Valentine's Day Cake - Handle the Heat

Valentine’s Day Cake

January 30th, 2020
5 from 11 votes
5 from 11 votes

This impressive Valentine's Day Cake with chocolate cake and strawberry buttercream looks like something from a gourmet bakery, but is totally doable at home!

Yield: 12 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook: 40 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Chocolate plus strawberry is perfection, not to mention totally romantic!
Texture: The cake is ridiculously rich and moist, the frosting is luscious and flavorful, and the chocolate covered strawberries on top add a whole new realm of juiciness combined with shattering chocolate goodness. MMM.
Ease: Assembling and decorating a beautiful cake is totally doable, especially with my step-by-step video, but it does require some patience and makes a mess. Let’s be honest! Totally worth it when you see jaws drop at its beauty!
Pros: Romantic and beautiful cake that actually tastes good.
Cons: None!
Would I make this again? Absolutely. Would be great for any romantic occasion.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy.

I am so giddy sharing this Valentine’s Day Cake recipe with you!

Pink strawberry frosted chocolate Valentine's Day cake on a plate with heart sprinkles

This cake turned out so beautiful it would be the perfect way to show your love and appreciation for someone this Valentine’s Day, or any other special occasion. The best part is that if I can do it, you totally can because I have little patience for cake decorating (Cake Boss gives me nightmares).

The chocolate cake is so unbelievably moist, rich, and flavorful, even people who don’t like cake will like this. Not to mention the strawberry buttercream adds that perfect luscious, creamy, and thick bite of flavor that complements the chocolate wonderfully.

Slice of chocolate and strawberry Valentine's Day cake on a plate with the whole cake and conversation hearts on the table

And c’mon. Chocolate covered strawberries on top? Does life get better than that? I don’t think so! By the way – if you want some extra tips on buttercream, check out my post on How to Make the Best Buttercream!

How to Make Chocolate + Strawberry Valentine’s Day Cake

Heads up: this cake batter is THIN and RUNNY!

I’m not exaggerating when I say that! It’s meant to be this way. I promise the cake will bake up ultra moist, rich, and tender.

My cake layers sunk in the middle!

This chocolate cake is ULTRA moist. Sometimes it sinks a little in the middle. Don’t panic if this happens! You can always flip the cakes upside down when assembling. If the sunken part is worse, simply use a cake leveler or serrated knife to level it off.

Can I make this recipe into cupcakes?

Yes, this recipe makes about 24 cupcakes. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes.

Why is there coffee in chocolate cake recipe?

The coffee helps to enhance the chocolate flavor of the cocoa powder. You won’t taste the coffee, promise.

Can I substitute coffee in chocolate cake?

Yes. Simply use 1 cup hot water (not boiling – you don’t want to scramble the eggs!).

You can also use 1 cup hot water + 1 teaspoon espresso powder to get that similar chocolate enhancing effect. This is perfect if you don’t want to brew coffee just for a cake.

What is a crumb coat?

This is simply a very thin layer of frosting applied to the cake before the final pretty layer is applied. The crumb coat acts as “spackle” to protect encase the cake and protect the final frosting application from getting any unsightly crumbs in the mix. Basically, it helps that final frosting go on smoothly and cleanly.

Why do you refrigerate or freeze cake layers before frosting?

This helps the frosting go on more smoothly and evenly.

Can I freeze cake layers?

Absolutely! Wrap unfrosted un-cut cooled cake layers completely in several layers of plastic wrap. Place inside a freezer bag and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge (do not defrost at room temperature or you will end up with mushy cake).

Where are those sprinkles from?

They were purchased at Kroger, the closest I’ve found online is on Wilton’s website here.

How do I make Chocolate Covered Strawberries?

You can use pre-made chocolate covered strawberries for the garnish on this cake, or make them yourself! Learn how to dip strawberries in chocolate here.

Slice of chocolate cake with strawberry frosting on a plate with Valentine Conversation heart candies

More Chocolate Cake Recipes

More Valentine’s Day Desserts

Looking for even more? Check out ALL our Valentine’s Day Recipes HERE.

5 from 11 votes

How to make
Valentine’s Day Cake

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
This impressive Valentine's Day Cake with chocolate cake and strawberry buttercream looks like something from a gourmet bakery, but is totally doable at home!


