Calling all the chocolate lovers! This chocolate tray bake cake is super moist, crazy delicious and so easy to make with everyday store cupboard ingredients. It makes the best chocolate cake for birthdays, BBQs or any occasion, and is covered in a super creamy and smooth three-ingredient buttercream frosting.
You know that feeling when you want cake, but you don’t want to go through all the faff of layers and filling, then decorating?
That’s the feeling that tray bakes or sheet cakes were invented for! Or they are in my cake world, ha. Is there anything better than an easy cake?
Let me tell you, tray bake cakes are the easiest and so so delicious – just one layer, smothered in buttercream and covered in sprinkles. They’re so easy and quick to make. And as they’re thinner than normal cake layers, they bake quickly too!
There’s also something retro about tray bakes too. They were always the go-to cake for a birthday or celebration. And nothing says ‘Office Birthday Celebration’ than a M&S Dolly Mixture tray bake.
Feeling nostalgic and in the mood for chocolate after making the Crunchie Rocky Road, this chocolate tray bake cake hits all the spots. Guaranteed!
If you want to skip the essential info and handy tips for making absolutely the best sheet cake, then you can head on down to the printable recipe card for this amazingly moist chocolate tray bake. Just keep scrolling!
What you will need
You might be surprised; but take a look in your cupboards and I can guarantee that you’ll find everything you need to make this chocolate tray bake.
For the cake’s dry ingredients, grab plain or all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and soft brown sugar. And for the wet ingredients, you’ll need vegetable oil, buttermilk, espresso coffee and some eggs.
See, I told you you’d have then in the cupboard!
Lastly, that beautiful chocolate buttercream frosting is just 3 ingredients – cocoa powder, butter and icing or powdered sugar.
You’ll also want a 13×9″ sheet pan – I go for one that’s at least 1-inch deep. If you don’t have a sheet pan, you can make it in a glass dish instead, or split across two 8″/ 20cm sandwich tins.
I absolutely love this chocolate tray bake recipe. The batter just pours straight into the pan; no levelling. There’s no chilling layers or crumb coating for decorating. It’s bake, cool, and spread the buttercream frosting all over the top. So simple!
How to make this chocolate tray bake cake
Full measurements and instructions can be found on the printable recipe card
Can I say it again, this recipe can’t get any easier – 15 minutes maximum and you’ve got one in the oven baking. So here it goes…
The Cake Layer
Start off by sieving the dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl – flour, sugar cocoa powder and baking powder.
Next grab another bowl and a hand mixer, or get your stand mixer ready and whisk the oil, eggs, milk, espresso coffee and vanilla extract.
When the whisked ingredients are pale and foamy, add to the dry ingredients and fold everything in. Make sure you’ve got everything well combined.
Once you’ve got a beautiful silky chocolate cake batter, pour it into the sheet pan, and pop into the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes.
The Buttercream Layer
If you thought the cake was easy, then the buttercream frosting is even easier, and all you need is 3 ingredients.
Beat together softened butter, cocoa powder and icing or powdered sugar until smooth and creamy. Simple, right?
The beauty of this chocolate tray bake is that as you can ice it straight in the pan, you can take it wherever you need to – birthdays, parties, picnics, BBQs.
And it’s just as easy to serve – cut it into squares and feed a crowd!
Frequently Asked Questions
How many does it serve
A 13x 9″ sheet pan will make about 24 slices.
How to store it
As the cake is oil-based, it will stay moist for longer!
If you are making the cake ahead, wrap well in clingfilm/plastic wrap and keep at room temperature when you’re ready to ice it. Remember to make sure it’s fully cooled before wrapping it up.
Once you’ve decorated the cake, keep in an air-tight container, either at room temperature or in the fridge.
You can also freeze the cake, either un-iced or iced, just remember to defrost it thoroughly before eating.
How long will it keep for
The chocolate tray bake will keep for up to 3 days stored at room temperature or up to 1 week in the fridge. If freezing, store for up to 2 months.
Tray bake cake are the easiest to adapt for any occasion, and keeping it simple is always the way to go. Here are some of my favourite tweaks…
- Chocolate Mocha – add a shot of cooled espresso or strong coffee to the buttercream for that perfect mocha flavour combination.
- Triple Chocolate – sprinkle 100g of white chocolate chips into the cake batter for triple chocolate delight – dark chocolate cake, white chocolate chunks and milk chocolate buttercream.
- Raspberries and Cream – swap the chocolate buttercream for whipped heavy cream and top with fresh raspberries for a fresh summer dessert.
- Raspberries and Chocolate – one of my favourite flavour combinations is perfect for a sheet cake. Mashup fresh raspberries and add them into the buttercream in place of the cocoa powder.
Top tips for this recipe
- Do I have to use vegetable oil – The oil helps keep the cake moist for longer. You can use sunflower or coconut oil instead if you do not want to use vegetable oil. Avoid olive or rapeseed oil as these will taint the flavour of the cake.
- What if I can’t get buttermilk – The buttermilk gives the cake a soft and tender texture. Don’t worry if you can’t get hold of buttermilk, you can substitute with full-fat milk and a tablespoon of lemon juice, or swap for half soured cream and half full-fat milk.
- Do I have to use espresso coffee – No you don’t if you prefer not to. However, the coffee helps to intensify the chocolate flavour and you can’t taste it. Give it a try!
- Can I use normal instant coffee – If you can’t get hold of espresso powder, you can substitute with a strong instant coffee instead. I recommend the barista-style instant coffees such as Milicano.
- Bake in a glass dish – If you don’t have a sheet pan available, then you can bake in a glass dish instead. This is great for if you are serving straight from the pan as you get to see the different layers. If you do, you’ll need to bake for slightly longer.
View my Amazon shopping list with equipment and ingredients.
Chocolate Tray Bake Cake
For the Sheet Cake
- To make the sheet cake: Preheat oven to 180C/350F and line a 13×9 inch sheet pan with baking paper.
- In a large bowl, sieve together the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. Mix together until well combined.
- Add the sugar to the flour mixture and mix until well-combined.
- Using a stand mixer with the balloon whisk attachment, whisk the oil and eggs until pale in colour and frothy. Alternatively, you can whisk in a large mixing bowl, by hand or with an electric hand whisk.
- Add the buttermilk and vanilla extract into the oil mixture and whisk well. Add the Espresso coffee and whisk again.
- Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour in the oil mixture. Use a rubber spatula to fold the ingredients together. Mix well to ensure all the ingredients are well combined.
- Pour the cake batter into the lined sheet pan, and level if required.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until springy to touch and skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
- To make the buttercream: In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add the half the icing sugar, cocoa powder and milk, then beat together.
- Add the remaining icing sugar, cocoa powder and milk. Beat until smooth. If the frosting is too stiff, add a tbsp of whole milk and mix.
- To assemble the cake: If transporting the cake you can ice in the pan. Spoon the frosting over the top of the cake.
- Using a palette knife, spread the buttercream evenly across the cake, and add swirls for texture if you prefer. Sprinkle all over with sprinkles.
- Store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days stored at room temperature or up to 1 week in the fridge.
- You can use sunflower or coconut oil instead if you do not want to use vegetable oil. Avoid olive or rapeseed oil as these will taint the flavour of the cake.
- Don’t worry if you can’t get hold of buttermilk, you can substitute with full-fat milk and a tablespoon of lemon juice, or swap for half soured cream and half full-fat milk.
- If you can’t get hold of espresso powder, you can substitute with a strong instant coffee instead. I recommend the barista-style instant coffees such as Milicano.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.