This black velvet cake is made with black cocoa powder and a touch of buttermilk to give it that classic velvet cake taste, then it’s topped with rich black chocolate frosting and no need for food coloring.
This cake is amazing. If you’ve never used black cocoa powder, you’re missing out. It seems like it would be more of a dark chocolate taste, but it’s not. It has more of an Oreo taste in my opinion and it’s just so good.
There’s also no need for black food coloring. The black cocoa will naturally darken it on its own.
This black chocolate cake is perfect for Halloween, birthday parties, or any other time you want a unique layer cake. Add little gold sprinkles, a gold drip, or edible gold leaf and some gold candles to really make it fancy.
Basically, this cake is very similar to a red velvet cake, but instead of just using a small amount of regular cocoa powder, you’ll use a little larger amount of black cocoa powder and it’ll have a little more chocolatey taste.
Hey there! Before you scroll, there’s lot’s of important stuff in the post!…including the FAQ section, which may answer any questions you might have about this recipe. Enjoy!
Now let’s talk about just some of the ingredients that are in this black velvet cake. (The printable list of all ingredients are in the recipe card below.)
All-purpose flour: This recipe calls for plain all-purpose flour, so there’s no worry over getting any special type of flour like cake flour.
Black cocoa powder: This is the star ingredient of this cake. It’s not the same as regular unsweetened cocoa powder. It’s also not a dark chocolate, nor does it really have the flavor of dark chocolate.
Black cocoa powder is basically Dutch process cocoa powder, which is cocoa powder that’s been alkalinized.
It’s not super strong in flavor like you’d think. In my opinion, it’s got an Oreo cookie taste.
Unsweetened natural cocoa powder: So you might ask why we’re adding in another type of cocoa powder and that’s because black cocoa powder actually isn’t super chocolatey. To get a more chocolatey taste, we need to add in a bit of natural cocoa powder.
Buttermilk: Oh yes, buttermilk is also a star ingredient in velvet cakes and it brings out the other flavors plus it really makes a moist cake with great texture.
Oil and butter: For this cake, we’ll add both vegetable oil and butter. Oil will pump up the moist factor and butter will give it great flavor.
How to make this layer cake:
Let’s talk about how to make a black velvet cake with black velvet buttercream frosting. (The printable instructions are in the recipe card below.)
First, you’ll make the cake. Go ahead and set out the buttermilk and eggs ahead of time so they can come closer to room temperature before mixing the batter.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans that are 2 inches deep.
In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, both cocoa powders, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix well with a whisk and set aside.
In another bowl, add the buttermilk, oil, softened butter, vinegar, vanilla and eggs. Whisk well and set aside.
Now add the liquid ingredient mixture to the dry ingredient mixture and mix on medium speed only until the ingredients are just combined. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again until well combined.
Be very careful not to mix too long or the cake will turn out dense and dry. Stop mixing once the ingredients are well combined.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes.
Set the cake layers on wire racks to cool for about ten minutes, then turn out the cake layers directly onto the racks and remove the pans to cool completely before assembling the cake and adding buttercream frosting.
While the cake layers are cooling, you can make the frosting. Add the butter, salt and vanilla to a large mixing bowl. Mix with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.
Add both cocoa powders and beat on low until combined, then on medium until well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again.
Add in 3 cups of confectioner’s sugar. Beat on low until combined, then on medium until fully incorporated.
Add in 2 tablespoons of milk plus the last 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar and mix on low until combined, then on medium until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix again. (If it’s too thick at this point, add another tablespoon of milk and mix.)
Check the texture of your buttercream and if it’s still too thick, add milk only a tablespoon at a time, and mix after each addition.
If you want the buttercream to be a deeper black you can add in a bit of black gel food coloring, but it is not generally necessary as the black cocoa powder is fairly dark on its own and seems to darken the longer it’s on the cake.
Add the frosting to the cooled cake layers and decorate as desired. Enjoy!
Tips & FAQs:
Black velvet cake is similar to red velvet cake, but it’s made from black cocoa powder instead of just a small amount of unsweetened natural cocoa powder. Black cocoa powder is very dark and makes the cake and the frosting a deep black color.