For the cake:

  • Butter, for greasing
  • 1 3/4 cups (225 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups (64 grams) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup fresh vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

For the strawberry buttercream:

  • 6 cups (750 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 4 sticks (452 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup seedless strawberry preserves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Red gel food coloring, if desired
  • Chocolate Covered Strawberries, for garnish


For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 (8-inch) round cake pans.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add in the salt and whisk to combine.

  3. In a large measuring up or small bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the hot coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Don’t overmix, the batter should be very thin and runny.

  4. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. The cakes make sink slightly in the middle because they're so moist. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then carefully turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely. Freeze or refrigerate until firm to the touch.

For the buttercream:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase the speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes until ultra light and smooth. Add in the strawberry preserves, salt, and vanilla and beat on medium for 1 minute. Add about 1/4 teaspoon gel food coloring, if using, and beat until the buttercream is evenly colored. Add more coloring if desired.

  2. Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on a flat surface or cake pedestal. Using an offset spatula, spread about 1/3 of the frosting all over the cake, pushing it all the way past the edges.

  3. Place the second cake layer on top, flat side up, and spread a very thin coating of frosting all over to make a crumb coating. When scraping away excess frosting, be careful not to add the crumb frosting back in with the clean frosting. Freeze or refrigerate the cake until the frosting is firm.

  4. Remove from freezer and spread the remaining frosting evenly over the cake, scraping away excess frosting and smoothing imperfections with the offset spatula. Garnish with sprinkles and chocolate covered strawberries before serving, if desired.

  5. The frosted cake can be stored at room temperature for 1 day or in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Course : Dessert
Cuisine : American
Keyword : valentine's day

This recipe was originally published in 2015 and updated with gram measurements, recipe improvements, recipe tips, and new photos. Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.

Tessa Arias
Author: Tessa Arias

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Find Tessa on  

Leave a Comment & Rating

Add a Review or Question

*Please select a rating to complete your comment.

Recipe Rating

  1. #
    Lisa — June 10, 2023 at 9:40 pm

    Would this buttercream frosting hold well for an outdoor event? The highest temp being 98F.

    Cake would more than likely be inside fridge until cake time.

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — June 12, 2023 at 9:20 am

      Hi Lisa! We haven’t tested how well this buttercream holds up in such warm weather, but it should be fine for a bit at that temperature – especially if you’re able to store it in the fridge until shortly before serving. Our best guess is that about an hour out of the fridge will be just fine (as long as it’s not in the direct sunlight). Let us know what you think of this cake once you’ve given it a try 🙂

  2. #
    Mort Fishman — May 7, 2023 at 2:33 pm

    I made this cake for Valentine’s Day. I doubled the recipe in order to have enough cake to create the a heart shaped cake for a dinner for 10. I followed the recipe exactly as printed.
    This cake was a serious amount of work, but it was well worth the effort.
    My wife loved it and each of my friends said that it might have been the best cake that they have ever eaten. It was certainly the best chocolate cake that I have ever had, I bought all of the candy decorations online. Beware, the candies make the icing really sweet. However, the buttercream icing with strawberry preserves was delicious.

    I will be making a Harley Davidson birthday cake later this month and you can rest assured that this cake recipe will be the base for the cake.

    Thank you for sharing such a great recipe.

  3. #
    Vanessa — February 14, 2023 at 3:16 pm

    Thanks for sharing! How far ahead of time can I make it?

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — February 15, 2023 at 9:35 am

      Hi Vanessa! As Tessa mentions in the recipe, the frosted cake can be stored at room temperature for 1 day or in the fridge for up to 3 days. Let us know what you think once you’ve given this cake a try 🙂

  4. #
    Suzanne — February 14, 2023 at 3:15 pm

    This looks so good! What a great treat to make for the family to celebrate!

  5. #
    Jenna — February 9, 2023 at 1:32 pm

    I am planning to make this cake for my friends birthday except I do not have buttermilk on hand! I have thought of a few alternatives, just wondering which you think would be best!! I have almond milk or dry milk powder (mixed with water). I also have sour cream, which I read you can mix with water as a buttermilk substitute. Thanks and so excited to make this!!!

