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If chocolate cake is one of your favorite sweet treats, you’ll be thrilled to know that there’s a holiday that’s set aside to honor the delicious delicacy. January 27th is National Chocolate Cake Day, and whether you’re celebrating day-of or year-round, any time is a perfect time to bake a chocolate cake. 

To guide you in this endeavor, we’ve turned to our baking expert Andrea Boudewijn, a Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef who operates Superfine Bakery out of Los Angeles, CA. Whether you are a pro baker or have never made a cake in your life, Boudewijn’s tips will help you create a cake that looks as good as it tastes. 

Gather the ingredients

While flour, oil, eggs, chocolate and sugar are the key ingredients used in most cake recipes, Boudewijn suggested other specific ingredients for outstanding results. Using baking soda instead of baking powder is a must, she said. “Chocolate, even though it’s not acidic for us to eat, it’s in the acid family. You need something to react against that to leaven it. And baking soda is stronger than baking powder and it will create the chemical reaction that makes the nice glossy bubbles inside the cake.”

Buttermilk also leavens the acidity of chocolate, she says, and helps the batter rise. Because buttermilk is simple to make, she advises that there is no need to buy an entire carton. 

“The measure I use is a ½ cup of whole milk — you want high-fat milk — so a 1/2 cup of milk to about 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice, then mix it together and let it sit on the counter for five or 10 minutes. Boom, you’ve got buttermilk,” she said. “That’s about how much you need for an 8-inch round.”

These two ingredients also improve the flavor of boxed cake mixes. Boudewijn also recommends adding Black Onyx Cocoa Powder for a deep, rich flavor. 

Whether you use a spoon, spatula or mixer, thoroughly mixing the ingredients is key to achieving uniform results. “I used to work in a 20-quart giant desktop stand mixer, a really big one. And I had to use my arm and my hand to get down to the bottom of the bowl. So that was a challenge. And that was fun, but it always made for a good chocolate cake to get it all mixed up and everything in there,” Boudewijn said. 

Enhance the flavor  

Most chocolate lovers agree that the flavor is tempting by itself, but it also pairs nicely with other flavors. Orange, mint, coffee, raspberry and cardamom are some of Boudewijn’s favorites that pair well with chocolate. She advises home cooks to check out The Flavor Bible, a book that delves into flavor pairings, for ideas on mixing chocolate with other flavors. 

Add the frosting 

When it comes to topping off a chocolate cake with frosting, there are numerous options that pair well with the chocolatey flavor. Boudewijn said that “knowing your audience” is key. Pistachio, almond, vanilla and coffee frostings are popular options. Boudewijn also suggests lightly soaking cake in dark rum for syrupy frosting. And of course, chocolate frosting on chocolate cake is always a fan-favorite combination. 

Decorate the cake

For some bakers, it’s important for a cake to taste great and look fabulous. Boudewijn said that there are simple ways to beautify a cake. Using a spatula, melted chocolate can be applied with eye-catching patterns. Piping requires a star-shaped tip and slow, steady application for nice results. Candy, sugar and cookies like rolled wafers can create a professional-looking finish. 

Best products for making chocolate cake

Although these will arrive after National Chocolate Cake Day is technically over, we don’t think anyone will blame you for extending the celebration.

KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer

KitchenAid Artisan Series 5 Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer

The Artisan stand mixer by KitchenAid is a must-have for anyone who loves to cook, thanks to its durable build and outstanding performance. The classic model includes a 5-quart stainless steel bowl, pouring shield, whip, dough hook and flat beater. 

Sold by KitchenAidHome DepotKohl’s and Amazon

Round Cake Pan Set

Metallic 3-Piece Round Cake Pan Set 

This pan set includes three sizes for making beautiful layer cakes. The nonstick surfaces are made without BPA and produce excellent results. 

Sold by Amazon

The Flavor Bible

The Flavor Bible

From main dishes to desserts, The Flavor Bible is packed with unique ideas for creating recipes with chef-inspired flavors. 

Sold by Amazon

Pirouline Wafers

Pirouline Artisan Rolled Wafers

Not only do Pirouline’s chocolate cream-filled rolled wafers have a delicious flavor, but their attractive swirled appearance makes them great for decorating pastries and cakes. 

Sold by Amazon

OXO Good Grip Silicone Small Spatula

OXO Good Grip Silicone Small Spatula

This silicone spatula features an angled tip that’s perfect for stirring ingredients and scraping bowls. It’s made of durable silicone with a slip-resistant finish that provides a reliable grip during use. 

Sold by Amazon

Jellybean Foods Black Onyx Cocoa Powder

Jellybean Foods Black Onyx Cocoa Powder

It’s the intense flavor of this cocoa powder that makes it the ideal ingredient for numerous chocolate recipes. It’s packaged in a sturdy jar that keeps it fresh in between uses. 

Sold by Amazon

Bakers Germans Chocolate

Baker’s German’s Chocolate

German’s chocolate by Baker’s has been a must-have for baking enthusiasts since 1780, thanks to its top-quality ingredients and natural cacao that produces delicious chocolate recipes. 

Sold by Amazon

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Jennifer Manfrin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.