Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

Holiday cakeWhen you bake often it’s easy to find your go-to recipe for something and stick with it. And I love having a no-fail plan for when I need to make something quick, or for when I used to make the same things over and over for the Red Velvet Sweet Shoppe. But I always love trying new recipes too! I was intrigued by this chocolate cake recipe because it contained buttermilk and coffee. (!!!!!!) I also noticed that the recipe called for oil instead of butter. My go-to chocolate cake recipe does the same trick, and I really like the crumb produced when using oil instead of butter (for cakes, anyway). So I decided to give it a try.
Best chocolate cake
I am happy to report that this is indeed a fantastic chocolate cake recipe! If you are needing to make a chocolate cake this holiday season I highly recommend trying this one out.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake, makes two 8×2 inch round cakes.

1 3/4 cup flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup strong coffeeChocolate cake recipeIn a bowl combine all the dry ingredients (the first six listed above). Whisk to combine. In another bowl combine all the wet ingredients (the last 5 listed). Whisk to combine. Stir the dry ingredients in with the wet ingredients until nearly no lumps remain. Pour into two round baking pans lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350°F for 35-38 minutes. Allow to cool before removing from pans.Buttermilk chocolate cakeI made a simple butter cream frosting by whipping together 1 cup softened butter with 3 cups powered sugar and 1 tablespoon milk. I didn’t think I had quite enough frosting for the entire cake, so for the center layer (in between the two cake layers) I simply used Nutella instead.

As if I needed an excuse to use Nutella.How to make chocolate treesTo make my cake a little more festive I created some snowy chocolate trees to go around the edges of the cake. I absolutely loved this cake, so I gave it a try myself. Turns out these are super easy to make! Simply melt some chocolate (I used dark chocolate chips) in the microwave or on the stove top. Pour the melted chocolate in a ziplock bag. Cut a small hole in one corner. On wax paper draw some rustic looking evergreen trees with the chocolate.

Rustic is the cooking term for messy. Did you know that? It’s a cooking secret that I figured out pretty quick, because most of my decorating turns out pretty… rustic.

Sprinkle on a little flaked coconut for the snow. Allow the chocolate to set over night or pop it in the refrigerator for an hour if you need it sooner. Carefully remove the chocolate trees from the wax paper and press into the sides of your frosted cake.Easy holiday cake decoratingI highly recommend making a few extra trees in case a few break in the process. Just FYI. 🙂 Happy baking! xo. Emma

P.S. Like this? Try my Funfetti Buttermilk Birthday Cake!

  • I made this cake as a present for my work colleagues and it went down an absolute treat 🙂 I’ve blogged about it on my website if you fancy a look 🙂

  • Adorable cake. So adorable I made one for my own Christmas dinner. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • This tasted really nice! I made this today and it came out perfect. The only change I made was the amount of sugar, instead of 2 cups I used 1 1/4 cups since I’m not really much of a sweets person. I also added 2 teaspoons instead of 1, baking powder, but it still came out perfect. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe!

  • wow i love that chocolate tree idea! must try next time i bake

  • I love this! I’m going to make one for Christmas!

  • Oh Emma! This cake is beautiful! AAAAANNNND looks delicious! Thank you for sharing!

    <3, Jenny Rose

  • Awesome, Awesome, Awesome!!
    Check this out….….intended for camping but would be great for the kids to get involved in the baking at home as well!!

  • ‘Rustic’ is the same reason I embrace ‘shabby chic’ or ‘asymmetrical’. Imperfection is an art in and of itself. Very anxious to give this a try – thanks!

  • This looks great! I was wondering though…could something be used to substitute the coffee?

  • This looks amazing. and what a cute idea with the trees! 🙂

  • Chocolate cakes without the oil don’t seem to be as moist, I think! I’ve often made chocolate decor like that. My most successful has been very swirly hearts that I stick out of a cupcake! I’ve also made beautiful butterfly wings!
    I’m not great at drawing, so I print out a piece of clip art that I like the silhouette of, and I just place it under my wax paper and trace it. Those trees are super adorable!

  • Thea- Hmm… you might try a pie instead. Then it’s still a super flavorful treat but many pie recipes call for less sugar. Happy Baking!

  • How cute! The inside of the cake looks so amazingly chocolatey, and the trees look great! I did a similar thing recently, but with Christmassy trees

  • 2 cups of sugar!? Eeek! Is there any way that could be cut back? The cake looks utterly charming (I’m a definite fan of rustic), but I can’t bring myself to put two cups of sugar into something. :-/

  • this sounds like my go to choc cake. i “make” my own buttermilk because my daughter is allergic to all things dairy. it is sooo good. we use it for all birthdays except my middle one..she insists on a rainbow cake every year. there is no way i could make trees as cute as yours but i need to try!

