We can’t get enough of this Dreamy Dark Chocolate Sheet Cake – it’s the perfect dark chocolate cake with fudge frosting that’s easy enough to pull together any day to satisfy that chocolate craving.
What do you get when you combine a basic chocolate cake and a brownie? Our dark chocolate cake with fudge frosting! This cake has the softest texture, just like your favorite chocolate cake, but it is super chocolatey and just a little bit dense like your favorite brownie. Topped with the ultimate fudge frosting and you will have a clear, impressive winner at your table!
Some Info on the Ingredients
Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder – This is cocoa that’s been treated so that it becomes very alkaline. The lower acidity boosts the chocolate flavor, particularly when it is “bloomed” with boiling water before mixing and baking. This type of cocoa also creates a beautiful dark color in the finished cake.
Espresso Powder – This little gem brings out the best in the chocolate, enhancing the chocolate flavor while staying cleverly hidden. It won’t make your cake taste like coffee or raise the caffeine level in the dessert. We love Medaglia D’Oro brand. King Arthur makes a great option, too. Just don’t use instant coffee; it’s not the same.
Unsalted Butter – Most chocolate cakes use oil to help keep the cakes more moist, since cocoa-based baked items can be a little dry. Butter just tastes so much better, so we’re not compromising on that. Don’t worry, this cake isn’t at all dry! Using all butter adds to the decadent texture and flavor of this amazing cake.
Yogurt – Plain traditional whole milk yogurt adds moisture and acidity to the cake, which helps with flavor and texture. Avoid the thicker Greek-style yogurt here, as we need the higher liquid content of the traditional. Sour cream is a great substitute!
You don’t need a lot for this cake, but there are some tools that make this a whole lot easier. Here are our favorites for cakes and other baked goodies.
Cake Pan (13×9) – There are so many good options out there for a 13×9 pan. We tested this recipe in a metal pan, so that is what we recommend you use. This one from Williams-Sonoma is a favorite.
Food Scale – This one is our inexpensive and reliable favorite. It’s impossible to over-emphasize the benefits of using a scale for baking. Cup measurements vary a lot, but weights are always the same. And with baking, this makes a huge difference! Weighing ingredients ensures you are using the exact same amounts as we did when developing the recipe so that you get the same results. It’s also a lot easier with less clean-up. We call that a win-win.
Stand Mixer – A splurge item for sure if you don’t have one, but a Kitchenaid stand mixer will be your best baking friend for almost everything you want to make. You will be so glad to have it!
Making This Dark Chocolate Cake with Fudge Frosting
This cake, like our other cake recipes, is made using the reverse creaming method. It’s so simple and creates the softest crumb so that the cake nearly melts in your mouth!
The first step is to prep the chocolate. Place the cocoa, chocolate, and espresso powder in a small bowl, then bloom the cocoa by pouring in your boiling water. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Do this first, so it has time to cool a little before adding it to your cake batter.
With this method, the dry ingredients are mixed together first, then the butter is added. The fat coats the flour particles so that they absorb less liquid and form less gluten, resulting in a very soft and tender crumb that is absolutely amazing. Because the butter is in the way of excess gluten formation, it is much more difficult to overmix your cake using this method. Think of it as insurance against over-mixing your batter.
The chocolate mixture is added next, then a nice long stint on medium speed ensures that everything is combined well. The eggs, yogurt, and vanilla get whisked together and added at the end. Your batter will be light and fluffy, but much more runny than other flavors of cake. It’s good and right and you are amazing for putting this together. Get the batter into the pan and the pan in the oven to bake for around 40 minutes.
The Fudge Frosting
Amazingly simple and amazingly delicious, it is hard not to eat this frosting by the spoonful. It really does taste like fudge and is the perfect way to top our dreamy dark chocolate sheet cake.
Mix the cocoa, sifted powdered sugar, espresso powder, and salt together in a medium bowl so that everything is evenly combined. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then whisk it into the cocoa mixture. It will all get thick pretty quickly and may be hard to stir, but do the best you can to get it all fully incorporated. There shouldn’t be any dry patches hanging out at the bottom of your bowl.
