This delightful Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake with bright cherry filling and creamy chocolate icing is a classic chocolate cake recipe. It’s easy to whip up, no stand mixer needed, plus it’s egg-free!
Inspiration for this show-stopping Old Fashioned Chocolate layer cake came from a recipe in the cooking magazine Cuisine At Home.
The back cover had a mouthwatering picture of a slice of Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake with a quote from Oscar Wilde: “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” So how could I resist?
Beyond the obvious decadence of moist homemade chocolate cake with gooey cherry filling, our recipe is fool-proof. Just a few simple ingredients and a whisk is all that’s standing between you and a stand-out chocolate cake to share with friends and family.
I’ve updated this post to include helpful and enthusiastic feedback we received from all of you, including one delightful reader who made this cake for her wedding! Congrats!
How to Make Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake
The recipe is a bit different from traditional cake recipes.
The recipe is egg-free and butter-free, for starters. To leaven the cake, I use a bit of baking soda and vinegar, which you probably know from elementary school science produces some fun bubbles. This mixture gives this cake it’s lightness and spongy texture.
You won’t need any special equipment to make this easy and tasty old-fashioned chocolate cake. Just a mixing bowl, a whisk, and maybe a rubber spatula to scrape everything clean.
Start by sifting together the dry ingredients, which are all common: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. I use a fine mesh strainer to ensure there are no clumps in my cake batter.
Then, fold in the wet ingredients. While the original recipe calls for instant coffee granules, I opted to double down on chocolate instead. I swapped the coffee with a teaspoon of chocolate extract, because you can’t have too much chocolate right?
The wet and dry ingredients come together quickly, so be careful not to overmix the cake batter. It’s ready to bake when there are no visible pockets of flour left, but a few lumps in the batter are totally fine. Overmixing can cause your cake to rise and fall in the oven.
Once your chocolate cake batter is mixed, pour it into two greased 9 inch round cake pans. If you’re worried about sticking, you can also line the bottom of the pans with a circle of parchment paper. Here’s a helpful how-to video for that.
To ensure two perfectly even cakes, I recommend weighing out the batter using a handy kitchen scale.
Finally, give your filled cake pans a gentle tap on the counter to help the batter settle and remove any air bubbles.
Don’t be alarmed if your cake comes out of the oven with a domed top and spongy bounce from all that leavening. To flatten a dome, simply invert your cake on a cooling rack and let it rest until fully cool.
How to Make Quick & Easy Cherry Filling
While your old-fashioned chocolate cakes are baking, mix up a glossy maraschino cherry filling.
Start by straining a jar of maraschino cherries over a measuring cup or bowl. You want to save the liquid to make the filling.
Then, the cherry filling comes together right in a small saucepan. Mix everything together over low heat until the filling is glossy and thick.
You’ll want to boil the mixture for just a few seconds. This cooks off any starch flavor from the cornstarch. But keep an eye on it, as the sugar can burn easily. As soon as the cherry filling is thick, turn off the heat.
I like to finish my cherry filling with a pat of butter, which ensures a glossy filling that’s not too thick
Making Glossy Chocolate Icing
The final part of this two layer old-fashioned chocolate cake is a simple chocolate icing. This icing is creamy, chocolaty and adds a nice glossy finish to this cherry-filled cake.
I recommend getting all of the icing ingredients measured and ready before you start cooking. The icing comes together quickly.
It’s a simple recipe that you just need a saucepan for. The only trick is to not let the icing boil on the stove. This can cause your beautiful, glossy chocolate frosting to break and separate!
Once the icing is smooth, the sugar is dissolved, and everything is well mixed, it’s time to let things cool. You want to decorate your cake with room temperature icing, so you can pop the warm frosting into the fridge to speed up cooling
If the icing gets too cold, simply bring it back to room temp by warming it in the microwave on 20-second intervals, stirring between each blast.
Assembling Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake with Cherry Filling
The best part about this chocolate cake is how easy it is to frost. While it bakes, the cake develops a lovely shiny crust that protects the crumbs inside.
There’s nothing worse than frosting your cake, only to end up with cake crumbs showing though. With this easy old-fashioned cake recipe, there’s no need to worry about a messy frosting job.
