This easy black velvet cake is made with one-bowl chocolate cake and fluffy chocolate-hazelnut buttercream! It’s rich, moist, pitch black, and the ultimate Halloween party dessert. Even better, it comes together super quickly and doesn’t use food coloring. It’s a chocolate lover’s dream cake!

Black velvet cake with witch decorations on a marble and wood cake stand next to slices of cake and candles with a grey and dark green background.

Ok, how excited are we for Halloween?! It’s one of my favorite holidays so I’m actually pretty bummed that spooky season is coming to an end. We spent all weekend dressing up and going to Halloween parties and events with our friends.

I dressed up as a kitty, drank a bit too much black Halloween sangria (oops), ate a whole lot of this Halloween charcuterie board, roller skated, and danced to emo music. It was the best!

But maybe the best part was, after coming home and scrubbing way to much makeup off my face, I’d get in my sweats and settle down with a slice of this cake while watching New Girl re-runs. As far as I’m concerned, the only cure for being absolutely exhausted but needing to work off some booze is a big old slice of chocolate cake. Let’s make it friends!

Why you’ll love this cake

Ok we need to chat about this cake because it’s one of my new favorites. It’s based off of the classic chocolate cake recipe that I learned how to make in pastry school. But, it’s made with a secret ingredient for that gorgeous black color.

  • This cake is light, moist, one-bowl, and deeply chocolatey.
  • If you’re a fan of Nutella, you’ll love the chocolate hazelnut frosting.
  • It’s nice and spooky for a Halloween party or get-together.
  • There’s no food coloring – that black color is all natural.

The ingredients

Grey and white bowls of flour, oil, sugar, milk, Nutella, powdered sugar, black cocoa powder, butter, vanilla, and salt on a grey speckled counter.

For the cake

  • Sugar – regular granulated white sugar will add sweetness to the cake.
  • Buttermilk – this will give us that light, tender crumb. Go for whole milk buttermilk!
  • Canola oil – this is an oil-based cake which adds a ton of moisture. I use canola but any neutral baking oil will work.
  • Eggs – a couple of eggs add flavor, structure, and make sure that the batter is smooth and well-mixed.
  • Vanilla extract – just a dash of vanilla extract will give us a classic ‘red velvet’ flavor.
  • Flour – regular all-purpose flour will add structure to the batter.
  • Baking soda – this will be our leavening agent which will make the cake nice and fluffy.
  • Kosher salt – just a pinch to offset the sweetness.
  • Black cocoa – this is the secret ingredient for making a naturally-colored black cake!

For the buttercream

  • Unsalted butter – to give the buttercream structure, fluffiness, and flavor.
  • Chocolate hazelnut spread – Nutella is the most common, but I’ve found some artisan brands that would be delicious too.
  • Powdered sugar – to add sweetness and structure to the buttercream.
  • Black cocoa powder – again, this is the secret to that black frosting!
  • Whole milk – to loosen up the frosting just a bit so it’s not too thick.
  • Kosher salt – so the frosting isn’t super sweet.

Ingredient Alternatives

  • Buttermilk – if you don’t want to buy buttermilk, you can make your own. Just add 1 Tablespoon (15 milliliters) of white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Then, add whole milk up until the 1 cup fill line (225 milliliters). Whisk with a fork and let it sit for 10 minutes before you add it to the recipe.
  • Black cocoa – if you can’t find black cocoa, you can use either Dutch-processed or regular cocoa instead (preferably Dutch-processed because it’s more similar to black cocoa). The color won’t be as dark but it will have a similar taste and texture!
  • Chocolate hazelnut spread – for a nut-free version, use a regular chocolate spread. Or, try peanut butter, sun butter, or whatever nut butter you like!

How to make this Halloween cake

This cake is a total dream if you like a super easy, quick, one-bowl situation. The recipe is foolproof and super un-fussy. I’ve seriously been making it for over 10 years and it comes out super delicious every single time!

