Classic Mini Chocolate Cake

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This small batch recipe for Classic Mini Chocolate Cake makes a moist and tender 6-Inch chocolate layer cake, rich in cocoa flavor.  The classic flavor and texture make this chocolate cake the perfect base for any flavor combination.  This recipe features a homemade caramel sauce light chocolate whipped cream for a truly decadent dessert – perfect for two!

RECIPE AND POST UPDATED October 2021

Classic Mini Chocolate Cake

I have been on a quest to make the perfect small batch chocolate cake.  The kind of chocolate cake recipe that you can go to over and over as a tried and true classic.  A cake recipe that is easy, doesn’t require any special mixing or baking method, and is made with ingredients you probably already have on hand.  And most importantly, the recipe consistently produces a cake that is super moist, full of chocolate flavor, and is a delicious with any flavor combination.

Well, I think my quest is over with this Classic Mini Chocolate Cake recipe.  And it is about time the Classic Mini Yellow Cake has a partner!  But, perfection takes time, and lots and lots of testing.

What Makes This Mini Chocolate Cake A Classic

  • Moist – There are a couple of ingredients that help keep this chocolate cake moist:  the oil and the sour cream.  
  • Tender – Sour cream does double duty in this chocolate cake.  It makes it moist, and the acidity of the cream tenderizes the gluten in the flour.  Yielding a soft and tender cake crumb.
  • Rich Chocolate Flavor – Yes, there is cocoa powder to make the cake, well, chocolatey.  However, using a hot liquid – like coffee – blooms (wakes up) the cocoa.  In addition, the flavor of coffee enhances the cocoa flavor.
  • Easy – I talked about this above, but this is a very easy cake recipe.  You don’t have to cream butter and sugar, you don’t have to whip eggs until they double in size, and it requires ingredients that are simple and common.
  • Versatile – With a great base cake recipe, you now have a go-to for any flavor combination in frosting and fillings, or to whip up for a special event!
Slice of classic chocolate caramel mini cake on a cake server

What You Need To Make Classic Mini Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – I recommend and use Dutch Process cocoa powder.  I find it has a richer cocoa flavor and is not as acidic as natural cocoa powder.
  • Baking Powder and Baking Soda – We use both to help give the cake lift and texture.  Baking soda balances the acidity in the sour cream, and the baking powder balances the cocoa powder. 
  • Salt
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Neutral Oil – Oil in cakes keeps them very moist.  I use canola oil, but any neutral oil will work.  Some examples of neutral oil are – coconut oil, grapeseed oil, and vegetable oil.   
  • Sour Cream – The sour cream helps to make the cake tender and it also keeps the cake super moist.
  • Egg
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Hot Coffee – I recommend a medium brew so you don’t have a pronounced coffee flavor.  The hot coffee brings out the flavor of the cocoa.
  • Heavy Cream – The heavy cream is for the whipped chocolate topping and the caramel sauce.
  • Chocolate Chips – These are for the chocolate whipped cream, and any chocolate chip will work.  If you choose unsweetened or bittersweet, you will want to add a little powdered sugar to bring sweetness to the chocolate whipped cream.
  • Unsalted Butter – The butter is for the caramel sauce.

Baking Equipment

  • 6-Inch Round Cake Pans – I have linked the cake pans I use in the recipe.
  • Parchment Paper
  • Mixing Bowls
  • Medium Heavy Bottom Saucepan – The saucepan is for making the caramel sauce.  I strongly recommend a heavy bottom saucepan when cooking with hot sugar.  A good saucepan will distribute heat evenly which is important when making caramel to ensure the caramel doesn’t burn in spots.  I use All Clad cookware, and even though it is a little more pricey, it is a worthy investment if you cook and bake a lot.
  • Candy Thermometer – A digital candy thermometer is extremely helpful when making homemade caramel.  Until you have made a few (a lot!) of batches and can just tell by eye and smell, the thermometer will tell you when the sugar has reached the proper heat.  
Top of a chocolate caramel mini cake with a slice cut

