15 Ingredients To Revamp Your Classic Chocolate Cake

When you're lucky enough to be blessed with a beautiful slice of chocolate cake the worst thing to discover is that the cake is tired and bored with itself. Nothing can ruin the excitement of chocolate cake like ho-hum flavor, icing that tastes like Mondays, a texture like a brick of boardwalk fudge, with the grittiness of a chocolate sand castle. Mmm, yummy.

In reality, what you really want is a classic chocolate cake you can whip out of your back pocket like you were born at Le Cordon Bleu, Paris. The one everyone requests for their birthdays. "Oh really? This old thing? I mean, I guess!" A flawless confection, with the ultimate chocolate flavor. Perfectly moist, and iced like it's headlining Fashion Week.

Whether it's a $1.79 box mix, the secret recipe grandma passed down for generations, or even if you've never made a chocolate cake in your entire life, it's time to step up your game and have some fun doing it. You could be mixing in wine, cookies, sauerkraut, and diamonds! And, yes, you can eat everything. Gemstones included. So, party on.

Sour cream

Hello, it's called sour cream? Maybe you've heard of it? While a slew of baked goods actually call for sour cream and then taste like it, sour cream in cake is noted for its understated oomph in your overall bake. It will add a slight tangy kick, but it's also about to be the most moistest cake you've ever had. Most. Moistest.

Use sour cream in place of milk in a recipe, or add it to a standard box mix for more of a homemade feel. Bonus, you can go all in on the moisture with a nearly jet-black sour cream cake, incorporating black cocoa powder for a multi-dimensional, rich, chocolate flavor. Add a few sprinkles, and that goth birthday party is gonna be lit.

But while in the front row of Pilates class, you may ask yourself, "Can I sub Greek yogurt for the sour cream?" Yes, if you want to ditch some fat, yogurt's usually the way to do it, but unless it's done with a little care in baking — like adding more fat by increasing the butter or oil content to balance out the swap — the chill, tender vibe that sour cream offers flies straight out the window. 

Hot coffee

Piping hot coffee; it's not just for suing McDonalds and Dunkin' anymore. A warm mug of your favorite blend slaps that chocolate flavor back to life. Like a best friend telling their bestie to stop moping around, put on some pants, and get back out there and shine like a diamond.

This one buddies up especially well with the cocoa powder in a recipe. Instead of screaming "Coffee!" once you add it to the mix, just know it creates a flavor bomb that only tastes more rich and chocolatey. 

Sub in hot coffee any time water appears in a cake recipe because no one ever took a bite of cake and then complained about it needing more water flavor. Coffee is just coffee-flavored water anyway. So, it's only civilized to add it to your chocolate cake. Love this pairing and want to take the flavor to the max? A coffee buttercream frosting and a chocolate-covered espresso bean decoration keep the party going 'til dawn.

Stout beer

Usually, open beer bottles sitting around the kitchen mean one of two things; A. There's a glorious stout-laced cake currently baking in the oven, or B. Grandpa Buck is a few beers away from wandering around the backyard with his pants around his ankles. Fingers crossed for A.

Deep, dark beers like Guinness, and imperial or coffee stouts, have long been associated with decadent flavors like chocolate. And, with the slightly bitter taste of the hops, along with the sugar-like toasty malt, it practically translates to a liquid dessert all by itself. Whatever great mind finally thought to put stout beer in a chocolatey cake, thank (burp) you.

This style of brew adds luxurious moisture and dimensional flavor, as well as color, thanks to its mystical coal-black pour. For those who prefer beer to taste like beer and dessert to taste like chocolate, most of the alcohol flitters away in the oven. Go with the moment and add a zesty cream cheese frosting, or double down on the chocolate with a velvety bittersweet chocolate topping. No wrong answers. You do you.

Boiling water

Despite the fact that this hot tip doesn't involve boiling any chocolate water you're definitely gonna want to brag about it when people compliment your cake. Bask in the sunshine of the ego-boosting praise, and then bust this one outta your smokin' holster like you're in the Wild West.

It's easy to whine about adding water to a cake recipe when it seemingly eclipses the chance to add something with actual flavor. But, hot water actually allows the cocoa to blossom. Literally. Like a freakin' chocolate flower. It turns out that allowing the cocoa powder to bloom in hot water only encourages a richer, more full-bodied chocolate flavor.

This method packs maximum flavor, with all the moisture you'd expect from, uh, water. You can actually try this with any recipe that calls for cocoa powder. Even think about subbing hot water in for milk in cake recipes, since it coaxes out the essence of the cocoa, without adding any of its own flavors. Ugh, fine. Admitted. Hot water is a game changer.


To the modern, Tik-Tok-ish sensibilities, this already feels all sorts of infomercial, slash 1950s cookbook tip, slash Dump Cakes by Cathy Mitchell. But, the ultra-boss move of cracking open a cold one really does give you all the bouncy fluffiness you've been searching for.

