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Chocolate-Flecked Layer Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting

It's our new go-to special-occasion cake: a tall, tender beauty that's sophisticated yet easy to make. What saves the lush milk chocolate frosting from being cloying is the addition of tangy sour cream.

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 12
Chocolate-Flecked Layer Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting

Photography: chris court

Source: Martha Stewart Living, February 2013


  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk plus 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (61 to 70 percent cacao), finely chopped
  • Milk Chocolate Frosting


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans, and line with parchment. Butter paper, and flour pans. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

  2. Beat together butter and sugars with a mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in yolk and eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream and milk, beginning and ending with flour. Fold in chocolate.

  3. Divide batter between pans, and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Bake until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans 20 minutes. Invert cakes, remove pans and parchment, and let cool completely, right side up, on wire racks.

  4. Cut each cake in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Place 1 bottom layer on a platter or cake stand, and spread evenly with 3/4 cup frosting. Repeat with a second layer and another 3/4 cup frosting. Place third layer on top, and spread with another 3/4 cup frosting. Place fourth layer on top. Spread entire cake with remaining frosting (about 2 3/4 cups), smoothing top and sides. Serve immediately, or refrigerate, uncovered, up to 2 days; if refrigerated, let cake come to room temperature before serving.

Cook's Note

This chocolate-flecked creation with milk chocolate frosting is a great party cake. Enriched with shards of bittersweet chocolate and a luxurious frosting, it makes for a dramatic presentation and can be assembled two days ahead of time.

Reviews (23)

  • shano19 10 Jan, 2015

    I love to bake and MS can do no wrong (with recipes at least) in my book. I have no idea why this recipe doesn't have 5 stars. My niece loves chocolate- she would be happy with a chocolate cake with chocolate icing, though the rest of my family doesn't love chocolate as much. This is a perfect compromise between chocolate lovers and non-chocolate fans. This cake is fantastic, and the icing is delightful. 2nd time, made cupcakes (20-25 mins). Chocolate perfection!!

  • ddidier 10 Aug, 2014

    this cake has a fantastic texture, the taste is a little different yet super delicious! i took it to a family event and everybody loved it! we didn't use all the frosting and it was still pretty rich and tasty! (for the chocolate i used a mircoplane and shaved medium sized pieces in, worked great) I would recommend this for a luscious buttery/ chocolaty cake!

  • ADalton4 10 Jul, 2014

    I made this cake. It has too much salt in the batter and not enough sugar. The frosting is incredible!

  • ryepye 21 Apr, 2014

    I made this cake in slightly shallow three 8" pans. This cake has too much salt in the recipe. I also made the frosting with semi-sweet and it worked well.

  • bubbledee22 16 Mar, 2014

    Made this for my brothers birthday party. It was a hit. I did make some changes though. Based on some reviews stating the cake wasn't sweet a enough, I added 1/2 cup of brown sugar, ( including the 1 cup of white sugar)I used salted butter, 1 tsp coarse salt, semisweet baking chocolate for the inside, softassilk cake flour, and mostly plain Greek yogurt for the sour cream. For the frosting. I whipped my own butter from heavy cream, but added a bit more sugar and an oz more of semisweet chocolate

  • Sweet tooth 27 Feb, 2014

    This was easy to make and very good, even better the next day!!
    Made it for a Birthday party everybody loved it :)

  • LuckyHowseWife 26 Jul, 2013

    My 9 year old daughter felt like making a cake today (hottest day of summer...) and found this recipe and made it for us all. Well, what a lovely surprise, it was worth heating up the main floor of the house and I will definitely use it again. She was short on sour cream so used mostly yogurt and used chocolate wafers (whole)in place of flaked chocolate, stating she didn't think she should chop the chocolate herself! She used her own icing recipe (pink buttercream of course). Moist & delicious.

  • HRF22 29 Apr, 2013

    SPECTACULAR CAKE! I don't know what the reviewer below is talking about. The cake was moist and beautifully flavoured. It is a special cake and well worth the price. The icing is to die for! Decadent, divine and not too sweet. I used the entire amount as it shows thickly applied in the photo. Don't skimp. The cake cut beautifully, with perfect slices the stood upright. I used Lindt Excellence Extra Creamy chocolate for the icing and Lindt Excellence 70% for the cake. Small slices suffice.

