Triple Chocolate Cake

This is my favorite homemade chocolate cake recipe. With a super moist crumb and fudgy, yet light texture, this chocolate cake recipe will soon be your favorite too. Top with chocolate buttercream and chocolate chips for 3x the chocolate flavor. You can also prepare this chocolate layer cake as a sheet cake, too. See recipe note.

slice of chocolate cake on a plate

Originally published in 2013 and now with more in-depth descriptions, a helpful video tutorial, clearer instructions, and different ways to use this classic chocolate cake recipe. I hope you enjoy all the new features in this recipe post!

Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake… But Better

This pictured cake is a combination of chocolate buttercream and mock-devil’s food cake. You know the Devil’s Food chocolate cake you get at a restaurant or even from a box mix? This is that exact cake, only completely homemade. Notice the reddish tint? That’s where the name Devil’s Food comes from. The baking soda in this recipe reacts with the natural cocoa powder, which results in the reddish color.

This is, without a doubt, the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. And judging by your feedback in the reviews, I’m confident you’d say the same thing!


This Chocolate Cake Is:

  • Extra moist
  • 2 layers, but can be made as 3 layers or as a sheet cake
  • Soft with a velvety crumb
  • Deeply flavorful
  • Unapologetically rich, just like my flourless chocolate cake
  • Covered with creamy chocolate buttercream

chocolate cake on white cake stand

triple chocolate cake

Chocolate Cake Video Tutorial


Chocolate Cake Ingredients

Each ingredient serves an important role. For best results, do not make substitutions.

  1. All-Purpose Flour: The structure of the cake. Do not use cake flour– when combined with ultra-light cocoa powder, cake flour is too fine.
  2. Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder: Do not use dutch-process cocoa powder. If you’re interested, see dutch-process vs natural cocoa powder for an in-depth explanation.
  3. Baking Soda & Baking Powder: Use both baking soda and baking powder for lift.
  4. Salt: Salt balances the flavor.
  5. Espresso Powder: Espresso powder is optional, but I recommend its addition because it enhances the chocolate flavor. The chocolate cake will not taste like coffee, I promise. I use espresso powder in my chocolate zucchini cake, too!
  6. Oil: Don’t use butter in this cake batter. Cocoa powder is a particularly drying ingredient, so this cake needs oil for suitable moisture.
  7. Eggs: Use 2 room temperature eggs. To speed up the gently warming, place refrigerated eggs in a cup of warm water for 10 minutes. Did you know what the temperature of your ingredients has a direct correlation to the success of your recipes? Unless otherwise noted, use room temperature ingredients.
  8. Buttermilk: This chocolate cake requires the moisture and acidity from buttermilk. Lately I’ve been using a mix of sour cream and buttermilk, as well as reducing the hot liquid. You can read more about this next and see my dark chocolate mousse cake, tuxedo cake, black forest cake, and German chocolate cake recipes.
  9. Vanilla Extract: Vanilla extract adds flavor.
  10. Hot Coffee or Hot Water: Hot liquid enhances the cocoa powder’s flavor. It also encourages it to bloom and dissolve appropriately. You’ll notice I don’t use hot liquid in my chocolate cupcakes recipe. That’s because there isn’t the same volume of dry ingredients. With this amount of cake batter, we need a hot liquid to break up the cocoa powder lumps resting in all that flour. If you don’t drink coffee, you can use hot water. For deeper and darker flavor, though, use coffee. (Decaf coffee works!)

chocolate cake batter

How to Make Chocolate Cake

What an easy chocolate cake! No mixer required for the batter, simply whisk the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients (or vice versa, it doesn’t make any difference), add the hot coffee, then whisk everything together. The cake batter is thin. Divide between 2 9-inch cake pans. You can easily stretch it to 3 or 4 8-inch or 9-inch cakes if needed. Or make a quarter sheet cake using a 9×13 inch cake pan. See my recipe notes for details.

Need cupcakes instead? Use my super moist chocolate cupcakes recipe.


Lately I’ve Been Using Sour Cream

As mentioned above and in the video tutorial, there are two ways to prepare this cake batter and the slight difference involves the wet ingredients. You can follow the recipe as written using buttermilk and hot coffee/water. Or you can add sour cream. Whichever way you make it, the process is the same. (Just reduce the liquids and add sour cream!)

  1. Original Version (pictured and written below): The original recipe produces a very thin batter. The cake is extra soft with a deliciously spongey texture.
  2. Sour Cream Version (written in recipe notes and shown in video tutorial): By replacing some of the buttermilk and hot coffee with sour cream, the cake batter is slightly thicker and produces a slightly denser cake with more structure. I love using sour cream in my vanilla cake, too!

