Chocolate Birthday Cake

This chocolate birthday cake is simple to make, tastes delicious and is perfect for decorating for a special celebration. 

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This chocolate birthday cake is simple to make, tastes delicious and is perfect for decorating for a special celebration.

One question I’ve been asked a lot in the past is whether I can recommend a really good chocolate birthday cake recipe, and I couldn’t… until now.

I hate getting questions that I can’t give a helpful answer to, so over the past few weeks I’ve been a busy bee trying to perfect my chocolate cake recipe. Now this couldn’t be just any old chocolate cake, it had to be perfect for a birthday which meant it…

1) Must be simple to make

I get a lot of comments on my all-in-one vanilla sponge birthday cake and the ones that always makes me smile the most are when people say that they never bake and the simplicity of the recipe has given them the confidence to do more in future. I wanted this chocolate cake to be that simple to make… a cake even the novice-est of cooks can make.

This cake is so simple… chuck it all in and mix it up. The only piece of culinary skill you need is a bit of grating!

This chocolate birthday cake is simple to make, tastes delicious and is perfect for decorating for a special celebration.

2) Must be suitable for decorating

When I make birthday cakes for my boys I love to go to town on the decoration (you can see some on my cakes in my cake gallery). In order for the cake to work as a decorated cake it can’t dome too much on top or sink in the middle and it must be sturdy enough to be carved into various shapes for decorating without crumbling.

This chocolate birthday cake is simple to make, tastes delicious and is perfect for decorating for a special celebration.

3) Be chocolatey

This is actually the big reason I’ve not been able to recommend chocolate cake recipes until now. All the cakes I’d made in the past with the right texture (see point 2) used just cocoa powder and they simply weren’t chocolatey enough. To give this cake some extra chocolate-iness it includes lots of actual chocolate grated into the cake mix alongside the cocoa powder.

This chocolate birthday cake is simple to make, tastes delicious and is perfect for decorating for a special celebration.

Photographing this cake caused a lot of confusion in my house as I decided it needed to be decorated just like a birthday cake with lots of colourful fondant. Josh (who’s 3) kept asking whose birthday it was and then started getting all excited about Father Christmas coming (because apparently he delivers presents for birthdays too). I probably didn’t help matters by deciding to light the candles – a completely unnecessary step as I really only wanted to photograph the inside of the cake after they’d been blown out – we had fun doing it together though 🙂

This chocolate birthday cake is simple to make, tastes delicious and is perfect for decorating for a special celebration.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Active Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Serves 12

You can also use this mix to make 16 cupcakes. Simply reduce the cooking time to 20-25 minutes.


  • Weighing scales
  • Electric mixer (you can also mix this cake by hand using a wooden spoon and a large bowl)
  • Measuring spoons
  • 2x 20cm round cake tins (I use these Delia ones – if they’re good enough for Delia then they’re good enough for me!)
  • Cake tin liners or greaseproof paper (I love these reusable bake-o-glide liners)
  • Skewer
  • Cooling rack


  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 230g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 230g soft margarine (you can also use softened unsalted butter too)
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g milk chocolate (choose something from the baking aisle in the supermarket as it will cope well with the heat in the oven without going grainy).
  • 2 tsp milk

If you would like to make this cake in a different size then you can use my chocolate cake calculator to find the ingredients you need.

You can find my recipe for the chocolate buttercream to cover the cake here.


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 160ºC/140ºC fan.
  2. Line your tins with liners or greaseproof paper.
  3. Grate the milk chocolate (100g).
  4. Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl (200g self-raising flour, 40g cocoa powder, 230g caster sugar, 4 large eggs, 230g soft margarine, ¼ tsp vanilla extract, 2 tsp milk and the grated chocolate) mix on a low speed until fully combined.
  5. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and spread it out so it’s pretty even (it doesn’t have to be perfect as it’ll even out in the oven, but roughly flat is good).
  6. Put the tins in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes put a skewer in the middle and check if it comes out clean. If it does it’s done, if not pop it back in for a couple more minutes and check again.
  7. Once cooked, remove the cakes from the oven and leave them to cool in the tins for 10 minutes.
  8. After 10 minutes, remove the cakes from their tins and pop them onto a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.

