My sweet husband celebrated a birthday a few weeks ago, marking 13 years we have been celebrating birthdays together.  I wish I could say I’d made him 13 birthday cakes but I didn’t discover my love for cooking and baking until about six years ago.  In the past six years I’ve come to be pretty good at predicting what type of cakes Ben prefers.  It’s almost always chocolate and often involves toffee, caramel, or peanuts (or sometimes a combination).  This year I had several ideas for cakes I knew he would love.  I laid out all of the options and I was right – he was pretty excited about every single one of them.  And then I happened upon this cake just a couple of weeks before his birthday.  The moment I saw it, I knew it would be his choice, and as soon as I mentioned it he was decided.

Layers of dark and tender chocolate cake are sandwiched with caramel Swiss meringue buttercream.  The whole thing is covered with a silky smooth dark chocolate frosting that is out of this world, and the cake is finished off with a sprinkle of fleur de sel.  As rich as this all sounds, I think we were expecting it to be just too much, but it was actually just right.  Indulgent, certainly, but not in a make-you-feel-sick kind of way.  The quantities I used resulted in cake layers just a tad taller than I would have wanted, and consequently a towering cake.  I have corrected this in the version below to make what I think would be a better sized cake.  However, if you want a super tall cake, go ahead and increase the amount of cake batter by 25%.  We thought all the components of this cake were great, but it seemed everyone’s favorite part was the dark chocolate frosting.  It is really fantastic, and I’m sure I’ll be making it again and again.  Without a doubt, the very best bite was the corner of the slice with lots of the frosting and the sprinkle of salt.  In fact, next time I might even consider serving each slice with an additional small sprinkle of salt so the sweet-salty balance is enjoyed with every bite.  No cake could ever come close to showing Ben just how much he means to me and to our family, but if it helps make his birthday a little bit sweeter then I guess it’s a pretty good start :)

(A quick side note – thanks to my wonderful husband and biggest fan for volunteering his birthday cake for food styling and glamour shots :)  Normally I don’t slice or shoot birthday cakes before party time but Ben is always very encouraging in all matters relating to the blog, and wanted to be sure this cake got the proper treatment.  Thanks, honey.)


For the cake:
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2¼ cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
2¼ tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. brewed coffee*
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:
1 cup sugar, divided
¼ cup water
¼ cup heavy cream
Generous pinch of sea salt, such as fleur de sel
4 large egg whites
1½ cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the frosting:
12 oz. good quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
¼ cup very hot water
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. (18 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt

Fleur de sel, for finishing

*Note – Coffee is used as a flavor enhancer in many chocolate cake recipes.  Even if you are not a fan of coffee, don’t be afraid of this – it’s still chocolate cake, and you don’t taste the coffee.


  • 01

    To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Grease and flour the edges of 3 8-inch baking pans, shaking out the excess.  Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Mix on low speed to blend.  Add the vegetable oil, buttermilk, coffee, eggs, and vanilla to the bowl and mix on low speed until well blended and completely incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.  Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the cakes cool in the pans about 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.  Remove the parchment paper.

  • 02

    To make the caramel buttercream filling, place ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a medium saucepan.  Mix in the water.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Stop stirring and let the caramel cook, gently swirling from time to time, until it is a deep amber color (test a drop on a white plate or bowl if necessary), watching it carefully to avoid burning.  Remove the mixture from the heat and slowly whisk in the cream and then the salt.  Set aside and let cool.

  • 03

    Combine the egg whites and the remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  (The bowl should be cool to the touch.)

  • 04

    Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (or longer – don’t worry, it will come together!)  Blend in the cooled caramel until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

  • 05

    To make the frosting, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.  Set aside and let cool to room temperature.  In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and water and stir until smooth.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually blend in the melted and cooled chocolate until well incorporated.  Blend in the cocoa powder-water mixture until smooth.

  • 06

    To assemble the cake, level the cake layers if necessary.  Place one of the cake layers on a cake board or serving platter.  Top with half of the caramel buttercream and smooth in a thick, even layer.  Place a second cake layer on top and smooth the remaining caramel buttercream over that.  Place the final cake layer on top.  Cover the top and sides of the cake with the chocolate frosting and smooth with an offset spatula.  If desired, use additional frosting to pipe decorative accents on the cake.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Before serving, sprinkle with fleur de sel.


  • That cake looks divine! That was so nice that your husband let u cut the cake for photos.

  • I just made this same cake too and posting it today :)

    My trick if I have to take the cake somewhere but need to photograph it is to cut one slice, take the pictures as needed and then put it back (as gently as possible) and smooth some icing over it :-p

  • Annie

    I guess I’m just more traditional, but having it as someone’s birthday cake, I would normally never feel okay about cutting into it before the birthday celebration.

  • Rebekah

    This looks amazing! I’m turning 30 in a few weeks and I may just have to make this for myself!

  • Oh my! This looks heavenly. *Swoon*

  • Happy late Birthday Ben. Thanks for letting Annie use your cake for a food shot, I’m drooling over it!!!!

  • Sugar Doctor

    I made a very similar cake earlier this year for my stepson’s birthday and now it is his and my husband’s most requested flavor combination. I have also made it in cupcake form. Your cake looks great!

