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Stovetop Chocolate Cake

8 Servings

35 minutes 10 minutes active

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Steaming produces a light, moist chocolate cake, and is a great way to avoid having to fire up the oven. To elevate the cake above the water that steams the batter, we fashion a ring from an 18-inch length of foil. Brown sugar and espresso powder gave the cake complexity while sour cream added richness and a welcome tang. We like serving this cake dusted with powdered sugar or topped with whipped cream. If your Dutch oven has a self-basting lid—that is, if there are bumps or spikes on the underside—lay a sheet of foil across the top of the pot before putting the lid in place to prevent water from dripping onto the surface of the batter.




Don’t open the Dutch oven too often while steaming, but do ensure that the water is at a very gentle simmer. You should see steam emerging from the pot. If the heat is too high, the water will boil away before the cake is cooked.

35 minutes

10 minutes active


  • 130

    grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour

  • 29

    grams (⅓ cup) cocoa powder


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Alice E.
March 20, 2024
This recipe is so very easy and the cake is extremely light and delicious. King Arthur's Double Dark Cocoa (available on the web) enhances the chocolate intensity. Addictive.
Margie S.
February 29, 2024
Added some flavor
Have done two variations. Both big hits. Added 2 tsp of Chinese Five Spice powder to the dry ingredients. Another version is adding whole raspberries...poured in half the batter and sprinkled some on and then after the rest of the batter sprinkled on some more and pressed them in a bit on the top. And both times I used yogurt because I don't keep sour cream around and the cake came out great all the times (I used European style yogurt and it was fine...a few times I've let it drain a bit first - to mimic Greek- but it didn't make a notable difference)
Judy G.
February 18, 2024
Soft & yummy
We cooked/baked this this morning. After reading all the reviews, I tweaked it a bit. I used 1/3 cup of Girradelli cocoa, and increased the salt to 1/2 tea. The result was an airy soft chocolate cake.
Lisa R.
February 17, 2024
Stove top chocolate cake
This was fun to make! Not too sweet, which I love. I followed the recipe exactly and it came out perfect. Moist and full of flavor. I will make it again!
Kristin Z.
February 4, 2024
Time adjust due to altitude
This recipe makes a wonderfully moist cake. I used really good chocolate and the chocolate taste was perfect. I live in Denver so 23 minutes wasn’t enough time. I cooked for an extra 7 minutes. At 23 minutes I added more water to be on the safe side. Many cakes at altitude taste great but don’t hold the rise. This cake worked beautifully.
Rajat S.

Can I make this in an instant pot? How much time would it take on high pressure

Janelle C.

This is a great question. Would you post it in our Q&A Forum for Milk Street Insiders and Digital subscribers? Insider members usually receive responses from a Milk Street Experts within 2 business days and I'm sure others would love to hear the answer to this one.

The Milk Street Team

Vanessa F.

I had the same thought. I will give this a whirl using the steam setting and the time suggested in the recipe.

Lisa S.

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Martha D.

the show mentions placing foil on lid of Dutch oven. That is not in the instructions and would be helpful as a reminder

Robert M.

That is only for self-basting lids, the one with the little stalactite like points inside the lid, to keep water from dripping on top of the cake.

Rob F.

The consistency and texture of this cake is astounding. Unfortunately, the chocolate is barely noticeable, leaving the cake virtually tasteless. Next time I will substitute in more cocoa for flour.

Bill S.

if you don't have the instant espresso powder, can we us something else?

Janelle C.

You'll get a similar flavor profile from instant coffee.

The Milk Street Team

Carole C.

This was the best chocolate cake I have ever had. I ate the entire cake myself in 3 days!!! Ashamed, but still glad I did!! Moist, abundant flavor...just delicious and easy to make. I have never had a baked cake as moist as this.

Deb C.

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Deb C.

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Tambra L.

Got it all ready and then realized my round cake pan didn't fit into any of my pots! So I am hoping to cook it in the oven. Guess I will set at 350 and watch until I think it is done? Suggestions?

Clare S.

Question: do I need to lengthen my cooking time if I live at 5,000 feet elevation, where water books at about 204°F? How long should I steam it for?