This chocolate birthday cake is simple to make, tastes delicious and is perfect for decorating for a special celebration.

Nutritional Information

Calories: 340 kcal (17%), Fat: 19.1g (27%), Saturated Fat: 6.5g (32%), Carbohydrates: 35.8g (14%), Sugar: 24.0g (27%), Fibre: 1.6g (7%), Protein: 5.1g (10%), Salt: 0.5g (9%)

This is the estimated nutritional information per serving (this is for the cake only and excludes any icing). Please refer to my guide to Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen nutritional information if you want to learn more about how this is calculated.

Free From/Suitable For…

  • Suitable for Vegetarians
  • Corn-Free
  • Nut-Free
  • Soy-Free

The ingredients for this recipe are easily available free from all these allergens. However, please ensure you double-check allergen information for all ingredients.

This chocolate birthday cake is simple to make, tastes delicious and is perfect for decorating for a special celebration.


  1. Hi Charlotte,

    I am so happy you have done another cake recipe, if it’s anything like your vanilla it will be absolutely delicious. When u say butter what brand would you recommend as I have tried butter before and it makes my cake taste salty, so I normally just use stork.

    • Charlotte Oates

      Ooh I hope you enjoy it!

      It doesn’t matter which brand of butter you use as long as you choose unsalted (I’ve added the unsalted bit into the recipe now). I usually use stork too as I’m terrible at remembering to get the butter out of the fridge before I start to allow it to soften and the cakes with stork rise well and have a great texture.

    • Hi Charlotte, can this recipe be adapted to an A4 size? I have an A4 baking tin as I want to make a rugby pitch and I cannot find a recipe.

      Many thanks

  2. I am so looking forward to trying out your birthday cake recipe as I like to bake. But I always use buttercream icing on my cakes as I have never tried using the rolled icing but I am going to give it a go how simple is it.

    • Charlotte Oates

      Hi Darlene, I always use a layer of buttercream underneath the fondant as it helps to get the fondant smooth and I also prefer the flavour (I use fondant because I can make it look pretty, I only eat the cake and buttercream). Using fondant isn’t too tricky as long as you take a bit of time and care over it. If you’re not too sure what you’re doing then there are loads of tutorials on You Tube which will show you what to do. I sometimes find a I have a few lumps and bumps which I hide under the decoration!

  3. Always good to have a great chocolate cake recipe up your sleeve……. I have a favourite GF birthday cake recipe too…. but I suspect it wouldn’t hold up to carving for shapes (I’ve never actually tried though….)
    This looks great though….. love the chocolate grated into it!

    • Charlotte Oates

      Thanks Kate. I’ve had the same problem in the past – a lovely chocolate cake recipe but completely unsuitable for carving and decorating. It took quite a lot of baking to get the balance of chocolatey, not too dry and sturdy enough for carving. I just hope everyone who tries it agrees.

  4. so easy and so so tasty and so chocolatey! I made a 13 (yes13!) egg version for my sons birthday. and it was all eaten. I am not known for my love of cooking. being in the kitchen usually puts me in a foul mood. but people kept coming up to me with a surprised expression saying ‘Caroline – that was really good!’ – and that made it all worth it. thank you x

    • Charlotte Oates

      Loved this! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, I always know I enjoy a recipe when I post it but it really make me smile to know that others have too x

  5. Hi Charlotte.
    I live in Europe, is tsp, a tea spoon or a table spoon?
    Can i use a normal spoon?
    Thanks for your answer!

    • Charlotte Oates

      Hi Valia,

      A tsp is a teaspoon, you would see tbsp for tablespoon. I always use a measuring spoon to ensure I get the right quantities but as long as your teaspoons are a pretty regular size then it should be fine to use just make sure the contents of the spoon are flat and not heaped.

