Trace bottom of each 8-inch cake pan onto parchment paper with a pencil; cut just inside the traced lines. Spray bottoms of baking pans with nonstick spray. Line with parchment paper rounds. Spray parchment with nonstick cooking spray.
Get step-by-step instructions for a no-fail chocolate cake.
Add a couple of tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder to one pan. Hold one edge and tap the other with your free hand to distribute cocoa around the pan. Turn over the pan and tap out excess cocoa into the second pan. Repeat with second pan, adding more cocoa powder as needed.
Beat room-temperature butter for 30 seconds to incorporate air. Beat in the sugar until mixture is light and fluffy. Tiny air bubbles are created and trapped in the mixture, acting as a leavener with the baking soda. These bubbles are essential for developing a light and fluffy crumb texture.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each until integrated. The eggs act as an emulsifier and help the batter hold even more air.
Beat in a portion of the flour mixture. Then beat in a portion of the chocolate mixture just until incorporated. Continue adding the flour mixture and chocolate mixture in small batches alternately, beating on low after each addition until just combined.
Measure cake batter to determine amount needed to make each of the four layers. Pour batter for two layers into pans. Using a metal spatula, smooth tops before baking. Cover remaining batter and set aside to bake after first layers are done.
Bake layers for minimum baking time, then insert a wooden toothpick near the center of a layer. If the toothpick comes out clean (or with a crumb or two), the cake is done. If there is any wet batter, bake the layer a few minutes more and test in a new spot with a new toothpick.
Place cakes on a wire cooling rack and cool the cakes for 10 minutes inside the pan. Remove from pan and cool completely before frosting.
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