Donna Hay’s chocolate buttermilk layer cake

Donna Hay’s chocolate buttermilk layer cake (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

The food team at The Pretty Blog have recently started talking about sharing our ultimate classic recipes, starting with 3 of the best chocolate cakes. That means not only me, but also Nicola (the editor) and Tasha (the photographer) have baked their favourite chocolate cakes! All 3 cakes were DELICIOUS, really moist, and really luxurious. Check out Nicola and Tasha’s recipes here.

Donna Hay’s chocolate buttermilk layer cake:

The reason that I love this cake so much, is that it is really moist and dense – the recipe does not include any baking powder, but rather buttermilk and a small amount of baking soda. It delivers big time on the wow factor as well! I double the recipe for maximum height and effect, and it’s always a hit. The chocolate cream cheese icing is also ultra smooth and almost tastes like a rich chocolate mousse.

Ingredients: (makes one medium sized cake with 2 layers, but I double the recipe to make one large cake with 4 layers, baking it in 2 batches)

1 cup (250 ml) water

125 g butter, cubed

1/3 cup (35 g) cocoa powder, sifted

2 cups (300 g) flour, sifted

1 t (5 ml) baking soda, sifted (bicarbonate of soda)

2 cups (440 g) caster sugar

2 eggs

½ cup (125 ml) buttermilk

1 t (5 ml) vanilla essence/extract

For the frosting: (Donna uses 500 g cream cheese, but I found that 250 g is sufficient)

100 g butter, softened

250 g cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups icing sugar, sifted

½ cup (50 g) cocoa powder, sifted


  1. Pre-heat oven to 160 C.
  2. Place water, butter and cocoa in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until butter has melted. Remove from heat.
  3. Place flour, baking soda and sugar in a bowl, add the cocoa mixture and whisk to combine.
  4. Add the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and whisk to combine. Divide mixture between 2 greased and lined 20 cm round cake tins, then bake for 40-45 min or until cooked when tested with a skewer.
  5. Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out on wire racks to cool completely.
  6. For the frosting: place the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 6-8 minutes until pale and creamy. Add the icing sugar and cocoa and beat for a further 6-8 minutes until light and fluffy.
  7. To assemble, slice off the round tops of each cake layer to produce 2 smooth, flat layers (I use a long blade sharp knife). Place one layer on a plate, spread with frosting, then put remaining half on top and cover with frosting.


This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Pictures: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius, Tasha Seccombe & Ilse van der Merwe.

Nicola, Ilse and Tasha’s ultimate chocolate cakes (photography by Tasha Seccombe)


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1 Comment

  1. Gloria de Ellis

    exente torta …el glaseado es una delicia ,felicidades,gracias por compartir la receta.

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