  6. Hi Charlotte, I’ve used your all in one vanilla sponge birthday cake recipe before and it went down a treat. I am doing a cake sale for charity on Sunday. Will be raffling 2 6″ cakes ( one vanilla and one chocolate) what quantities should I use for the chocolate cake, and am I ok to us one 6″tin and cut the cake in half?..

    • Hi Katie,

      I’ve not tried making this cake as a deep cake and then cutting it in half before but it should work. It will take longer to cook so I’d check it after 45 minutes rather than the 30 recommended in the recipe.

      The quantities for a 6″ chocolate cake are…

      100g self raising flour
      20g cocoa powder
      115g caster sugar
      2 large eggs
      115g soft margerine
      1/8 tsp vanilla extract
      50g milk chocolate
      1 tsp milk

      I hope your cake sale goes well and you raise lots of money for your charity xx

  7. I know this is a reallllly basic question, but how to you make the chocolate bitter cream?

  8. This is a great recipie. Thank you. My kids always request a chocolate birthday cake but with a fondant design. This turned out both tasty and easy to ice in fondant.

  9. Hello Charlotte thank you for sharing this recipe with us, I’m sure it’s lovely as your vanilla sponge recipe. Can you please share the ingredients for different size and shape tins too please.

    • I definitely will, I just need to find a spare hour or so to do the calculations and write up the post. I’ll let you know when it’s ready. In the meantime if there’s a particular size of cake you need working out then let me know.

      • Thank you so much, thinking of baking a 10″ square mine craft cake for my friends son birthday.

      • Kylie Roxbrough-green

        Hi there. Your reciepe is fab I get so many comments on how nice it is. But do you have the ingredients for a square 8 inch tin please

        • Hi Kylie. I’ve finally gotten around to creating a calculator so you can easily work out the ingredients you need for different sizes of tins. You can find it here. I hope you find it useful.

  10. Hello Charlotte, l made your Chocolate Cake for a fundraising and got good feed back ,Thanks so much a cake that never fails

  11. Hi Charlotte,
    I was looking at making this chocolate cake and making it two sizes so I could stack it, do you think this would work with this recipe. Would the bottom layer be heavy enough to take the weight of another layer?

    Thank you,

    • I’ve not tried it but it’s a pretty study cake so should be fine for 2 tiers. If you’re unsure then you could add a few straws/dowels cut to the height of the cake into the bottom layer to add additional support for the top tier.

  12. Thank you so much for coming up with this recipe! I’ve just used it to make my 5 year old a Lightning McQueen birthday cake and had so many nice comments about how good it tasted. I’ve had to forward the link to quite a few of the people who tasted it already! So much better than just adding cocoa to a Victoria sponge cake recipe and much easier to carve into a car shape too – didn’t just end up with a pile of crumbs! It’s still really moist 4 days after I made it (and 2 days after cutting it) so think I could risk making it a little more in advance next year to take the stress levels down :-). Your calculator is fantastic too – helped me get a good idea how to scale up this recipe. Thank you!

    • Thanks Pippa. It was designed to be chocolate-y and easy to carve so I’m glad you think I got it right 🙂

      I’ve been asked to create a calculator specifically for the chocolate cake, it’ll be ready in the next couple of weeks.

  13. Can you give me the quantities for a 10inch cake tin please? Thanks

    • For a 10″ cake you’d need to multiply all of the ingredients by 1.5…

      300g self raising flour
      60g cocoa powder
      345g caster sugar
      6 large eggs
      345g soft margarine
      1/2 tsp vanilla extract
      150g milk chocolate
      3 tsp milk

  14. Hi Charlotte l made the chocolate cake for a fund raising and got a lot of good feedback ,so easy too .Thanks a million

  15. Hello Charlotte. I am looking to buy some cake tins. In your recipe it says 2 x 20cm tins. Just seen their are 20cm-8cm and 20cm-4.5cm. Can I use same recipe for the deep tin as well as the two shallower tins? Hope that makes sense. Thanks Janette

    • I’ve not tried it in a deeper tin but it should work. If you put all the mixture into one deep tin then it’ll take longer to cook, I’d suggest not checking until it’s been in the oven for 45 minutes (if you check it sooner then it won’t be set in the centre and is likely to sink). I hope that helps.

