Easy Chocolate Sour Cream Cake with Cake Mix (+ Chocolate Frosting)

This easy sour cream chocolate cake uses a cake mix as the base and a few extra ingredients to make it extra moist, and to give it that from scratch, homemade taste but in much less time.

The great thing about this cake is that it’s so easy and quick to mix up thanks to the fact that you’ll start with a cake mix and you’ll only use one bowl.

Hey there! Before you scroll, there are lots of helpful things in this post…including an FAQ section, which may answer any questions you might have about this recipe. Enjoy!

Table of Contents:

Doctoring up a chocolate cake mix is the easiest way to make a really delicious chocolate cake without having to spend a ton of time in the kitchen.

You can top this chocolate cake with homemade chocolate buttercream, and no one will know you started it all off with a box mix.

This is one of those easy recipes you’ll turn to over and over. It makes the best birthday cake and it’s a favorite with kids and adults alike.

Pin graphic with chocolate cake and icing with fork.

Ingredient Notes:

Now let’s talk about some of the ingredients that are in this one-bowl chocolate cake. (The list of all ingredients are in the recipe card below.)

Chocolate cake mix: You’ll start this cake off with a cake mix, but you’ll doctor it up to make it taste more homemade. I used Betty Crocker’s Chocolate Fudge Cake, but any 15 oz. chocolate cake mix should work.

Instant chocolate pudding mix: Adding in a dry chocolate pudding mix will pump up the moistness and the chocolate flavor.

Sour cream: Sour cream just makes cakes taste better and makes the texture amazingly soft and moist. It also helps bring out the other flavors.

Oil, milk and eggs: This cake turns out moist partly because of the sour cream and partly because of the oil, milk and eggs that are added.

Vanilla extract: It may sound weird to add vanilla extract to a chocolate cake, but I promise it’s good. The vanilla isn’t overpowering, it just brings out the flavor of the chocolate and helps to give this cake a homemade taste.

Butter, cocoa powder, vanilla, confectioners sugar and milk: These ingredients will be used to make the homemade chocolate buttercream. Adding scratch frosting onto a doctored layer cake makes it a classic cake that people will absolutely love.

If you want to go an even easier route, you could always use canned chocolate frosting, although personally, I think homemade chocolate buttercream is worth the effort.

Top view of easy cake with chocolate frosting on a plate.

How to Make this Cake:

Let’s talk about how to make this easy chocolate cake. (The exact instructions are in the recipe card below.)

Step 1:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, then grease and flour or spray two, 8-inch round cake pans very well.

Step 2:

Add all the cake ingredients to a large bowl.

Step 3:

Mix with an electric mixer on medium to medium-high speed for about two minutes. The batter will be thick.

Step 4:

Next, spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes. The cake is done baking when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs or clean, but no raw batter.

Process collage of mixing cake batter.

Step 5:

Once baked, set the warm cake layers onto a cooling rack to cool for about 10 minutes.

Step 6:

After 10 minutes, turn the cakes out onto the cooling racks to cool completely before adding frosting.

Step 7:

Next, make the frosting. Mix the butter, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla extract well with an electric mixer on medium to medium-high speed until very smooth.

Step 8:

Add three cups of the confectioner’s sugar and 3 tablespoons of milk and mix on low until incorporated, then on medium until well mixed.

Process collage with cake and buttercream.

Step 9:

Add the other two cups of the confectioner’s sugar and mix on low until incorporated, then on medium until well mixed.
Check the consistency. If it’s too thick, add another tablespoon of milk. If it’s too thin, add another 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar and mix well.

Once the desired consistency is reached, mix on medium-high speed for about a minute, so the icing becomes fluffy.

Step 10:

Set one cooled cake layer onto a cake plate and add frosting on top.

Step 11:

Set the other cake layer on top, then cover it all with the chocolate buttercream frosting.

Step 12:

Serve at room temperature.

Process collage of icing chocolate cake.

Tips & FAQs:

What brand cake mix should I use?

You could most likely use any 15 oz. box of chocolate cake mix. I used Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix. I personally prefer using Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines.

Can I use any flavor of chocolate cake mix?

You most likely can, but it will change the flavor slightly depending on which chocolate cake mix you use.

Should I add the ingredients listed on the back of the cake mix box?

No, just add the cake mix dry and add in the other ingredients called for in the recipe card, but not from the back

Should I add the ingredients listed on the box for the pudding?

No, don’t prepare the pudding. It needs to be added dry.

Can I substitute the sour cream?

Sour cream is best, but if you can’t get it, you can use plain yogurt instead. You can also use plain Greek yogurt.