Once the butter is mixed in, whisk in the vanilla and almost all of the milk. Whisk until smooth, then add more of the milk a little bit at a time until you have the consistency you like best. Spread it onto the top of your cooled sheet cake right away.
This frosting is the kind that will form a crust, so cover it if you are still waiting for your cake to cool. Also, if you are using sprinkles of any kind, you will want to put them onto the frosting right away or they might not stick.
Serving Your Dreamy Dark Chocolate Sheet Cake
Breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner are all options here! I mean, it doesn’t get much better than a slice of this with a cup of coffee any time of the day!
It’s great as the ending of a good meal. Here are some main dish options:
Want more cake options? Here are our favorites.
Dreamy Dark Chocolate Sheet Cake
For the Cake:
- 3 ounces (3/4 cup) Dutch-processed cocoa powder (like Hershey’s Special Dark)
- 1-1/2 ounces (1/4 cup) dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon espresso powder optional
- 12 ounces (1-1/2 cups) boiling water
- 9-3/4 ounces (2-1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 13 ounces (1-3/4 cups, packed) light brown sugar
- 12 ounces (1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into pieces
- 5 ounces (1/2 cup) plain yogurt (not Greek) or sour cream
- 3 whole large eggs
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
For the Frosting:
- 4 ounces (1 cup) Dutch-processed cocoa powder (like Hershey’s Special Dark)
- 15-1/4 ounces (4 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder optional
- 1/8 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 6 ounces (3/4 cup) whole milk (or your favorite milk)
For the Cake:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9×13-inch cake pan by spraying it with baking spray, lining the bottom with parchment paper, then spraying the parchment with baking spray.
- In a heatproof bowl, combine the cocoa powder, dark chocolate, espresso powder, and salt. Pour the boiling water over the mixture and whisk until it is smooth. Allow it to cool, whisking occasionally.
- Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda on low speed for about 30 seconds or until fully mixed. Add the butter pieces and continue to beat on low speed for 3-5 minutes or until the butter is thoroughly combined and the mixture resembles a thick dough.
- Once the butter is mixed in, slowly drizzle your chocolate mixture while the mixer continues to run on low speed. Mix until combined, then turn the mixer to medium speed for 1-1/2 minutes, scraping the bowl once during that time.
- Whisk together the yogurt, eggs, and vanilla in a separate bowl. When the 1-1/2 minutes is over, scrape the bowl, turn the mixer back on at low speed, and slowly pour in the egg mixture. Turn the speed up to medium and beat for 30 seconds.
- Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the center springs back slightly when pressed gently with a finger or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
For the Frosting:
- While the cake is cooling, start your frosting by whisking together the cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and espresso powder in a large bowl. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Once it is melted, whisk the butter into the cocoa mixture until combined. Add the vanilla then slowly add the milk until the frosting is spreadable and smooth. (Note that you may not use all of the milk.) If you find it is still too thick, add more milk a teaspoon or two at a time until the desired consistency is reached.
Finish Your Cake:
- Once the cake is completely cool, spread your frosting liberally over the top of your cake. Top with your favorite sprinkles if desired for a festive finish.
- The cake is best within a day of baking, but can be stored, tightly covered, at room temperature for 3-4 days.
- Dutched Cocoa makes a difference here in both taste and color. If you can’t find it, regular cocoa will work, but it might not be quite the same.
- Pouring boiling water over the cocoa and chocolate not only melts the chocolate, but will bring out the best flavor from your cocoa. After mixed, cool to as close to room temp as you can so it doesn’t fully melt the butter when added to your cake batter.
- This frosting can be super fudgy and thick, or thin enough to drop down the sides of your cake. Both ways are delicious, so add enough milk to make it the consistency you like best.
- This batter can also be baked in a bundt pan or in two 8-inch cake pans for a nice layer cake.