Six steps to making black velvet cake. In photo 1, buttermilk, oil, eggs, vanilla, and sugar are in a white bowl on a white counter next to empty white bowls. In photo 2, a hand is whisking the mixture. In photo 3, flour is added to the bowl. In photo 4, the bowl has black cocoa in it. In photo 5, a hand is whisking the batter. In photo 6, a hand is using an offset spatula to spread the batter into a pan.

Bake the cakes

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, buttermilk, canola oil, eggs, and vanilla extract.
  2. Next, add the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Stir just until the batter forms.
  3. Then, divide the batter between 3 prepared 6-inch cake pans. Bake just until an inserted toothpick has a few moist crumbs on it. Let the cakes cool completely.

Pro tip!

Don’t over-mix the batter, or it will come out dense and dry. You want to whisk the cake batter just until it comes together. This will keep the cake moist, light, and fluffy!

Six steps to making chocolate hazelnut frosting and decorating a cake. In photo 1, a hand uses a rubber spatula to spoon chocolate hazelnut spread into a white bowl of butter on a white counter next to a black linen. In photo 2, the hand adds black cocoa powder. In photo 3, the hand adds powdered sugar to the frosting. In photo 4, the hand uses a mixer to whip the frosting. In photo 5, a hand is using an offset spatula to frost a cake. In photo 6, a hand is placing witch decorations on top of the cake.

Make the frosting

  1. In a bowl, beat the butter and chocolate-hazelnut spread until smooth. Add the black cocoa and mix just until combined.
  2. Next, add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until a thick buttercream forms. Add a pinch of salt and a few tablespoons of milk until you get your desired texture.
  3. Whip the buttercream for 2-3 minutes until it’s nice and fluffy. The buttercream will get lighter when you beat it, but don’t worry. It will get darker the longer it sits!

Assemble the cake

  1. If necessary, level the domes off the top of the cake layers. Stack the cake, spreading an even layer of buttercream in-between each cake round.
  2. Next, frost the outside of the cake using an offset spatula or butter knife. If you want smooth sides, use a bench scraper to even out the frosting.
  3. Add decorations if desired. Slice and enjoy with coffee or milk!

Storing, freezing, & make-ahead

To store the leftover cake, cover it with a cake dome or place it in an airtight container. Store it at room-temperature for 2-3 days. After a few days, it’ll start to get stale. Try not to place the cake in the fridge or it’ll dry out!

If you want to freeze the cake, just wrap the unfrosted cake rounds well with plastic or beeswax wrap and set them in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 2 months. The frosting can be made and refrigerated up to 5 days in advance. Let it come to room-temperature before you frost the cake.

The cake itself can be made 1 day in advance! If you need longer, I would recommend just freezing the layers and frosting them the day before you want to serve the cake.

How to make black velvet cupcakes

If you want to turn this black chocolate cake into cupcakes, it’s super easy. I’ve been using this recipe for cupcakes for years, and they come out great!

A marble cake stand with black velvet cupcakes on a black lace tablecloth next to black candles, a black skull, a black plate of cookies, and a black bowl of chocolate pumpkin candies.
  1. After you make the batter, divide it between 18 cupcake liners.
  2. Bake the cupcakes at 350°F for 15-17 minutes, just until an inserted toothpick has a few moist crumbs on it.
  3. While the cupcakes cool, make the buttercream as directed.
  4. Frost the cooled black velvet cupcakes with the Nutella buttercream and decorate. Enjoy!

Decoration ideas

When it comes to decorating cakes, I love an easy option which is why I went with these cute witches! Of course, you can get as crazy with it as you’d like. (It is the perfect centerpiece for a Halloween dessert table, after all.) These are some of my favorite ways to decorate this cake!

  • Paper witches – I found these paper witches on Etsy and then just taped them to pieces of thin wire. Then, I bent them around and stuck them in randomly for a fun effect!
  • Sprinkles – Halloween sprinkles on the sides would be so cute.
  • Shimmer powder – another way to add a little spookiness. Edible shimmer powder would be gorgeous on the outside of this cake.
  • Piping – use a piping bag and tips to add some cool frosting designs.