  • This cake looked so wonderful, I decided to try and make it for my sons first birthday! I’ve never made a layered cake before, or one with frosting… I also live in sweden where we measure in deciliters and not cups. But, I must say, although it’s nowhere near as pretty as yours, I’m very happy with the outcome!
    There’s a picture here, and I linked here, of course. =)

  • This looks so good!
    I will definitely try making those little trees, I’ve seen it before on food photos but didn’t think I could make them. But if you say they’re easy to do even if your baking usually turns out pretty rustic (I like that term!) I might be able to do it as well. I’m a super rustic baker;)

  • Beautiful cake! I am tempted to make my first chocolate-from-scratch cake now! What would happen if I didn’t use the coffee? Would it effect the flavor terribly? I am very excited to try this!
    Love you blog and site as always!

  • WOAH! This looks soo good! And the trees are awesome! I loved the presentation and I know it’s delicious! Thanks for sharing!

  • I love this cake! It’s cute and “rustic”. Thanks for sharing, I am definitely trying this this week.

  • This. Looks. AMAZING! Can’t wait to try this! xo

  • This is fabulous! i have a christmas party this weekend and I may just attempt this 🙂
    Thanks for the inspiration!
    xo, Rachel

  • OMG this looks so yummy! I am sick with the flu now, and this is the only thing that has looked appetizing in a while for me.

  • So I actually made the cake for my grandmothers birthday tonight and she cried she loved it so much she had never seen a cake like that before let alone made for her. Thank you for posting this so I happened to try it and make my grandmother so happy I even scripted happy birthday in chocolate as well it was lovely, thank you for you amazing posts!

  • That cake is lookin’ WAY too good. My stomach is currently growling.


  • I think the trees look just about right – very realistic sketches of trees laden with winter snow, definitely rustic and so charming. I’m not usually a great fan of chocolate cakes but the visual stunningness of the dark chocolate and the snow white frosting is very alluring 🙂 Buttermilk sounds yummy too. I’ve never cooked with it! A new experience in waiting – I’ve pinned sooooo many of your recipes recently but haven’t tried any of them yet: got to make good use of the holidays 🙂

  • Perfect. The great challenge to find the perfect Christmas dessert recipe is solved!

  • Awww that’s so cute and snowy! Love it!

    xx Nathalie

  • Oh wow! that looks incredibly good! 🙂


  • Simone Vandersteen- I bet you could just substitute the coffee for water. It will taste slightly different but I’m sure it would still be pretty tasty. Good luck!

  • What a freakin cute cake! It would look adorable with a woodsy themed dinner party! Cutesy little gnome figures and little toadstools! LOVE <3

  • This has been my go to chocolate cake recipe for quite a while. It’s great every time. I will caution you about making cupcakes with this recipe. They are flat and make a mess on th cupcake an. Still taste great though!

  • SOOO JUMMY!! I’m def. making this for x-mas desert!
    Love, Paula

  • Looks good! I wonder if this recipe would work without the coffee….?

  • I LOVE this cake! In fact, I love it so much I’m going to make it today! Thanks for the awesome recipe! 🙂

  • Nice idea with the trees although I first saw it here I’d that where you got the idea from?

  • Really so nice idea. I will try it but I hope, the trees would be nice like yours. “O)( Have a great day

  • THIS looks INCREDIBLE! Love the blog and can’t wait to follow along!

    It’s an Easy Life

  • Saw this on Instagram, and it looks pretty yummy!!
    Thanks for the cake recipe, I think it looks a bit like a crown with the trees going around the cake!!

  • Definitely saving this recipe! Perfect for my brother who loves both coffee and chocolate!

  • What a great looking cake. I love the contrast of the chocolate trees with the smooth white icing, and the unexpected chocolate interior. It is inspiring me to update a few of my recipes, thanks 🙂

  • Hi there! I was wondering, I’m pretty sure this would work as cupcakes too, but do you have any tips about cooking times? I want to try it as a cake, but I am going to save it to my cupcakes file too, because it sounds so delicious, and looks beautiful!

  • This cake looks delicious! I will definitely try to make it when I get back home to Norway tonight. You are such an inspiration! Keep on the great work!

  • Looks yummy !!
    Check out my new post:

  • I am happy to report that this is indeed a fantastic chocolate cake recipe! If you are needing to make a chocolate cake this holiday season I highly recommend trying this one out.