I like to decorate the top of the layer cake with little dollops of chocolate icing and elegant stemmed maraschino cherries. If you want to add this fun touch, look for stemmed maraschino cherries. They might be in the baking aisle of your grocery store, but if not, check the cocktail garnish section.
To add this decorative touch, simply fill a pastry bag with any remaining chocolate icing and pipe dollops of icing in a ring around the outer edge of your cake.
Dry your cherries a bit to make sure they stay put, then gently press them into their little icing pillows. Voila: a stunning chocolate layer cake with a punchy cherry filling.
Check out These other Stunning Chocolaty Layer Cakes
- Easy 5-Ingredient German Chocolate Cake
- Pressure Cooker Triple Chocolate Layered Cheesecake from Pressure Cooker Today
- Cherry Chocolate Cake for Two
- Dark Chocolate Cake with Nutella Buttercream From Taste & Tell
- This One Bowl Chocolate Cake single layer cake recipe from Sugar Coated Cottage is simple, rich, moist, and a crowd-pleaser.
Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake with Maraschino Cherry Filling
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar*
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder I used [KA Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa]
- 2 teaspoons baking soda*
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups hot water*
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules I substituted 1 teaspoon chocolate extract
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Maraschino Cherry Filling
- 10 oz. jar maraschino cherries chopped
- ½ cup maraschino cherry liquid
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
Glossy Chocolate Icing:
- 1 stick unsalted butter 8 tablespoons
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 ¼ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
- pinch of salt
- 1 ¼ cups heavy whipping cream
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules I substituted 1 teaspoon chocolate extract
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
To Make the Cake
- Preheat oven to 350º with rack in the center. Spray two 9×2 inch round cake pans with non-stick spray.
- Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. (Don’t use a mixer.)
- Combine water, oil, vinegar, instant coffee, and vanilla in a large measuring cup. Add to the dry ingredients and whisk just until combined, a few lumps are OK.
- Divide batter between pans, then bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes.
- Cool cakes on a rack for 15 minutes, then invert them onto the rack.. Leave cakes upside down (this flattens domed cakes) to cool completely.
- *I made the following high altitude adjustments: Decreased the sugar by 2 tablespoons, used 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda and 2 ¼ cup hot water.
Maraschino Cherry Filling
- In small saucepan combine sugar and corn starch. Gradually add in cherry liquid, stirring to dissolve sugar.
- Stir in cherries. Cook over medium high heat until mixture comes to a boil and thickens.
- Remove from heat and stir in butter. Cool completely before using.
Glossy Chocolate Icing
- Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar, cocoa, and salt. (Mixture will be thick and grainy.)
- Combine heavy cream, sour cream, and instant coffee in a large measuring cup, mixing until smooth. Gradually add cream mixture to chocolate until blended and smooth.
- Cook until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth and hot to the touch, 6 – 8 minutes. Do not boil.
- Remove from heat, add vanilla. Cool icing at room temperature until spreadable 2 – 3 hours. Icing may be chilled until completely cold, then warmed gently in microwave until spreadable. Heat at high power in 20-second intervals, stirring well after each interval. (I got a little impatient and whipped the frosting after two hours because it still hadn’t set up enough.)
Hi Barbara, I’ve made this and your smaller version for several birthdays and they always come out delicious. However I’d like to make either a vanilla or rose water flavored cake. Could I use this recipe and just remove the cocoa powder and increase the vanilla or add in 1tbsp of the rose essence?
Thanks Sonia!- I haven’t tried it, but you should be able to replace the cocoa with 1/2 cup of additional flour and increase the vanilla or add rose essence. Let me know if you give it a try.
Thank you so much for your response! I tried it as you said. It wasn’t as flavorful as I’d liked but it worked. One more question for you! I want to use cake flower in this recipe. Same amount? If not how much do you recommend?
It should be the same amount. 🙂
Hello, I can’t find cupcake extract anywhere and I am making this for my 4 year olds birthday. Is there a substitute? Chocolate syrup?
Hi Lindsey – if you don’t have coffee granules or chocolate extract, just omit them. No need to sub anything else. Enjoy!
I’ve made this twice. I call it the Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake. I made it for my Dad’s birthday last year, and for father’s day this year. It’s so good. I double the filling, because most of it doesn’t make it to the cake. 😉
That’s awesome – thanks for sharing!
