Suzanne’s Chocolate Cake


Rich, moist, three-layer chocolate cake with a butter cocoa frosting. An easy chocolate cake recipe from scratch.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Homemade Chocolate Cake with a Story

My friend Suzanne served in the Peace Corps for two years in Kenya in the late Eighties. The Peace Corps at that time published a recipe book for their volunteers that provided a recipe for how to make chocolate cake. It was special in that one could mix it in one pot, use vegetable oil, which was more readily available than butter, and cook in the same pot over a charcoal brazier.

Suzanne perfected the recipe, especially for cooking over the brazier, and since she had the only home for miles around with a cement floor, a tin roof, and good water, she would often play hostess to nearby volunteers and serve them this chocolate cake (usually sans frosting).

Once Suzanne returned to the States, she then spent months of trial and error, and several burnt chocolate cakes, to adjust the recipe for the best chocolate cake (oven-cooked with layering and frosting). It is now her family’s favorite cake, which they dub “Kenya Cake”. A rich, easy to make chocolate cake, with a great history. Thanks so much Suzanne!

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Suzanne’s Chocolate Cake Recipe



  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp unsweetened natural cocoa
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 5 large or 4 extra large/jumbo eggs
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla


  • 1 box powdered sugar (1 pound or 454 grams)
  • 3/4 cup cocoa (use Van Houten, Droste, or other dark, high quality alkalized unsweetened cocoa)
  • A flavoring liquid (water, vanilla, rum, cognac, kirsch, or amaretto)
  • 1 1/2 cup butter - firm, not cold, not too soft



Preheat oven to 350°F.

1 In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and cocoa.

2 Add 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of water and 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Mix for 1 minute.

3 Add eggs, 3/4 cup of water, vanilla. Mix 5-6 minutes with a whisk, 3-4 minutes with a hand mixer, or 2 minutes with a KitchenAid mixer.

4 Pour into three 10" cake pans, bake at 350°F for 25-35 minutes (adjust for convection); test by placing and removing a toothpick through the center at 25 minutes. When toothpick comes out clean, loosen from pans and then put back in the pans. Let cakes cool for 15 minutes. Keep in the pans, wrap in foil, and put in the freezer for at least 2 hours.


This part is a little harder as it is really done to taste.

1 Put powdered sugar and 3/4 cup cocoa into a food processor. Pulse until blended.

2 Drizzle in, until about the consistency of firm butter, several tablespoons of flavoring liquid (water if you aren't looking for flavor beyond the cocoa and butter). To not put in too much liquid, but if you do, add cocoa or sugar. Taste. When the flavor and consistency is right,

3 add 1 1/2 cup of butter (firm, not cold and not too soft). A good rule of thumb is that both the butter and the sugar mixture should be slightly firmer than you would want it to be to spread it, since the mixing action of the food processor will warm it slightly. Pulse until blended.

Assembling the cake:

Remove the cakes from the freezer and from their pans. Stack, frosting each layer as you go. Let sit for an hour before serving.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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85 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Ειρηνη Παπαδόγιαννη-Κουκούτση

    This is the only and best chocolate cake recipe I need…I’ve been using this recipe since 2012…. always make chocolate cupcakes with it too … makes 32 to 36 fantastic little treats everyone loves…thanks for the recipe


  2. Manjula

    For years, I have been attempting to make a chocolate cake with a frosting that was rich in flavor but not excessively sweet. I baked this cake for my daughter’s birthday and she loved it. The cake tastes even better the next day (if you are lucky to have any left over, that is). Thank you SO much for this recipe!


  3. Cathy

    This is my go to chocolate cake. It is simple and very moist. I’m from Kenya and cakes made over the jiko are the best. Tt gives a different flavor from the oven and i can’t wait to try this on one when i go visit.


  4. Courtney

    We love this cake! I make it for my kids’ birthdays–they demand it! It does dome up a bit, but that just means more snacking for me … It’s super moist, really chocolatey, and comes out of the pans easily. The batter does seem watery but it always bakes up well. The only thing we do differently is the frosting–I make Smitten’s instant fudge frosting (also in the food processor, but it uses melted chocolate instead of cocoa).


  5. Nikki

    Is the powdered sugar can be replace by icng sugar?or they just the same?i’m trying this recipe for the first time.

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