Baked goodies featuring soda as a leavening agent have been a thing for ages, in the South. The trick came about back before science had evolved to Funfetti level, and home bakers needed something quick and affordable to sweeten and fluff up their scratch-made cakes. It worked so well, this trick is still being used even after the invention of baking powder.

Be it Coca-cola, Pepsi, or RC cola, a syrupy, bubbly soda added to a store-bought chocolate cake box mix offers a welcome effervescent flair to the party bowl. Just sub out both the oil  in a boxed mix and stir in the soda — you'll probably want to keep the eggs in as a binding agent. The instant fizzy foaminess will take you right back to 4th-grade science class. Except you're getting an A+ on this science fair project.

Pudding mix

Sneaking chocolate into every available cranny is obviously a major plus. So, adding instant pudding mix to the bowl is pretty much a no-brainer. Silky smooth pudding? Love. Tender cake? Double love. You're about to reach peak choc-vana, brought to you by Jell-O.

Of course, add the instant pudding powder straight from the box. And, as has been proven over decades of innovative culinary science and experimentation, double-blind clinical trials, and — ok, ok, basically all the genius grandmas who came up with this — it's clear that pudding mix adds phenomenal moisture, flavor, and high-risin' body to your bake.

While you could try any pudding flavor that plays nicely with chocolate (butterscotch? Oreo? coconut cream?), try cranking your chocolate cake up to an 11 with chocolate fudge pud'. You can even nail this trick with a box mix. Caution: Ignore anything on the cake box that makes it seem like instant pudding was already added. You don't need that rookie-level stuff. Pud cake for life.

Instant espresso

Another one for team coffee! And, all you need is a little instant espresso mix and a spoon. Even if you're not going for a mocha vibe, this trick still rules. Because you'll only notice the newly popping chocolate flavor and none of the coffee.

Instant espresso is key, versus instant coffee, because of its intensely concentrated formula. A little dash'll do ya. It even spruces up less spendy varieties of cocoa powder into something luxurious. Make a box brand taste like a million bucks, with just a teaspoon of instant espresso added to your favorite Betty Crocker mix. For real though, she turned 102 this year. She could use a little pep in her step.

Baking from scratch? Don't be afraid to throw some instant espresso into homemade recipes, too. It will covertly break into the chocolate cake with illegal taste bud-thrilling fireworks, and light them off in everyone's mouths, like a full-fledged chocolate pyrotechnic display. Sound fun? Get cookin'!


Using mayonnaise in your chocolate cake may sound counterintuitive. Try not to picture a BLT-style layered cake with mayonnaise in place of ganache. (Blerf). And lettuce. And, one of those little cocktail toothpicks with the little cellophane swizzle thingie on the tippy top. 

Mayo awkwardly enters the chat aspiring to pump up the moisture and give you the most tender bite of your favorite chocolate cake, without adding any of its own tang. It tags in for the oil in the recipe since, basically, mayo incorporates oil and egg yolks. It's like a cake ingredient already. Listen, this is perfectly normal, if you put it in your cake, you'll find it truly a-mayo-zing (sorry).

Having first become a thing in 1927, someone later inaccurately branded mayo cake as a "$100 cake," supposedly like one served at the famed Waldorf Astoria. Fascinatingly bougie, but wrong (the Waldorf cake didn't have any mayo in it). Still, mayonnaise keeps your chocolate cake feeling fresh as a daisy for as long as you can possibly keep from eating it.


They're "biscuits," if ya fancy. But in America, biscuits are "cookies." And boy, do they end up in a lotta baked goods.

As far as cookies and cake are concerned, this clearly isn't their first rodeo. Everything from Oreos to Nutter Butters have been chopped, tossed, crumbled, sandwiched, layered, and sprinkled onto a cake. Some people make chocolate chip cookies with chocolate cake mix. And, some bake cakes designed to look like chocolate cookies. Welcome to Cookie World, would you care for a cookie with your cookie?

While dressing up a chocolate cake to look like Cookie Monster is an, um, interesting choice, it might be better to take less of a Muppet-y approach. And yeah, it involves the British type of cookies. Guys, the late Queen Elizabeth II deeply cherished this humble treat; Chocolate biscuit cake. It's a fridge cake take on regular chocolate cake, with all of the flavor, plus a very satisfying crunch. You don't even need an oven. With four simple ingredients — English tea biscuits, butter, sugar, and dark chocolate — you're pretty much next in line to the throne.


Time to start throwing shredded coconut into the air like confetti. Finally, something that already sounds like it goes with chocolate cake, because it does!

For that, you can easily bedazzle your iced chocolate cake with coconut shavings (pressed by hand, using parchment paper) and call it a day. Or, you could do a last-minute soak with coconut milk and condensed milk, and top it with frosting and plenty of toasted coconut. However for the full monty, go for a German chocolate cake where a delightfully chewy coconut topping and filling, along with a pillowy chocolate cake, become the flavor combo from which dreams are made.

