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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A slice of chocolate birthday cake filled with chocolate buttercream and covered in white fondant icing with multi-coloured fondant dots.

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!

A layer of road chocolate cake on a cooling rack with two more chocolate cakes in tins in the background.

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.

Spreading chocolate buttercream onto a round chocolate birthday cake using a palette knife. There are two more layers of chocolate cake on a cooling rack in the background.

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.

A slice of chocolate birthday cake filled with chocolate buttercream and covered in fondant icing on a blue napkin with a cake fork at the side. There are candles laying just behind it and behind that it the rest of the cake with another slice being removed on a cake slice.

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 🙂

A round birthday cake covered in white fondant icing decorated with multi-coloured stars and circles. The cake is topped with burning candles spelling "HAPPY BIRTHDAY"

A slice of chocolate birthday cake filled with chocolate buttercream and covered in white fondant icing with multi-coloured fondant dots.
4.87 from 22 votes

Chocolate Birthday Cake

This chocolate birthday cake is simple to make, tastes delicious and is perfect for decorating for a special celebration. 
Active Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 12


  • 200 g self-raising flour
  • 40 g cocoa powder
  • 230 g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 230 g soft margarine - you can also use softened unsalted butter too
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 100 g 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


  • Pre-heat your oven to 160ºC/140ºC fan.
  • Line your tins (2x 20cm sandwich tins) with liners or greaseproof paper.
  • Grate the milk chocolate (100g).
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Once cooked, remove the cakes from the oven and leave them to cool in the tins for 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes, remove the cakes from their tins and pop them onto a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.


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.
If you want to make this cake in one deep tin rather than two sandwich tins then the cooking time will need to be increased to 45-50 minutes.
Have you tried this recipe?Please leave a comment and rating at the bottom of the page to let others know what you thought.

Nutritional Information

Calories: 343kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 204mg | Potassium: 119mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 23g | Vitamin A: 15.3% | Calcium: 2.4% | Iron: 6.1%
Any nutritional information shown is the estimated nutritional information per serving. Please refer to my guide to Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen nutritional information if you want to learn more about how this is calculated.

A slice of chocolate birthday cake filled with chocolate buttercream and covered with fondant icing. The rest of the cake is in the background with a gap showing where the slice had come from.

Free From/Suitable For…

  • Suitable for Vegetarians
  • Nut-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. Sorry for having so many questions. One more. If I didn’t want to make the cake too sweet as I have a few younger siblings of kids coming to eat, can I omit the grated milk chocolate? If so, would it still taste okay or do you have to add more cocoa powder to compensate?

    • Personally, I wouldn’t leave out the chocolate as that’s what gives it a lot of its flavour. I developed this recipe as I found most only used cocoa powder and I found them all a bit bland. If you wanted to reduce the sugar, you could leave out some of the caster sugar (although don’t leave out too much as it contributes to the structure of the cake. If you’re worried about the sugar content then I’d recommend cutting back on the amount of icing *(if you’re using it) as both buttercream and fondant and very sweet. If you wanted something less sweet you could opt for a ganache instead.

  2. Hi, I’d like to give your recipe a go for my daughter’s birthday cake. I’d like to make a five-egg cake so that it feeds a few more. Do you think I can use two 20cm tins or do I need larger tins? Thank you.

    • I would use two 20cm tins for that size of cake. You can put the mixture into 20cm tins, but you’ll need to cook the cake for longer (I’d guess about 5-10 minutes).

  3. This cake recipe looks great! I always have an issue where my cakes seem flat when they come out (I have to cook in a microwave oven as I don’t own an oven). How high is this overall cake or its layers? Just so I have an idea if it is coming out right.

  4. Made this cake in 2 10″ x 10″ square tins. Double the recipe for each tin. It took an hour and a half to bake covered top of cakes with greaseproof paper half way through because they were cooked. Turned out great thanks for the lovely recipe. I used Swiss chocolate buttercream for filling and crumb coat .

  5. Hi there is it suitable for freezing? Thinking of making my little boys cake early? Or how many days in advance is ok to keep the moisture?

    • Yes, wrap the undecorated cake in cling film before freezing and it’ll be fine for a few months. I normally bake a cake for a Saturday party on a Thursday and it’s always good for at least four days after, so anything up to about half a week ahead for baking should be fine.

      • When you bake it on a Thursday, how do you store it? Do you still freeze it, refrigerate or just store at room temperature?

        • Just in an airtight container at room temperature. You can freeze it, but it’ll be fine for a day or so just on the side in a box.

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