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Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Frosting

A moist and delicious chocolate cake made with buttermilk and cocoa powder and  topped with a homemade chocolate frosting that’s plenty sweet. The frosting has a little crunch here and there from some toasted pecans. They taste so good with chocolate.

Square of Chocolate Buttermilk Cake on parchment paper.


With buttermilk in the batter and in the frosting, this cake makes good use of Buttermilk. Do you find that you frequently have a carton of Buttermilk at the back of the fridge that’s about to go bad? I almost always seem to.

If you make this cake and still have extra buttermilk try making Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Pie, Buttermilk Pancakes or Buttermilk Parmesan Pork Chops.

This is a simple, old-fashioned cake that is always a winner. It’s basically a Texas Sheet Cake except instead of baking it in the typical jelly roll pan (half sheet pan), I’ve made it in a 9X13-inch pan so that it is a little thicker. Chocolate Buttermilk Cake is both light and insanely rich at the same time. It’s very difficult not to go back for another bite. And another. And another. It will keep calling out your name until every last bit is gone.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with chocolate icing.

One minute, you’ll be swooning over it, professing your love. The next minute you’ll be telling it how much hate it for making you eat too much.

That’s why this cake should only be baked for a potluck or a party where there are boatloads of people and there is no chance there will be any left over.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

Fudgy Frosting

The frosting is easily assembled in a saucepan and takes only a few minutes. Still warm when poured on top of the cake, it forms an absolutely irresistible fudgy layer. It’s the frosting that really makes the cake. What’s really nice about it is it just naturally spreads itself out over the cake. You only need a spatula to help even it out a little bit.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

That’s my kind of cake frosting. I know there are many people who enjoy the labor intensiveness of frosting a 3-layer cake. But I’m not one of them. By that point all I’m thinking is, I want a piece of this cake. Let’s hurry this up.

Buttermilk Substitute

If you don’t have any buttermilk you can make a buttermilk substitute by placing a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a glass measuring glass and filling to the 1 cup line with milk. Stir.

Recipe Tips

That being said, you do need to wait a little while for the frosting to cool and set up before you slice it and take a piece out, or all the frosting will run into that empty spot. Unless you stuff the empty spot with a wad of aluminum foil and tilt the pan ever so slightly to make it harder for the frosting to move in that direction. I’m not saving I’ve done that before.

Use full-fat buttermilk.

The pecans can be left out if you need a nut-free dessert.


Cake can be kept at room temperature for 4 to 5 days if wrapped well.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with chocolate icing

This chocolate cake is my new favorite! It has the perfect amount of sweetness and a great texture. My only problem with this cake is that I can’t stop eating it!

More Chocolate Cake Recipes

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

 Watch the video below to see how to make Chocolate Buttermilk Cake.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Frosting

A moist and chocolaty buttermilk cake topped with a sweet and fudgy chocolate buttermilk frosting with pecans. A simple, old-fashioned dessert that never goes out of style because it’s so darn good.
PREP: 15 minutes
COOK: 30 minutes
TOTAL: 45 minutes



  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Chocolate-Buttermilk Frosting

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 (16-ounce) package confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9X13-inch pan.
  • Combine 1 cup butter, 1/3 cup cocoa, and 1 cup water in a small saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until butter is fully melted. You can cut the butter into pieces to speed up the process. Remove from heat.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, and vanilla extract until smooth.
  • Gradually add melted butter mixture, beating until mixed.
  • In a medium bowl, combine sugar, flour, and salt. Add to buttermilk mixture and beat until blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until set in the middle.
  • To make frosting, combine butter, cocoa, and buttermilk in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth.
  • Remove from heat and stir in confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and pecans. Pour over cake while cake is still warm. Let frosting cool and set some before slicing.


I use salted butter. If using unslated butter, you may want to add a pinch of salt to the batter and frosting.
Nutritional info is provided as an estimate only and will vary based on brands of products used.


Calories: 455kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 74mg | Sodium: 276mg | Potassium: 98mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 48g | Vitamin A: 677IU | Vitamin C: 0.03mg | Calcium: 30mg | Iron: 1mg
Author: Christin Mahrlig
Course: Cake
Cuisine: Southern
Keyword: chocolate cake

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Originally posted May 4, 2017.

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144 thoughts on “Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Frosting”

  1. Janet Sizemore

    Oh my! This is the same cake my great grandmother made. I have her recipe, make it on occasion, our whole family calls it The Mommy Gilla Chocolate Turtle Creek cake. Haha. Her name was Gilla Blanton and she was from Langley, Kentucky. Best cake ever.

  2. This cake is amazing! I cut the sugar in the cake down by a third as it seemed like a lot (we don’t eat sweets much), which was perfect for us – but left the icing as is. My husband declared this his new favourite cake!

    1. Christin
      Christin Mahrlig

      I think you could make it in a bundt pan Sherry. Let us know how it turns out if you try it.