  16. Hi Charlotte

    I gave now done the vanilla sponge three times and love itI would be using a 23 cm tin can I please have the recipe for that? Also could I use chocolate orange?


    • Hi Karen, for a 23cm round cake you’ll need to multiply all of the ingredients by 1.25.

      Personally I wouldn’t try using a Chocolate Orange. I’ve attempted to cook with it before and it really doesn’t like heat, sadly going bitter and grainy. If you want to add a hint of orange then you could grate in some orange zest or add some orange extract. Without trying it I’m not too sure how much you’d need, if I were doing it I’d add about 1/2 tsp, have a little taste of the batter (assuming you don’t mind cake batter as it contains raw eggs – I taste mine but I know some people won’t) and add more if needed.

      • Hi Charlotte

        Apologies for messaging again , i worked this out to be

        250g self raising
        50g cocoa powder
        287.5g caster sugar
        5 eggs
        287.5 marg
        125g chocolate
        2.5tsp milk

        Is this right? Also will i replace the vanilla with the orange extract? I plan to use the vanilla butter cream so i can add food colouring to make it orange? I am going to make a pumpkin face on the top for halloween this would work ok wouldn’t it?

        Thank you!

        • Yes, those seem right and you should be fine to simply substitute the vanilla extract for the orange (although you may want to check the flavour to ensure the orange comes through as strong as you’d like it).

          You absolutely fine to colour the buttercream. Makes sure you use the gel colours (in the little pots) rather than the watery colours in the little bottles. Add the food colouring before you add the milk to the buttercream as then you can get the consistency just right.

  17. H Charlotte

    Should there be baking powder in this?


    • No, it doesn’t need any as long as you use self-raising flour. I tried a version of this with extra baking powder and it puffed up too much and ended up cracking and collapsing.

  18. Hello Charlotte,

    I am baking your recipe for my flatmate’s birthday this weekend and i had a small question for you.
    As i only have 1 baking tin, could i bake half of the mixture first and then the other half? Will the waiting time affect the texture of the cake??


    • Personally I wouldn’t as the raising agent in the self-raising flour starts to work as soon as it mixes with the wet ingredients and you need to get it into the oven quickly for it to rise properly. If you leave it sitting around while half bakes the second half probably won’t rise as well as if it had been cooked immediately. If you have a deeper tin then you could put all of the mix in one tin and cut it in half after it’s baked. If you take this approach then it will take longer to cook so don’t check it until it’s been in the oven for 45 minutes.

  19. Hi there,

    would you have the quantities for a 12 inch tin please? And cooking time. Thank you very much it looks amazing xx

  20. Hi, I never normally post comments to anything online! But I made this chocolate cake for my son’s birthday and must report that it was absolutely delicious! I don’t usually make chocolate cakes because I find they never taste as good as I want, and I’m certainly no baker! But I followed this recipe to the letter and was so pleased with the results and had of compliments on it. I’ll definitely make it again and will also be attempting the vanilla one for my daughter’s birthday party tomorrow!

  21. Hi this cake looks amazing. I recently tried your vanilla cake and got very good feedback, so going to try this one today. I was just wondering how do you cost the cake. I’m doing a 10″ square using this recipe and your chocolate buttercream but I’ve no idea how to work out costings and hoping you’d be able to help. Thanks.

  22. Hi, I’ve just made this in a 20cm deep tin planning to cut in half. It was still raw in the middle after 45 minutes so I left it another 10 and it’s still raw in the middle, but now has a massive crack in the middle of the top which is also domed. Any idea what might have gone wrong? I should think I should be able to cover up these issues by trimming bits off here and there when it’s finally cooked, but I’d love to make a lovely flat cake in future!

    • Hi Claire, I’m not totally sure as I haven’t tested the recipe in the particular size tin. I usually use two sandwich tins and don’t have a problem with doming and cracking so maybe switch to splitting the mix into two tins and hopefully it’ll work better.

