4.85 from 26 votes

Hot Chocolate Layer Cake

Hot Chocolate Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This hot chocolate cake from Zoë Bakes Cakes is unbelievably delicious! Combining layers of moist Devil’s Food cake and creamy, luscious chocolate frosting, the entire cake is topped with homemade toasted marshmallows. This recipe is the perfect dessert for any occasion!

With hot chocolate as its inspiration, it has layers of Devil’s food, slathered with a deep, dark, luscious chocolate icing, that is like whipped ganache, but better, then I topped the whole thing in homemade marshmallows. I am not a big fan of bagged marshmallows, which taste like sweet, dried out sponges, but the homemade version are amongst my favorite treats. When they are toasted, with a torch, of course, they are soft, melty and delicious. You can flavor them with anything from vanilla to cardamom, or even swirl in chocolate.

I made this cake twice, once with my tried and true Devil’s food and then again for my friend, Stephanie Meyer’s birthday. Stephanie (Fresh Tart) doesn’t eat gluten, so I made the cake with a gluten-free flour blend and it came out just great. This cake was inspired by a cake I saw years ago in Fine Cooking Magazine.

Hot Chocolate Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Homemade Marshmallows Recipe – cut into cubes (see my marshmallow instagram video to watch me make them and how to best cut them)

Hot Chocolate Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

To take the hot chocolate cake to the next level (and in a S’more direction) toast the marshmallows with a blow torch

Hot Chocolate Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

If you are not a toasted marshmallow fan, you can go without.

Hot Chocolate Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë françois

Serve the hot chocolate cake at room temperature. It can be stored at room temperature for 24 hours, then covered and refrigerated for a couple of days.

Hot Chocolate Cake

Hot Chocolate Cake

With hot chocolate as its inspiration, this hot chocolate cake has layers of Devil’s food, slathered with a deep, dark, luscious chocolate icing, that is like whipped ganache, but better, then I topped the whole thing in homemade marshmallows.
4.85 from 26 votes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Cake


  • 8 tbsp (112g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) mild-flavored oil (such as vegetable oil)
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 5 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (60g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder (sifted if lumpy)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream, at room temperature

Chocolate Frosting

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy whipping cream, plus more as needed
  • 1 cup (220g) unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 16 oz (450g) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups (300g) confectioners' sugar (sifted if lumpy)

For Topping

  • Toasted Marshmallows


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F / 175 degrees C. Generously grease the three 8-inch / 20cm cake pans, then line them with greased parchment paper.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute.
  • Turn the mixer speed to medium, add the oil and sugar to the butter, and beat for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is light in color and about double in volume.
  • Turn the speed to medium-low and add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, mixing each until incorporated before adding the next. Scrape the bowl after each addition.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined.
  • In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk and sour cream.
  • Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and add half of the milk mixture, mixing until combined. Repeat with another one-third flour, the remaining milk mixture, and then finish with the final one-third flour. Scrape the bowl after each addition.
  • Divide the batter into the prepared pans and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Gently tap the pans on the counter several times to release excess air bubbles.
  • Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Remove the parchment paper and place one cake layer on a serving plate.


  • See me make this frosting in my Instagram video.
  • In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the cream, butter, espresso powder, and salt and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring often until the butter is melted. Add the chocolate and swirl the pan until the chocolate is submerged in the hot cream. Let the mixture sit for about 3 minutes, then whisk until smooth.
  • Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Let the mixture cool to room temperature; it will become quite thick as the butter and chocolate set.
  • Turn the mixer speed to low, add the confectioners’ sugar, a little at a time, and beat until smooth and spreadable. If the frosting is at all grainy, add additional cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it’s smooth. The frosting will be quite soft but firm enough to cling to the cake and spread evenly. Use immediately.
  • Using a metal decorating spatula, spread 1/4-inch / 6mm-thick layer of the frosting over the cake, making sure it goes all the way to the edge. Place the next cake over the frosting and top with another layer of frosting. Repeat with the last cake. If desired, at this point, you could crumb-coat the cake.
  • Decorate the cake with a smooth layer of the remaining frosting. Top with marshmallows.
  • Serve the cake immediately or store at room temperature, covered, for up to 48 hours.


To make this recipe gluten free, you can sub a 1:1 gluten free all-purpose flour, like Cup 4 Cup.
The chocolate cakes can be made ahead and wrapped in plastic. They can be frozen for a month.
Homemade Marshmallows Recipe
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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37 thoughts to “Hot Chocolate Layer Cake”

  1. 5 stars
    Hi Zoe,

    I was planning to travel with this frosting. will this freeze well? My thought was to make and freeze the frosting, then assemble the cake at my destination?


    1. Hi Anuja,

      Yes, that should work, just be sure it will defrost on the journey, so it is at the right texture. Or you can assemble it and travel with the cake already made.

      Enjoy, Zoë

  2. Wonderful, I’m with you on the bagged marshmallows, have been making a lot of smores with them recently, so yes to homemade ones for this and for smores, thank you!