  • ladykateadams1 21 Apr, 2013

    The frosting is a definite keeper. I'm not usually keen on frosting, but this was luxurious w/o being too sweet. The method was new to me. As with all Martha's frosting recipes, make half. The cake itself was labor-intensive, expensive, and tasteless. Sadly, I knew this when I tested the batter. Next time I will try gently folding chopped chocolate into Betty Crocker's recipe for chiffon cake and top it off with this yummy frosting.

  • Sheryl from Canada 17 Apr, 2013

    I made this for my husband's surprize birthday party - everyone loved it and couldn't believe it wasn't store bought. I followed directions except for the whole milk (used 1%). It was my finest cake moment yet, so easy and SO delicious. I will definately make it again.

  • MsLadyLib 16 Apr, 2013

    I did not yet make this cake, but plan to. I think Austin may have used regulat salt, in which case that much is certainly too much salt. Why the recipe calls for coarse salt, I wonder, but I do think this was his problem.

  • jenwunsch 7 Apr, 2013

    Delicious cake! BUT, it does work better in two 9" springform pans than in the 8" cake pans. AND it did take a longer to cook (in either size pan) than the recipe specified. Make these adjustments and you'll have a cake worthy of any occasion!

  • Ladivadelgolf 3 Apr, 2013

    The best chocolate cake I've ever made.
    I found my chocolate cake recipe.

  • Austin Bakes 1 Apr, 2013

    I was so excited to try this cake. I made it following the directions exactly. Major disappointment - the cake is way too salty. The whole thing is going in the garbage. What a waste of some expensive baking milk chocolate.

  • Fairyanna 26 Mar, 2013

    The batter does not fit in 8 inch pans. It overflowed in the oven. It had to be left in the oven 25 minutes longer than what the recipie states. I wasn't happy with this at all. It's obvious nobody that works for this site has made this cake following this recipe. I thought this was a reputable source for cake recipes, but I was wrong.

  • Elizabeth Nachman 26 Feb, 2013

    I made this recipe exactly as written and it was divine. Perfect amount of frosting, no salt "grit," nicely moist, beautiful presentation. I wouldn't change a thing. Used Belgium dark chocolates bars and just the big Trader Joe's milk chocolate bar for the frosting. I agree--it's a keeper!

  • adinasmith 18 Feb, 2013

    Amazing cake - not too chocolatey, so it's a great compromise for those who do and don't love chocolate. I love chocolate and enjoyed this a lot. However, I made adjustments to the recipe based on taste and comments (mostly due to dry cake...mine was NOT). CHANGES:
    - 1 7/8 Sticks butter
    - 2 tsp regular salt (I don't like chunks in cakes)
    - 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    - 3/4c sugar and 3/4c dark brown sugar, for richness
    - 2 Tsp Vanilla
    - 3/4 half & half
    - 10oz 72% Choc. (+more choc. in frosting)

  • Williams_2047 17 Feb, 2013

    Enter your review...

  • tmkurfust 11 Feb, 2013

    I made this last night for an office birthday and it came out perfect. I used Callebaut bittersweet and milk chocolates. Don't understand how it could come out dry with eggs, butter and sour cream in the batter unless it was over-beaten or over-baked. The frosting was divine and makes a BUCKET, but make sure your chocolate has cooled and your sour cream is cold. Another keeper recipe from Martha.

  • Kristen Smith 31 Jan, 2013

    I've just finished the cake and it tastes great! Here's what I did differently: I used 2 tsps of regular salt. You may want to decrease to 1 tsp if you don't like sweet and salty. To make sure my cake wouldn't be dry, I used an extra egg yolk and only baked it for 30 minutes. It was JUST done. I also didn't beat the ingredients to death. I find that over-worked eggs in cakes and cookies yield a tough, dry cake. Just mix everything until it's mixed. Now for the frosting!

  • KLD6 24 Jan, 2013

    This cake turned out delicious, and my family was impressed. The frosting is wonderful, although I had a lot left over after frosting the cake (too much frosting isn't the worst thing in the world!). It's even better the next day, served warm so the frosting melts a little bit into the cake.

  • patmo 22 Jan, 2013

    This cake looks lovely in the photo and is just as lovely on the plate. But that's the end of it. Fail. There is seriously no flavor in this cake and it was very dry. The frosting recipe is just wrong-- and chilling it/whipping it does not help. Adding more confectioners sugar makes a too-sweet frosting. Expensive ingredients too.

  • Elizabeth Martinez 20 Jan, 2013

    THis cake makes a lovely presentation, but my family did not enjoy the coarse salt crystals throughout the cake. I am new to baking with coarse salt...I don't understand the benefit.

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