      • Well it was a resounding success! Many compliments about how this was actually a nice cake and not at all dry (seems it’s what people expect from a children’s birthday cake!) the addition of chocolate is definitely worth it. Will be making it for my next birthday child.

  23. Hi Charlotte,going to use this for Patrick’s birthday cake. He wants a pokeball cake so going to do 2 domes. Will estimate how much to make from your calculator but how full should the tin be/ how much does it rise? Speak soon, Sarah

    • You always go for the ambitious shapes! I usually fill my tins about 2/3 full but I’ve never used a spherical tin so I’m not sure if they would rise as much given that the sides go out at the top. Do you line your tin? (I’m guessing not given the shape). I’ve not tested it in unlined tins (to be sure it’ll come out easily), you’d definitely need to grease them really well.

    • Text me if you’ve got any questions as I’ll spot that quicker than I’ll spot a comment on here xx

  24. Made this cake with just a minor tweak (plain chocolate melted rather than grated it- sorry couldn’t help myself) and I can confirm it really is a very good chocolate cake. I shall be making it again and again!

  25. Hi Charlotte, Just wanted to say a big thank you for the chocolate cake recipe. I’ve made it for my dad’s 70th birthday (you’re never too old for choccie cake) and it’s delicious!!

  26. Hi, thanks for this recipe – I made a test version for my son’s birthday cake and it was delicious! Finally a good chocolate birthday cake recipe! I do have just one question, would this cake be freezable? I need to make four layers (yikes) for his cake ahead of his party this weekend, planning to ice and decorate on Friday but it would help if I could make a layer or two today (weds) and freeze until then – do you know whether this cake would be ok when defrosted?
    Thanks again for sharing the recipe!

    • I haven’t actually tried freezing this cake so I’m not 100% sure. The recipe is very similar to my vanilla cake which does freeze well so I would think it would be OK. Make sure you wrapped tightly with cling film if you do.

  27. Hi Charlotte can you please help me. My little girls 2nd birthday is Tuesday and I really want to make a Minnie Mouse cake. I need it to feed 20+ people. I really want to make a simple cake, vanilla spoke. Want to cover it in white icing which I am not sure how to do and then maybe decorate with icing in the shape of Minnie Mouse. Please give me some help and need to do this weekend. It would be so appreciated

    • Hi Lisa. My vanilla sponge recipe is perfect for birthday cakes and I’ve had a lot of great feedback on it. If only serves 12 but if you head over to the calculator (linked at the bottom of the recipe) you can get the ingredients for a larger cake. To feed 20+ people I’d say you’d probably need something along the lines of a 28cm round cake or 25cm square cake with 2 layers, or if you went up to 3 layers then a 23cm round cake or 20cm square cake. To cover it with icing I’d suggest making some vanilla buttercream (there’s a link in the recipe to the too) to cover it with and the covering it with fondant icing (which you can buy ready made from the supermarket). If you search for minnie mouse cake on Pinterest you’ll find loads of ideas, I think the ones with are red with white spots and a simple black minnie outline look really effective. You could then get some minnie mouse candles to top it off. I hope that helps, let me know if you have any more questions.

  28. What sort of chocolate would you recommend ? Also do you think if I did a chocolate and a vanilla I could stack then? Would the chocolate withstand the vanilla?

    • The chocolate would withstand the vanilla just fine. Add a couple of dowels or straws cut to the height of the cake for a little extra support and put the vanilla layer on a thin board the same size as the cake.

      I’ve used a few different chocolates to make this cake. I tend to go for ones in the baking aisle as they tend to cope with heat better (Dairy Milk for example is terrible for baking as it tends to go grainy). The ones I use most often are Lindt, Green & Black’s, Dr Oetker or Aldi own brand.

  29. how do you make your chocolate butter cream please ive followed other recipes for it online and it just doesnt seem to be thick

  30. I made this for my daughter’s birthday and we all loved it! When putting butter cream in the middle I also sprinkled some chocolate chips. This worked really well as it gave a bit of texture to the cake. I have bookmarked this page because I will definitely make it again. It was moist and firm enough to hold the fondant icing. Thank you!