  • Oohh, this cake looks wonderful! And very sweet that Ben is so supportive of your blog :D

  • Nicole G

    That is a gorgeous cake! Holy chocolate! Can’t wait to try it! Annie, sounds like you have a wonderful husband, Happy late Birthday, Ben!

  • I have been craving chocolate frosting like you wouldn’t believe (well actually I’m sure YOU would ;-) So needless to say I realllllly want a big slice of this

  • The cake looks fantastic. I don’t eat a lot of chocolate desserts, but I would definitely make this one for my husband. Anniversary’s coming up, and this may be the one to celebrate with.

  • Heather V

    That looks soo delicious. Do you have any substitution recommendations for the coffee? (We’re anti-coffee around here :D.)

  • This looks so delicious! Anything dark chocolate is my favorite, so even if I don’t get around to making this exact cake I definitely will be trying the frosting!

  • This sounds soooo good. I usually don’t make layer cakes, but I’ll have to give this one a try!

  • Oh my this is such a sinful cake…I want to dive in right away. With such a great baker as a wife, I’m sure ur hubby is spoilt for choices!!

  • I was actually wondering about whether or not you had to make two cakes or if you stopped mid-party to take pictures. Did your husband at least get to eat the pre-party slice?

  • I don’t have much luck with cake, but I love to admire them! This is gorgeous Annie! GORGEOUS! PS…happy birthday to you Ben and thanks for sharing your cake!

  • My chocolate/caramel loving husband would love this too I believe! Too bad there’s 6 months until his birthday. However… There’s only 2 months until mine!

  • My chocoholic son’s birthday is coming up soon. I normally make him his to-date favorite, a killer chocolate mousse cake which takes (not kidding) a pound of chocolate, a pound of butter, and a dozen eggs. It, too, has some coffee in it which only enhances the chocolate. The good thing about it is that a little piece suffices, so you can provide dessert to a crowd. His birthday was going to be my first opportunity to make it and post it–but now you’ve given me a dilemma! Hmmm, what to do…

  • Ohh, I will be making this, yes indeed! Would it be wrong for be to eat the whole cake?

  • Heather

    What a treat to find this cake on your blog today! I can’t wait to get started on it! Can you do your best and estimate how many cups of batter you think this recipe made?

  • I guess it would be cruel to cut someone else’s birthday cake! I usually bake cakes for the office.

  • This looks incredible.

  • This looks unbelievable! Happy birthday to your husband! It is so fantastic to have a husband who supports your food blogging :) Mine is the same way and is so patient with me and the blog and allllll the time I spend on it! Hope you all had a great one.

  • Annie

    We just set the slice aside and I ate it when it was party time.

  • Annie

    Not the slightest clue – sorry!

  • Annie

    Please read the notation in the recipe regarding the coffee. Thanks!

  • Emily O.

    I am definitely saving this recipe for my next cake occasion! I agree with your note on the coffee. I’m not a coffee fan, but adding in coffee or espresso powder as some recipes recommend has really boosted the chocolate richness!

  • I am definitely trying this one. Looks like the perfect PMS cure!

  • Shauna

    I have never pinned anything faster. OMG.

  • Lundy

    This cake looks fantastic! I bake cupcakes as a hobby and was thinking that this might make a great cupcake. My question is about the frosting. Is this frosting suitable for piping or would you recommend I substitute another chocolate frosting?

  • Let me tell you something very important before I gush: I’m not feeling well today, and the thought of food repulses me when I’m ill. However, I saw your gorgeous cake in my reader, and I *HAD* to right click and bookmark. I may not be in the mood for cake right now, but I cannot allow such a delicious sounding cake slip through my fingers. This cake looks and sounds divine!

  • Annie

    It should pipe fine.

  • Oh my, just the title of this post has me hooked! Love your blog :)

  • Ellen

    This is beautiful. I must say, you guys are an adorable couple! The post positively gave me warm fuzzies :) Thank you for being a wholesome little family! It can be, sadly, rare.

  • Annie

    Ellen, thank you very much. That is very sweet of you to say :)

  • This certainly sounds perfect! My goodness you have one lucky hubby :) Its just absolutely beautiful and deeeeeelicious lookin’ :)

  • OH GOODNESS this is my kind of cake, too! Love that carmel/salt/chocolate combo, it’s perfect, and I think I’m going to want this cake for my birthday as well. :) I am sure you made Ben very happy with this treat. I can tell you love him a lot!

  • Oh my gosh! What is happening? That is one of The most incredible cakes I have EVER seen! WOW…

  • Kristina

    To my knowledge, I’ve never had Swiss meringue buttercream but I’ve been seeing around on the blogosphere quite frequently as of late. What does it taste like? Can you explain the texture? Thanks so much!

  • Sarah

    Hi Heather, I saw your comment as I was reading through the recipe. I measured the batter and it yields 6.5 cups.

  • I am new to your site and and am slapping myself for taking so long to get here. May I just say, your photos are gorgeous and your recipes look amazing. Will be adding you to my daily blogs! Love it! Thanks

  • Kim

    Looks amazing – where did you get those awesome napkins??

  • I never have much luck when it comes to layer cakes, but I think I will try again this weekend with this cake. It looks so good!

