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Earthquake Cake

This chocolate lover’s Earthquake Cake is a delicious and EASY chocolate cake recipe. It’s gooey, rich, and completely over-the-top in the best possible way made with simple ingredients, starting with a cake mix.

If you’re already a fan of my Ridiculous Chocolate Cake, you’re almost guaranteed to love this easy Earthquake Cake recipe, too!

A slice of chocolate earthquake cake on a white plate.

The Ultimate Chocolate Lovers Cake: Earthquake Cake!

We’re shaking things up around here! In more ways than one. Firstly, we’re making earthquake cake, so pun very much intended. Secondly, I’ve brought this incredible chocolate coconut cake recipe out of my mom’s recipe box and into a new millennium.

This cake is chocolatey, it’s coconutty. There’s loads of gooey chocolate everywhere, and a sweet cream cheese layer that oozes out when it’s warm. Unless you dislike chocolate (who ARE you?) and delicious desserts, there isn’t much not to love about this scrumptious, moist, dreamy earthquake cake.

I hope you make this chocolate cake recipe, and then make it again, and again. It’s sure to be an all-time favorite!

What Is Earthquake Cake?

If you grew up in the 80s, chances are you already know what earthquake cake is. I can’t speak for all Eighties babies, but it was a quintessential dessert from my childhood, and a staple at functions like church potlucks. In essence, an earthquake is a cake that cracks open after baking, revealing rich crevices of sweet cream cheese. Traditionally, it’s made with cake mix, shredded coconut, pecans, and a buttery, crackly cream cheese layer.

Recipe Ingredients

Since this recipe is extra 80s-tastic, we’re going all out with boxed chocolate cake mix as the base. Gotta love a throwback! Here’s everything you’ll need, and be sure to check out the recipe card for the full amounts:

  • Coconut: Sweetened, shredded coconut.
  • Chocolate Chips: I recommend semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips.
  • Chocolate Cake Mix: Your choice of boxed chocolate cake mix, and don’t forget to pick up the ingredients called for on the package!
  • Cream Cheese: Use the cream cheese that comes in blocks, and not the spreadable tub kind. You’ll need to cut it up into cubes.
  • Butter: Also cut into cubes.
  • Powdered Sugar: To sweeten the cream cheese layer while keeping the texture silky smooth.

What Kind of Cake Mix Should I Use?

I used a triple chocolate cake mix (because my name is Shelly, and I’m a chocoholic). But you can really make this recipe with just about any kind of chocolate cake mix. Other good options include Devil’s food cake, dark chocolate, Swiss or German chocolate cake mix, etc. 

You don’t have to limit it to only chocolate cake mixes, too. Go ahead and try vanilla, strawberry, or lemon cake mix. How about funfetti earthquake cake? Sign me up. I’d love to know your favorite mixes for earthquake cake in the comments below!

How to Make Earthquake Cake

Let’s get this recipe in motion! Get your oven preheated to 350°F while you prepare a 9×13 inch pan with a light coating of nonstick spray. Then, get started on assembling your cake:

Chocolate chips and shredded coconut scattered in the bottom of a baking dish.

Make the Coconut Layer: First, dump a mixture of coconut combined with chocolate chips into the bottom of your prepared pan.

Chocolate cake batter is poured over chocolate chips and shredded coconut scattered in the bottom of a baking dish.

Prepare the Cake Batter: Next, prepare your chosen chocolate cake mix batter according to the package directions. Pour this over top of the coconut and chocolate layer.

Photo collage showing butter and cream cheese melting together for the earthquake cake topping.

Add the Cream Cheese Layer: Melt cream cheese and butter together, then stir in powdered sugar. Drizzle the mixture over the cake batter, and smooth it out a little. Don’t worry if you notice that it’s sinking a bit – mine always seems to. The charm of this cake is totally in its imperfection!

Earthquake cake batter topped with cream cheese mixture in a baking dish.

Bake: Pop your cake into the oven until the edges are set, about 45 minutes should be perfect. Make sure the center of the cake still has a bit of wiggle. 

Chocolate earthquake cake in a baking dish.

Cool and Serve: Allow the cake to cool a half hour or so before slicing. Serve it warm for a molten, gooey cake (which is glorious with a scoop of ice cream, just saying), otherwise leave it to cool completely for cleaner slices. Either way you’re going to LOVE it. Be sure to check out the section below for serving suggestions!

Tips for Success

Your cake will, without a doubt, turn out amazing. I just know it! Here’s my two cents to make sure this chocolate cake is a definite success:

  • Don’t Overbake: With earthquake cakes, the easiest way to check for doneness is to go by eye. Look for set edges and a slightly loose center. The classic toothpick test will not work for earthquake cake, since a toothpick won’t come out clean even if the cake is ready! So use your judgment, but don’t leave the cake in too long, as you still want that nice, gooey middle.
  • Embrace the Imperfection: This cake isn’t exactly “pretty” when it leaves the oven, but that’s kinda the whole point! Besides, it’s beautiful on the inside, with all it’s ooey-gooey, chocolate flavors. And that’s what counts.
Chocolate earthquake cake in a baking dish with slices missing.