  3. Hi Zoe, Has this recipe changed as the one that I have from before is very different to this one? And would this give similar results? Specially the fudge frosting is very different.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Sonya! This recipe has been updated to match the recipe in Zoe’s new cookbook, Zoë Bakes Cakes. It should give you similar results!

  4. I bought Zoe Bakes and love it! My question is actually about the Plum Cake in Zoe Bakes.
    It was delicious! But, it was done at the first 45 minute bake (before you add the cinnamon/sugar/butter topping and are instructed to bake for about an additional 20 minutes). Do you know what possibly could have gone wrong? I am an experienced baker and bake multiple times/week so I know my oven temperature is accurate. I proceeded and put the topping on and lowered the oven from 375 to 350 and only baked about 5 more minutes so the butter would melt and most of the sugar. It was so good albeit a bit dry. What should I do next time?
    Thanks in advance for your assistance!

    1. Hi Trish,

      Absolutely reduce the heat if it was baking quickly in your oven. I think it depends on people’s ovens and also the temperature of the ingredients (plums), but you sure don’t want an overbaked cake, so do adjust the timing or temperature to get the result you want.

      Thank you! Zoë

  5. I am making your frosting and it has been sitting in my mixing bowl, waiting to set up, for about an hour. What have I done wrong and can I fix this? Thanks!

    1. Hi Alisa,

      Have you watched my Instagram IGTV video about the chocolate frosting? It may help to see the different stages. The chocolate can take longer to set firm if your kitchen is warm and depending on the type of chocolate, but it will eventually happen.

      Enjoy! Zoë

  6. Hello Zoë,

    Could one substitute Cup for Cup gluten free flour in this recipe without any alterations to the recipe?


    1. Hi Bridgett! Zoë has made this with a gluten free flour blend, so Cup for Cup should work just fine. Enjoy!

  7. 5 stars
    Love this recipe! I’ve made it several times. I do think that she change the frosting recipe. As much as I do like this recipe, I wish that I could find the original recipe that came with this cake. Thanks Zoe for always giving us a 5 star recipe recipe!!

  8. Hi Zoë and team!

    Can I use this exact cake recipe, but bake in a large sheet pan for the purpose of then cutting out a bunch of 2” circles, to make 12 mini three-tiered layered cakes? My question is mainly whether I should adjust anything like baking time, etc., to use your recipe here, but to do that? Thank you!

    1. Hi Seema! Yes, it will work to bake this in a sheet pan. As for bake time, check it around 18-20 minutes and add time from there if it’s not done yet. Enjoy!

  9. I’ve been thinking about trying this frosting recipe but replacing the dark chocolate with RUBY chocolate–do you think it would work?

    1. Hi Erin, Zoë has not used ruby chocolate, but after some initial research it does not appear that it would work in this recipe because of what it is made up of. Typically you can do a direct swap if the colored chocolate it is based on milk or white or dark, but it seems ruby is in a category all its own, so we’d suggest you find a recipe for using ruby chocolate in a frosting. If you do decide to make this recipe as it is written, readers have found this video to be very helpful. Happy baking!

  10. 4 stars
    Cake is lovely, but the frosting is making me cry right now. Not grainy, just separating and oily (ok, buttery but liquid). Thought I followed the directions to a T…

  11. 5 stars
    I have a question about using the frosting (which is delish, by the way!) to create a dam on the cake layers so I can add a raspberry filling to the chocolate cake. Do you think it will pipe well or should I just use my spatula to create a dam? Thank you!

    1. Hi Donna, yes! It will pipe well and Zoe recommends you pipe it, otherwise it won’t be tall enough to hold the filling. Happy baking!

  12. Hi Zoe,

    I made this cake and it came out extremely dry and crumbly, it was a lot of work and quite disappointing. What did I do wrong? Can you help?

    1. Hi Joyce, sorry to hear you had this issue with the recipe. Did you weigh your ingredients or use cup measures? And what brand of flour did you use?

  13. 5 stars
    Made this yesterday for a Birthday. It came out stunning and delicious. Very important to watch Zoe’s video on the icing as you have to be patient to let it sit before adding the confectionery sugar but it will get thick and turned out perfect. I also used half of the amount of espresso powder based on personal difference. I had only 10 ounces of bitter, sweet chocolate, and added 4 ounces of semi sweet to make up the difference, and it turned out delicious. I didn’t have time to make the marshmallows so I did cheat but what a gorgeous presentation and a delicious moist cake. Always fun to be able to use my mini food torch (marshmallow topping). Wish I could post the photo as stunning. Thanks, this is a keeper.

  14. 5 stars
    I just make this cake and it turned out great! It was so fun to make, especially toasting the marshmallows!! That icing is a dream to work with.

    1. Hi Jessica, yes when using a Cup4Cup all-purpose gluten-free flour you can substitute the same amount of flour. Enjoy!

  15. Have just made the cake and ice it. I have purchased hand made vanilla marshmallows. Question – do I torch them and then decorate the cake or do I torch them once they are on the cake?

    Smells amazing. Sure it will taste just as good as it looks.

    1. Hi Marguerite! You torch them before they go on the cake, otherwise the frosting will melt. Enjoy!

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