Janelle C.

Hi Clare,

You may find this article helpful:

The Milk Street Team

Ji Young K.

This cake bakes up just as beautifully in the oven! I bake for about 30-32min (middle rack) at 350F. So easy and so delicious!

Diana L.

I made this yesterday for my son's birthday. It came out so moist and it is a very good cake. The only thing I had to do differently is cook it for an additional 5 minutes. I will keep the recipe and make it again. Next time I am going to use my steam rack that comes with a slow cooker instead of the foil ring (nothing wrong with a foil ring but I already have a perfect steam rack). Thank you for the great recipe.

Hwei Ping M.

I have made this cake. But it was too crumbly. What went wrong? Could it be steamed for too long and dry out and crumbl?

Lynn C.

Hi Hwei Ping -

It's possible that it was overbaked although the fact that it is steamed, which traps in moisture, helps prevent that to some extent. Sometimes if the cake has too much flour added it can bake up crumbly. With baking I always recommend weighing ingredients rather than using volume measurements for the most reliable results.

The Milk Street Team

Jamie T.

I was able to elevate the cake using a steamer basket instead of the aluminum foil ring. It elevated the cake higher allowing me to add more water and eliminated the risk of the pot boiling dry. I can't believe how quick and easy this was to make. It was a great Valentine's day treat for the entire family.

Jackie S.

The recipes ingredient list does not include the 1/2 cup water.

Lynn C.

Hi Jackie -

Our recipe style does not include water in the ingredient list, since it's an ingredient everyone has in their home.

The Milk Street Team

Kenneth B.

Would it be a mistake to substitute plain, whole yogurt for the sour cream?

Thank you,
Ken B.

Lynn C.

Hi Ken -

It should work OK. Just keep in mind that yogurt has less fat than sour cream so the cake may not be quite as tender. The best 1:1 substitution would be plain, whole milk Greek yogurt.

The Milk Street Team

Kenneth B.

Thank you so much for getting back to me. That is interesting and helpful.

Taking into account your information, I might just use the sour cream and take a Lactaid pill when I enjoy the cake.

Thank you again.

Kenneth B.

Thank you so much for getting back to me. That is interesting and helpful.

Taking into account your information, I might just use the sour cream and take a Lactaid pill when I enjoy the cake.

Thank you again.

Kenneth B.

How deep is your cake pan? Two inches or three?

Lynn C.

Hi Kenneth -

We have made this in a 9' x 2" cake pan.

The Milk Street Team

Erika S.

I made this cake Sunday. My husband loves chocolate so I wanted to try it for him! When he found out what I was doing he didn't know what to think but once I turned the stove off and let the cake start cooling he couldn't wait, prompting me to get it out of the pot and remove it from the pan ( I used my springform). It came out beautifully! He sprinkled the powdered sugar and cocoa mix on top of the cake and then we cut into it! He came to me last night and said that is the best chocolate cake he has ever had and that I was going to have to keep making it! Thank you Milk Street!

Mary S.

I too would love an instant pot version of this! Regardless the cake was delicious - but I didn't cook it long enough - the center was more like pudding. Next time I will let it go a little longer, but the instant pot seems like a good solution for flawless results. Only problem is my 9 inch pan will not fit in my 8qt instant pot. My soufflé dish does though - which begs another question:)

Colleen O.

So good! Added a little chocolate extract and cooked it in electric pressure cooker in a smaller but deeper pan for 25 min.

Halina T.

I made this cake yesterday after seeing an older episode of the TV show with this featured. My cake took nearly double the cooking time (45-50 minutes) before the toothpick came out clean. I kept adding 5 minutes after seeing some other comments, but didn't expect it to take as long as it did. End result came out tasting great - just can't figure out why the time difference. I used a 9-inch non-stick cake pan, in an All-Clad stainless steel dutch oven. Any ideas? really just for future reference.

Jennifer J.

I used Dutch processed cocoa and weighed everything. Mine also took quite a bit longer to cook. But, in the end, it was a very very moist tasteless blob. The texture was great, but no chocolate flavor.