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — February 10, 2023 at 8:46 am

      Hi Jenna! While we do recommend sticking with real buttercream for this recipe, Tessa recently performed some side-by-side experiments to see what buttermilk alternative performed the best. Check out the article here! 🙂

  6. #
    Wayne — February 9, 2023 at 8:11 am

    Proud Dad moment! My 12 year old daughter made this recipe entirely by herself (including figuring out how to put the sprinkles on the side of the cake!) a couple days ago and it turned out so perfectly! The cake is super moist and delicious and I love the strawberry buttercream frosting. Our entire family loved it and it disappeared far too quickly! Can’t wait for her to try her hand at something else!

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — February 10, 2023 at 8:56 am

      That’s SO amazing, Wayne! You should definitely be very proud of your daughter! Way to go 🙂

  7. #
    Jim Faley — February 3, 2023 at 7:43 pm

    Tessa, you’re the best. But you’ve finally crossed the Line. A cake Leveler? I had to look this one up, found it, never had any idea that such a thig a existed. You beat me again. I’m trusting you, gonna make the cake, I’ll let you know how it turns out, level or not..thx.

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — February 6, 2023 at 1:46 pm

      We can’t wait to hear how it turns out, Jim! 🙂

  8. #
    Stephanie Smitley — March 20, 2022 at 3:58 pm

    This was SO good! Made it for Valentine’s Day and had many compliments!

  9. #
    Horia — February 27, 2022 at 2:21 pm

    Recipe more than great
    a cup of butter equals how many grams
    Thanks for the simple, classy explanation. ❤️❤️

  10. #
    Lauren — February 17, 2022 at 12:48 pm

    This cake was super tasty, and surprisingly easy to make! It seems intimidating, but ultimately it’s a matter of mixing all wet and dry ingredients separately and then combining them together. I baked mine in two 9-inch round pans and increased the recipe by 25% – I *think* I had it in the oven around 30-32 minutes. Turned out beautifully.

    I’d also recommend adding ‘strawberry’ to the key terms on this recipe! I was pretty sure that I saw you post it on Instagram but couldn’t find it by searching on your website because I didn’t use the keyword ‘valentines day.’

    • #
      Emily — February 23, 2022 at 2:48 pm

      Thanks so much for your feedback, Lauren! I’ve emailed our tech team to see what the issue is – ‘strawberry’ actually is listed as a key term, so they’re digging into why the search isn’t connecting properly. I appreciate you bringing this to our attention!

      • #
        Lauren — February 28, 2022 at 11:00 am

        Interesting – if I use the recipe filters for ‘strawberry,’ it shows up. But if I search the keyword ‘strawberry,’ it doesn’t. Hope this helps! Loved the cake 🙂

        • #
          Emily — February 28, 2022 at 11:40 am

          I tried it myself after your comment earlier and realized that as well, so weird! I sent screenshots of using the search bar vs the recipe filter to our tech team, so I’m sure they’ll be able to figure out the issue. Thanks again for letting us know!

  11. #
    Stephanie Smitley — February 13, 2022 at 9:03 pm

    This cake was delicious! So moist and the strawberry buttercream had just the right amount of strawberry flavor. Will be making this again!

    • #
      Emily — February 14, 2022 at 11:32 am

      Wonderful! So happy you loved this cake!

  12. #
    Melanie — February 6, 2022 at 9:16 am

    What is the best way to decorate the cake with sprinkles? I would like my cake to look like yours.

    • #
      Emily — February 9, 2022 at 11:40 am

      Hi Melanie! If you follow us on Instagram, check out Tessa’s highlight on making her Birthday Cake recipe. She shows how to decorate the cake with sprinkles in the last few slides, and though it’s not the same recipe, hopefully visually seeing how she added the sprinkles to that cake will help you be able to decorate this cake. Here is a direct link to the BIRTHDAY CAKE HIGHLIGHT. Please let me know how it goes!

  13. #
    Eglys Gonzalez — February 14, 2021 at 6:51 am

    Made it for this Valentine day, but made more layers since I had left some chocolate butter cream from last month Challenge. So I added a layer with Choco buttercream plus some strawberry jelly… It was so flavored and delicious. Though the cake sink a bit and was not really fluffy. Could it be because I used the oven with the fan on? and actually the cake was ready a bit earlier as the cooking time indicated.
    Thanks for this delicious recipe!