  • Omygosh! This is yummy! I’m gonna try this recipe real soon!

  • Paula B.

    Sigh,I would have eaten that pre-cut piece for sampling purposes for you. This cake sounds magnificent and a must make recipe. Many happy returns to Ben!

  • Annie

    It’s just fabric from the fabric store.

  • Annie

    You might want to check out some of my other posts on SMBC where I describe the texture, taste, etc. Thanks!

  • Carolyn Hayes

    I cannot wait to try these recipes! One question – was the cake in the pictures made from the orignal recipe or the adjusted (25% less) recipe?

  • Susan

    I agree about the coffee part. Never be afraid to add coffee to a chocolate recipe…. it adds a deep richness to the chocolate and gives it that little “something” that you cant quite put your finger on. You def will not have a coffee taste. Omitting it when its called for will have you missing out on some intense flavor :)

  • The cake is beautiful and looks delicious. I’m sure your husband was very pleased to have it for his birthday. I know I would be!

  • I love it Annie. Beautifully done.

  • I love this cake! Birthday cakes are one of my favorite things to make. It’s so important to me to find just the perfect reason for the special person :)

  • This looks incredible! I’ve been obsessed with salted caramel frosting lately but I’ve never been a fan of heavy, overly sweet buttercreams. Swiss buttercream is totally my thing. Do you think the proportions you used for the filling would be sufficient to frost (and fill) a 2 layer cake or should I increase the amount? Thanks!

  • Meghan

    I was inspired by your berry ice cream cake and your banana split cake and made my own version for my boyfriend’s birthday. Working with his favorite sundae flavors, I combined Ina Garten’s chocolate cupcake recipe with her peanut butter frosting recipe, chocolate and vanilla ice cream, and your hot fudge. It was chocolate cake on the bottom, then frosting, then vanilla ice cream, then frosting, then chocolate ice cream, then hot fudge. Totally amazing! And totally thanks to you!

  • This cake looks so moist and I love that there are two layers of filling. It looks and I’m sure tastes so rich and delicious. I would for sure not be able to resist eating this…I would eat it for breakfast most certainly.

  • I’m so excited about making this cake for a friend’s birthday tomorrow!

    Just a heads up — in the directions for the cake batter, it never makes mention of when to add in the cocoa powder. I was having my husband read them aloud to me, went to add the wet ingredients, and thought, “…isn’t this a chocolate cake??” LOL!

    I added it in with the dry based on the ingredients list, but you might want to sneak it into the instructions, too.

  • Happy belated birthday to your husband! That cake looks heavenly.

  • Annie

    THanks so much for letting me know. I have corrected that!

  • Annie

    The recipe posted is 25% less than what is pictured. I have only made the cake one time.

  • Annie

    It might be enough, but I would probably err on the side of having extra. SMBC is a pain to make twice, so I always try to make more than I think I need.

  • This is gorgeous — you are so talented. I always enjoy your posts.

  • Tracy Knapp

    I made this cake yesterday….I have to say I had no trouble making at all…took a few hours. I put it in the refridgerator as instructed but when we got it out to eat it…..the icing and the cream filling were so hard that it really made the cake difficult to cut and it was extremely crumbly. Not very moist either. I am sad cause I thought it was gonna be wonderful but it was average at best.

  • I made a double batch of the caramel sauce and added about 1/2 cup to the buttercream to get a more intense caramel flavor. It was out-of-this-world! Ah-mazing! Thanks for the inspiration! Though I’m afraid of my own power now that I know how easy it is to make homemade caramel.

  • Annie

    You definitely need to let it come to room temperature before serving. The butter and chocolate in the frosting and filling solidify when chilled, so they will be crumbly if you don’t let them warm up.

    Also, this cake has a lot of liquid and is very moist when made correctly. You may have over-baked it, causing it to be dry. The toothpick test is a good indicator of when a cake is done. It’s possible your oven runs hot.

  • I almost want to lick y computer screen looking at this cake! It looks so yummy!

  • Claire

    What a great combo of flavors! Thanks for sharing. It is funny how popular slice shots are on food blogs these days.

  • It’s a nice piece of cake filled with delicacies.

  • Karen

    This is an awesome cake! I made it this weekend and it was an over-the-top success! However, I got even better reviews and no leftovers from the Tuxedo Cake! Thanks for sharing

  • Lauren Fraley

    Hi Annie! Quick question — do you have any suggestions for staging food and/or slicing cakes and other goodies? Mine always turn out no so pretty once I begin to cut them. I am in awe of your photographs (and cooking/baking/super-moming abilities)!


  • Annie

    Not particularly. I think it has a lot to do with the consistency of the cake itself.

  • We just made this cake today! It is amazing and so rich. All of our friends loved it. It was the first time either of us had made caramel and we had to do it twice (the first time it became crumbly and chunky instead of liquifying) but it was so worth it! Thanks for this great recipe and all the others you post. Your pictures are beautiful.

  • Patti T,

    This recipe looks DANGEROUSLY good!

  • I am a newbie to your food blog, omg I am now an official screen licker !!!!! This cake is over the top good lookin’ to me, I can’t wait to make it myself !!! I do photography on the side, and have recently started to pay more of an interest into food photography… your photos are so awesome, literally i want to lick the screen and grab a bite while im at it… nom nom nom… can’t wait to read more !

