Go-To Chocolate Cake

If you are looking for a recipe to fall back on when you’re in a pinch, then look no further. This cake is a delicious enough to be a hit at a party, and easy enough to be a lazy Sunday treat.

I used this recipe in my Horizon: Zero Dawn cake. Paired with a rich chocolate buttercream frosting, and a strawberry-raspberry cream cheese filling. Certainly a crowd-pleaser; however, the chocolate cake was just the assist for the true treat. In this particular cake, it was the filling that set it apart from the crowd. My filling was flavored and sweetened with strawberry-raspberry freezer jam… homemade by a woman who is a true inspiration to me – my aunt Judy (yes, I have inherited both her love for kitchen gadgets and her name). Guys… this stuff is so delicious. I wish I could share it with everyone I meet. Except that I’m selfish and want all the freezer jam to myself! It was only natural that I paired it with cream cheese (and a bit of vanilla) to create a showstopping cake filling. Yes, I have tried run-of-the-mill store bought jam. Trust me… its decent, but not nearly the same or anywhere close.

I digress. I’m not here to talk about the mouthwatering filling. I’m here to talk about something a bit more accessible to everyone – the moist and delicious chocolate cake. As a chocolate cake lover, I have many recipes in my arsenal ranging from heavy and bitter, to light and wispy with just a hint of chocolate. This cake is a middle ground.

I paired this cake with a pretty standard chocolate buttercream. A bit heavier on the butter side than the traditional American Buttercream. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not an overly-sweet frosting kind of person, and I think it works out for the better. Especially when there are other sweet parts of the cake (like the filling). The chocolate flavor in the cake isn’t overly strong, so I do recommend using chocolate frosting if you are wanting a true chocolate cake experience.

Go-To Chocolate Cake

Category: Cake

Go-To Chocolate Cake

This basic chocolate cake recipe is moist and the perfect density for a layer cake. The chocolate is a highlight, but isn't overpowering and allows for a nice filling or icing flavor to shine through. This recipe has been tweaked numerous times, originally based off of the Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake from Serious Eats.


  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups hot water


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease and flour two 9" cake pans
  3. Beat the eggs and sugar until the color lightens.
  4. In a seporate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.
  5. Add mayonnaise and vanilla extract. Continue beating for another minute.
  6. Add in the flour mixture, 1/3 at a time.
  7. Slowly add the hot water and stir until the batter is an even consistency.
  8. Divide the batter into the cake pans, and bake in the oven about 30 minutes.
  9. Immediately remove the cakes from the pans, and let them cool on a rack.


Mix the hot water in at the end by hand. If you must use a mixer, I highly recommend mixing on the lowest speed, with a cover over your bowl if you have one.


Hold on – what about Horizon: Zero Dawn?

To give this cake its funky look, I incorporated elements from Horizon: Zero Dawn. Its an extremely fun PS4 exclusive that I highly recommend you check out. The first thing I made was the white chocolate feathers – they were great because they weren’t particularly time-sensitive, so I could do them a few weeks prior to the rest of the cake. I did the stylized Celtic-knot type pattern (utilized by the Nora tribe in the game) by making a buttercream transfer. The metal flower cake topper I made out of modeling chocolate. If you want to see the process in more detail, you can check out my tutorial here.  It was by far the most time intensive part of this cake. After I got that done, the rest was just putting it all together (adding some sanding sugar and piping some buttercream flowers). My original plan was to pipe the flowers in a triangle around the cake, like they appear around the metal flowers in the game. Sadly, my cake stand wasn’t big enough to do that. Obviously I didn’t think it through very well, otherwise I would have just used something else as a cake stand… but by the time my brain caught up, it was too late (and because of the giant lip on my stand, picking the cake back up wasn’t very feasible).

If you haven’t played the game Horizon: Zero Dawn yet, I highly recommend you pick it up. Check out my review here.

Go on now, give this recipe a go and let me know how it turns out!

Horizon Zero Dawn Game Cake

Horizon Zero Dawn Cake