Helpful tools

You don’t need anything fancy to make this cake, but I definitely like having these tools on hand to make it easier!

  • 6-inch cake pans – you’ll need 3 cake pans, or you can make the layers in batches. You could also bake two 8-inch cake layers.
  • Parchment paper – lining the bottom of the cake pans is the best way to keep the cakes from sticking!
  • Bread knife for leveling the cakes.
  • Offset spatula – to frost the cake. A butter knife will work too!
  • Bench scraper – this is my favorite tool for smoothing the outside of the cake.

Pro tip!

Parchment paper is key for cakes that don’t stick to the pan. Just trace the bottom of the pans on the parchment paper and cut them out. Then, grease the cake pans with baking spray or neutral oil and gently press the parchment paper rounds to the bottom of the pans.

A black velvet cake with witch decorations on a marble cake stand next to a black linen, cake server, and candles with a grey and green backdrop.

Is this a high altitude recipe?

If you’ve been here for a while, you might know that many of my cake recipes are high altitude friendly! This is surprisingly one of my only non-high altitude recipes that still works here in Reno, which sits at about 4,500 feet.

If you are at 4,500 feet or less, I wouldn’t adjust anything. The cake will still come out perfectly! If you live above 4,500 feet, you may need to play around with the baking soda a bit. Start by using 3/4-1 teaspoon and go down as necessary.

Recipe tips & tricks

  • For the best results, measure the ingredients by weighing them on a food scale. If you don’t have a food scale, you can use measuring cups, but you need to measure the flour and cocoa powder the right way! Measure the flour and cocoa by fluffing them with a fork, scooping them into a measuring cup, and leveling them off (without packing it in).
  • Bring the ingredients to room temperature before you start making this recipe. It will help everything mix together evenly for a smooth batter.
  • Use a bread knife to level the domes off of the baked cakes. This will get you those nice, even, pretty layers.
  • Chill the cake rounds for 20-30 minutes in the freezer before assembling the cakes. Since this cake is so light and moist, it’s a bit crumbly. Freezing the rounds will make it so much easier to frost the cake.
  • Use a piping bag to pipe an even layer of frosting in-between each cake round. Then, use an offset spatula or butter knife to fill in the gaps.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is black velvet flavor?

This cake is right in-between red velvet cake and a super rich, midnight chocolate cake. The result is a light, fluffy cake that’s perfectly sweet, with a deep chocolate (but not bitter) flavor. Almost like an Oreo!

What makes this cake black?

The secret to this gorgeous cake is black cocoa powder! Because it’s heavily alkalized, it’s less acidic and has less fat than the cocoa powder you’d find in most American grocery stores. The dark cocoa naturally colors the batter without any food coloring.

Where can I find black cocoa powder?

Black cocoa powder is a specialty ingredient that usually isn’t sold in-stores. Typically, I just order it online to keep things easy. I used this brand which worked perfectly and tasted amazing. Depending on where you live, you might be able to find black cocoa in specialty food stores!

What’s the difference between red velvet and black velvet?

This cake is made very similarly to classic red velvet and even has buttermilk to give us that light, moist texture. But, it doesn’t have any food coloring and we’re using much more cocoa powder than typical red velvet.

Can I make this cake gluten-free?

Totally! If you want a gluten-free black chocolate cake, just use a 1-to-1 gluten-free flour substitution. My personal favorite is Cup4Cup but any 1-to-1 substitution will work. Most chocolate-hazelnut spreads are gluten-free but I would check just in case!

A slice of black velvet cake on a green counter next to a black linen, cake stand, and candles.

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A slice of black velvet cake on a green table next to a cake stand, black linen, and candles.
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Halloween Black Velvet Cake

Yield: 8 slices
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
This easy black velvet cake is made with one-bowl chocolate cake and fluffy chocolate-hazelnut buttercream! It’s rich, moist, pitch black, and the ultimate Halloween party dessert. Even better, it comes together super quickly and doesn’t use food coloring. It’s a chocolate lover’s dream cake!