  • I made this yesterday and it was really fantastic.

    I could have used about 1/2c more chocolate frosting, but made do with what I had (bottom third was unfrosted even though the rest was a verrrry thin layer as Annie has described/photographed).

    The only hiccup with this cake was that damn Swiss meringue buttercream. (AS USUAL.) The instructions say to add the caramel after it has cooled, but when you cool caramel it becomes quite solid. I had to heat mine back up again to a more liquid state before adding it to the buttercream. Even then, while adding it as a thin ribbon when the mixer was going, I still had some chunks of caramel in the frosting (because of the temperature change…I think?) It wasn’t such a big deal as it was still yummy.

    I think I’m still learning on SWMB, because every time I get ready to add the flavoring, it’s a great, thick consistency and I’m really pleased with myself. Then when I add the flavor it thins out the frosting and I can’t seem to get it back to that really thick state. Maybe I just need to beat it more, but this round I went 30+ minutes and I’ll be honest I was getting really bored so I just gave up.

    Is there any downside to just continuing to beat the frosting? I mean, it’s not whipped cream and won’t turn to butter. If a person just let the mixer go and go and go past 30 minutes is there any downside? Can you overbeat the stuff?

  • Annie

    The caramel should not be warm to the touch, but not actually cool/cold, or it will solidify as you mention. If it reaches that point you can always rewarm it to get it to the correct range for use in the frosting. I’m not sure why it thins out so much after you add the caramel. I’ve never had that problem. I do know that you can try chilling the whole thing for about 30 minutes and then rewhipping, or removing about a quarter, warming that, and then adding that back in and rewhipping until it solidifies. You can’t over-beat it though, so it doesn’t hurt to just keep mixing.

  • Jen

    I made this for my sister’s birthday, and it turned out beautifully. Great recipe. I don’t have three 8″ cake pans so I baked it in two 9″ and split the layers in half so that my cake had four layers. There was enough buttercream and frosting to finish the cake using the proportions provided. Everyone loved it!

  • Annie!

    I am new to your site and am in the process of making the cake tonight! My darling mother was a master cake baker and had a wide fan base for her recipies. She passed away suddenly a few years ago and every year on her birthday, all of her daughters and grand daughters bake a cake in her honor. I choose yours this year! I made the cake tonight and will freeze it overnight, finishing it on her birthday, October 5.

    Thanks for the recipe. I loved reading the comments and feel certain that they will help with the success of the cake.

    So, in honor of Charlotte Jane Hunter Petersen, and all who loved her, thanks!

  • Annie

    Susan, I am very sorry to hear about your mother but that is a beautiful way to honor her memory. I have been thinking of doing something similar in honor of my mom’s birthday as well. I hope you all enjoy the cake on a bittersweet day.

  • aussie cook

    I made this for a family birthday and it got such rave reviews I seriously doubt my ability to match up to it in the future. For anyone who’s interested, I made the cakes and the caramel the night before, refrigerated the caramel, then brought it back the room temperature the next day, to make the buttercreams and assemble. thanks for sharing this fantastic recipe!

  • Betsy

    Thanks for sharing this tip. I want to make this cake for a weeknight dinner party and was hoping that I could make the cake and caramel in advance. :) I may also just make the recipe as filled cupcakes.

  • Laura

    Hi Annie,

    I was wondering if you knew of any substitutions for buttermilk. I went to the store and asked the manager, but they had none. I googled substitutions and found a milk & vinegar one, but some of the comments said it would not give the right texture that real buttermilk does. Will that matter for this recipe or does it need to be real buttermilk?

    Thank you!

  • Annie

    Google is where you should look for subs. Any substitution is going to yield a slightly different result, that’s part of the nature of using a sub.

  • Sharon

    Hi Annie,

    I must admit that I found the cake itself very salty. I was very surprised by that.

    By the way, a side question. Have you had any success with any food processor cakes, ie. everything thrown into the food processor to make the batter and leaving the cute kitchenaid on the counter :) I have read many recipes using it and not sure if I should have a go.

  • Annie

    I’ve never tried a cake in the food processor.

  • Michelle W

    So I made this for a party I was going to tonight. It. was. AMAZING. It is the kind of cake you need a license to have. I hav been told that I need to just bring this cake all the time. Everyone, EVERYONE, loved it.

    Thanks for the AWESOME recipe!

  • Weather Girl

    Thought I’d make this today – started with the caramel/swiss meringue buttercream filling. All was going well until I added the caramel to the meringue — the meringue melted and got soupy (I thought I’d cooled the caramel to room temp, but it must have still been warm) and no amount of whipping would restore the texture. I now have the world’s most delicious caramel soup, the consistency of cream. Any ideas for resurrecting it or shall I start over again tomorrow?

  • Annie

    If you look up the blog Sweetapolita, she has a post about trouble shooting SMBC. There are a couple of strategies you could try. Good luck!

  • Vidya

    I would really like to make this cake for my sister in law’s birthday party but I am traveling by plane to get there. I will be leaving on a Saturday and the party is on the following Wednesday. How do you recommend making it? I was thinking of making the buttercream at home and making the cake layers and freezing them, and packing them all in my check in bag so it stays cold. Then I could put the cake together the night before the party. Thoughts?