While sweetened shredded coconut packs a little moisture, its fabulously coconutty properties add a certain exotic feeling to the whole experience. Chocolate cake suddenly gets that piña colada from the all-inclusive swim-up bar vibe, minus the piña, plus the chocolate, plus a cocktail umbrella.


It's shredded kind of like coconut ... but sour, soggy, and cabbage-y. Still, believe it or not, when it comes to your chocolate cake's destiny, all roads lead to sauerkraut. Sound the hümmelchen (a bagpipe from Germany): BEHHHHHHHHHH. (Call now if you know how to spell the sound that bagpipes make.)

Vinegar in red velvet cake is a fairly well-known addition thanks to just about every competitive baking show in recent memory. But, real question: What in the actual hell-o operator is sauerkraut doing in a chocolate cake? Did you guys even taste this? Sauerkraut cake rules!  This veggie (drained and patted dry) adds moisture for days with a serious rise, and you won't even know it's hiding in there.

Fermented foods pack a healthy punch, and sauerkraut boasts an ancient history reaching back more than 2,000 years. Although this cake has many fuzzy origin stories, the one about it being invented by a lunch lady in the '60s just feels the most right.

Red wine

Calling all the Real Housewives, wine moms, somms, snobs, and Two-Buck Chuck champs. This lil diddy is for you. Just like stout beer adds its own complimentary flavor to chocolate cake, red wine does the same. But wine-ier.

Any red varietal plays well here, as a cabernet sauvignon might add a fruit-forward vibe along with the chocolate, while tempranillo might offer darker sweetness and smokiness to the profile. And, the random bottle of wine sitting open for a week in the back of the fridge will add its own refrigerator essence. Oh, too late, you used it. (That's where those notes of bologna, Italian dressing Cheez Whiz came from). 

Really, you can't mess this one up. Worst comes to worst, and you end up with a moist, flavorful chocolate cake, and an open bottle of vino you wouldn't want to waste. Ice this baby with a rich and creamy buttercream frosting, and book club will never be the same.

Apricot jam

Sometimes you want your cake to say, "Hey girl, bring it in, I'm here for you, and I brought the new Us Weekly." And sometimes you want your cake to say, "Geoffrey, bring me my driving gloves. I'd quite like a country outing in the Rolls." This is the second one. And, you're gonna love it.

When you absolutely require a cake that's dressed to impress, it's best to source "probably the most famous cake in the world since 1832," according to Concert-Vienna: The Sachertorte. Or, colloquially, a 3-layer chocolate sponge cake with apricot jam spread smack dab in the center, and on top, and covered in a to-die-for dark chocolate ganache. Apparently, the recipe's a cherished secret, but after a little sleuthing, the deets weren't too hard to find, mostly because the Sacher Hotel released it to the public.

Among other things, the unofficial official "approximate" Sachertorte recipe calls for 6 eggs, a real vanilla bean, dark chocolate, apricot jam, butter, and sugar. OK, so it doesn't include "secret" ingredients like endangered cocoa beans from a remote bat cave in the Amazon. But, either way, this warm, chocolatey, and buttery cake boasts a bright apricot zing from the jam that happily frolics throughout the entire bake.

Raw egg yolk

While the cake-y bits of cake are always the main attraction, you mustn't forget about the frosting, which often has a wild tendency toward being too sweet, too snoozy, too thin, or too grainy. Icing a cake with something as lackluster as that would be like putting dried-out Chapstick on a beautiful, glamorous pig. (The pig is the cake, and the — okay, you get it.)

Egg whites usually get all the press when it comes to pâtisserie. But here, in order to get that perfectly smooth and creamy texture for your frosting, look to the yolk. That little ball of egg gravy acts like a buffer against any sandy sugar granules trying to have a moment. And the result couldn't be any more rich or impossibly silky.

Of course, in the U.S., raw eggs are kind of a womp-womp, according to the USDA. But, just for the record, dessert goddess Ina Garten does the yolk thing with chocolate frosting. So ... we'll just leave that there. Ina does it.


Ever wonder what a regular ol' dad from the United Arab Emirates gets his kid for her birthday? A $75,000 Rolex? Nope. A $100,000 Maserati? Ew, lol, no. He gets her a $74 million cake featuring hundreds of platinum-set diamonds, created by fashion designer Debbie Wingham. The jaw-dropping dessert featured a 6-foot-long runway, with fashion show fans and models dressed to the (fondant) nines, all weighing in at roughly half a ton.

But, whatever your budget, you can still pull a Prince of Dubai on any cake you want. (That poor daughter; all those expensive diamonds, and she couldn't even eat them.) In the mood for a chocolate cake with a whole lotta ice? Skip the jeweler and hit up a baking supply store for edible diamonds that look just as good as the real thing. What? Ok, granted, this is not Tiffany & Co. But, eating the cake and how it tastes is the most important part, right? The rest is just icing.