We Tried Hershey’s Back-of-the-Box Chocolate Cake Recipe and Did Not Expect These Results
When we decided to battle off some of the most iconic chocolate cake recipes as part of our celebrity recipe showdown series, including Hershey’s recipe was a no-brainer. That little brown tub of cocoa is practically synonymous with chocolate cake! For many home bakers, the back-of-the-box formula has become a go-to for birthdays, anniversaries, and everything in-between.
And since the recipe relies completely on cocoa powder to give it its rich chocolate flavor, uses a standard wet-into-dry mixing technique, and has no special ingredients, I figured it’d be a cinch to make. But would it be any good? Here’s my honest review.
Get the recipe: Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake
How to Make Hershey’s Chocolate Cake
You’ll start by combining sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. To that you’ll add eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and vegetable oil. Use an electric mixer to beat everything together until thick and smooth, then carefully stir in boiling water to thin it out. The batter will look very loose at this point — almost watery — but that’s okay! Pour it into two greased and floured cake pans and bake in a 350°F oven until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then transfer them onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
While the cakes are baking, you can make Hershey’s “perfectly chocolate” chocolate frosting. In a large bowl, mix together melted butter, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract until smooth. If the frosting is too thick, you can add more milk to thin it out.
Once the layers have cooled, it’s time to build the cake and slather on the frosting. The recipe makes enough frosting to generously cover the entire cake with a thin coating between the layers, so don’t be nervous about running out.
My Honest Review of Hershey’s Chocolate Cake
This cake had a standard, run-of-the-mill chocolate flavor that was pleasant but not great. It was a tad too sweet for my taste and lacked the pleasant bitterness that comes with cake made with quality dark chocolate. The flavor was enjoyable, but it was nothing to rave about.
The frosting itself was too sweet as well, and it needed salt to help balance out the generous amount of powdered sugar. It was smooth and easy to work with, but the flavor was dull. It also dried out as it sat, so you’ll need to work fast or cover it with plastic wrap.
The texture of the cake is where Hershey’s really lost points. It was extremely moist to the point of being overwhelming. It was damp, marshy, and dense. Don’t get me wrong, I love a moist cake, but eating this was a bit too similar to eating a wet sponge. After a few bites it became too much — I felt like I was eating a slice of fudge instead of cake. For such an iconic recipe, I was surprised by how intense the texture was.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good cake — it’s just not the best cake. It’s just as good as store-bought cake, but not necessarily better. If you prefer a more exciting chocolate cake, look elsewhere.
If You’re Making Hershey’s Chocolate Cake, a Few Tips
1. Sift your cocoa powder: Unlike most chocolate cake recipes, Hershey’s does not call for sifting the dry ingredients before mixing the cake batter. This caused the batter to have a few tiny lumps of cocoa powder in it, and sifting would have prevented this.
2 Let your unfrosted cake layers sit out at room temperature for several hours before assembling: Because this cake is so darn moist, it’s difficult to frost without ripping the cake apart. To make things easier (and to make the texture less marshy as well) let your cake layers sit uncovered, at room temperature for several hours before assembling. I let mine sit out for about four hours, and it helped dry them out just enough so I was able to frost them easily.
3. Add a pinch of salt to the frosting: The flavor of this cake is a tad dull, and it would have benefitted from a pinch of salt in the frosting to help elevate the chocolate flavor and balance the sweetness. I recommend adding 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt to the frosting, tasting it, and adding more if needed.
Have you ever made Hershey’s chocolate cake? Tell us what you thought!