  31. Hi,
    I also love this recipe :-). How far in advance can I bake and decorate. For a birthday party on a Sat, is baking on the Wednesday too early.
    Erin xx

    • It should be fine. I normally bake it on a Thursday for a Saturday party but we’ll then happily eat any leftovers for a few days afterwards. Just make sure you keep it in an airtight container if you can to stop it drying out.

  32. Hi,

    I’m just about to go shopping so I can start baking this evening ahead of decorating it for my dad’s 60th tom.. I plan to use a deep 14″ tin and although I have calculated for 2 layers my plan is to 1/4 the quantities and cook 4 thin layers. Could you advise on cooking time, I was intending still to cook at 140 fan.

    Thanks! 🙂

    • Charlotte Oates

      I’ve not tried it as a thinner cake, only a thicker one so I’m not sure of the exact cooking time. I’d suggest trying 20-25 minutes. Alternatively you could make 2 layers and then slice them in half to get 4 thin layers.

  33. Hi Charlotte can this recipe chocolate birthday cake be used as cupcakes.thanks.?

  34. An absolutely fabulous chocolate cake! I doubled up the ingredients, divided between two 20cm tins and baked for an hour (I was sat in front of the oven keeping an eye lol). The smell of chocolate in the kitchen is divine and the cakes are moist but firm enough to now buttercream and fondant ice for a Dan TDM theme cake. Thank you so much for providing what will now be my go to chocolate cake recipe

  35. Hi, can I use regular flour? How much baking powder should I put? Planing to make of two layer cake (10″) – one vanilla and one chocolate. How long and at what temperature should I bake it? Thank you. This recipe looks amazing.

  36. Hi I want to make your chocolate birthday cake for Sunday this week. When do you think the earliest I can make this ?

    • Charlotte Oates

      I usually bake mine on a Thursday for a Saturday party and it’s still good to eat a few days later as long as it’s stored in an airtight container.

  37. Baked this cake last night and iced just with your buttercream recipe and had so many compliments! Easy to do and perfect to eat! Thank you.

  38. Hi
    How long should i bake in 10″ round tin?
    Many thanks

    • Charlotte Oates

      If you use the ingredients recommended in the calculator then the cooking time will be the same as in the original recipe.

  39. Hi Charlotte I was wondering if you can use your all in one recipe for an 8inch deep cake tin rather than two separate tins?

    • Charlotte Oates

      It should be fine. It’ll need cooking for longer so don’t check it until it’s been in the over for 45 minutes.

  40. Francesca Hatton-Beazley

    Thank you for posting your wonderful chocolate cake recipe. I used it very recently for my daughters sixth birthday and had to decorate it with a Trolls theme. It worked perfectly first time and went down a storm. Best chocolate cake recipe ever and nice and simple to follow. The buttercream just finished it off perfectly too. So thank you again xx

  41. I’m planning on making this cake in a rectangular 32 x 22cm tin. I want to cover it in fondant icing. I’ll be making it from scratch, do you know
    the quantities for this please?

  42. Hi Charlotte,

    This recipe looks great and I intend on using it for my sons birthday this weekend so thank you…. a good chocolate cake recipe is hard to find. I’m just wondering if you have had any feedback as to whether this cake freezes ok?


    • Charlotte Oates

      I’ve not tried it but it should do. I would freeze it undecorated and then decorate it after defrosting.

  43. Hi Charlotte. I tried this recipe and it was absolutely delicious! There was hardly any rise to it though so I’m trying to work out where I went wrong. Only thing I did differently was use butter instead of margarine ( I always do this) and used chocolate chips as I didn’t have a block of chocolate to grate. Would either of these things have stopped it rising?


    • Butter instead of margarine shouldn’t have made a difference (I’ve used both and had similar results). The chocolate chips may have made a difference. When I tried chocolate chips I found that they sank to the bottom leaving it soggy and heavy, this might also have impacted the amount of rise.

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