Best Chocolate Cake in the U.S.

New Year's Eve Cake
Photo: Photo © Dave Atkinson

From dark chocolate molten cake to flourless chocolate pudding cake, here are the nation's best chocolate cakes.—Maisie Wilhelm

01 of 19

Dominique Ansel Bakery, New York City

Mini-Me Cake
Photo © Thomas Schauer

Cake: Mini-Me Cake

Despite what the lines outside every morning may have you think, the Cronut is not the only reason to queue at Dominique Ansel's New York City bakery. The fame and runaway popularity of that breakfast pastry may have eclipsed Ansel's other pastries, but not with reason. Ansel was pastry chef at French patisserie Fauchon and restaurant Daniel, and he hits a home run for chocolate lovers with his "Mini-Me Cake." Four different textures of chocolate—mousse, sponge, ganache and miniature meringues—combine in a mix of flavors and textures. "We use 66% Valrhona chocolate, and it is one of our best sellers," says Ansel.

  • New York Travel Guide
02 of 19

Salty Tart, Minneapolis

Surly Cake
Photo © Michelle Gayer

Cake: Surly Cake

Salty Tart, in the Twin Cities's Midtown Global Market, is well known for a number of goodies: "crack-a-roons," brioche rolls filled with vanilla bean pastry cream and cheddar-jalapeño bread. But when it comes to cakes, chef Michelle Gayer has it down, too. Her popular Surly Cake has a secret ingredient: Furious IPA by local brewery Surly. Surly Cake is Gayer's personal favorite for its deep, rich chocolate flavor brightened by the beer's grapefruit and thyme notes without leaving behind the taste of the alcohol. "Surly had a little bit of a crazy cult following here," she says, and this recipe "gets men into cake!" Three layers of dense cake are separated by a filling of whipped crème fraîche sweetened with honey and frosted with a rich fudge before being garnished with dried meringue. Gayer isn't lying when she says it's a fave—she makes Surly Cake for all her kids' birthdays and dinner parties. And it's sold in a cupcake form as well.

03 of 19

Bluestem, Kansas City, MO

Chocolate Pudding Cake
Photo © Bonjwing Lee

Cake: Chocolate Pudding Cake

This flourless chocolate pudding cake is baked in a water bath so the inside reaches a soft, warm texture. Megan Garrelts, executive pastry chef and co-owner of Bluestem and Rye restaurants, says this gluten-free cake is "very rich and similar to a tender, bittersweet chocolate torte." She likes to serve it with fresh mint ice cream. Garrelts, a James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef, tweaks the type of chocolate used and other components paired with the cake. She always has it on the Bluestem tasting menu in some form. "We also make this same cake at Rye with a streusel topping in a dish and serve it warm as a chocolate cobbler." Look for her chocolate devil's food cake layered with chocolate mousse and white chocolate buttercream during the holidays.

04 of 19

Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery, Seattle

Take-n-Bake Molten Chocolate Cake in a Mason Jar
Photo © Absalom Shantz

Cake: Take-n-Bake Molten Chocolate Cake in a Mason Jar

The cake that launched a business! Chocolatier Autumn Martin left her job as head chocolatier of Theo Chocolate to serve the people what they wanted: take-n-bake Molten chocolate cakes served in mason jars. She started Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery in 2012 in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood to sell the original Dark Decadence Cakes (she also has a vegan version) both in store and online for people to bake at home. Martin is known for her dedication to using local and organic ingredients in everything she makes—not just cakes, but also caramels, cookies, boozy shakes and confections like smoked chocolate chips. Look for a second location opening in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood in spring 2015.

  • Seattle Travel Guide
05 of 19

Avec, Chicago

Warm Chocolate-Olive Oil Cocotte
Photo © Chloe List

Cake: Warm Chocolate-Olive Oil Cocotte

At dinner with foodies one night, pastry chef Dana Cree found herself defending the notion that the molten chocolate cake—an erstwhile cutting-edge dessert now found on the menus "even at suburban chain restaurants"—deserved its place on her menu. She set about developing a warm chocolate cake, which she bakes in a cazuela (hence the name "cocotte") and is now a signature pastry on the menu. The cake is made with Cacao Barry Guayaquil dark chocolate and a high-quality fruity olive oil. "It's super simple," she says. "We put a chocolate-olive oil truffle in the center of the cake, which melts to a molten center." It is currently served with spiced date gelato, sesame and crisp rice, but accompaniments change seasonally. The cake is also sold for takeout at Publican Quality,

  • Chicago Travel Guide
06 of 19

Lady M, New York City and Los Angeles

Lady M® Chocolate Mille Crêpes
Photo © Lester Echem

Cake: Lady M® Chocolate Mille Crêpes

Lady M is most recognized for their signature Mille Crêpes cakes, made with paper-thin alternating layers of at least 20 soft, lacy-edged French crêpes and light whipped cream. The chocolate version has chocolate crêpes and chocolate pastry cream, creating a surprisingly light cake with a spongy texture. Their green tea version is another cultish product, as is their Checkers Cake, which reveals a checkerboard of chocolate and vanilla layers when cut into. The cakes are gorgeous to look at, and it's no wonder there are often long lines of customers waiting behind a velvet rope to place an order.

