This Earthquake Cake recipe offers a decadent twist on the classic chocolate cake, featuring a moist and fluffy base, a creamy, sweet filling, and a crunchy nutty topping. It's a delicious cake that literally shakes up expectations with its delicious taste and texture contrasts, making it perfect for those special occasions that call for something truly extraordinary.
This earthquake cake is a delicious chocolate cake dessert that looks as quirky as its name suggests. Moist chocolate cake mixed up with creamy swirls, nuts, and coconut.
Then, as it bakes, it sort of cracks and crinkles on top, looking like the aftermath of an earthquake – that's how it got its fun name!
What You'll Love About This Recipe
Chocolate Cake Mix: This is the foundation of our cake. Choosing a good quality chocolate cake mix will make all the difference, giving you a rich and moist base that's absolutely irresistible. I like using devils food cake mix as it has a strong chocolate flavor. But you could use chocolate fudge cake mix or use German chocolate cake mix for a subtler chocolate flavor.
Vegetable Oil: This helps make the cake super moist. Any neutral oil will do the job without adding any extra flavor.
Eggs: These are essential for binding the ingredients together, giving the cake structure and richness.
Water: This is mixed with the cake mix to create the perfect batter consistency. It's simple, but crucial for getting the cake just right.
Shredded, Sweetened Coconut: Adding a sweet, tropical twist to the cake, coconut brings in a lovely texture and flavor that pairs wonderfully with chocolate.
Chopped Pecans: These add a nutty crunch to every bite, offering a delightful contrast to the soft cake base.
Cream Cheese: The star of the show for those creamy swirls, cream cheese should be soft and full-fat for the best flavor and texture.
Unsalted Butter: This is mixed with cream cheese and powdered sugar to create a rich, smooth filling that's dotted throughout the cake.
Powdered Sugar: It sweetens the cream cheese mixture, making it the perfect complement to the chocolatey cake.
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips: These melt slightly as the cake bakes, providing little pockets of gooey chocolate that make this cake truly special.
- 9x13 inch Baking Pan: Essential for shaping and baking the cake. A non-stick pan is ideal, but any similar size will work.
- Mixing Bowls: You'll need at least two, one for the cake mix and another for the cream cheese mixture.
- Electric Mixer: Makes combining the cream cheese, butter, and sugar easier, but a whisk and some elbow grease can also do the job.
- Microwave or Stove: For melting the butter. If you don't have a microwave, gently melt the butter over low heat on the stove.
- Toothpick: For swirling the cream cheese mixture into the cake batter, creating the 'earthquake' effect.
Preheat and Prepare: Begin by heating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and generously greasing your 9x13 inch pan with non-stick spray.
Layer the Toppings: Evenly spread the shredded coconut, chopped pecans, and half of the chocolate chips across the bottom of the pan. This creates the crunchy layer that will surprise and delight in every slice.
Mix the Cake: In a large bowl, whisk together the chocolate cake mix, vegetable oil, eggs, and water until smooth. This is your cake base, so ensure it's well mixed for an even bake.
Assemble the Cake: Carefully pour the cake batter over your prepared layer of coconut and pecans, smoothing the top to ensure an even layer.
Prepare the Filling: Melt the butter in short bursts in the microwave, then, in a separate bowl, beat the softened cream cheese. Gradually blend in the melted butter, followed by the powdered sugar, until the mixture is smooth and well combined.
Swirl and Sprinkle: Dollop spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture over the cake batter, then use a toothpick to artfully swirl it through the batter.
This not only adds flavor but also contributes to the earthquake effect. Finish by sprinkling the remaining chocolate chips on top.
Bake to Perfection: Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 45-50 minutes. The cake is done when it's set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
Enjoy: Allow the cake to cool slightly before serving, then enjoy the rich, multi-textured delight that is the Earthquake Cake.
You can top your cake with a cream cheese frosting, but i like it best with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
For the best 'earthquake' effect and flavor, ensure the cream cheese mixture is evenly dolloped and swirled through the cake batter. This not only creates the signature look but also ensures pockets of creamy sweetness throughout the cake. Do not overmix the cream cheese swirls into the cake batter. The goal is to achieve distinct streaks of cream cheese mixture throughout the cake, so a light hand and just a few swirls with a toothpick are all you need.
- Walnuts for Pecans: If pecans aren't your thing or you just don't have them on hand, walnuts make a great substitute, offering a similar texture and nutty flavor.