Coco in the Kitchen
Goodness, Lady. You have a LOT of chocolate cake recipes!
But, this one is the first one I’m going to try. YUM
This is definitely a good one to try first. We do love chocolate cake at our house.
Love this recipe! Wondering if I can make cupcakes with it? How many do you think it would make?
Thanks Allison – I haven’t tried making cupcakes with it, but I assume it would work well and would make about 24 cupcakes.
Hi Barbara, I made a gluten free version of the cake yesterday but unfortunately the cake split. It split into 3 pieces. I used the exact same ingredients as on your list but swapped the all purpose flour for the gluten free equivalent. Do you have any suggestions to stop it splitting?
I don’t have much experience with gluten free baking. But generally if a cake splits, it’s cooked too long. So I’d try a shorter cook time or use more liquid.
Thanks Barbara for that. I baked the gluten free cake at 175 for about 45 mins because it was still wobbly in the middle at 35 to 40 mins into the bake. i have a fan oven which is why i baked it at 175. I wasn’t sure what to do about the wobbly middle to be honest so I let it cook until the wobbly bit seem to have disappeared!
I’ve been trying to this cake for my nephew and everytime I try and get it out of the glass pan I’m using, it falls apart… 🙁 I don’t get what I doing wrong. I’ve greased it and let it cool before turning it over?… Any Suggestions??
Hi Hannah – try using the non-stick baking spray with flour, or greasing and flouring the pan. You can also use parchment paper on the bottom of the pan. Also, be sure you’re measuring your flour correctly https://www.barbarabakes.com/how-to-measure-flour/. Hope that helps. It’s a great cake.
Hello, I am planning on making a chocolate cherry filled cake and your’s is the closest to what I’m looking for so far, I was wondering if instead of doing the cherry filling from scratch, would cherry pie filling that you buy from the store work? The way this looks is so much nicer than what I was thinking of doing.
Hi Nixie – yes, cherry pie filling from the store would work. You probably won’t need to use the whole can though. Enjoy!
Mr KIM bENSON
ABSOLUTELY delicious… made it for the Fantasy Football guys…. Nothing left
Will make it again
Thanks Mr. Kim! I’m glad it was a big hit. I like the way you guys party.
I was wondering if the consistency of the frosting is like buttercream frosting? I wanted to cover the cake with fondant and I am not sure how the frosting would hold up. The cake is delicious by the way! Best chocolate cake recipe ever! Thanks!
Hi Fabi – so glad you love the cake. The frosting is softer than buttercream, and I’m not sure how it would hold up under fondant. I’ve never tried it. Let me know if you do.
Hey hi , just tried out this cake for my mom’s birthday yesterday. Turned out brilliantly. The cake was really soft and very unlike most of the eggless cakes I’ve tasted. Though I did not have corn starch so I used 1tbsp of corn flour instead. Thanks for this amazing recipe.
Hi Esha – so sweet of you to make a cake for your mom for her birthday. I’m glad it was a hit. Thanks for taking the time to comment!
Tried this recipe and loved it!! Thanks Barbara! I blogged about it here-
Thanks again for the recipe!
I’m planning to make this cake for my hubby’s bday next month. I wanted to know if you used granular or powdered sugar? Since we are not beating the batter only whisking it, the grains of sugar will not dissolve, so is this ok?
The recipes uses granulated sugar. I don’t recommend substituting powder sugar because the measurements would change. The sugar will dissolve as the cake bakes and your cake will be light and fluffy and beautiful! Happy Birthday! Hope he has a wonderful day.
This cake is amazing!!
I’m baking my own wedding cake and this is the first chocolate cake recipe that I have found (homemade/scratch is what I’m looking for) and needless to say I will not be looking for another recipe.
Tonight is the second time I baked this cake and it has turned out wonderfully both times.
However, it is my first time trying to make the cherry filling. I don’t mean to criticize but it smells and tastes a bit buttery. I think when I make it again I will double the recipe but keep the butter at one tablespoon. Is there anything you would recommend other than that that I could try out?
My wedding is July 7th, 2012 so I have a little less than a month. I’m planning on freezing the cakes and seeing how they taste after a week’s time so I know how far in advance I can bake them.
