How’s everyone doing out there? Are you hanging in? This time of winter is always challenging for me with the holidays past, endless gray days and cold, and what feels like no end in sight. This year things are of course much more challenging with the ongoing pandemic, disasters from climate change, etc. I am doing everything I can to do things that bring me joy and lately that has meant tons of time in the kitchen baking and cooking.

All this time in the kitchen doesn’t necessarily translate to recipes you end up seeing here on the site. For one thing, my cooking is much more improvisational than it used to be and recipes aren’t always involved. Also, the time and energy involved in photographing food in the more structured way I used to don’t feel joyful to me right now. However, I still love sharing great recipes and it just so happens I take pretty decent photos of food with my phone as well. So lately as I ponder how to keep this creative outlet a joyful place, I realize that less staged and more casual photos of the things I make is fine with me if it helps me be able to share more often with you.

Caroline and I actually made this cake last spring in the beginning of the pandemic when we were trying to find ways to occupy ourselves at home. Even though that was nearly a year ago, we have not forgotten this epic chocolate millionaire’s cake. It is decadent and stunningly beautiful, and was so much fun to make. This has chocolate cake layers, fudge frosting, shortbread and caramel filling. Finished with the gold accents, it is irresistible.

If you are looking for a fun and somewhat involved baking project to enjoy while you’re stuck inside, we highly recommend this! Honestly, the book Icing on the Cake by Tessa Huff is one of my absolute favorite baking books and we love to bake from it. I know you’ll love it as much as we do.

  • Yield 12-16 servings (one four-layer 8-inch cake)


For the cake:

  • 315 grams (2½ cups) all-purpose flour
  • 95 grams (1 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 240 ml (1 cup) whole milk
  • 120 ml (½ cup) sour cream
  • 175 ml (¾ cup) grapeseed or canola oil
  • 400 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 240 ml (1 cup) strong-brewed hot coffee

For the frosting:

  • 225 grams (8 oz.) dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 sticks/340 grams (1½ cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 625 to 750 grams (5 to 6 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 50 grams (½ cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. black cocoa powder, for color (or additional unsweetened cocoa powder)
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 60 to 90 ml (4-6 tbsp.) whole milk

For the chocolate drizzle:

  • 58 grams (2 oz.) dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) heavy cream
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp.) corn syrup
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract

To assemble and decorate:

  • 8 oz. shortbread cookies
  • Caramel sauce
  • Gold luster dust
  • Vodka or other clear alcohol
  • Chocolate drizzle (recipe above)


  • 01

    To make the cake layers, heat the oven to 350˚ F. Grease and flour the edges of two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; whisk to blend, and set aside. In another bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the milk and sour cream; whisk to blend.

  • 02

    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the oil and sugar and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add in the vanilla. Add in the eggs one at a time, waiting until each is incorporated before adding the next. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

  • 03

    With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, stream in the coffee and mix on medium-low just until combined, about 30 seconds.

  • 04

    Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans (a kitchen scale can help greatly with this!) Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack 10-15 minutes before removing carefully from the pans. Let cool completely, right side up, on the rack. Use a long serrated knife to level the tops of the cakes as needed. Carefully cut the cakes in half horizontally to create 4 even cake layers.

  • 05

    To make the frosting, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a pot with a couple inches of simmering water to create a double boiler. (The bowl should not be in contact with the water.) Melt the chocolate until it is completely smooth and no solid pieces remain. Remove from the heat and set aside. Let the chocolate cool until it is still melted but no longer warm to the touch.

  • 06

    Place the butter in the clean bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add 625 grams (5 cups) of the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powders, vanilla, and salt. Pour in 60 ml (4 tablespoons) of the milk and mix until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and mix until the frosting is smooth and creamy. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the melted chocolate and mix until smooth. Add the remaining 125 grams (1 cup) of confectioners’ sugar 30 grams (¼ cup) at a time and/or the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk until the desired consistency is achieved. The frosting should be soft and spreadable, not too stiff. (If your chocolate has cooled to the point that the frosting stiffens, don’t worry! Just place the mixer bowl over the pan of warm water to gently warm it just a bit and then mix again. it will be creamy again in no time.) Once the frosting is your desired consistency, prepare to assemble the cake.

  • 07

    To assemble the cake, finely chop the shortbread cookies and set aside. Gently warm the caramel sauce if needed so that it slowly drips off a spoon but is not too hot. Place one cake layer on an 8-inch cake board or serving plate. Spread with a scant 1 cup of the frosting. Sprinkle on a third of the chopped shortbread cookies and gently press down to adhere to the frosting. Drizzle about 1/3 cup of the caramel sauce over the shortbread crumbles. Top with a second cake layer and repeat this process with frosting, shortbread, and caramel. Top with a third cake layer and repeat once more. Place the final cake layer on top. Use an offset spatula to thinly coat the cake in a crumb coat of frosting. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

  • 08

    Set aside about ¾ cup of the frosting for accents. Smoothly frost the cake with the remaining frosting. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes so the frosting forms a slight crust. To paint the cake in gold, mix a small amount of gold luster dust with a drop or two of vodka until it has a thin, paint-like consistency. Use a small pastry brush or clean flat paintbrush to gently paint strokes of the gold mixture artfully around the sides of the cake.

  • 09

    To make the chocolate drizzle, combine the chocolate, cream, and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Heat gently over medium-low heat until the cream begins to steam and the chocolate starts to melt. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla until combined. Pour into a liquid measuring cup with spout and let cool to room temperature, until it is thick but still fluid, about 10 minutes. When the drizzle has cooled to the appropriate temperature and consistency, carefully drip it around the edges of the cake. Let this set before proceeding (chill to speed up the process.)

  • 10

    Place the reserved frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe small spirals around the top border of the cake. If desired, use the leftover gold mixture to splatter gold over the top of the cake.

  • 11

    Cover and chill. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.