Tip for pre-heating:

Make sure to pre-heat the oven. It’s important that the oven be the correct temperature when the cakes are put in to bake, so that they’ll rise properly and not turn out dense.

How can I tell when this cake is done baking?

This cake is fully baked when a toothpick inserted into the middle of each layer comes out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean.

Do I have to make the homemade frosting? Is there an easier option?

If you don’t want to make homemade frosting, you can just use a can or two of pre-made, store-bought chocolate frosting or your preferred frosting flavor.

I don’t have unsalted butter, can I use salted butter for the frosting?

Unsalted is really best, but if you can’t get it, use the salted, but omit the salt that’s called for in the recipe.

What type of cocoa powder should I use for the frosting?

It’s best to use natural unsweetened cocoa powder. You can use Dutch-processed if that’s all you have, but the natural cocoa powder has more of a chocolaty flavor to it.
Do not use chocolate drink mix though as that is not the same thing as cocoa powder. Cocoa powder can be found on the baking aisle at your local grocery store.

Can this cake be frozen?

This cake can be made ahead of time and frozen if desired. Let the baked cake cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and foil and place in the freezer for up to a month.
To thaw, place the wrapped cake on the counter at room temperature and let thaw completely, then remove the wrapping. Once defrosted, add the buttercream.

How do I store this cake and how long does it last?

This cake can be stored, well covered, at room temperature for approximately 4 days, then stored in the refrigerator for another 2 days to prolong freshness. This cake can last up to 6 days when stored properly.

What’s the best way to serve/eat this cake?

This cake is best served at room temperature. If cold, allow it to come to room temperature before serving or pop a slice in the microwave and warm for about 10 seconds.

Can this cake be made into cupcakes?

I have not tested this recipe out as cupcakes, but it should work just fine. Fill 2 cupcake pans (24 cupcakes) with cupcake liners and fill each liner with batter about 2/3 of the way full. Bake at 350 degrees F and start checking for doneness at around 20-25 minutes.

Slice of chocolate cake with frosting and a fork on a plate.

Supplies used for this recipe:

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

Video:

Large slice of chocolate sour cream cake on a plate with a fork.

Easy Chocolate Sour Cream Cake with Cake Mix (+ Chocolate Frosting)

This easy chocolate cake uses a cake mix as the base and a few extra ingredients to make it extra moist, and to give it that from scratch, homemade taste but in much less time.
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chocolate buttercream frosting, chocolate sour cream cake
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 628kcal
Author: Kara @ Quick and Easy Baking

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 (15.24 ounce) box chocolate cake mix, dry (I used Betty Crocker's Chocolate Fudge Cake)
  • 1 (3.9 ounce) box Jello instant chocolate pudding mix, dry
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (4 sticks)
  • 2/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk

Instructions

For the cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour or spray two, 8 inch round cake pans very well.
  • In a large bowl, mix all the cake ingredients with an electric mixer on medium to medium-high speed for about two minutes. Batter will be thick.
  • Spread the batter evenly into the pans and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes. Cake is done baking when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs or clean, but no raw batter.
  • Once baked, set the warm cake layers onto a cooling rack to cool for about 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the cooling racks to cool completely before adding frosting.

For the frosting:

  • Mix the butter, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla extract well with an electric mixer on medium to medium-high speed until very smooth.
  • Add three cups of the confectioner’s sugar and 3 tablespoons of milk and mix on low until incorporated, then on medium until well mixed.
  • Add the other two cups of the confectioner’s sugar and mix on low until incorporated, then on medium until well mixed.
  • Check the consistency. If it’s too thick, add another tablespoon of milk. If it’s too thin, add another 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar and mix well.
  • Once the desired consistency is reached, mix on medium-high speed for about a minute, so the icing becomes fluffy.
  • Add frosting to cooled cake.

Notes

This cake can be stored, well covered, at room temperature for approximately 4 days, then stored in the refrigerator for another 2 days to prolong freshness. This cake can last up to 6 days when stored properly.
This cake is best served at room temperature. If cold, allow it to come to room temperature before serving or pop a slice in the microwave and warm for about 10 seconds.
For an easier frosting, you could use pre-made canned frosting.
Nutritional values are an estimate. Make sure to check out the TIPS & FAQs for this recipe in the blog post, which may answer questions you may have.
*This recipe card may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition

Calories: 628kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 46g | Saturated Fat: 24g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 149mg | Sodium: 43mg | Potassium: 150mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 51g | Vitamin A: 1167IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 1mg
DislaimersTo see food safety, allergy & nutrition disclaimers, go here: Disclaimers!

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Pin graphic of cake batter and slice of chocolate cake.

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