Ingredients

Black Velvet Cake

  • 1 1/4 c sugar (250 grams)
  • 1 c buttermilk (240 milliliters)
  • 2/3 c canola oil (150 milliliters)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour (180 grams)
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 c black cocoa powder (50 grams)

Chocolate-Hazelnut Buttercream

  • 1 c unsalted butter, softened (226 grams)
  • 1/2 c chocolate-hazelnut spread (148 grams)
  • 4 c powdered sugar (480 grams)
  • 1/2 c black cocoa powder (50 grams)
  • 3-4 Tbs whole milk (45-60 milliliters), plus more as needed
  • Pinch of Kosher salt

Equipment

  • 3 6-inch cake pans
  • Parchment paper

Instructions 

Black Velvet Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease three 6-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, buttermilk, canola oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until smooth. Then, add the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Whisk just until the batter forms – don't over-mix!
  • Divide the batter evenly between the 3 cake pans (if you're using a scale, each should have about 315 grams of batter). Smooth with an offset spatula. Place the cake pans on a sheet pan.
  • Bake the cakes for 22-23 minutes, until an inserted toothpick has just a few moist crumbs on it. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 5 minutes. Then, use a knife to loosen the cakes from the sides of the pans. Carefully flip the cakes out of the pans and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Buttercream

  • In a large bowl, beat the butter and chocolate-hazelnut spread until it's light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the cocoa powder and mix until smooth.
  • Next, mix in the powdered sugar 1 cup (120 grams) at a time until a thick frosting forms. Add a pinch of salt and 3 Tablespoons (45 milliliters) of milk. Continue adding milk, 1 Tablespoon (15 milliliters) at a time, until you reach your desired texture. (The buttercream should be thick but spreadable.)
  • Whip the buttercream for 2-3 minutes until it's fluffy. Set aside.

Assembly

  • Using a serrated bread knife, cut the domes off of the tops of the cakes.
  • Place one cake round on a plate or cake stand. Spread a thick layer of frosting on top. Top with another cake round, add frosting to the second layer, and top with the third cake round until you have a three layer cake.
  • Frost the outside of the cake and use a bench scraper to smooth out the sides. Decorate as desired. Slice and enjoy with hot coffee or milk!

Notes

Bring the ingredients to room-temperature before you start making this recipe. It will help everything mix together evenly for a smooth batter.
To make buttermilk, add 1 Tablespoon (15 milliliters) of white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Fill with whole milk up to the 1 cup line (225 milliliters). Whisk with a fork and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
For the best results, measure the ingredients by weighing them on a food scale. If you don’t have a food scale, you can use measuring cups, but you need to measure the flour and cocoa powder the right way! Measure the flour and cocoa by fluffing them with a fork, scooping them into a measuring cup, and leveling them off (without packing it in).
You can also make a 2-layer 8-inch cake if you’d prefer.
To make cupcakes, divide the batter evenly between 18 cupcake liners. Bake at 350°F for 15-17 minutes, until an inserted toothpick has just a few moist crumbs on it.
Chill the cake rounds for 20-30 minutes in the freezer before assembling the cakes. Since this cake is so light and moist, it’s a bit crumbly. Freezing the rounds will make it so much easier to frost the cake.
Use a piping bag to pipe an even layer of frosting in-between each cake round. Then, use an offset spatula or butter knife to fill in the gaps.
This cake will make 8 thick or 12-16 thin slices.
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Serving: 1slice, Calories: 785kcal, Carbohydrates: 83.5g, Protein: 8.3g, Fat: 49.9g, Saturated Fat: 22.7g, Cholesterol: 104mg, Sodium: 569mg, Potassium: 450mg, Fiber: 4.8g, Sugar: 58g, Calcium: 92mg, Iron: 4mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @sundaytable.co on Instagram!

xo Sara Lynn

Song of the day – I Put a Spell on You by CCR

This recipe was originally posted on October 30, 2022.