Passed down from Grandma and universally cherished in my family as “birthday cake,” this simple homemade Chocolate Buttermilk Cake is moist, tender, and positively bursting with rich chocolate flavor. It’s a guaranteed hit here for celebrating occasions large and small!

Slice of homemade buttermilk chocolate layer cake being lifted off the cake plate to show the creamy chocolate frosting and moist, rich chocolate interior.

Legend has it that my late mother-in-law made this chocolate buttermilk cake for every one of her four children’s birthdays without fail. I vividly remember the first time I whipped it up, using the recipe she’d included in one of those old homemade, spiral-bound family cookbooks. It was for my now-husband’s birthday, though we were just dating at the time.

Two things stand out: one, how much it meant to him that someone had made this specific cake for his birthday after all those years. Secondly, how delicious the cake was vs. how badly I messed up the frosting!

The original recipe included a variation for cooked fudge frosting, which I now know is finicky even if you know what you’re doing. At the time, I had literally no clue how to follow the instructions in the family cookbook, which are, ahem, minimalist. I cooked it way too long and wound up with, essentially, crunchy frosting chips.

My husband and I still get a good laugh about it now. And I most often replace that cooked frosting with my favorite everyday chocolate buttercream, which is from Hershey’s, completely no fail, and printed with the recipe card here.

Homemade chocolate layer cake with chocolate buttercream frosting, whole and ready to serve on a white and wooden cake stand.

Best Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

On to the cake itself: this is truly the perfect homemade chocolate cake. It’s rich and flavorful, thanks to starting with the classic combo of real butter and sugar. The texture of the crumb is moist and can stay that way even if you over-mix the batter a little, thanks to the large amount of tenderizing buttermilk. It holds shape very well as a layer cake, or is delightful as a sweet sheet cake as well.

You can make this as a 9″x13″ sheet cake, or in two layers using either 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans. The amount of frosting yielded by the recipe below works for either.

Close up of a slice of a 2 layer chocolate buttermilk cake with chocolate frosting, with a fork lifting out the first bite.


I find this cake keeps well for 4-5 days if tightly covered to prevent air exposure. Covering a sheet cake is pretty straightforward, but two things have really minimized the frustration of layer cake storage for me:

Related Recipes

Can’t get enough chocolate cake recipes? You’ll also love these chocolate buttermilk cupcakes, a densely rich flourless chocolate cake, and unbelievably tender Guinness chocolate cupcakes.

Prefer your treats in cookie form? Double chocolate walnut espresso cookies, double chocolate chunk cookies with sea salt, and the tenderest bakery-style chocolate chip cookies are always in style.

If you try this Buttermilk Chocolate Cake recipe, don’t forget to rate it and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.

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Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

Passed down from Grandma and universally cherished in my family as "birthday cake," this simple homemade chocolate buttermilk cake is moist, tender, and positively bursting with rich chocolate flavor.



  • 1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk any kind
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch table salt


  • Measure buttermilk and set out at room temperature while you mix the other ingredients. (The butter should already be softened fully to room temperature before you start.)
    1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a cake pan with cooking spray and set aside. (This can be baked as a 9”x13” sheet cake or in two 8” or 9” round cake pans. If using round pans to assemble as a layer cake, I cut and place a round of parchment on top of the cooking spray to be extra sure that the cake will fall out of the pan cleanly.)
  • In a large bowl, using an electric mixer if you have one, cream together the butter and sugar until they are fluffy and thoroughly mixed. Add eggs and vanilla extract, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and blend well again.
    1/2 cup butter, 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 2 large eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
    1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon table salt
  • With the mixer running on low speed, add half of the flour mixture to the butter-sugar blend. (If mixing by hand, just add half the flour, then gently fold it in.) Pour in the buttermilk, beat to incorporate, then add the rest of the flour mixture.
  • Continue to mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high, or mix as rapidly as you can by hand, to get a smooth and silky cake batter.
  • Pour batter into cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs.
  • (I find 9” cake layers bake in about 28 minutes; 8” cake layers take 31-32 minutes; and a sheet cake takes about 30 minutes exactly. This will vary depending on your oven, however, so it’s really best to test with a toothpick or a paring knife a few minutes before you think it might be done.)
  • Let cake cool all the way to room temperature before frosting.
  • To make the frosting, melt the butter, then pour into a large mixing bowl and stir in cocoa powder. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, alternating with portions of the milk and beating rapidly by hand or with an electric mixer. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add vanilla extract and salt. Beat very rapidly until the frosting is smooth, even, and easy to spread.
    1/2 cup butter, 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 3 cups powdered sugar, 1/3 cup milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, pinch table salt
  • Frost sheet cake or layers as desired. (This frosting makes enough to generously frost a 9”x13” sheet cake or a two-layer 8” or 9” round cake.) Enjoy!


  • Normally I include information on substitutions, but for best results I really do recommend making this cake exactly as written. 
  • In a pinch for time, you can sprinkle the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt) directly over the butter-sugar mixture, beat those in, then add the buttermilk and low speed and increase to blend. But I do find it incorporates more evenly and reliably when you take the time to whisk the dry ingredients separately and add alternating with the buttermilk.

Nutrition Estimate

Calories: 351 kcal, Carbohydrates: 57 g, Protein: 4 g, Fat: 14 g, Saturated Fat: 9 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4 g, Trans Fat: 0.5 g, Cholesterol: 54 mg, Sodium: 375 mg, Potassium: 173 mg, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 42 g, Vitamin A: 430 IU, Calcium: 50 mg, Iron: 2 mg
Did you make this recipe?Leave a review below, then snap a quick picture and tag @nourishandfete on Instagram so I can see it!