07 of 19

Mindy's HotChocolate, Chicago

“There’s a Kriek in the Forest” Chocolate Kriek Cake
Photo © HotChocolate

Cake: "There's a Kriek in the Forest" Chocolate Kriek Cake

Mindy Segal, James Beard Foundation Award winner for Outstanding Pastry Chef, took inspiration from the classic desserts baked Alaska and Black Forest cake for her unique "There's a Kriek in the Forest" cake. The cake is made with Kriek lambic—a Belgian beer made from fermenting sour Morello cherries (kriek in Flemish)—along with buttermilk, noir cocoa and 64% chocolate. Segal serves it with vanilla bean-sour cream ice cream, jubilee of cherries, meringue "mushrooms" and chocolate almond bark for a fun and interesting spin on chocolate cake. It appears on her menu sporadically throughout the year.

  • Chicago Travel Guide
08 of 19

ChikaLicious Dessert Bar, New York City

Warm Chocolate Tart with Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream and Red Wine Sauce
Photo © Angsnaps Photography

Cake: Warm Chocolate Tart with Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream and Red Wine Sauce

Chika Tillman made a splash on the sweets scene when she opened her desserts-only East Village ChikaLicious Dessert Bar in 2003 featuring à la minute desserts. Since then, she's been serving up her signature warm chocolate tart with peppercorn ice cream and red wine sauce. A thin, handmade pastry shell is filled in front of your eyes (sushi bar-style) with dark chocolate, baked in the oven and then served with a quenelle of pepper ice cream. When she opened, Chika served either white or black pepper ice cream; pink peppercorn ice cream is a more recent development.

09 of 19

Strip House, New York City

24-Layer Chocolate Cake
Courtesy of Strip House

Cake: 24-Layer Chocolate Cake

Strip House may be well known for luring in diners with its sexy banquettes, sceney crowd and killer steaks, but the restaurant knows how to close a meal, too. Their 24-Layer Chocolate Cake is stunning to behold. Alternating layers of chocolate cake and smooth chocolate filling (topped with a layer of semisweet French chocolate ganache) is made in stages, since the layers need to be semi-frozen, lest the cake collapse. The custardy chocolate filling acts as a binding agent to keep it together. Executive pastry chef Dilinger Rivera uses Tobago cocoa for this recipe, which dates to 2002. "People are always floored by the chocolate" when the showstopper arrives at the table, he says.

10 of 19

Pearl Bakery, Portland, OR

The Chocolate Birthday Cake
Photo © Corey Shields

Cake: The Chocolate Birthday Cake

Portland's Pearl Bakery has been steadily gaining acclaim for breads and pastry since opening in 1997. The Birthday Cake recipe was developed by original pastry chef Lee Posey, but Emily Stone now helms production. "This is a decadent cake meant for special occasions," she says of the devil's food cake layered with flavorful raspberry preserves from Oregon and bittersweet ganache, then frosted with the ganache. "It's definitely our most popular cake, often ordered for parties and special events."

  • Portland Travel Guide
11 of 19

Horseradish Grill, Atlanta

Horseradish Grill Chocolate Cake
Courtesy of Horseradish Grill

Cake: Horseradish Grill Chocolate Cake

In Atlanta's oldest continuously operating restaurant, you'll find year-round a chocolate cake exquisite for its simplicity and the chocolatey flavor that cuts through clear as the sound of whistlin' Dixie. Restaurant lore has it that the recipe (which appeared at The Horseradish Grill in 1996) came from the Alabama-born grandmother of the banquet chef. Strong-brewed, regular, black J. Martinez coffee is the secret ingredient here—used in the ganache and the cake batter. At the Horseradish Grill, they'll serve it up to you with the best Southern hospitality—warm with homemade vanilla ice cream.

  • Atlanta Travel Guide
12 of 19

Little Cupcake Bakeshop, New York City

Brooklyn Blackout
Courtesy of Little Cupcake Bakeshop

Cake: Brooklyn Blackout

"Even before we actually opened our shop in 2005, we had people knocking at the door of our bakery's construction site asking if we were going to serve Brooklyn Blackout Cake," says co-owner Louie Lobuglio. People remembered the original Brooklyn Blackout cake—supposedly named for the wartime blackout drills—which originated at Ebinger's Baking Company (started in 1898 but closed since 1972). Louie and his brothers Massimo and Salvatore, the head pastry chef, decided to bring back something as close to the original as possible. "Our Brooklyn Blackout Cake is moist chocolate cake filled with chocolate ganache and chocolate buttercream, made with Dutch-process, full-fat-content cocoa from Holland, semisweet Belgian chocolate and Madagascar vanilla beans," he says. The "blackout" effect comes from frosting it with two types of chocolate icing.