Add-Ins & Variations 

Try these easy ways to make this decadent chocolate cake recipe your own:

  • Pecans: At last, let’s address the elephant in the room. You may have found yourself asking “but where are the PECANS?” It’s true, most earthquake cake recipes include pecans. My mom’s recipe even had nuts in it. I, however, have never liked nuts (who am I?), so I left them in the 80s for this recipe. All this to say: if you love your earthquake cake with pecans in it, please go ahead and add them back in!
  • Other Nuts: This recipe will also work with different nut varieties like almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts. Live your best nut-loving life, I won’t stop you.
  • Oreos: Make Oreo earthquake cake by swapping out the chocolate and coconut layer with a layer of Oreo cookies instead. Then assemble the rest of the cake as normal, sprinkling crushed Oreos overtop before baking.
  • Peanut Butter: Melt a spoonful or two of peanut butter into the butter and cream cheese mixture. Go all out and sub in peanut butter chips in the chocolate chip layer!
  • Strawberry Earthquake Cake: Trade the semisweet chocolate chips for white chocolate chips, and the chocolate cake mix for strawberry cake mix. As mentioned earlier, you can also try this variation with lemon or vanilla cake mix!
  • Pumpkin Earthquake Cake: I have an awesome recipe for Pumpkin Earthquake Cake that uses yellow cake mix and pumpkin puree. The ultimate fall dessert!

Serving Suggestions 

Looking for ways to serve your hot mess of a cake? You can go as simple as enjoying a slice of earthquake cake with a glass of milk, or up the ante with these easy serving ideas:

  • This recipe is completely bonkers served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Try it and see!
  • Max out the goo factor and drizzle your earthquake cake with hot fudge sauce, strawberry syrup, or caramel sauce. 
  • Top it with whipped cream, because why not.
  • Sprinkle with coconut flakes (toasted or not).

Storage Instructions

Store airtight, refrigerated for up to 3 days. I like to warm the cake in the microwave for a few seconds before serving, but that’s optional.

Can I Freeze This?

You bet! Freezing earthquake cake is as easy as wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap, either whole or in slices. Take your cake out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge before warming and/or serving.

A spoon scoops a spoonful of earthquake cake from a slice on a white plate.

More Decadent Chocolate Cakes to Try

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A fork stuck into a slice of chocolate earthquake cake on a plate.

Chocolate Earthquake Cake

  • Author: Cookies & Cups
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: serves 12 1x
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Dessert


Shake up your dessert routine with this chocolate lover’s Earthquake Cake! A delicious and EASY chocolate cake recipe that’s gooey, rich, and completely over-the-top in the best possible way.


  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 box chocolate cake (plus ingredients called for on the box)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 4 cups powdered sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Coat a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray.
  3. In a large bowl combine the coconut and chocolate chips. Pour this mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment prepare the cake mix according to the package directions.
  5. Pour the cake batter on top of the coconut mixture.
  6. Place the cream cheese and butter In a medium saucepan over medium- low heat. Stirring constantly melt mixture together. Remove from the heat immediately and stir in the powdered sugar until the mixture is smooth.
  7. Carefully drizzle this on top of the cake batter. Try and smooth it out so it covers all of it. If it sinks it’s fine.
  8. Bake the cake for 45 minutes. The edges will be set and the center will be slightly loose.
  9. Allow the cake to cool for about 30 minutes and slice and serve for a gooey cake. You can also allow the cake to cool completely before serving.


Store airtight, refrigerated for up to 3 days. I like to warm the cake in the microwave before serving, but you don’t have to!


  • Serving Size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 668
  • Sugar: 70.1 g
  • Sodium: 400.3 mg
  • Fat: 35 g
  • Carbohydrates: 87.1 g
  • Protein: 6.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 90.6 mg

Keywords: chocolate cake, best chocolate cake recipe, easy chocolate cake recipe

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29 comments on “Earthquake Cake”

    1. Sure! I would add walnuts or pecans 🙂 And I’d start with 1/2 cup chopped and if you would like to add more, go for it!

  1. Where does the cream cheese mixture go??? Witchcraft!!!!

    Jk it looks sinful and amazing, can’t wait to make it!!! Love your blog<3

  2. I made this recipe. I’m a huge peanut butter fan. I changed the chocolate chips to Reeses peanut butter chips and also added about 1 cup of creamy peanut butter to the cream cheese mixture. Wow!

  3. I just reread this post. I made the cake a year and a half ago and it was delicious. I’m going to make it again but as funfetti and maybe put sifted cocoa powder in the cream cheese mixture. I’ll let you know the results. 🙂

  4. This is a favorite recipe in my family. Great for pot lucks, or just a cake craving….will pass it down the generations!

  5. Hi. It would be helpful if you out full ingredients as well rather than the cake mixes on your cake recipes. I would like to use the all purpose flour and the like rather than use the cake mix. Any help………..?

    1. If you already have a homemade cake recipe, just prepare it and follow the rest of the recipe. This is meant to be delicious and simple.

  6. Laura @ Laura's Culinary Adventures

    Wow! I have never had earthquake cake before, but that needs to change!

  7. hi shelly !

    i didn’t get my weekly news letter from you this week , which i really love to read ! what happend ?? thanks

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