  • This looks so cute with those little trees and I kind of like things more,if the look a little bit messy or as you call it rustic ;D
    You put so much effort in this cake with all the decoration,it`s amazing and I love your details,like the snow on the trees..
    But one question,you did do the chocolate trees before the cake right??Do the trees still stick to the frosting if you add them later??


  • Great recipe! I love how it looks and I guess I will love even more how it tastes!!!!

  • wow, this one looks just perfect. i need to make one asap

  • The Little chocolate trees are amazing, and the whole cake feels so much Christmas. I loooove it!

  • i do not bake often. and i do not have go-to recipes.

    so i suppose i’ll just have to use yours! 😉

  • I love the ‘rustic’ thing. So cute. I say these tree chocolate things are pinterest and they look awesome! I want to try but I don’t know when I will make a whole cake any times soon.

  • Those trees are so cute and make me think that you could do some other shape for a regular birthday cake or other holiday cake, right? like balloons for a birthday or stars or hearts! love it.
    – caroline @ thecopperavocado

  • Chocolate Christmas Trees??? You’ve added another bar to your genius ladder.

  • oh man, i thought i was the only person who used “rustic” as a baking term..haha! i love rustic goodies…they are much better then the commercial fancy pants crap..(i hate fondant on cakes) hooray for rustic baking! xoxo

  • a.. looks so delicious.. wanna try this Emma! 🙂

  • This looks delicious and beautiful! I’m definitely trying this out for the holidays 🙂

  • The cake part sounds very good, but the best part is the fantastic decorating. This is the best cake decorating! So cute and original … and charmingly rustic!

  • Aww this is adorable! We are currently on our way out of our current city (S. Korea) and I’m trying to conjure all ways to make use of our leftover pantry staples! A chocolate cake with those cute rustic trees is coming up in this kitchen! Thanks (as always) for the tasty-inspiration!

  • Love the chocolate trees! I’m so making this for my birthday this weekend. Thanks for the inspiration Emma!

  • Adorable cake, and I’m sure it’s absolutely delicious!


  • I love how you decorated it! The prettiest I’ve seen in a while. I’m not really into chocolate cake, but I imagine that would make a great alternative to Christmas fruit cake. 🙂

  • I love the chocolate tree border! they are easy to make and pretty too 🙂

    thanks for the idea

  • What a pretty looking cake, those chocolate trees are fabulous!

  • Your rustic trees are so cute! I want to gobble them up!!

  • The chocolate trees covered in coconut snow really “take the cake!” I couldn’t resist that, sorry. But this is so pretty!

    Just got a pretty blue Kitchenaid mixer today (early Christmas present) and I’m dying to test it out. Perfect timing for a cake recipe 🙂 Thanks!

  • This looks so pretty and I’m getting such an itch to bake since living in residence means NO KITCHEN. I want to make it when I go home for the holidays but my mum and sister aren’t eaten dairy, sugar, or gluten right now so I’d end up eating half of it myself!

  • That’s such an adorable cake, Emma! It’s simple yet chic. I saw those chocolate trees a couple times before but I still think they’re cute. I think I know what I’m gonna bake this week! Lovely post ♥

  • I’m at work late (7 pm CST), this is amazingly delicious! I’m drooling at my desk!!

  • WOW! This looks SO festive and beautifully…rustic! 🙂 I love the idea, and will definitely make it soon ~ thank you!

  • Mmmm!!! This looks so delicious! May have to make it for my own birthday! 😛

  • Definitely going to make this tomorrow. I think we have everything except the buttermilk, but that can be gotten!

  • That looks absolutely delicious!

    Rachel Nicole

  • Love your “rustic” trees! This will be made and devoured tonight- thanks, Emma!

  • Love this idea. Will try this when boys on Christmas holidays. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • I love these trees!!! Saw them on your instagram – so cute! This sounds like an interesting recipe , I need to make a chocolate cake for a party next week so I may give it a go 🙂

  • That looks amazing! I love it! Perfect to make for the holidays ^^ I am a new follower, and I would love it if you would check out my blog as well and maybe follow me back, at least if you like it.

    Have a lovely weekend,

    Lisette Maria

  • Yum, this looks delicious! I love how the trees look snowy with the coconut shreds.

  • Dear god, that is the cutest cake I have ever seen! My boyfriend also uses oil instead of butter for his cakes (and cupcakes) and it’s so much more moist. Gotta get him to try this recipe! 😉

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