  • Annie

    I’m really not sure what to suggest, but this frosting won’t really work if made in advance. Because of the melted chocolate in it, it will resolidify when it cools and it won’t be workable again. If I were you I would just find something else to make, but good luck with whatever you decide!

  • Weather Girl

    Thanks for the tip – I checked out Sweetapolita and it sounds like the solution is to refrigerate (which I already did) and rewhip (which I’ll do later today). If that fails, then I’m just going to drizzle the stuff over a spice cake and serve it as-is. It’s too delicious to waste! :)

  • Jackie

    I just wanted to let you know that I made this cake into a Gluten Free cake and well it was AMAZING !!
    I have had to learn how to turn regular foods into gluten free for my 2 kids and husband and now a larger portion of our new church is gluten free as well.

  • Kellen

    Annie – do you think using clarified butter would yield the same textured cake as the oil does or should I just stick with the oil? Thanks!! :)

  • Annie

    I’m really not sure about that. I’d just go for oil since we know that works. Enjoy!

  • Dani

    I am thinking of making this cake for Thanksgiving because it looks delicious.
    I have some questions…
    First, there is no mention of butter in the cake batter. Is this correct? I would think without butter the cake may be dry.
    Also, I am wondering if I make it ahead on Wednesday would you suggest leaving it out or refrigerating it?
    Next, I do not have 8 inch cake pans. I have 9 inch… how would you suggest I work with the pans I have?


  • Annie

    This cake is made with oil, not butter. See the FAQ page regarding food storage questions. You can make it in 9 inch pans and will have to decide if and how you decide to increase the batter, if at all. Enjoy!

  • Weather Girl

    Annie, I just wanted you to know that this cake is not only beautiful and delicious, but it is also a generous and humanitarian cake that helps the needy! To explain: after resurrecting my melted meringue by whipping it within an inch of its life (per our earlier exchange in the comments section), I assembled the cake and decorated it with edible autumn leaves (made from candy melts brushed onto real leaves: peel the leaf off and voila!) and caramel acorns, sprinkled it with fleur de sel and marched it off to my church’s cake auction, which was raising money for a missions trip to dig wells and provide potable water to needy people in third world countries. The cake brought in the highest bid of the day, $160, all of which went to the missions trip. This confirms two things I’ve suspected all along: chocolate and salted caramel is an absolute good, and good recipes have the power to change lives for the better. :) Thanks again!

  • Amanda

    I just made this cake but the chocolate “frosting” turned out more like a chocolate ganache…is it supposed to be that way? I did everything the instructions said and I have never had an issue before with any of your recipes so I’m slightly confused here.

  • Annie

    You probably need to let the chocolate cool longer. The more it cools, the thicker it will be.

  • Teresa

    I noticed several posts talking about doing this cake as filled cupcakes. That is very attractive to me, as often my husband and I can’t finish a whole cake b/4 it starts to get stale but it’s easy to make a bunch of cupcakes and then freeze some for later.

    My question is, I’ve never made a filled cupcake. How do you get the SMBC in the cupcake?

  • Annie

    I have a post on how to fill cupcakes. Just use the search bar to find it.

  • Love your passion and so glad I wondered onto your site! This months Martha Stewart Magazine has a chocolate cake with salted caramel recipe and I wasn’t quite sold on it. Your recipe is just what I was looking for, for my Christmas Party. I can’t wait to make it. Thanks again, Diane in Kansas City

  • Brittany

    Would it be possible to turn these into cupcakes for a party?

  • Annie

    Please see the FAQ page.

  • I have made this cake several times and i love it but as it has gotten colder out I am having a problem w/ the melted chocolate hardening and chunking up as I mix the frosting. Any suggestions to keeping it silky as it was the first time I made it???

  • Annie

    It sounds like maybe your butter is too cold or the chocolate isn’t quite melted enough. If everything is the correct temperature, you shouldn’t have any problems mixing up the frosting. It will still harden as it cools of course but that is expected when melted chocolate resolidifies.

  • Oh! You’re very welcome :)

  • Mandy

    I have been in love with this cake ever since this post and come back often just to drool over the pictures. I have finally decided to make it soon for my husband’s birthday. I know I can make the cake ahead of time but guessing not the chocolate frosting as it will resolidify.
    My question is about the filling – is it possible to make this a day ahead of assembling the cake? I checked the your SMBC post and as per that the buttercream can be stored in fridge for upto 3 days but will need to be rewhipped before using. Is the rewhipping to get it to piping consistency? Can I use it straight out of the fridge without rewhipping if it just needs to be spread between cake layers?

  • Anonymous

    It should be okay in theory after storing in the fridge, but in my own personal experience, the only time I’ve ever had a SMBC “break” on me was after it had been stored in the fridge. I think the only reason people say you need to rewhip it is mainly just to keep it smooth and for consistency, so hopefully you can just spread it onto the layers without issue. That said, I have stored SMBC in the fridge many times and only had a problem once. Good luck!

  • Mandy

    Thanks so much Annie!

