Chocolate Velvet Cake or Muffins

Chocolate velvet cupcakes

Some might find it strange but I’m not actually the biggest fan of chocolate cake. Not that I would turn it down if offered it (good grief!), but given a choice, it’s quite far down the list – definitely after cheesecake and carrot cake. Having said that though, I have recently been on a mission to find the perfect chocolate cake recipe and I think I may finally have succeeded.

The interesting thing is that this recipe is actually an adaption of a red velvet cake, only with less sugar, more cocoa, some coffee and definitely no red food colouring. After doing a bit of research on the subject, I discovered that what defines a traditional ‘red velvet cake’ is not in fact the redness, but the velvety texture. The red colour was originally merely the result of a reaction between the ingredients (which were far less refined in those days), and is now usually produced by adding a load of red food colouring – and I do mean a load.

Since what I was after was the texture, I started with this traditional red velvet recipe from Leelabean Bakes (thanks Leelabean!) and made all my changes from there. I have it on good authority from my friend Alice – who is the biggest fan of chocolate cake – that the final result is delicious!

A couple of things to bear in mind:

It’s a good idea to have the butter as close to room temperature as possible as it makes beating it in much easier. (Warning: Use a BIG bowl when you beat it in or you may end up with crumbs of mixture all over your kitchen counter!) Having the eggs and buttermilk at room temperature too helps with the chemical reaction that creates that velvety texture, but if you forget to leave those out the fridge beforehand, it’s not a disaster.

I went for the cupcake variation when I made this recipe, but you could equally well use it to make a full cake instead. Serve it iced with chocolate icing, sprinkled with icing sugar or plain, in which case it would be fantastic with cream, icecream and/or some berries.


  • 2c cake flour
  • 1c white sugar
  • 6T cocoa powder
  • 1t baking soda
  • ½t salt
  • 1c oil
  • ¼c strong coffee, made from 2T prepared ground coffee or 4t of instant coffee
  • 4T butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1c buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1T vanilla extract
  • 3t white or red wine vinegar

Optional to serve:

  • Chocolate icing (see recipe below); or
  • Icing sugar to sprinkle over; and/or
  • Cream or icecream; and/or
  • Fresh berries

Chocolate icing ingredients

  • 100g butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ – 2c icing sugar
  • 2 – 3T cocoa powder
  • 1T strong coffee


Preheat oven to 180°C. If you are using real coffee, make it now using only about half a cup of boiling water (you will actually only use a quarter cup but it’s easier to make half), then leave it to get nice and strong. If you only have instant coffee, dissolve that in about a quarter cup of boiling water.

If you’re using cake tins, it’s a good idea to grease them and line the bases with greaseproof or baking paper. If you’re using cupcake or muffin pans, grease each one with butter or oil or use muffin cases.

Measure the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt into a big bowl, and mix it all up well.

Flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt

Mix the dry ingredients

Now add the room-temperature butter and the oil.

Add butter and oil

Beat with an electric beater. At first you will just have a mass of crumbs (hopefully flying around the big bowl rather than around your kitchen). Add your coffee now too, which makes the mix moister and helps to pull it together.

Beat in oil and butter

If you keep going, it usually comes together to form a thick mixture. If it still doesn’t come together after a minute or so (this depends on the flour, amongst other things), add some of the egg mixture from the next step.

Mix coming together

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and vinegar – you should end up with a fairly smooth mix.

Eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and vinegar

Buttermilk mix

Pour about a quarter of it into the flour mix and beat it for a few seconds.

Starting to add buttermilk mix

Then the next quarter and beat, and so on until it’s all added and mixed in.

Adding more buttermilk mix

Buttermilk all mixed in

Divide the mix between your cake or muffin pans, filling the muffin pans about ¾ full. This mixture doesn’t rise too much as it’s quite dense, but it does need some room.

Fill muffin pans (or cake tins)

Bake until you put in a skewer and it comes out clean. The muffins take about 20 minutes and a cake should take around 30 minutes, but start testing five minutes before, and then every few minutes after the time. When they’re ready, remove from the oven and let them cool in the pan.

If you are making chocolate icing, beat the butter until it’s soft and fluffy, then add the icing sugar half a cup at a time. Taste after adding 1½ cups and if you want more sweetness, add the rest of the icing sugar. When it’s incorporated, add the cocoa, again starting with 2T and tasting to see how strong it is before adding the rest. Finally beat in the coffee.

When the cake is completely cool either simply sieve icing over or ice with chocolate icing before serving.

Chocolate velvet cupcakes ready to serve


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© Alexandra Lawrence and Inspired Nourishment, 2014



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