Thanks so much my husband and I love this chocolate cake! :]
Hi Stephanie – Congratulations on your wedding! I think you could easily just omit the butter if you prefer the filling without it. I assume you plan to freeze the cake unfilled and just fill it and frost it the day before the wedding? Best wishes for a wonderful life together.
Thanks so much.
I actually froze the cake with the filling inside and we are now waiting to see how long it takes to thaw.
I’ll try omitting the butter, sounds like a good idea.
I’ll let you know how it turns out. : ]
Also, do you have any idea how many cups of batter this makes? I’m going to need to make 25-1/2 cups so I’m not sure if I should double or triple the recipe.
Thanks for the update. I’m sorry I’ve never measured the batter, so I really have no idea. Good luck!
I just measured it and it makes 6 cups of batter. I’m not sure what it is that I did differently this time but it tastes DELICIOUS!!! I think I just switched from pure to imitation vanilla extract (I use pure chocolate extract) and this recipe tastes like BROWNIES!! My husband and I were “tasting” it by the spoonfuls! VERY GOOD!! I have decided that this recipe is going to be all 4 of my cake tiers!! (which means that I’m making 8 BATCHES!!) YUM! I’m so excited! :]
Chocolate extract is a great idea to give it an extra layer of chocolaty deliciousness. I’m expecting to see pictures!
Here’s the link to my “Wedding Cake Adventure” album :]
thanks! i think i will double the recipe to be on the safe side. i’d rather have a large cake and leftovers (or maybe cupcakes!) than not have enough. can’t ever have too much chocolate cake 😉
I like the way you think! Cupcakes with any extra batter is a fantastic idea.
This recipe looks amazing and just what I was looking for! I need to make a sheet cake. Do you suggest doubling the recipe? Thank you!! 🙂
Thanks Marianna – this would make a 9 x 13 sheet cake, if you wanted a bigger cake than that, you would have to increase the batter. I haven’t tried it though. Good question.
Thank you for such a great recipe. I hadn’t been able to find any good chocolate cake recipe for a while. First time I baked it for my cousin’s bday. Second time for my girlfriend’s, and then for my brother’s. Three times I baked it in a different way. At first time I made 3 shortcakes and 2 different fillings. 1 filling from your recipe, 2 is a mix of melted chocolate and nuts. It became really large and very very chocolate. Second time i used condensed milk instead of sour cream for icing. So I can experiment with filling but the most unusual thing about this cake is shortcakes that are unbelievable yummy. Thank you again and thousand times.
Hi Sabinea. Thanks for taking the time to comment and let me know how much you love the recipe. I’m definitely going to have to try the shortcakes now.
Well, me and my girlfriend always go on a diet, but when I baked it for her bday, we couldn`t tear ourselves away from forks and plates. An unusual advantage of the shortcakes is that they don`t spoilt for a long a time. Thank you!
I made this cake yesterday for Sunday dinner dessert. It was THE BOMB!!!!! I can’t even put into words how DEElicious it was and if you can read, then you can make it………………..
Thanks for the rave review! Such a fun comment, it really brightened my day. Thanks!
Thank you so much for this recipe, I have been looking for it for years. My recipe was a little different, but it was the frosting recipe I wanted. I made a wall around the top of bottom layer, plus a blob about 2 or 3 TBS. in the center with frosting. The empty well was filled with cherry pie filling. The top layer was added and frosted. When cut each slice was tipped with frosting. Will be making this in the near future. Thank you again
Thanks Jan. Sounds like a pretty variation.
heather @ http://itsyummytomytummy.blogspot.com/
Thanks for your great recipe! It inspired me to use it on my blog as well for The Crazy Cooking Challenge, come check it out ! 🙂 http://itsyummytomytummy.blogspot.com/2012/02/egg-and-dairy-free-chocolate-cake.html
Hi Barbara, first time in your blog, I saw you on twitter, and wanted to tell you I tried this cake of yours and it turned out so well, from Deeba’s blog, I made stawberry filling as hers, next time I will make this cherry filling, looks gorgeous, thank you
Welcome! So glad you stopped by. I hope you stop by often. I love Deeba’s blog. So sweet of her to post her version of this cake. Her’s is spectacular, I need to try the strawberry filling too. So glad you liked. See you on twitter too.
Barbara – this cake was the BEST chocolate cake I’ve ever had! Thanks so much for the recipe.