    I don’t want to be a bother but I had another question – since I have your Vanilla Bean caramel sauce already made, is it ok to omit making the caramel in the filling and just add the already made caramel sauce? Any idea how much I would need to add in that case?

  • Anonymous

    You definitely could but I don’t know the volume, which is why I always go ahead and just make the separate batch of caramel for this filling. Good luck!

  • MAe

    I haven’t really read through the comments, so maybe this has been covered. I bought seasalt, I think it is the large seasalt, is this the correct thing? I could not find the type you referenced, simply bought kroger brand…?

  • Anonymous

    Sea salt is probably fine, maybe just a bit more coarse than fleur de sel.

  • Diana

    The cake looks fabulous! But I have one question. Is dark cocoa powder the same as Dutch-processed cocoa powder?

  • Anonymous

    Please see the FAQ page.

  • Mai

    Oh man this was a good choc cake! I made it for a German Choc Cake. I love that is was simple no creaming just a simple muffin method. This is my new go to choc cake recipe.

  • Hi Annie! I love your website. I made this cake as cupcakes and the cake recipe and chocolate frosting recipe were spectacular, perfect textures and great depths of flavor! However the caramel swiss meringue butter cream came out a little wonky. When I added the cooled caramel it seized in the mixture and became a hard clump of caramel in the middle of a wonderful SMBC. Is your caramel slightly warm when you add it? How did you keep your caramel from hardening too quickly once added to the cooler butter cream? Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    It sounds to me like your caramel wasn’t quite cool enough. I would guess it needed to be a bit cooler. I didn’t do anything other than what is indicated in the directions here, so I’m not sure how else to help. Glad the other components turned out okay!

  • Jessica Arnoldy

    annie, this recipe was ridiculously fantastic. i work at the weather channel and made it for several coworkers birthdays that are this week, including one of the on air talents, Mike Bettes. It was enjoyed by all and i can’t wait to find an excuse to make it again!

  • Sweet Dreams Cupcakery

    Amazing recipe Annie! I just made this for a chocolate peanut butter cake and wow! Also making the cake into cupcakes for another recipe..this has great chocolate flavor without being too strong, but still remains chocolaty enough..and the best part..its moist! I love all your baking creations and your such an inspiration..Thanks again!

  • Jerber4494

    I made this cake for my book club this week. The cake was easy to mix up and very moist…it will definitely be my “go to ” cake recipe. The SMBC took at least 30 minutes to come back together after it separated and once it did, the texture was very dense and stiff, not at all fluffy. I also had trouble with the frosting. I am guessing that my melted chocolate got too cool before I added it. The texture of the frosting seemed grainy and it was very stiff and dull looking. Because the presentation was not good I mixed up the shiny chocolate glaze on your site and drizzled that over the top. The cake got rave reviews but I need to perfect both the filling and frosting when I make it again. Suggestions??

  • Anonymous

    Yes, it sounds like your chocolate was too cool when you added it. That’s what I would correct next time. Good luck!

  • Diane Roberts

    Just an update, made the cake, HUGE hit. It tasted even better the following days. I only had one problem. I ran out of room in my refrigerator, so I wrapped it in plastic wrap and put the cake in the garage on top of the freezer. My dog decided to be the first to try it. Luckily, wasn’t enough chocolate to harm him and not the best way to introduce the highlight of the evening (the wonderful cake I worked all day on!) We cut from the back side and everyone had a good laugh, except for me I was still cursing out the dog under my breath.

  • Angela

    Thank you so much for this great recipe, I’ve made it a few times and once in cupcakes, don’t always use the caramel SMBC but I have twice and has come out great !! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this is definitely my go to chocolate cake !!!! Thanks so much, now just need to find the same moistness in vanilla !! Do have a question, have you ever frozen it (just the cake, not the buttercream) how does it hold up? Plan on freezing it so it’s ready for a birthday party…..Thanks Annie again !!

  • Anonymous

    Please see the FAQ page regarding freezing. Thanks, and glad you enjoy this so much!

  • Oh my goodness. I made only the cake and iced with plain buttercream, this is the most delicious chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted! I’m a nurse at an Indianapolis hospital, when you’re done your residency you really MUST come work at my hospital! Please???

  • O0talkative0o

    The cake ended up great in the end but the filling was quite flawed:
    there was way to much butter and not enough salted caramel flavor
    I had to correct by adding loads more powdered sugar and some granulated sugar
    I also added unsweetend coaco powder and more sea salt to cut the butter flavor
    I ended up with a very yummy frosting but took some work and was not true to recipe in the end.

  • Anonymous

    Swiss meringue buttercream is far more buttery and rich than traditional American buttercream. Sounds like this your preference is for the latter. It’s not a flawed recipe, but a matter of personal taste.

  • Ladykimberly28

    Annie- I’m a caterer and made your toffee crunch cupcakes in Decemeber. (FANTASTIC!!!) Instead of making carmel sauce, I bought some for the SMBC. All this to say…couldn’t I just do the same for the layers of this cake? Thanks Doll!

  • Tai

    I decided to make this for my twin and I’s birthday that’s coming up and in my haste to get the batter done, I put the coffee in when it was still rather warm! The cakes baked ok although they sank a bit in the middle, but I just pushed the sides down to even the tops out. Anyway, and this is probably a silly question, but should I have waited to add the coffee until it was completely cool?