Both cakes are equally moist and chocolatey with the same flavor and ease of preparation. It just depends if you want a spongier cake or not. 🙂

slice of chocolate cake on a plate

Chocolate Buttercream

Like my yellow cake, I use my favorite chocolate buttercream. I slightly increase the amount of each ingredient to produce extra frosting. If you prefer a thinner layer of frosting, use the chocolate buttercream recipe. But if you crave extra buttercream, follow the frosting measurements below. You need 6 ingredients total:

  1. Unsalted Butter
  2. Confectioners’ Sugar
  3. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  4. Heavy Cream or Milk
  5. Vanilla Extract
  6. Salt

Because there is no leavening occurring, you can use either dutch-process or natural cocoa powder in the buttercream. Heavy cream provides an extra creamy frosting, but milk can be substituted if needed.

Chocolate frosting in glass bowl

slice of chocolate layer cake on a plate

So, why do I call it triple chocolate layer cake when it only has 2 layers? Well, chocolate is used three times: chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, chocolate chip garnish. Let’s eat!

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slice of chocolate cake on a plate

Triple Chocolate Layer Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: serves 12
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This is my favorite homemade chocolate cake recipe. With a super moist crumb and fudgy, yet light texture, this chocolate cake recipe will be your favorite too. Top with chocolate buttercream and chocolate chips for 3x the chocolate flavor. You can also prepare this chocolate layer cake as a sheet cake too. See recipe note.


Ingredients

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (220g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 3/4 cup (65g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder*
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder (optional)*
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable oil (or canola oil or melted coconut oil)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature*
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk*
  • 1 cup (240ml) freshly brewed strong hot coffee (regular or decaf)*

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 1.25 cups (2.5 sticks or 290g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 34 cups (360-480g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup (65g) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)*
  • 35 Tablespoons (45-75ml) heavy cream (or half-and-half or milk), at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • optional for decoration: semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease two 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder (if using) together in a large bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or you can use a whisk) mix the oil, eggs, and vanilla together on medium-high speed until combined. Add the buttermilk and mix until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, add the hot water/coffee, and whisk or beat on low speed until the batter is completely combined. Batter is thin.
  3. Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake for 23-26 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Note: Even if they’re completely done, the cooled cakes may *slightly* sink in the center. Cocoa powder is simply not as structurally strong as all-purpose flour and can’t hold up to all the moisture necessary to make a moist tasting chocolate cake. It’s normal!)
  4. Remove the cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely in the pan.
  5. Make the buttercream: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy – about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, heavy cream, salt, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 1 full minute. Do not over-whip. Add 1/4 cup more confectioners’ sugar or cocoa powder if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Taste. Add more salt if needed. (I usually add another pinch.)
  6. Assemble and frost: If cooled cakes are domed on top, use a large serrated knife to slice a thin layer off the tops to create a flat surface. This is called “leveling” the cakes. Discard or crumble over finished cake. Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and spread remaining frosting all over the top and sides. I always use an icing spatula and bench scraper for the frosting. Garnish with chocolate chips, if desired.
  7. Refrigerate cake for at least 30-60 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
  8. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Prepare cake through step 4. Wrap the individual baked and cooled cake layers tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature then continue with step 5. You can prepare the chocolate buttercream 2-3 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate, then bring to room temperature before spreading onto/assembling the cake. Frosted cake freezes well, up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature or serve cold.
  2. 3 Layer Cake: You can also prepare this cake as a 3 layer cake. Divide batter between three 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans and bake for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This frosting will be enough for 3 layers. If desired, use the frosting recipe from my Piñata Cake if you want extra frosting.
  3. Cocoa Powder: Use natural cocoa powder in the cake, not dutch-process. (See dutch-process vs natural cocoa powder for more information.) Since there is no leavening occurring in frosting, you can use either natural or dutch-process in the chocolate buttercream.
  4. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is required for this recipe. You can make your own DIY version of buttermilk if needed. Add 2 teaspoons of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1 cup. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cake won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
  5. Sour Cream Version: Lately I’ve been using a mix of sour cream and buttermilk, as well as reducing the hot coffee. Reduce the buttermilk and hot coffee to 1/2 cup (120ml) each. Add 3/4 cup (180g) of full-fat room temperature sour cream with the wet ingredients. You can see this described above, in the video tutorial, and in my dark chocolate mousse cake. That cake and this cake are both fantastically moist, but the sour cream version has a slightly sturdier crumb.
  6. FAQ: The sour cream version (note above) makes a sturdy enough cake that will hold under fondant.
  7. Amount of Cake Batter: This recipe (and the sour cream version) yields about 6 cups of batter, which is helpful if you need it for different Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions.
  8. Room Temperature Ingredients: All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
  9. Espresso Powder/Coffee: Espresso powder and coffee will not make the cake taste like coffee. Instead, they deepen the chocolate flavor. I highly recommend them both. You can use the same amount of instant coffee (the powder) instead of espresso powder if desired. If coffee isn’t your thing, you can leave out the espresso powder and use extra hot water or hot chai tea.
  10. Bundt Pan: I recommend my chocolate cream cheese bundt cake but without the cream cheese filling. Reduce buttermilk in that recipe to 1/4 cup and increase sour cream to 1 cup.
  11. 9×13 Inch Pan: You can bake this cake in a 9×13 inch baking pan. Same oven temperature, about 35-40 minutes bake time.
  12. Chocolate Cupcakes: Here is my favorite chocolate cupcakes recipe. Same unbelievable texture as this cake! (You’ll notice I don’t use hot liquid in that recipe. That’s because there isn’t the same volume of dry ingredients to break up. If you need more than 1 dozen chocolate cupcakes, use this chocolate cake recipe for 2-3 dozen. Same baking instructions as my chocolate cupcakes.

