Soft, moist Chocolate Snack Cake topped with a whipped caramel buttercream. Drizzle with extra caramel and a sprinkle of flaky salt for a decadent yet easy chocolate cake.
Posted: 12/28/2020; Updated: 11/9/2021
Forget the lengthy layer cakes and go for an 8x8 inch snack cake recipe! This Chocolate Snack Cake is make with a salted caramel icing with extra caramel drizzled on top. The chocolate cake is SO moist and soft, and is exactly what you want for a quick chocolate cake fix.
Know what else I love about this snack cake? One bowl, one pan, and easy! Yes, even the caramel part. You don't need a thermometer for this caramel, which I specifically wanted to do so that no one has an excuse not to make this!
It is truly one of the most moist chocolate cake recipes, which is also used as a base for my Double Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes and Triple Chocolate Layer Cake. Soft, light, and packed full of chocolate flavor!
- All-purpose flour. Only one cup (120g) is needed for the recipe.
- Cocoa powder. This recipe calls for dutch processed, which produces a deeper and richer chocolate cake flavor.
- Sugars. Granulated sugar for the cake and caramel, powdered sugar for the frosting.
- Eggs. Large - one full and one yolk. Room temperature!
- Baking soda & baking powder. Both leaveners are used to help the cake rise.
- Milk. Whole milk, at room temperature.
- Sour cream. Full-fat and at room temperature! You could also make the chocolate snack cake with greek yogurt, if that's what you have on hand.
- Heavy whipping cream. For both the caramel and caramel buttercream.
- Vegetable oil. Canola oil can also be used.
- Chocolate. Semi-sweet (60-70% cacao) and chopped. You could also use chocolate chips in a pinch.
- Hot coffee or water. I like to use coffee, but you can certainly use water. The coffee helps to add an additional layer of flavor that I feel comes through.
- Unsalted butter. Room temperature, for the caramel and buttercream.
- Powdered sugar. For the buttercream!
How to make Chocolate Snack Cake
While the cake portion does have a number of ingredients, it's actually a super quick snack cake, so I'd suggest setting out all of your measured ingredients. This not only helps the process go more quickly, but also ensures you don't forget to add anything!
Making the cake
STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 350℉/177℃ and spray and parchment line (with overhangs) an 8x8 inch pan.
STEP 2: In a large bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: sour cream, vegetable oil, milk and eggs. In a smaller bowl (or a measuring cup) add the chopped chocolate, then pour over the hot coffee or water and allow it to stand for about a minute before mixing with a spoon to combine completely.
STEP 3: Sift the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt) directly into the wet ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. It will be rather thick at this point. Then, pour in the hot coffee and chocolate mixture and carefully mix until it's completely incorporated.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the center rack for 25-30 minutes. The cake will be completely set and spring back in the center, and the edges will have slightly pulled away from the sides. Cool the cake for 5 minutes on a wire rack, then use the parchment paper to remove the cake from the pan to finish cooling.
While the cake is cooling, make the caramel. Have all ingredients measured and prepared, as you need to be ready to go once the sugar has melted and turned amber in color.
I suggest watching this short video of the caramel making process before you get started so you know what to look for:
STEP 4: Add the granulated sugar to a medium saucepan and turn the stove on to medium heat. Note that each stove is different, so medium may be too hot for some and too low for others. With adjustments and practice, you will find the sweet spot.
Stir the sugar every 30 seconds, reshaking the pan to even it back out. The sugar will slowly start to moisten, clump up, then will begin to melt and turn amber in color. This can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes on most stovetops.
During the process, focus on texture, color and smell. It will start as white, begin melting, then turn a light yellow and by the time the sugar is totally melted it will be a nice amber. If the sugar is gaining color too quickly but it’s still clumpy, remove it from the heat and swirl for a bit to help melt. See smoke wisps at all? Remove it from the heat. If it smells bitter and acrid in any way, you’ve burnt the sugar and will have to start again.
If the sugar is totally melted but it’s too blonde in color, turn the heat up slightly until it develops an amber color. Remember it will lighten back up as you add the butter and cream.
STEP 5: Once the sugar fully melts and is amber in color, stir in one tablespoon of butter at a time. Then, add the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble up at this point but will settle once the cream is incorporated. Remove the caramel from the heat and add the sea salt and vanilla and pour into a heat proof bowl.