  14. #
    Trudy — February 13, 2021 at 8:20 pm

    If I don’t have coffee, should I just use hot water?

    • #
      Tessa — February 15, 2021 at 3:19 pm

      Yes! I explain this in more detail in the pink box above the recipe.

  15. #
    Ginger Piatt — February 12, 2021 at 11:56 am

    How do I apply the sprinkles to the cake sides?

    • #
      JC — February 13, 2021 at 4:53 pm

      Use your hands to gently press the sprinkles to the frosting.

  16. #
    Amy Grace — February 10, 2021 at 11:17 am

    Can I cut this recipe in half to make a smaller cake? And would this hold up in a bundt pan?

    • #
      Tessa — February 10, 2021 at 2:12 pm

      Sure, it should be fine to halve this recipe! I haven’t tested this cake in a bundt pan though.

  17. #
    DS — January 24, 2021 at 10:48 am

    Looks delish! Can I substitute cake flour for AP flour?

    • #
      Tessa — January 25, 2021 at 2:35 pm

      I would recommend sticking to all-purpose flour!

  18. #
    run 3 — January 19, 2021 at 11:42 pm

    The cake looks awesome. Will definitely try it out!

  19. #
    Tom — July 13, 2020 at 3:37 pm

    Don’t do too many cheat meals, but this looked too good. Totally worth the calories 🙂

  20. #
    Erica Holm — April 19, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    Hi Tessa! I was wondering if using seedless jam would be okay or it would change the consistency or flavor too much?

  21. #
    Brittany Dixon — February 26, 2020 at 8:09 am

    Such detailed instructions meant that even me, an unskilled baker, was able to totally rock this cake. My kids and I made in for Valentine’s Day and finished the whole thing within the next couple of days. The strawberry buttercream is especially noteworthy. I highly recommend this cake- YUM!

  22. #
    Robert Montgomery — February 22, 2020 at 12:46 pm

    I made this and it was truly moist but it exploded in my oven and the top was extremely bubbly and never developed a normal cake top but became like caramel. I used Ghirrardelli Premium Baking 100% Cocoa: Unsweetened Cocoa Powder and far as I can tell it is natural cocoa. Should I have used the Dutch process cocoa instead. I also used Expression Powder with hot water instead of the 1 cup of coffee. Any idea what I did wrong? I did weigh all ingredients in grams.

  23. #
    Namrata Gogoi — February 16, 2020 at 2:37 am

    I made this for Valentine’s Day and it was a hit! Everybody loved the combination of the chocolate and strawberry! Even after two days the cake is still so moist. Thank you for the recipe

  24. #
    Mami — February 8, 2020 at 9:34 am

    Can I subtitute buttermilk with sourcream oor Greek yogurt?

  25. #
    Jess @ Totalfitnessfocus — February 6, 2020 at 8:48 am

    That looks fabulous – love buttercream and that looks so thick and yummy! Can’t wait to try it. I don’t bake very often but this looks totally doable.

  26. #
    Nellie Shelton — February 3, 2020 at 4:41 pm

    I want to make cupcakes using this recipe. Would it be possible to use 1/2 of a chocolate covered strawberry on top of the buttercream frosting?

  27. #
    Nisha Mandal — January 31, 2020 at 12:46 am

    Is there a substitute for egg in this recipe?

    • #
      Tessa — January 31, 2020 at 2:13 pm

      I don’t work with egg substitutes, sorry!

  28. #
    Lexie — February 26, 2019 at 10:05 am

    If you do not add the coco powder will it be a vanilla cake and still taste good or do you have to add the coco powder?

  29. #
    Lalit Bisht — February 12, 2019 at 11:51 pm

    Wow! Lovely Valentine’s Day Cake, we just added this cake to our menu, people love this chocolate and strawberry cake.

    Thank you so much for sharing the recipe.

