Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake

One day every year, life smiles its brightest at you and gives you a perfect opportunity to celebrate. Whether you round up a handful of friends, or gather at home with your family, it’s a day to remember all the life you’ve had so far and to also look forward to the life that’s yet to come. Birthdays are truly special days and your special day deserves a special cake. 

Sure, there’s the party, the gifts, the food and the people, but aside from the guest of honor, a lot of the excitement gets focused on the cake. Time stands still for a moment when the candles light up someone’s face. In that brief flash of time you can see how happy they are as they blow out the candles and make their wish. It’s a memory that’s captured in a lot of photos and it’s one you’ll hold forever in your heart. 

It’s a great honor to bake someone’s cake. To do so means you get to share in some of their joy. I like to let the guest of honor pick their cake, and I will honor all requests. Through the years, this is the cake that has had the most demand. Modeled after what we deemed “The Very Best Cake Ever,” it is deep chocolatey deliciousness. At it does not disappoint. 

All of the credit for this creation goes to a neighbor we had when I was very young. If you were very lucky when you’d visit, you’d find this cake beneath a big glass dome on her counter. It was dark and chocolatey, enrobed in a rich coffee frosting, each bite so moist that it clung perfectly to your fork. The cake itself was a little bit red, and it had an exotic flavor. It was out of this world. When she shared the recipe we were surprised to learn that it was a devil’s food cake mix that had coconut flavor and a few drops of red food coloring added.

I loved her cake so much, but I didn’t like having to use a cake mix. After some searching I found a recipe for a chocolate cake that I have been making for over 30 years. This Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake is so popular for family birthdays, I make at least two of them every year. The recipe is so easy, even a beginner can manage it. 

Because you use oil instead of butter, the cake is very light and moist. I have used canola oil and coconut oil in the past, but lately I have been using avocado oil when I make this. The recipe calls for all-purpose flour, so you skip buying cake flour and make this from what you already have on hand. I don’t add the food coloring, but I do add a generous bit of coconut extract. 

Set your rack on the second position from the bottom, or 1 position below the middle of your oven where your cake will bake best. Once you add the boiling water, it will make the batter rather runny, so I fill my cake pans right in the oven once it has heated. Set your empty pans on the rack and then fill them to avoid the inevitable sloshing.  

Now for the frosting. You want the coffee to be fairly strong. Before Starbucks Via, I would use instant espresso, dissolving a big spoonful of it in about a tablespoonful of very hot water. Now I just use Via, dissolving the entire packet, letting it cool, and then adding it to the frosting to taste. If you would like to make your cake with “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting, the recipe is below.  

Once your cakes have cooled, transfer them, still on the cooling racks, to your freezer. When you are ready to frost, take one layer out, letting it warm just enough that you can remove it from the rack. Smear a dab of frosting in the center of your cake plate, then place your cake top side down and centered, on the frosting. Frost from edge to edge, then take your other layer out and repeat the process, letting it warm enough to remove, then placing it top side down on the frosted layer. Now frost the sides of your cake, and then frost the top. You can smooth the frosting with a hot water-dipped spatula, or make swirls.  

Make each birthday special and share in someone’s joy.

Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 teaspoons coconut extract)
  • 1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350º F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl, or add them to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix lightly on low speed. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed using mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (or use mixer set on low speed); batter will be thin. Pour batter into prepared pans. 

Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely before frosting. 


One Pan Cake: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350º F for 35 to 40 minutes.

Three Layer Cake: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350º F for 30 to 35 minutes.

Bundt Cake: Grease and flour 12-inch fluted tube pan. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350º F for 50 to 55 minutes.

Cupcakes: Line muffin cups (2 1/2-inches in diameter) with paper baking cups. Fill cups 1/2 full with batter. Bake at 350º F for 20 to 25 minutes.

Coffee Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon instant powdered coffee or espresso, dissolved in hot water and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 Tablespoons milk, plus more if needed 

Beat butter with an electric mixer in a large bowl until very soft and fluffy. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar and coffee, beating in with vanilla. Add remaining powdered sugar, alternating with milk as you add, and beating until thoroughly mixed. Add milk, a little at time, as needed, to reach spreading consistency.

“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting 

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick)
  • 2/3 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Mix in cocoa. Add powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, and milk, a little at time, alternating as you add. Beat to spreading consistency. Add small amount of additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla.


Donna Ferguson

Donna Ferguson

I love to cook, garden, and write about all the things in Vancouver and the Northwest that make life so great.

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