Tips For Making A Classic Mini Chocolate Cake

Cake Tips

  • Bring the refrigerated ingredients to room temperature – When all of the ingredients – like the sour cream and egg – start out at the same temperature, they mix and bake more evenly.
  • Use Dutch Process cocoa powder – I (mostly) use Dutch Process cocoa in my baking.  I prefer the rich cocoa flavor, and it is not as acidic as natural cocoa powder.  However, if you prefer natural cocoa powder, the recipe should work because we have baking soda in the recipe, which will help balance the acidity of natural cocoa.  Note – I have not tested this, so I can’t say for certain the cake will have the same rise.
  • Sift the dry ingredients – I like to sift my dry ingredients to make sure they are free of clumps.  Especially when using cocoa powder which can be lumpy!
  • Use a medium brew coffee – Unless you want a pronounced coffee flavor, I recommend a medium brew coffee.  And if you are completely opposed to coffee, you can substitute hot water.
  • Don’t overmix the batter – We want the cake to be light and tender.  Overmixing the batter can lead to a dense and chewy cake.
  • Spray the cake pans with a little round of cooking spray before laying the parchment paper – A little blot of cooking spray will help keep the parchment paper rounds to stay put!

Caramel Sauce Tips

  • A heavy duty saucepan is ideal – A good saucepan cooks sugar evenly and avoids burning in spots.  There is nothing worse than having half of the pan of sugar burned, and the other half uncooked!  I have linked the saucepan I (love) use for my baking in the Baking Equipment section above.
  • Use a candy thermometer – This is almost a must when making homemade caramel sauce.  The thermometer will tell you when you’ve reached the proper temperature for caramel.  There is a link in the Baking Equipment section above.

Common Questions For Making Small Batch Chocolate Cake

Can this cake recipe be doubled?

I think doubling the ingredients should work. However, I have not tested it and can’t say for certain how the cake will turn out.

Can I bake the cake in a different size cake pan?

Yes! One 8-Inch cake pan will work, and you can slice the cake in half if you want to make a layer cake.

I don’t have Dutch Process cocoa powder. Will natural cocoa powder work?

It should work because we have baking soda in the recipe to balance the acidity in the natural cocoa powder. Although, the cake may not rise as tall and fluffy as the cake pictured.

Will low-fat sour cream work?

I would probably stick with full-fat sour cream to make sure we achieve a soft and moist cake.

Does the cake taste like coffee if we add hot coffee to the batter?

You may taste small hints of coffee in the cake, but it is not pronounced enough (in my opinion). If you would rather not use coffee, you can substitute hot water.

I would like to make the cake gluten free. Will a 1:1 gluten free flour blend work.

I can’t say for certain as I have not tested it. I will say I am not a fan of 1:1 blends because I find they dry out bakes. However, you can try the Gluten Free Vanilla Cake recipe and give it chocolate flavor with Chocolate Butter Free Frosting!

Chocolate mini layer cake with caramel drizzle on a small cake stand

Base Small Batch Chocolate Cake Recipe

And now that we have a classic chocolate cake recipe, we have a delicious base cake recipe for a Mini Birthday Cake, a chocolate cake for two to celebrate Valentine’s Day, or an easy cake to whip up when you just have a craving for chocolate.

Not to mention, the flavor combinations are nearly endless when you have a great cake to work with.  This recipe – for example – pairs chocolate and caramel with a homemade caramel sauce used as a drizzle/soak, and super light chocolate whipped cream.  Other flavor ideas to partner with chocolate cake:

Classic chocolate caramel mini cake with a slice cut out on a cake platter
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5 from 1 review

Classic Mini Chocolate Cake

Yield: 1 6-Inch Layer Cake
This small batch recipe for Classic Mini Chocolate Cake makes a moist and tender 6-Inch chocolate layer cake, rich in cocoa flavor.  The classic flavor and texture make this chocolate cake the perfect base for any flavor combination.  This recipe features a homemade caramel sauce drizzle and a light chocolate whipped cream for a truly decadent dessert – perfect for two!
Prep10 mins
Cook22 mins
Total32 mins
High Altitude Adjustment: May not require full bake time. Start checking for doneness at minimum bake time if noted.