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten

Keywords: cake, chocolate cake

Triple Chocolate Layer Cake. The fudgiest homemade chocolate cake ever! sallysbakingaddiction.com

1560 Comments

  1. Do you think this recipe would be ok to use with white buttercream frosting?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, definitely!

    2. Shreya Sathish says:

      THIS RECIPE WAS MADE AMAZING! THIS WAS HIT AT MY HOME. WILL DEFINITELY RECOMMEND TO EVERYONE.

  2. Meetal Gaikwad says:

    This is our go to for all chocolate cake bases! Today we used whole milk Kefir instead of buttermilk and it was perfect. We have made this twice in two months now, and it is always the first thing the kids want to bake if we have everything on hand.

  3. This was a total hit for my daughter’s 6th birthday. I added a thin layer of raspberry jam in between the layers but otherwise made no changes. Cakes are so hit or miss for me but the crumb/texture was PERFECT. Thank you so much for the all the detail. Your website is my go-to now!

  4. I follow all your recipes and it always comes out perfect. But for some reason i cant master this chocolate cake. After i baked the cake, the aftertaste was a bit bitter and smelt a bit fishy. I wanted to know why that is, maybe my levening wasn’t as good with some ingredients or something. Would you advise me on this please.
    Thank you

  5. This chocolate cake recipe is fantastic! It’s so soft and fudgy! Stays fresh in the fridge for over a week! Excellent!

  6. I’m planning to make this cake for my mum’s 70th birthday next week. I normally use golden caster sugar in cakes but I see that your recipe calls for granulated sugar. Do you think golden sugar would work as well as white sugar? I have found some golden granulated in the supermarket so I’m just looking for some advice on golden vs white and granulated vs caster please.
    I am so excited to make this! It looks gorgeous and has so many fantastic reviews here

    1. Hi Nicola, golden sugar should be fine here. It’s a little tricker to make that swap when you’re making more delicate baked goods including cookies. For this cake, that swap should be just fine.

  7. I’m gonna try this on my mother’s birthday next week. Though I have a problem since our oven cannot fit multiple 8″ cake tins. Should I mix 1/3 of the wet and dry ingredients (leaving some dry and wet not mixed), then baking the first batch. Or should I mix it all, then let the other batches sit while the first one is baking.

    Hope you understand. I’ve been thinking about this for hours now. Lol. Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Joshua, You can go ahead and mix the full recipe, bake half of the batter and leave the remaining batter loosely covered at room temperature until you are ready to bake the second half. Enjoy!

      1. Will do. Thanks!

  8. Hi sally I just have an 18 20 and 22 cm cake tins
    I want to prepare a birthday cake
    Could you advise which of the above could I use and if I could make in a single tin also how long would that be in the oven with the temperature please

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Simona, A 22 cm round pan would be perfect. There is too much batter to make all at once so you can either divide between two pans or cut the recipe in half for one layer.

  9. OMG!! This icing was so light, chocolaty and not too sweet. It was perfect! I’m never going back to store bought frosting. Thank you for the recipe!

  10. Elina Stergiou says:

    Heeelp, i want to make a sheet pan for my son’s bday tomorrow and i only have stainless steel and i am not sure about the quality of baking in it as i have only baked pies. i need a large volume to share cake with the neighbors .. i always bake in fan oven. what are your suggestions??? hope u see this in time thank you…oh, i forgot to tell u how amazing you and your website are, thank u

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Elina, A metal pan is fine and this batter as written fits nicely into a 9×13 inch pan – see recipe notes for details!