  30. #
    Sheri — February 12, 2018 at 7:50 am

    Thank you Tessa! I bake pretty often and this is
    -BY FAR- the BEST chocolate cake recipe ever! :)))
    My family went wild over it! They were saying it was the best cake I have baked while they were eating it!!
    This is now my one and only chocolate cake recipe!

    I made it exactly as your recipe read. I did put strawberry preserves between the cake layers instead of the buttercream icing to reduce the sweetness that icing brings, but I do this on all two layer cakes! Ps – be sure to let the cake cool before turning the layers onto the cooling rack or they will crack. This cake is soooooo moist! Many thanks Tessa!

  31. #
    becky — February 11, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Can this recipe be used in an 11×15 pan

  32. #
    Sandra — February 6, 2017 at 9:17 am

    How do I preserve the buttercream consistency while crumb coat is firming in frig.? (No room in freezer)

  33. #
    Psthmini — February 4, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Lovely cake what is the cake tin size for this cake

  34. #
    Hannah — February 20, 2016 at 11:07 am

    I just made this cake. Not only is it fun to make, it is beautiful and delicious! I see me making it other times during the year!

  35. #
    Martha — February 9, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Can this be made into cupcakes? If so, how long do you bake them for?

  36. #
    Dahianna — February 2, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    This looks amazing! Does freezing it make it easier to frost? And could I put it in the fridge if there is no room in the freezer 🙂

    • #
      Tessa — February 2, 2016 at 6:14 pm

      Yep! Did you watch the video?! You could put it in the fridge but it will take longer to firm up for frosting.

  37. #
    vanity — January 21, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    Do you freeze all your cakes before frosting, if so how long do you frost them for are they covered , uncovered, and with what ?

  38. #
    Sienna Creado — January 20, 2016 at 1:40 am

    YOur cake is awesome. Will definitely try it out.

  39. #
    Sienna Creado — January 20, 2016 at 1:40 am

    Your cake looks awesome. Will definitely try it out.

  40. #
    Clara wimberley — January 19, 2016 at 8:45 am

    You are great

  41. #
    Cecilia — January 18, 2016 at 5:14 am

    Your cake looks amazing! I have never made a homemade cake so what do I do with the buttermilk? Do I just add the powder buttermilk? Or do I mix the buttermilk powder with water and then add it to the recipe? I’m not sure what “buttermilk, shaken” means?

    • #
      Tessa — January 20, 2016 at 10:41 am

      Just regular liquid buttermilk. When it sits in the container for a while it tends to settle and needs to be physically shaken to make cohesive again.

  42. #
    GiGi Eats — February 5, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    Wow! That cake is beyond beyond beyond beautiful!!!!!!

  43. #
    Annie @ Annie’s Noms — February 5, 2015 at 10:31 am

    Oh WOWEEEE this is simply beautiful!! I love everything about it!!

  44. #
    kay — February 5, 2015 at 12:35 am

    Ohhh my the cake looks soooo yummmmmy! 🙂

  45. #
    Olivia – Primavera Kitchen — February 4, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    I’m at a loss for words! This cake truly is a work of art!

  46. #
    Gaby — February 4, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    Stunningly gorgeous! This cake is a Valentine’s Day showstopper!!!

  47. #
    Angelyn @ Everyday Desserts — February 4, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    wow, this looks amazing!! it’s gorgeous!

  48. #
    Julia @ Sprinkled With Jules — February 4, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    Beautiful job! It sounds delicious, I love the chocolate covered strawberries on top.

  49. #
    Jen @ Baked by an Introvert — February 4, 2015 at 8:21 am

    The cake is purely heaven! I love the chocolate cake with strawberry buttercream. It’s perfect for Valentine’s Day!

  50. #
    June Burns — February 4, 2015 at 3:42 am

    Wow that is just amazing! It looks so fudgy and chocolaty, mmm 🙂

Join the Handle the Heat Community

Cookie Customization Chart
Do you want a more delicious life?
Instead of digging through cookbooks and magazines and searching the internet for amazing recipes, subscribe to Handle the Heat to receive new recipe posts delivered straight to your email inbox. You’ll get all the latest recipes, videos, kitchen tips and tricks AND my *free* Cookie Customization Guide (because I am the Cookie Queen)!
As Seen On....
NPR People Time Glamour Readers Digest The Huffington Post BuzzFeed