Strain the caramel through a fine mesh sieve if there are still any chunks of sugar remaining.
Stir the caramel every few minutes to release the heat and thicken up. It needs to be quite cool before adding to the frosting, or else it will melt the buttercream!
Making the caramel frosting
STEP 6: Add the room temperature butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream the butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
With the mixer running on low, spoon in half of the powdered sugar until it's combined, and then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds to bring the fluff level back up.
Reduce the speed to low, and add the remaining powdered sugar until mostly combined. Drizzle in a tablespoon of heavy cream at a time and increase the speed to medium until a light, fluffy frosting has developed.
STEP 7: Drizzle in ¼ cup of the cooled caramel and mix on low until combined.
Spread the buttercream over the cooled cake then drizzle the rest of the caramel over top of the buttercream. Sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt. Slice and serve.
Make swoops in the buttercream while frosting the cake to hold more of the caramel sauce.
Store the cake in the fridge, lightly covered, for 5 days. Bring the cake (or slices) to room temperature before enjoying.
If necessary, you can freeze the baked cake by wrapping tightly in both plastic wrap and foil. It can be stored for one month and thawed, uncovered, at room temperature before frosting.
Other recipes to try
- Triple Chocolate Layer Cake
- Caramel Brownie Pie
- Double Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes
- Dark Chocolate Pots de Creme
Pin for Later
Chocolate Snack Cake (with Caramel Frosting)
- 8x8 inch pan
- Stand mixer with paddle attachment, or handheld mixer
- Parchment paper
- 1 cup all-purpose flour 120g
- 1 cup granulated sugar 200g
- ⅓ cup cocoa powder dutch processed (35g)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup full-fat sour cream room temperature (60g)
- ¼ cup vegetable or canola oil 50g
- ¼ cup whole milk room temperature (65g)
- 1 large egg + 1 yolk room temperature
- ¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate or chocolate chips chopped (50g)
- ½ cup hot coffee or water 4 fl oz
- ½ cup granulated sugar 100g
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature (42g)
- ¼ cup heavy whipping cream 60ml
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
Caramel Buttercream Frosting
- ½ cup unsalted butter room temperature (113g)
- 3 cups powdered sugar 360g
- ¼ cup caramel 80g
- 3-4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- Flaky Sea Salt for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350℉/177℃ and grease and parchment line an 8x8” baking pan with overhangs.
- In a bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the sour cream, vegetable oil, whole milk, eggs and whisk to combine.
- In a small bowl, add the hot coffee or water and chocolate and allow to stand for about a minute, then mix to combine.
- Add the dry ingredients to the sour cream mixture and mix to combine using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. It will be a bit thick at this point.
- Stir together the coffee and chocolate, then add to the batter and carefully mix to fully combine. Pour the batter into the prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 -30 minutes until the edges have started to pull away from the sides and the center is no longer jiggly. A toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean.
- Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes on a wire rack, then transfer the cake (using the parchment overhangs) out of the pan to the rack to finish cooling. Make the caramel while the cake cools.
- Add the sugar to a medium saucepan over medium heat and spread evenly. Stir the sugar every 15-30 seconds. It will start to get wet, will then clump up and crystallize as it melts, then fully melt, turning to a deep amber color.
- Add the softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring to melt and incorporate before adding the next tablespoon.
- Next, add the heavy cream and salt and continue mixing. The caramel will bubble up at this point, but don’t be alarmed.
- Once combined, turn off the heat, pour in the vanilla, and stir. Carefully pour the caramel into a heat proof bowl or jar to cool and thicken slightly.
Caramel Buttercream Frosting
- Cream the butter for about 3 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy.
- With the mixer running on low, spoon in half of the powdered sugar until combined, then beat on medium for about 30 seconds.
- Reduce the speed to low, and add the remaining powdered sugar until mostly combined. Drizzle in a tablespoon of heavy cream at a time and increase the speed to medium until a light, fluffy frosting has developed.
- Drizzle in ¼ cup of caramel and mix until combined.
- Spread the buttercream over the cooled cake, making swoops that will hold the remaining caramel sauce. Drizzle the rest of the caramel over top of the buttercream, then sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt. Slice and serve.