Choco-nilla Cake

Recipe by PJ Hamel

Special birthday coming up? (Well, whose birthday ISN'T special?!) For those occasions when you're trying to please a crowd; or the recipient can't make up his/her mind which flavor to choose, offer this impressive four-layer, fudge-frosted chocolate and vanilla cake.

1 hr 15 mins
30 to 35 mins
2 hrs 45 mins
one 9" layer cake
Choco-nilla Cake


Prevent your screen from going dark as you follow along.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9" x 2" round cake pans: one for the vanilla cake, one for the chocolate. If desired, line with parchment, and grease the parchment; this will ensure the cakes turn out intact.

  2. To make the vanilla cake: Beat the eggs and sugar until smooth. Gradually add the vegetable oil, beating all the while. Stir in the salt, baking powder, and vanilla

  3. Gently mix in the flour in three parts, alternating with the cream and starting and ending with the flour.

  4. Pour the batter into one of the prepared pans.

  5. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake is beginning to brown on top. It may crack slightly; that's OK.

  6. Remove the cake from the oven, and after 10 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

  7. To make the chocolate cake: Whisk together the dry ingredients.

  8. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla, beating until smooth.

  9. Gradually add the water, beating until smooth.

  10. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

  11. Bake the cake for about 35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

  12. Remove the cake from the oven, and after 10 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

  13. Divide the cooled cakes in half horizontally, to make four round layers. Place one vanilla layer on a serving plate.

  14. To make the filling: Beat the butter and salt until smooth. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons of the milk, and beat until fluffy. Add additional milk if the frosting seems too stiff to spread.

  15. Spread 1/3 of the filling on the cake, spreading to within about 1/2" of the edge.

  16. Top with a chocolate layer. Spread with 1/3 of the filling.

  17. Top with the second vanilla layer. Spread with the remaining filling.

  18. Top with the second chocolate layer.

  19. To make the icing: Combine the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the cream is very hot, and the chocolate very soft.

  20. Stir to melt the chocolate completely, reheating very briefly if necessary.

  21. Pour and spread the icing over the top of the cake, letting it drip over the edges and down the sides. Once it's done dripping, smooth the sides with a spatula.

  22. Add sugar decorations while the icing is still warm.

  23. Allow the cake to rest, covered with a cake cover (or a big turned-over bowl) until the chocolate is set; overnight is good, though several hours are sufficient.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Our thanks to Karyl Bannister and her Cook & Tell newsletter for the inspiration behind the simple vanilla cake.