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil - or any neutral oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream - room temperature
  • 1 large egg - room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch process
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup medium brew coffee, very hot

Chocolate Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, any kind

Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Instructions

Chocolate Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Cut two pieces of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the cake pans. Lay the parchment circle in the bottom of the pans and grease and flour the pans. Tip – Spray a little circle of cooking spray on the bottom of the cake pans first so the parchment paper sticks into the pan.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and oil. Add the sour cream, egg, and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth and creamy.
  • In another medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Tip – Sift the dry ingredients together first to ensure there are no lumps. You can use a fine mesh strainer set over the mixing bowl, add all of the ingredients in the strainer, and sift into the bowl.
  • Sprinkle half of the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Add the remainder of the dry ingredients, along with the hot coffee, and whisk just until no dry streaks remain.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until the cake is springy when touched with your fingertip, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean.
  • Cool the cakes in the pan set on a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes. Then, invert the cakes onto to the cooling rack and gently remove the parchment paper (if it stuck to the cake). Cool the cakes completely before frosting and assembling.

Chocolate Whipped Cream

  • In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips – stirring every couple minutes – until the chocolate is smooth.  Set aside to cool.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.  Add 1/4 of the whipped cream to the melted and cooled chocolate and mix until well incorporated.  Then add the chocolate mixture to the remaining whipped cream and gently fold with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is fully incorporated.  

Caramel Sauce

  • Store bought caramel sauce is also an option instead of making your own.
  • In a heavy bottom saucepan, add the sugar and shake the saucepan lightly to make sure the sugar is an even layer on the bottom.  Pour the water evenly over the top of the sugar.
  • Cook the sugar over medium heat until it dissolves and turns clear – about 3 minutes.
  • Once the sugar is dissolved, turn the heat up to medium-high and cook until the sugar turns into caramel and turns an amber color – about 10 minutes.  If you are using a candy thermometer, the temperature should be between 340 to 350F degrees.  Anything higher and the caramel will be bitter.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and add the heavy cream.  The cream will hiss a little and the caramel will solidify.  Stir with a silicone spatula until the caramel smooths back out – the residual heat will turn it back into a smooth mixture.  Stir in the butter and vanilla until fully mixed.
  • Cool the caramel sauce to room temperature.  The caramel sauce should be stored in a jar in the refrigerator.  It can be reheated in a microwave for about 15 seconds to thin it out into a sauce if it thickens while refrigerated.  It will last in the refrigerator for up to one month. 
  • Assembling the Cake – Once the cakes are cool, set one cake layer on your serving dish. Drizzle a thin layer of the caramel sauce on top then add 1/2 of the whipped cream and spread to the edge of the cake.  Top with the second cake layer, drizzle a little more caramel sauce and spread on the remaining whipped cream. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Cocoa Powder – My preference is Dutch processed cocoa powder.  I find it is smoother and has a richer chocolate flavor.  However, you can swap in Natural cocoa powder with no recipe modifications, if that is all you have on hand.
  • Coffee – The strength of the coffee is up to you.  I use instant coffee granules to make a small cup of hot coffee because it is a little stronger than what I normally drink.  However, I do not recommend super strong coffee – it can overpower the cocoa flavor in the cake.
  • Chocolate Whipped Cream – If you use unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate chips, you will want to add powdered sugar while whipping the cream – about 3 – 4 tablespoons to sweeten to taste.
  • Caramel Sauce – It will need to be refrigerated because of the cream and butter.  It will last in the fridge for up to one month.  You can also use store-bought caramel sauce.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Erin | Butter and Bliss
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