Black velvet cake tastes chocolatey and a little like the chocolate in Oreos. Looking at it, you would think it would have a dark chocolate taste, but it’s not bitter at all and isn’t an overwhelming chocolate taste. This cake is super moist, with a fluffy texture and just the right amount of chocolate taste.
Black cocoa powder is basically just Dutch-processed cocoa powder, which means it’s natural cocoa powder that’s just been alkalinized. You can find it in some grocery stores, in gourmet foods stores and you can find it on Amazon. Here’s the one I used: Black Cocoa Powder
No, it does have a slightly different taste. It’s actually not as chocolatey as a regular chocolate cake because black cocoa just doesn’t have as strong of a chocolate taste as regular unsweetened cocoa powder.
Black velvet cake has a bit of a different taste. It’s still chocolate, but more along the lines of an Oreo cookie chocolate.
Red velvet cake has only a small amount of regular unsweetened cocoa powder in it that reacts with the baking soda to give it a red tint. Red food coloring is then added to make it even redder in color.
Black velvet cake does have a small amount of regular unsweetened cocoa powder in it, but there is even more black cocoa powder and no food coloring is needed.
The reason this recipe calls for both is that on its own, black cocoa powder does not lend a very strong chocolatey flavor, but natural unsweetened cocoa powder does. To help give this cake more chocolate flavor, it calls for both types.
For this recipe, try to set out the buttermilk and eggs ahead of time so they can come closer to room temperature before mixing the batter. Just set them out about 20-30 minutes before you want to make the cake batter.
Make sure not to pack the flour down when you measure it. Actually, spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off. Packing the flour into the measuring cup will add too much flour to the batter and will make the cake dry and/or dense.
No, don’t do that. Baking soda and baking powder are different and cannot be substituted for each other equally. If you’d like more information on the difference, check out this blog post: Baking Powder vs Baking Soda
It’s really best if you can use real buttermilk as it makes for a softer texture and really helps give the cake flavor. If you can’t get it, you can substitute with this sour milk recipe:
For every one cup of buttermilk called for, fill a measuring cup with 1 cup of regular milk, take out 1 tablespoon and replace it with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar and stir well.
Let sit for five minutes, then it’s ready to use. This will not work exactly the same as buttermilk but can work in a pinch.
Yes, it’s really best if you can. Vinegar is what’s in ‘velvet’ cakes and helps the texture bake up soft and also reacts with the baking soda.
It’s best to use unsalted for this recipe as you’ll know that you’re getting the proper amount of salt in the cake batter and buttercream. If you’re unable to get unsalted butter, you can use salted in the cake and the buttercream, but omit the additional salt that each recipe calls for.
Once the liquid ingredients have been mixed with the dry ingredients, be very careful not to mix too long. Mixing the cake batter for too long will cause the cake to be dense and/or dry. You can stop mixing once the ingredients are well combined.
The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle of each layer comes out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean, but now raw cake batter on it.
This cake can be made ahead of time and frozen if desired. Let the baked cake cool completely and then just wrap the layers in plastic wrap and foil, then place them in the freezer for up to a month. They will probably last up to a couple of months, but I personally like to use them within a month.
To thaw, place the wrapped cake layers on the counter at room temperature and let thaw completely, then remove the wrapping. Once defrosted, fill and cover the cake with frosting.
This cake can be stored, covered well, for a couple of days at room temperature, then cover well and store in the refrigerator for a few more days to prolong freshness.
I have not tested this recipe out as cupcakes, but it should work just fine. Fill 2 cupcake pans (24 cupcakes) with cupcake liners and fill with batter about ⅔ of the way full. Bake at 350 degrees F and start checking for doneness at around 20-25 minutes.
This cake is best served near room temperature. To eat, set the cake out for about 20 minutes or so to come closer to room temperature if chilled.
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
***I write recipes using volume (cups) measurements because here in the U.S., this is what people are used to seeing and using. For weight in metric measurements, click the ‘metric’ button under the ingredients in the recipe card. The weights are converted by a program, not me, and it’s a best guess. Please note that because I develop recipes using ‘cups’ I can’t guarantee that weighing the ingredients will produce the exact same results.