  • annieseats

    It’s fine to add the coffee warm. If the layers sunk, it means they were underbaked. Happy birthday!

  • bakersgirl

    I thought the same thing when I tasted it, BUT if you think long and hard about what you’ve encountered between professional cake layers…this is it EXACTLY. It isn’t meant to be saccharine sweet, and the caramel flavor is very subtle, and really only apparent when eaten with the finished cake. This is a grown-up cake:) and DELICIOUS! great job!

  • I used dark chocolate bars with candied orange bits for the frosting (I didn’t realize until I was making it that I was out of the chocolate I originally intended to use!). I highly recommend others give this tweak a try!

    Overall, it’s the best cake I’ve ever made and I was SO proud of myself. Thank you for the clearly written instructions (I struggled with the caramel but it was my own fault). And I was having trouble with the filling becoming stiff, but I looked at another post you had written where you said that at times you have to whip for at least 30 minutes, and that’s what it took.

    And the fleur de sel is a must! The finishing touch to a masterpiece. My husband made me promise to make it again!

  • Denise Wesely

    I frequently make my cakes in my Cuisinart food processor, and have had excellent results. You just have to be careful not to over mix it.

  • Denise Wesely

    I just finished making the cake portion of this recipe. It is fabulous! What a moist, delicious cake it is. I’m going to be putting coconut pecan (German chocolate filling) between the two layers and on the top, and frosting it with “chocolate frosting (04/04/12)”. This, along with vanilla ice cream, will be our Easter dessert. For the person who asked about mixing a cake in a food processor, this is the perfect cake recipe for that. It mixed up beautifully. I was able to get 2-8″ layer cakes and 8 cupcakes.

  • Kelly

    This looks delicious! The only problem is that my family and I are firm non coffee drinkers… So is there a substitute for the coffee that i can use that would still make it the same?

  • annieseats

    Please see the FAQ page regarding substitutions. Thanks!

  • Cmadgett

    I tried this cake on the weekend for my hubby’s birthday and it turned out great. However, I wish that I read the reviews below to fix up the caramel filling. When I made it, I liked the filling by itself and could even taste the caramel but there was also a strong butter taste. The caramel flavour was completly lost when eaten with the cake. I would make this cake again but with some adaptations on the filling.

  • Diana

    Can you make the frosting and filling and store in the refrigerator for 24 hours? Thanks!!!!!

  • annieseats

    No, this cake should be assembled while the filling and frosting are freshly made. They will solidify with refrigeration. Hope that helps.

  • Leslie G

    I know how you feel about substitutions in general and for Dutch process cocoa powder (i even read the link you provided) but I just thought that I would mention that I substituted unsweetened dark cocoa powder in place of the Dutch process for the icing (and also in your triple chocolate cupcakes) and it turned out wonderfully. I searched high and low locally for Dutch process and came up shorthanded, and at the last minute decided there was nothing to lose by trying it out with something I keep in my pantry. I need to order Dutch process, but I think that the dark cocoa was a good fallback substitution.

  • Liz N.

    Hi Annie! I had dog-eared this recipe a while back and knew that I wanted to make this for my birthday. It was a labor of love but I am totally pleased with the results. I finished the cake at 11:30 p.m. and stood back and admired it for a while, then proceeded to upload pics of it on Instagram, Facebook…HAHA! Thanks for another great recipe!

  • annieseats

    So glad you enjoyed it, Liz! Happy birthday :)

  • Brookann

    I’ve recently found your website and I am loving going through the recipes! Just made this for my hubby’s b-day last night and have a couple of questions. I think my “pinch” of salt must not be quite enough because the only time I tasted the salt was in the garnish at the top corner. Is the caramel filling supposed to have a distinctly salted taste? How much would you consider a pinch to be?

    Also, my frosting ended up being very thin, so I added more powdered sugar to compensate. It did thicken it, but also made it grainy, not the lovely smooth texture of your pictures. Is there anything I can do in the future to correct that? It was still a big hit, and I LOVE the dark chocolate cake recipe!

  • annieseats

    You just need to be patient and let the frosting thicken a little more. Since it contains melted chocolate, it will solidify as it cools. Adding more powdered sugar would indeed cause a grainy texture. I have no way to define my “pinch” of salt since I don’t measure it but now you know, you like more salt for next time.

  • Kareed12

    Another winner! I sent my friend a link to your blog, and he chose this one. I let myself get a little too worried after all of the comments, but I had no problem with the recipe. I had more than enough frosting. It was delicious! Thank you!

  • annieseats

    So glad you enjoyed it!

  • Erica

    I tried to make this cake — but I made a TON of adaptations. Nonetheless, it turned out delicious, and my friend LOVED it :) If you are curious, here is the link to my adaptations:

  • Danielle

    Thank you for posting this recipe! I made it for my manager’s groom’s cake and it was a huge success! One thing, though, I believe there is a typo in the body of the directions. For the filling, you said, “Combine the egg whites and the remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a heatproof bowl”. I believe it should be 1/2 cup plus 2T sugar, as per your ingredients list. Or it’s correct and I used twice as much sugar! I put 1/2 cup and it turned out fine!