- Margarine for Butter: In a pinch, margarine can replace butter in the cream cheese filling, though the flavor may be slightly different.
- Peanut Butter Earthquake Cake: Add a swirl of melted peanut butter to the cream cheese mixture for a nutty twist.
- White Chocolate Raspberry Earthquake Cake: Substitute white chocolate chips and add a layer of raspberries for a fruity, tangy variation.
- Mocha Earthquake Cake: Boost the chocolate with a coffee kick by adding 1-2 tablespoons of instant espresso powder to the batter. Top with dark chocolate and espresso chips for an extra mocha flavor.
- Salted Caramel Earthquake Cake: Drizzle caramel sauce over the cream cheese layer and sprinkle sea salt on top before baking for a sweet and salty twist.
- Berry Bliss Earthquake Cake: Scatter fresh or frozen berries (like raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries) over the nut layer for a fruity contrast.
Have some leftover cake? Here's our storage tips.
In the Fridge: Your earthquake cake will stay fresh and tasty in the fridge for up to 5 days. Just make sure it's covered well with plastic wrap or in an airtight container. This keeps the moisture in and ensures that the flavors continue to meld beautifully.
Freezer Friendly: If you've got leftovers or you're baking ahead, this cake freezes wonderfully. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil, or place it in a freezer-safe container. It will keep for up to 3 months. When you're ready to enjoy it, just thaw the cake in the refrigerator overnight. This method preserves the moistness and flavors of the cake, making it just as good as the day it was baked.
Reheating Tips: If you prefer your cake a little warm, especially on cold days, you can gently warm individual slices in the microwave for a few seconds. Be cautious not to overdo it, as you don't want to melt the chocolate chips or alter the cream cheese swirls. A brief zap should bring out the cake's rich flavors and make it even more comforting.
- 1 box of chocolate cake mix
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
- 1 ⅓ cup water
- ½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 8 ounce cream cheese softened
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 ½ cups semi sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9x13 inch pan.
- Evenly distribute coconut, pecans, and half the chocolate chips in the pan.
- In a bowl, mix together cake mix, oil, eggs, and water. Pour over the coconut and pecans.
- Melt butter, then in another bowl, beat together cream cheese and melted butter. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing until smooth.
- Drop cream cheese mixture by spoonfuls into the cake batter. Swirl with a toothpick.
- Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes or until set. Cool before serving.
Absolutely! While pecans offer a classic, buttery crunch to the Earthquake Cake, you're free to switch them out based on your taste preferences or what you have on hand. Walnuts are a great alternative, providing a similar texture and a slightly different nutty flavor. Almonds, chopped hazelnuts, or even macadamia nuts can also add a delightful twist to the cake. Just keep the measurements the same to maintain the balance of flavors and textures in the recipe.
Yes, if coconut isn't your thing, you can easily leave it out of the recipe without having to substitute anything in its place. The cake will still be delicious and full of texture from the nuts and chocolate chips. However, if you're looking for a bit of the texture and sweetness that coconut provides, consider adding a little extra of the nuts or chocolate chips to compensate.
Definitely! If you prefer to make your cake mix from scratch, go for it. Just ensure that your homemade mix yields the equivalent of what's called for in the boxed mix (usually around 15 to 18.25 ounces). A basic chocolate cake mix typically includes flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Using homemade mix allows you to control the ingredients and avoid preservatives, which might be preferable for some bakers.
Semi-sweet chocolate chips are recommended because they provide a balanced sweetness that complements the rich flavors of the cake and cream cheese filling. However, this doesn't mean you're limited to them. Feel free to experiment with milk chocolate chips for a sweeter taste or dark chocolate chips for a deeper chocolate flavor. You can even use a combination to create a more complex chocolate experience in every bite.
The Earthquake Cake is done when it has set and the edges start to slightly pull away from the sides of the pan. Inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake is a good test; it should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached. Because of the moist, dense ingredients like cream cheese and chocolate chips, the center might seem a bit soft, but it will set as it cools. Start checking for doneness around the 45-minute mark to avoid overbaking.
Yes, making the Earthquake Cake a day ahead is a great idea. The flavors have more time to meld together in the fridge, enhancing the overall taste. Just make sure to cover it well to keep it moist. When you're ready to serve, you can enjoy it straight from the fridge or let it sit out for a bit to come to room temperature, depending on your preference.