Kirbie's Cravings

Cook’s Illustrated Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

photo of a slice of Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

Two weeks ago I tried out a sour cream chocolate cake recipe, in my hunt to find the perfect chocolate cake.  The recipe was easy to put together and it was fluffy and moist but was missing a deep chocolate taste.  I got a comment from a reader, Meryl, who recommended the sour cream chocolate cake recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.  Meryl was also kind enough to email me helpful tips on making the cake, and suggesting that I serve it with whipped cream.

The recipe had a few extra steps compared to the other chocolate cake recipes I’ve tried, as well as a few extra ingredients.  But if it was really that good, then I guess it would be worth the extra effort.

It wasn’t hard to put together, but there were a lot of steps. And for some reason, I was making quite a mess and managed to feed my clothes a bit of chocolate batter.  Meryl had commented that the cake tastes even richer the next day, after letting it sit, but I couldn’t wait that long.  I could barely wait for the cake to finish cooling!

photo of a chocolate bundt cake

I served the cake with whipped cream, which I thought was the perfect complement to the cake. The cake is moist and had a very rich, decadent, chocolate taste. I think any icing would be too much for the cake.  The whipped cream is light and not too sweet and helps the cake from being too overwhelmingly rich.  I enjoyed the cake, and think it’s my favorite chocolate cake recipe so far.  My siblings, who have tasted the various chocolate cake recipes, liked the cake a lot too. Little Sis, who loves chocolate flavored desserts, was especially excited to try this cake and enjoyed it.

close-up photo of a chocolate bundt cake

I followed the recipe as written, except that I didn’t do the cake release.  Instead, I just used some baking spay.


Cook's Illustrated Chocolate Cake

Servings: 1 (12-cup) bundt cake
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
This cake is moist and has a very rich and decadent chocolate flavor. Instead of icing the cake, I like to serve it with whipped cream which keeps the cake from being to rich.


Cake Release (see note)

  • 1 tbsp butter melted
  • 1 tbsp cocoa


  • 3/4 cup (2.25-oz) Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate chopped
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder optional
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup sour cream room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups (8.75-oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter room temperature
  • 2 cups (14-oz) light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs room temperature
  • confectioners' sugar for dusting


  • Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 12-cup bundt can with baking spray or follow the instruction below for the cake release.

Prepare the Cake Release (optional)

  • Stir together butter and cocoa in small bowl until paste forms; using a pastry brush, coat all interior surfaces of standard 12-cup Bundt pan.

Make the Cake

  • Combine cocoa, chocolate, and espresso powder (if using) in medium heatproof bowl; pour boiling water over and whisk until smooth. Cool to room temperature; then whisk in sour cream.
  • Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda in second bowl to combine.
  • In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs one at a time, mixing about 30 seconds after each addition and scraping down bowl with rubber spatula after first 2 additions.
  • Reduce to medium-low speed; add about one-third of flour mixture and half of chocolate/sour cream mixture and mix until just incorporated about 20 seconds. Scrape bowl and repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining chocolate mixture; add remaining flour mixture and beat until just incorporated about 10 seconds. Scrape bowl and mix on medium-low until batter is thoroughly combined about 30 seconds.
  • Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan, being careful not to pour batter on sides of pan. Bake until wooden skewer inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes.
  • Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto parchment-lined wire rack; cool to room temperature, about 3 hours. Dust with confectioners' sugar, transfer to serving platter, and cut into wedges.


  • I used a baking pan spray to prepare the pan and didn't do the cake release part, but I have included the instructions.
  • Recipe found on Odd Muse

The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.

Did you make this recipe?I'd love to see it! Mention @KirbieCravings and tag #kirbiecravings!

20 comments on “Cook’s Illustrated Sour Cream Chocolate Cake”

  1. Hey Kirbie,
    I’m glad everyone loved the cake!

  2. Mmm… looks great! I will definitely be trying this. And probably using baking spray too!!!!

  3. Thanks again for recommending the recipe! The cake was a big hit and I can’t wait to make it again.

  4. Baking spray is definitely easier. There’s a couple out there like Joy of Baking. The one I used was by Pam, and it’s a spray especially for baking (it has oil and flour already inside the spray). It’s worked really well on my bundt cakes.

  5. Looks moist and delicious

  6. You should definitely try it out! It’s a great cake for chocolate lovers.

  7. Pingback: Sour Cream Chocolate Cake | Kirbie Cravings

  8. Pingback: Chocolate Orange Christmas Bundt | Measuring Spoons

  9. I just made this and honestly it was very disappointing. Not rich or flavorful at all. Well below average. I followed everything to a T, including room temp butter and eggs, real vanilla, etc. The search continues.

    • I’m sorry you feel that way. I found the cake very rich and this is my favorite chocolate cake recipe. And I know a lot of other people love it too.

  10. sometimes people have so much delicious rich food that nothing impresses them!

    • Haha. I wonder if maybe something might have gone wrong in his version. I know he said he followed the recipe, but I’ve had experiences where I think I followed the recipe perfectly but I did mess up. I’ve always found this cake recipe to be super rich and this is my first time hearing it wasn’t rich from someone.

  11. Absolutely! Thank you for publishing this recipe. I know from reading your post that I can trust you because you mentioned you were on the “hunt to find the perfect chocolate cake”, just like I am. I have been looking for years for the best choc cake recipe. And, you are spot on, this is the BEST I have come across so far. The cake I whipped up following this recipe looks exactly like yours. I love how the bottom part tends to sink and become dense and moist at that layer. Nevertheless, it is a lot of work. I just don’t like using my electric hand mixer – I got a bit of butter + sugar & chocolate batter over my clothes and on the floor! I LOVE THE CAKE!!! I’m keeping the last 3/4 for myself (shared the rest with family) for the entire week coming up! 😀

  12. I have this recipe from the cook illustrated magz i bought few christmas ago. It used “Natural cocoa” and not “Dutch process”. The reason they said “It’s assertive flavor with fruity undertones stood up better to the sour cream in the recipe”. I guess its a matter of preference. Either chocolate is good 🙂 Very good indeed!

  13. By the way if you are looking for a great very chocolatey cake that melts in your mouth that is black and heavenly…try Regan Daley from the book “In the sweet Kitchen” Black Chocolate Espresso Cake with Bittersweet Glaze.

  14. Best chocolate cake recipe ever… deeply chocolatey without off flavors, perfect moist and fluffy texture. and I’ve tried many. This won a blue ribbon at the county fair.

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