Moist Black Velvet Cake from Scratch with Black Frosting (No Food Coloring)
For the cake:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup black cocoa powder
- ⅓ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch processed) See FAQs in blog post for answers to ingredient questions.
- 1 ⅔ cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened (not warm or hot butter, just set the butter out a couple hours beforehand so that it will be soft enough to mix well)
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
For the frosting:
- 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or extract)
- ¾ cup black cocoa powder
- ¼ cup natural cocoa powder
- 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk (can add in another tablespoon if needed)
For the cake:
- Set out the buttermilk and eggs ahead of time so they can come closer to room temperature before mixing the batter. (This is important.)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, both cocoa powders, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix well with a whisk and set aside.
- In another bowl, add the buttermilk, oil, softened butter, vinegar, vanilla and eggs. Whisk well.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix on medium speed only until the ingredients are just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again until well combined. Be careful not to mix too long or the cake will turn out dense. Stop mixing once the ingredients are well combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle of each layer comes out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean, but no raw cake batter on it.
- Set on wire racks to cool for about ten minutes, then turn out the cake layers onto the racks and remove the pans to cool completely before assembling the cake and adding buttercream frosting.
For the frosting:
- Add the butter, salt and vanilla to a large mixing bowl. Mix with an electric mixture on medium speed until smooth..
- Add both cocoa powders and mix on low until combined, then on medium until well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again.
- Add in 3 cups of confectioner's sugar. Mix on low until combined, then on medium until fully incorporated.
- Add 2 tablespoons of milk plus the last 2 cups of confectioner's sugar. Mix on low until combined, then on medium until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix again.
- Check the texture of your buttercream and if it’s still too thick, add milk only a tablespoon at a time, and mix after each addition.
- If you want the buttercream to be a deeper black you can add in a bit of black gel food coloring, but it is not generally necesseary as the black cocoa powder is fairly dark on it's own and seems to darken the longer it's on the cake.
To eat, set the cake out to come closer to room temperature.
Nutritional values are an estimate.
Make sure to check out the TIPS & FAQs for this recipe in the blog post, which will answer questions about ingredients, substitutions, the mixing method and more.
*This recipe card may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
How to Share
I’d love for you to share this recipe link or tag it, but please do not share screenshots or copy/paste the recipe to social media as the content and photographs are copyright protected and we (bloggers) work really hard on our content. Sharing the link, tagging us on socials and pinning it is super appreciated though!
This recipe looks yum! I love using black chocolate. It really is a great ingredient for cake decorating too. Is there a video? I see a statement that suggests there is one, but I can’t seem to find it on this page. I love your videos 🙂
Hi Arlette. Yes, I LOVE black cocoa. I really like the flavor even more than natural cocoa powder. Oh, and there will be a video at some point…I just need to finish editing it. 🤣 I need to take that statement off until I can get it finished. I got a little behind on my editing lately. 😉
Thanks for that dear. I look forward to it!
at the whik “warm” butter with wet I gredients it went wrong
that mixtura was curdled although all ingredients ha set out for hours. I should have stopped then and looked for a note but I proceeded and found I had bits of butter in the batter. disappointed.
Hi Judith, I’m editing my last comment as I took a closer look at that recipe and how I had written it. In your comment, you wrote that it went wrong when you added the ‘warm’ butter. I don’t see where I wrote to add warm butter. I did write that the butter needs to be softened. Maybe that was misunderstood to mean warm? I will add a note on the recipe card in case anyone else has that same issue. Also, at the beginning of the recipe, it does state to set out the liquid ingredients so that they can come closer to temperature. That’s really important in this recipe because if the liquids are quite cold and the butter is too warm, then it can clump up because the cold ingredients are firming up bits of butter. If you do try it again, make sure to follow that first line in the recipe and just make sure that the butter is softened and not warm.
Omg, I love this recipe! I added orange extract to the frosting and the combined taste was amazing.
So glad you loved this one! It’s one of my favorites as well and adding orange extract sounds so good!