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.
- Bake 30 to 35 minutes for round pans, 35 to 40 minutes for rectangular pan or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost as desired.
- * To sour milk: Use 1 tablespoon white vinegar plus milk to equal 1 cup.
- Chocolate Fudge Frosting
- Place melted butter in large mixer bowl. Add cocoa, stirring until smooth.
- Gradually beat in powdered sugar, milk and vanilla, beating until smooth. If necessary add additional milk, ½ teaspoon at a time, beating until spreading consistency. About 3 cups frosting.
This cake was unbelievable. My family loved it. This cake was moist the entire 9 x 13 pan. Can’t wait to make it again.
Will this recipe also work at sea level, where I live? or will adjustments need to be made?
Hi Nancy – at sea level you’ll use 2 cups granulated sugar, 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons baking soda, and 1 cup buttermilk, no changes to the other ingredients. Enjoy!
Would this recipe be suitable for 3 thousand ft. I have been afraid to try .
Hi Kim – 3,000 feet is generally considered high altitude, so this cake would be suitable for you. Here’s more info on high altitude baking https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/learn/resources/high-altitude-baking Enjoy!
Any advice for turning this into cupcakes? I’m new to baking at altitude. Thanks!
Hi Lindsey – I haven’t tried it, but you shouldn’t have to make any additional changes for cupcakes. Just fill muffin tins about 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let me know if you tried it.
My granddaughter has requested a chocolate koala shaped cake for her birthday so I’ve been testing high altitude recipes, looking for what will be my new “go to” chocolate cake. I think this is it! The first test of this recipe I baked a 9″ square and a 6″ round. They came out fine. I’ve now made another one in a 9 x 13 pan — I think the larger pan is trickier at altitude. On cooling, it has sunk in the middle — not horribly, but still sunken. Is there something I could try to see if this can be fixed? Should I add a couple tablespoons more flour or another egg? I do follow directions well! I live in Denver, CO.
Hi Marsha – I love that you’re making a koala cake for your granddaughter for her birthday and that you’re testing recipes to get it just right. So sweet!
Here’s a link to the guide I like to use to convert recipes. http://cityhomecountryhome.blogspot.com/2010/08/high-altitude-baking-and-candy-making.html. Since it’s sinking just a little and the others came out fine, I might try just raising the oven temperature to 375° or just decreasing the leavening and sugar a little bit more. Share a picture of it on my Facebook page when you’ve finished making it. I’d love to see it.
Thank you so much. I’ll make those notes and try the sugar and leavening adjustments next time. I did bake at 375 — forgot to tell you that part. I’ll also check the website you suggested.
THANK YOU! Black Magic is my “secret family recipe” and I’ve made it for all of my kid’s birthdays. We moved to New Mexico just before a birthday earlier this year and I was in tears after too many failed attempts at my old recipe. I found your altered recipe, almost identical to “mine”(the only difference being the amount of baking soda) and decided to give it one more go. IT CAME OUT PERFECT!!!!!!
I know this recipe was posted a while back so hopefully you still get notifications regarding comments on it! 🙂
Thank you (THANK YOU) for posting an altitude adjusted recipe – I don’t see those very often. I notice the recipe calls for both BP & BS, so does that mean it doesn’t matter if the cocoa is natural or dutch processed? I’ve been trying to Google all morning to try & wrap my head round the whole N vs DP, and thought I had it until I saw the recipe using both powder & soda.
The Hershey’s I have is natural, and I thought the King Arthur Cocoa’s were dutch processed, so I don’t know which one to use LOL. Help! 🙂
Hi Stacie – yes, go ahead and use the Hershey’s natural that you have. The King Arthur All-Purpose Baking Cocoa now called a triple cocoa blend http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/triple-cocoa-blend-16-oz is a blend of cocoas that works “in every recipe calling for unsweetened natural or dutch cocoa.” If you get a chance, give the King Arthur’s cocoa a try. I’m in love with it. Hope you enjoy the cake!
Thanks so much for the quick reply Barbara, I really appreciate it!!
I will definitely give that blend a go, would really makes things easier (for me LOL) if I didn’t have to worry so much about which recipe will work with which cocoa. And of course, adjustments for altitude. Who knew there would be so much science behind making a cake ^_^.
yum……one of my favourite…..thanku for your chocalaty recipe.
sarah k @ the pajama chef
what a great recipe! beautiful cake 🙂
I love how some of the best recipes for things come off the back of packages. To this day, my enchilada recipe that I LOVE is from the back of the can of green enchilada sauce. This cake looks fantastic, definitely pinning for a future dessert idea. I loved looking through your blog this month, you have a ton of great recipes!
Your boys sure look handsome! The black magic cake looks stunning too….. bookmarked!
Wow! I love a good magic cake!
The photos of your sons are adorable! And look at those pretty young girls!