  3. Thank you so much! I work in a small school (SW Cornwall, UK) and took this in today as a staff room suprise. It was just to put a tea break smile on faces in the christmas run up mayhem, and I called it ‘Chocolate Tuesday Treat’. Oh, happy staff – they loved it! Next week I’m going to surprise them with your Apple Crisp Coffee Cake!

  4. I use this icing when I make brownies and Crazy cake (they are so delicious) That’s what I’m making today for my Father-in-law 82nd birthday

  5. Don’t know what I did wrong, but this did not turn out like a “cake” at all……was just dense and thick. No lightness to it at all…….

    1. Old fashioned cakes are dense and immensely more flavorful than any you can buy or make with modern recipes. You did nothing wrong, it’s just different. I grew up on those flavors and when I saw the cake slabs, I thought I was in heaven. Gotta make it soon.

  6. I poured the frosting on the cake about 5 minutes after removing it from the oven. It looks like most of the frosting has disappeared down the sides of the cake. How long do you recommend waiting to pour the frosting after the cake comes out of the oven?

    1. Christin
      Christin Mahrlig

      Next time, try pouring the frosting on slowly and pouring it mostly in the center. That way by the time it makes it’s way to the edges, it has cooled down and thickened some.

      1. Edra Williams

        Although I read this review and did as suggested, pour down slowly in the center, this happened to me too. I don’t know what went wrong. But the cake is so yummy!

    2. have been making this cake fir years, Cut it from a mag–called buttermilk brownies also make it in a 9×13 pan. My children(and now my grands )like the thicker version. If I don’t need the whole cake I freeze the rest take a few pieces when ever you get a craving! !!

  7. Oh wow! I have just made this cake this morning and I have had eaten two pieces already. It is so moist and yummy.
    I live alone so as with a lot of recipes I make I half the ingredients for a half size cake as I have with this one. The fact it has turned out so well I will make a full size one next time and give my friend half for her family as I do with a lot of cakes I make , ( stops me eating to much cake) she will love this one.
    Like you say , the buttermilk sitting in my fridge was nearly forgotten AGAIN ,so I quickly looked up a recipe with buttermilk in and so glad I found this one.
    Thank you for this, definitely a regular favourite in my baking.
    Got to stop myself eating anymore until tomorrow now!

    1. Christin
      Christin Mahrlig

      It really is a delicious cake isn’t it Janis. I have to give away most of it or I keep going back for another piece. Good idea to make a full cake and take half to your friend next time. I am sure she will appreciate it! 🙂

  8. This recipe came down thru our family a LONG time ago. My husband’s retired, in his 70s, and I got this from his grandmother at one of those “give the bride your fave recipe ” wedding showers. Over 50 yrs ago now. And she got it from HER mother , so we’re talking probably late 1800s. 😄 Slight variation in ours is no buttermilk in the icing; just a few tablespoons of regular milk. I’ve also been known to spread icing on half the cake w/out nuts for those who don’t eat them; then add nuts to the remaining half for those who do! It’s fantastic to see this almost identical recipe being passed around after all the years. Just goes to show that great food never goes away!!

    1. Christin
      Christin Mahrlig

      Thank you for sharing that history with us Barb! Most of my favorite recipes have been around a long, long time!

  9. I made this Friday and it was gone by early Tuesday. Soooo good. If you want something really great, slightly warm the cake then add some vanilla ice cream, OH MAN!!

  10. I made this for my boyfriend’s birthday. His entire family loved it and it was eaten faster than any other dessert we had during Memorial Day weekend. As others have mentioned I was also concerned that my batter was too thin and that it wouldn’t rise and become cake-ish…but it did! I had to cook it about 10 minutes longer than suggested, but that’s pretty typical for my oven. The frosting was fantastic too. I love that I just had to pour it over the finished cake and spread it around a little. We ate it about 4 hours after I initially cooked it and I think that was a perfect amount of time for the frosting to set a little. I’ll definitely make this again.

    1. Christin
      Christin Mahrlig

      What a special birthday treat Brittney! Hope your boyfriend had a great one. So happy the cake was enjoyed!

    2. Glad you said your batter was running, I thought I might have done something wrong, mines in the oven now can’t wait to try it!

  11. This is by far the best homemade chocolate cake I have ever baked. At first I had my doubts because the batter was so thin, but the end result was so perfect!

  12. Terry LaForce

    The original (in my experience) Texas Cake when baked in a jelly roll pan. A long time favorite in my recipe collection. I use a little cinnamon as one other suggested.

  13. My grandmother cooked in the public school system for 22 years. This was one of her favorite recipes

    1. I went to school in Jasper Florida and we had it in our cafeteria in the 60s. I always wanted the recipe, thank you.

  14. add 1 tsp of cinnamon to the cake—adds a little zing to the flavor—-i use a jellyroll pan for baking as it is somewhat bigger than the 9×13 and the pieces are more like brownie sized

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