13 of 19

Flour Bakery + Café, Boston

Midnight Chocolate Cake
Photo © Flour Bakery + Cafe

Cake: Midnight Chocolate Cake

Flour Bakery and Café in Boston's South End may be best known for their sticky buns, but chef/owner Joanne Chang is no slouch when it comes to cake. "We wanted a cake that would blow chocoholics away," Chang says about her extremely rich and moist "full-on chocolate" devil's food cake. She splits the cake into four layers and soaks them with coffee syrup to add another flavor and keep the cake moist. Milk chocolate buttercream separates the layers, and a rich chocolate ganache coats the cake. "This is by far one of our most popular cakes, and we made dozens a week!" she says.

  • Boston Travel Guide
14 of 19

Cake and Spoon, Austin

Dark Chocolate Cake
Photo © Kimberly Davis

Cake: Dark Chocolate Cake

Texas native Melissa Brinckmann launched Cake and Spoon as a commercial bakery after years of restaurant experience. Her specialty is 4-inch dessert cakes and tarts. The recipe for her Dark Chocolate Cake (filled with espresso-chocolate mousse and covered with dark chocolate ganache) is based on a simple Amish recipe with buttermilk, to which she adds a mix of cocoa and chocolate from Callebaut, El Rey and Valrhona. "They call it Texas Sheet Cake here," Brinckmann says. You can find Cake and Spoon products at Austin's Sustainable Food Center Farmers' Market Downtown and at Cedar Park Farmers' Market. Or, if you're planning to check out Franklin Barbecue anyway, make it a foodie double header and go early in the week to snag Cake and Spoon goodies there before they run out.

  • Austin Travel Guide
15 of 19

Café Sabarsky, New York City

Photo © KG-NY

Cake: Sachertorte

A court ruling following divisive battles allows only Vienna's Hotel Sacher to legally call this cake the Original Sacher Torte, but chef Kurt Gutenbrunner's version of sachertorte at Café Sabarsky is the closest you can get to the real thing—short of booking a flight to Austria. Two layers of semisweet chocolate cake are separated by apricot jam and dressed with a rum syrup to help lock in moisture before being glazed with bittersweet chocolate. Gutenbrunner serves the Sachertorte in the classic fashion: no fuss with just a dollop of schlag (sweetened whipped cream).

16 of 19

Charlie Bird, New York City

Warm Chocolate Budino
Photo © Charlie Bird

Cake: Warm Chocolate Budino

"Every restaurant needs a great chocolate dessert on the menu," says chef Ryan Hardy, "and nothing is more American than the brownie." At Charlie Bird, the menu focuses on Italian-inspired American cuisine. Hardy's budino is a small, densely rich, super moist, soft cake with a pudding-like texture. (Budino means pudding in Italian.) Made with Valrhona 66% Grand Cru Caraibe chocolate, Hardy pairs the cake with olive oil gelato, caramelized Rice Krispies and a pinch of sea salt. "I always loved the combination of olive oil and bitter chocolate, which is not atypical of northern Italian cuisine," he says of the dish. "It's simultaneously salty and sweet, crunchy and smooth."

  • New York Travel Guide
17 of 19

Huckleberry Bakery & Café, Los Angeles

Chocolate-Chocolate Layer Cake
Courtesy of Huckleberry Café & Bakery

Cake: Chocolate-Chocolate Layer Cake

Zoe Nathan's "old-fashioned" chocolate layer cake is "made like the one your mom or grandma made, but with good chocolate"—she uses local chocolate from L.A.'s Compartes in the batter—"and not as cloyingly sweet as you'd find in some places." The very moist cake is filled and frosted with a Valrhona chocolate buttercream. Nathan, who learned to bake at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, is all about making "the best classic desserts and baked goods—the ones you grew up loving. This is totally a classic."

  • Los Angeles Travel Guide
18 of 19

Miette, San Francisco CA

Miette, San Francisco CA
Photo © Frankie Frankeny

Cake: Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake with Boiled Icing

"The Old-Fashioned cake is the quintessential American cake, complete with cherry on top," says Meg Ray, owner of San Francisco's Miette. Ray's light and fluffy boiled frosting is "an economical icing my mom used to make, flavored with vanilla. Our version is more marshmallow-y, dense and smooth." She spreads it like cloud cover onto only the top of a cake that she makes with local chocolate producers Guittard and Scharffen Bergen. "The cake is incredibly moist with a well-rounded, straight-forward American flavor." But because of its simplicity, Ray says, "everything else has to be perfect. The texture, which is very close to box-like, is achieved with buttermilk. The cake is not sweet, it cuts beautifully and can be layered, baked as cupcakes or frosted with a big glob of boiled icing."

  • San Francisco Travel Guide
19 of 19

Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, AL

New Year's Eve Cake
Photo © Dave Atkinson

Cake: New Year's Eve Cake

Most people may associate a Southern restaurant more with coconut cake—and they'd be right to, since chef/owner Frank Stitt is known for his. But the New Year's Eve Cake in Birmingham, Alabama's Highlands Bar and Grill is another beloved favorite. The rich and moist dark chocolate devil's food cake is layered with an Italian-style buttercream meringue with Bulleit Bourbon, accentuated with sea salt and served with a butterscotch sauce and candied pecans. The cake is so popular, you'll find it on the menu year-round.

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