This chocolate shard cake has layers of moist chocolate cake and smooth chocolate ganache frosting. The chocolate shards are incredibly easy to make.
The best part is that no hand mixer or stand mixer is required to make this cake!
What makes a good chocolate shard cake
A good chocolate shard cake should be moist and not cloyingly sweet. Coffee enhances the chocolate flavor. Buttermilk makes the cake tender and fluffy.
Ingredients you'll need
For the chocolate cake
For the chocolate ganache frosting
Notes and substitutions
- Unsweetened cocoa powder: Use Dutch-process cocoa powder, preferably. It results in a darker, fudgier cake. I used Hershey's "Special Dark" Cocoa Powder.
- Strong coffee: Use strong brewed coffee or add a heaping teaspoon of instant coffee to ¾ cup of hot water. It will enhance the chocolate flavor and tame the sweetness.
- Eggs: Use the largest eggs you have — they bind the cake together and prevent it from crumbling. Bring them to room temperature to ensure they blend evenly with the batter.
- Oil: Use a neutral-flavored oil like canola, avocado, or other vegetable oils. Mild-tasting oils like coconut and olive oil also work great.
- Dark chocolate: Use chocolate with a high cocoa percentage (semisweet or bittersweet) so that the cake and frosting won't become too sweet. You can use bars, chips, or wafers.
- Buttermilk: It produces moist, fluffy cakes. Make a buttermilk substitute at home or use other cultured dairy products such as yogurt and sour cream.
How to make buttermilk from scratch
(1)Mix a scant cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. (2)Use it within 5 to 10 minutes after it has slightly curdled.
How to make this recipe
Prep and organize
- Use a kitchen scale to measure ingredients. If you don't own one, remember not to pack the flour. Fluff it and spoon it into the measuring cup. Level the top off with a flat edge.
- Prepare two 8-inch or three 6-inch round pans. Grease with oil or butter and line with parchment paper.
- Bring the eggs to room temperature. Submerge them in warm tap water for a few minutes until no longer cool to the touch.
- Finely chop the chocolate — the smaller the pieces, the faster they melt.
Make the frosting
Heat the heavy cream in the microwave or on the stove until very hot. (1)In a small bowl, combine 12 ounces of chocolate and cut-up butter.
Add in the hot cream. (2)Let the chocolate sit for about 2 minutes to melt, then mix.
(3)Stir until smooth. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours until you reach a medium-thick, spreadable consistency.
Stir every 20 minutes to cool evenly. It will thicken the longer it stays in the fridge.
Bake the cake layers
Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit (177° Celsius).
(4)Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a large bowl using a strainer. (5)Whisk together and set aside.
(6)In a medium bowl, combine the hot coffee and 3 ounces of chocolate. Let it sit for 2 minutes to melt the chocolate, then mix together.
(7)Add the buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk together until combined.
(8)Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. (9)Whisk until just combined. Do not overmix.
(10)Divide the batter between two or three pans. Tap them gently on the counter to eliminate holes in the cake.
(11)Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out ALMOST clean.
Let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then finish cooling on a wire rack or on a flat surface.
PRO TIP: To cool faster, freeze the cakes in the pan for about 30 minutes. It will be easier to frost.
Make the shards
(12)Melt 4 ounces of chocolate in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes in 30-second intervals. Do not overheat.
Mix until smooth. (13)With an offset spatula, thinly spread the melted chocolate on parchment paper, approximately 12” x 16” in size.
(14)Place another sheet of the same size on top. Roll it up and seal with tape. Refrigerate for a few minutes or until firm.
(15)Unroll when ready to garnish. Gently lift the pieces to decorate the cake.
Assemble the cake
Note: If you prefer more layers to your cake, divide the layers in half horizontally to make four layers. These cakes bake flat, so leveling shouldn't be necessary.
(16)Fill the cake layers with a thin layer of frosting (about ½ cup) and spread evenly. If you did not divide the cake layers, use half of the frosting to fill the two layers.
(17)Use the rest of the frosting to cover the cake. Decorate with chocolate shards all around the cake.
How to serve and store
Let the chocolate shard cake set for at least an hour in the fridge before serving. Refrigerate and consume within five to seven days.
If wrapped properly, they can be frozen for up to three months. Thaw in the fridge or leave them on the counter until ready.
Frequently asked questions
You can use an equal amount of white whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour. For red whole wheat flour, substitute only up to 50%.
It has a stronger flavor and may leave a grainy mouthfeel if too much is used. In general, the more whole wheat flour you use, the more noticeable differences in flavor, taste, and texture.
It also tends to make cakes crumbly and dry. However, chocolate cakes are more forgiving than other types of baked goods.
Yes. Cakes made with cold eggs won't taste bad. With room temperature eggs, they will blend evenly with other ingredients. Your cake will rise as it should and have an even texture.
Yes, you can easily turn this chocolate shard sake recipe into cupcakes. Fill the cupcake liner ⅔ full or with about 3 tablespoons of batter.
You can make 24 standard cupcakes and bake them at 350° F (177° C) for 10 to 12 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a few crumbs.
More about chocolate cake
If you'd like to know more, here are frequently asked questions about chocolate cake and chocolate ganache frosting including extra tips, troubleshooting, and more.
Watch how I make it here
Other dessert recipes you may like
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Chocolate Shard Cake
- two 8-inch round pans or three 6-inch round pans
- Mixing bowls
- Measuring cups and spoons or kitchen scale
- Strainer or fine-mesh sieve
- Rubber and offset spatulas
For the cake
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour (224 grams) sub: white whole wheat flour
- 1¾ cups granulated sugar (347 grams)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt use half for table salt
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (60 grams) preferably Dutch-process
- ¾ cup strong hot coffee (180 grams) sub: 1 teaspoon instant coffee + hot water
- 3 ounces dark chocolate - semisweet or bittersweet (85 grams ) finely chopped
- 1 cup buttermilk (237 grams ) sub: 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
- 2 extra-large eggs room temperature
- ½ cup canola, avocado, or other vegetable oil (114 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the frosting
- 12 ounces dark chocolate - semisweet or bittersweet (340 grams ) finely chopped
- 1½ cups heavy cream (355 grams) hot
- 3 tablespoons butter (43 grams) cut into small pieces
For the shards
- 4 ounces dark chocolate - semisweet or bittersweet (113 grams) finely chopped
Make the frosting
- Combine 12 ounces chopped chocolate, butter, and hot heavy cream in a bowl. Stir until smooth.
- Refrigerate until medium-thick and spreadable, about 2 hours.
Bake the cake layers
- Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit (177° Celsius).
- In a medium bowl, melt 3 ounces of chocolate in hot coffee. Add the buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk together until combined.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Whisk until just combined.
- Divide the batter between your greased and lined pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out ALMOST clean. Let them cool.
Make the shards
- Melt 4 ounces of chocolate in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes in 30-second intervals. Mix until smooth.
- With an offset spatula, spread the melted chocolate thinly on parchment paper, approximately 12” x 16” in size. Place another sheet of the same size on top. Roll it up and seal with tape.
- Refrigerate for a few minutes or until it has firmed up. Unroll when ready to decorate the cake.
Assemble the cake
- Note: If you prefer more layers to your cake, divide the layers in half horizontally to make four layers. These cakes bake flat, so leveling shouldn't be necessary.
- Fill the cake layers with a thin layer of frosting (about ½ cup) and spread it evenly. If you did not divide the cake, use half the frosting to fill the two layers. Use the rest of the frosting to cover the cake. Decorate with chocolate shards all around the cake.