  • annieseats

    It’s correct as written. 4 tbsp = 1/4 cup, so 1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup plus 4 tbsp (or 1/4 cup) = 1 full cup. Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Sarah

    Hi Annie! This cake was phenomenal! I made it for my best friends birthday and she loved it! The filling is absolutely delicious! Thank you so much for the recipe!

  • Christina

    Hi Annie! Quick question for you on this cake – first of all it looks AMAZING and I will be making this for a special retirement party celebration for a family member and want to know if I can make this a day or two ahead of time. The party is not until Saturday so I am contemplating making this Thursday night or Friday morning before we hit the road. Should the cake be just as good when we cut into it Saturday night? Thanks!

  • annieseats

    Yes, I’m sure it will be fine. Enjoy!

  • I love Martha’s Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream & have made it many times, including for dark, moist, chocolate cupcakes. But the dark chocolate frosting on your cake makes this look irresistible! Beautiful to look at and wonderful to eat I’m sure :-) ~ marie, the EpicureanPiranha

  • Jennifer

    Is the coffe supposed to be hot or cold after it’d brewed?

  • annieseats

    I don’t think it matters in this case. Enjoy!

  • I made the cake and its beautiful! How long would you suggest letting it sit at room temp before eating it?

  • annieseats

    I usually like to let cakes sit out at least 30 minutes before serving.

  • Vanessa F.

    I made Martha’s original version for my own birthday cake last month … she puts true salted caramel in between the layers instead of buttercream. While delicious and over-the-top decadent, it was a BEAST to put together! The layers kept sliding all over the place and oh, what a headache. I think using a caramel buttercream in-between, as you’ve done here, would be a lot easier! Wish I had thought of that :) But you are soooo right; the dark chocolate frosting is to die for.

  • Shannon

    Hi, I plan on making this cake for my birthday this friday. What is the difference between unsweetened dutch-process cocoa powder and dark unsweetened cocoa powder?

  • annieseats

    Please see the FAQ page. Thanks!

  • Amy Gerber

    Can I make this as a sheet cake? Would I double it or just one and a half it?

  • annieseats

    Please see the FAQ page. Thanks!

  • Caroline Batin

    This cake was amazing – I’ve just made it for my sister’s birthday and it was a big hit with everyone and turned out flawless. I live in the UK so sometimes cooking with cup measurements and British ingredients can be a bit hit and miss with American recipes, however your recipe was very forgiving with a bit of fiddling and some guessing! I personally like quite a salty salted caramel so I think I probably put about four pinches of salt in mine, but I assume a pinch means as much as you fancy generally in a recipe! I’ve also seen someone say their caramel hardened too much before they added it to the buttercream – I faffed around a bit whilst making mine and noticed the caramel had solidified somewhat so I whacked it on top of the bain marie I’d used to heat the egg whites. That seemed to work well to keep it soft. I’m going to have a good root through your blog now after coming across this recipe by chance – thank you!

  • Trent

    Hi , I made this cake about a year ago. I opted for the extra tall version with the 25% extra batter, It turned out amazing! Just yesterday I tried it again and the batter seemed really thin. Is this normal? I have forgotten since the last time. Also has any one else done the 25% conversions? I wan to see if I did mine correctly.

  • annieseats

    I think you’re right about it being thin. It’s been a while since I made it but that is how I remember it being. I’ve made it a few times.

  • ACakestory

    I love this cake! I’ve made it many times but now I want to make cupcakes. How many cupcakes does this recipe yield?

  • annieseats

    Please see the FAQ page regarding cake/cupcake conversions. Thanks!

  • Cara

    Just made this cake and it was pure delicious decadence! The Swiss buttercream layers were lightly caramely (I may not have cooked the caramel long enough) so I drizzled caramel over the frosted chocolate layer. Wow- simply amazing! Thanks for the best recipes!!

  • Wow, this is one impressive cake. I made this for my parents’ 30th anniversary, and they loved it. The salt really sends it over the top. I made sure to bring my caramel almost to the point of burnt so that the flavor would stand up to the SMB, and it worked perfectly. The caramel flavor really came through in the most wonderful way, and it had such a lovely color against the deep dark chocolate cake layers. And that frosting, oh my gosh, soooo good! Thanks for another killer recipe!

    For anyone curious about making this in advance… I made the cake layers several days early, wrapped each really well in saran wrap, and froze them with no problem. I made the caramel buttercream the day before, intending to leave it out though someone put it in the fridge, and after some coaxing the next day, it too was fine. I made the chocolate frosting day of.

  • hahd

    This is my favorite dark chocolate cake. When I make it for adults I add a little more cocoa and a little cinnamon to give it more depth. The salted caramel “filling” is my daughter’s favorite frosting, so I make it freauently. It’s great on vanilla cupcakes as well. For the chocolate frosting, I like half semi-sweet and half bittersweet–just the right balance of sweetness. Thank you so much for this recipe!

  • Audrey

    Tried this cake today and it was incredible! One of the best online recipes I’ve ever found. The cake was nice and moist, and the filling and frosting were delicious. I made a salted caramel sauce and poured it on top so it drizzled down the sides and it looked lovely, tasted amazing. Just perfect.

  • Abby

    I going to try this cake, but I was wondering Is there a different filling?