  11. Is there a way to modify if I just have Dutch process cocoa powder (I think.. it says potassium carbonate as the other ingredient).
    Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Melissa, Dutched cocoa will change how the cake bakes and tastes, and that switch would require additional testing. If you test anything out, please let us know. Or if you find a chocolate cake recipe you love that calls for dutched cocoa, let us know too! Natural cocoa really is best here.

  12. I can’t use egg…can i use curd instead?? If yes,then how much ?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We have not tested this recipe with an egg substitute but let us know if you try anything!

  13. Hi, I’m planning to make this cake tomorrow for my daughter’s birthday on Sunday. I was thinking of using ganache instead of buttercream as a frosting, using Guittard 70% baking bars. This is partly because I love ganache, but partly because I want a less-soft frosting to put a bunch of plastic dinosaur decorations on. I was also planning to make some vanilla buttercream and dye it for adding various decorations. Does using ganache for frosting this cake seem like an ok plan? How much of the ganache recipe would it take to cover one 9″ layer with an 8″ layer on top? Without whipping it, that is, since I don’t want it too soft. I also wanted to see whether I can use a bit of the batter to make a single cupcake to put upside down on top of the cake as a “volcano”. Would this batter work to make a cupcake, or does it have to be the cupcake recipe? (I would also need additional ganache to frost the “volcano”.) Thank you! Everything I’ve ever made from your recipes has turned out great.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Adriana, Yes you can definitely cover this cake with ganache. Our ganache recipe makes 1 and 1/2 cups so you can increase it if you need to. No matter how much ganache you are making, you always need equal parts chocolate and cream. And yes, you can definitely use this batter to make a single cupcake. Enjoy!

  14. Hi! I would like to make this but as a four layer cake, how would you recommend I alter the recipe?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Beth, We recommend making this batter twice (do not double) for a total of 4 layers. Enjoy!

  15. It’s fine, but tastes just like a boxed cake mix. I was a little disappointed after all that work and the cost of the ingredients.

  16. Would this make relatively thick layers for a 8” 3-layer cake, or would they be quite thin?

    1. Hi Sofia, this amount of batter would yield decently thick layers baked in 3 8-inch pans. I’m unsure of their height though.

  17. Hi Sally,
    I was wondering about pan preparation if made as a sheet cake. (?) Do you still grease the pan, line with parchment paper, and grease the parchment paper? Or is greasing the pan sufficient?
    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Callie, if you’re serving the cake right out of the pan, you can simply grease it. If you want to lift the cake out of the pan to frost and serve, I would grease the pan, line with parchment, then grease the parchment.

      1. Thank you – I really appreciate your response! Happy baking!

  18. Allie Koheeba says:

    Hello Sally,
    I don’t have a stand mixer or a hand mixer . . . it’s my daughter’s birthday tomorrow and I’m planning on making this cake for her (she’s so excited!). It looks delicious. So I currently don’t have any mixers right now and it’s too late to buy them in time for her birthday tomorrow; I don’t want to upset her. I only have two mixing tools right now: a wire whisk and a silicone spatula. What would you suggest? Also, would using either of them would create the same texture and fluffiness and taste as using a hand mixer or stand mixer?
    Thank you so much!
    Allie Koheeba

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Allie, This cake batter is very easy to make by hand – you do not need an electric mixer, just your whisk! The buttercream frosting would take a lot of arm muscle to make by hand though.

  19. Hi Sally, this recipe sounds and looks delicious! I only have 6 + 7″ pans and was hoping to make a layered birthday cake for my husband. There is only 4 of us. Can this be split in to 4x 7″ pans? Thanks

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Michaela, We haven’t tested this cake in 7 inch pans but that should work. I recommend filling each pan only halfway and if you have any leftover batter you can make a few cupcakes to freeze for later.

  20. I was wondering if this is a crusting buttercream? Do you know if using shortening will cause buttercream to harden a bit, like bakery cupcakes tend to. Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Viv, It is not a crusting buttercream. But yes, you can replace half of the butter with shortening to turn it into one!

      1. Thank you, Stephanie!

  21. Hi!
    I baked the cake last night and just realized I forgot the baking soda! Do you think I can still use the layers or should I make them again?

    Thanks!

    Ema

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ema, Does it look like your cake layers rose at all? You can always taste them (if you have to cut off the tops to level them, that’s a good way to have some to taste!) before throwing them away.

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