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

1244 Comments

  1. Sarah Wales says:

    I baked your chocolate cupcakes at the weekend and they were delicious so I am planning to use your chocolate cake recipe when I make my wedding cake. It needs to be 10″ round so I wondered if you could give me any suggestions on how much the quantities should increase by?

    Also, thanks for including the quantities with grams as well as cups! Very helpful as I am in the UK

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sarah, We are so happy you enjoyed the cupcakes! We haven’t made this cake in a 10 inch pan. To calculate how much batter to use for different size pans see the post Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions.

      1. Thanks so much for getting back to me so quickly! I will do a practice cake anyway so will see how it goes!

  2. Just baked this recipe. AWESOME! I had doubts when I saw that there is NO butter in this recipe. It turned out to be absolutely fluffy and chocolatey (really, no coffee taste). It’s so springy and fluffy that I’m worried it won’t work with the cake I’m making though because it won’t be stackable. I’m making a firetruck that basically is a big rectangle ( height 15cmx length 43cmx depth 12cm). And I made this recipe with a 13″x9″ sheet pan and got ~3 cm thickness rise from this cake. So, I’m guessing I’ll need around 4 of these layers and ~1cm buttercream between these layers which brings me to a total of 15cm height for my cake. Since I have to stack 3 layers of cake do you think this recipe is still suitable or I should try a more dense cake to withstand the weight?? This is my second time baking, I’d appreciate if you could help.
    Nonetheless, this is an amazing cake just to eat plain (that’s what I’m doing as I type this comment).

  3. It’s a fab recipe, so satisfying. Won’t be the only time am making it. My perfect chocolate cake. Thank you so much Sally xxx

  4. Smitii Nayak says:

    Hi Sally! I just want to say thank you for this amazing recipe! I baked it for a birthday and everybody absolutely loved it! They even compared it to a cake baked at a famous local confectionery, it’s same to say that it’s everyone’s favorite now!

  5. What is the measurement for sour cream in this recipe instead?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Stephanie, see recipe note #5. We have all of the instructions for using sour cream there!

  6. so moist and rich, yet fluffy. It’s the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. I’ve never tried it with the frosting, but I don’t really see the need for it. It’s perfect the way it is. It’s also super easy to make with things I usually have at home! Love the replacement suggestion for buttermilk/sour cream. I’ve always made it with the homemade buttermilk using this recipe (vinegar + milk) and it turns out great! Look no further, this is the chocolate cake you should be making!!!

  7. Silly question alert… I’m based in the UK and am surprised that such a delicate cake requires granulated sugar since I more commonly use caster sugar when baking cakes. I imagine there may be some differences in the terms used between our countries, like our use of “icing” rather than “confectioners” sugar, so I just wanted to check that the cake does indeed take UK granulated sugar and not the finer caster sugar?

    1. Hi Drew, I live in the U.K. I used caster sugar and icing sugar, both cake & buttercream turned out lovely. Regards.

  8. As much as I love this cake, it really is the best chocolate cake i’ve ever made, could you make it much clearer to everyone that it must be refrigerated? With the buttermilk/sour cream in it, unfortunately I did not realise that it needed to be kept in the fridge (as its unusual to keep a cake in the fridge it just didn’t occur to me) but my whole family got food poisoning after eating it.

    1. Please read step 8 of the instructions. I’m actually surprised that this is even written as it’s very usual and totally makes sense to keep leftover cakes in the fridge.

  9. Delicious cake!!! My family loved it!

  10. Baking for fun says:

    Best chocolate cake I’ve ever made. I didn’t use hot coffee and I cut the recipe in half. I made it today for my son’s 5th birthday. Excellent! A keeper.

  11. Delicious perfect chocolate cake! We made this for my daughter’s birthday (sour cream version, no coffee) in a darth vader cake pan + 6 cupcakes. Sally, this is my fourth time baking from your website – you will now be my go to for all baked goods!

  12. Hi, I know it says to use 9 inch cake pans but is it a 9×2 or 9×3 pans? Also, would this recipe be enough to divide among 3, 8 inch pans?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Melanie, Our pans are 9×2. You can use 9×3 pans they just won’t look like they are filled as high. Yes, you can make a three layer cake – see recipe note #2 for details!

  13. Hi Sally…

    Tried this cake today and it turned out GREAT!! My first buttermilk chocolate cake that wasn’t greasy or thick!
    It was spongy… Actually reminded me of Betty Crocker cake mix…
    One small help I need…

    The sweetness and chocolatey-ness was on lower side. It didn’t taste as rich as it looked. Maybe it’s lowered to compensate for Ganache but still how can we make it more sweet and chocolate to be enjoyed minus icing?

    Can I add chocolate bars instead of just chocolate powder?

    It’s just missing a small beat between its looks and its taste! Great recipe!!!!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Chitra, Did you use both the espresso powder and coffee? They will not make the cake taste like coffee, but they will deepen the chocolate flavor. I highly recommend them both!!

    2. Have you used good quality cocoa powder? Many times that is the issue when it comes to chocolate goods. Also avoid using hot chocolate powder, it is an easy confusion to make. The coffee helps quite a bit as Sally has said. My mom never used to like chocolate cake, but she will only eat the cakes I make with the special ingredient – coffee powder.

  14. Just hands down the best and most decadent chocolate cake ever! I’m not kidding, this was my first baking a cake from scratch and it literally tasted like a bakery cake (my husbands words lol) . If you are looking for the perfect chocolate cake, look no further! I followed ever instruction as written, I did not have buttermilk so I used the DIY as shown here. She is absolutely right about not skipping the buttermilk. And also coffee adds such a rich flavor! The sweetness was perfect like you can eat the cake by itself, perfect with a cup of coffee or tea. I didn’t make the buttercream with this, I made a whipped topping from heavy cream and chocolate chips and added the chocolate ganache on top with some crushed kit kat and voila, so yum and light. Thank you again for a perfect recipe

  15. I was really pleased and impressed with this cake, and so was everyone at the birthday celebration for which I made it. The coffee did not come through as coffee, it only intensified the chocolate flavor. The level of sweetness was PERFECT. I did the sour cream version to give a slightly sturdier result, and let me tell you, it was a dream to cut; Clean slices that didn’t crumble apart, even when sliced thin, but still super velvety and moist! At the request of the birthday girl I made it for I paired it with the Vanilla Buttercream in the recipe for your Best Vanilla Cake recipe. American buttercream is often too sweet for me, but not yours – it was truly the best, most perfect vanilla buttercream I’ve ever worked with! The whole cake was such a win – both recipes are going in the permanent file! Thanks so much – you made me look good!!

  16. Becki Viera says:

    Does anyone know how I could turn this into a 3 or 4 layer 6 inch cake, ideally baked in 2 6 inch tins and then cut in half?

    1. Hi Becki, try my 6 inch cake recipe– using the chocolate cupcakes batter.

  17. I made this recipe with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free 1 to 1 baking flour. It was delicious! My husband hates gluten free baked goods, but I like to make GF things for my sister, and he couldn’t tell that I used GF flour. Love, love, love this recipe! It’s so moist!

  18. Im making a cake at the weekend for my neices birthday. I would love to do this cake as a 3 layer 10 inch round. Please could you advise what quantities i would need for this for both cake and buttercream?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Halema, You can use the post on Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions to help calculate how much batter you would need.

  19. So I love coffee and can’t taste it in chocolate cakes, but my husband, who hates coffee, can tell you if there’s coffee in a cake without actually seeing or hearing about the process. I can skip the espresso powder but do you think I could replace the hot coffee with hot water? If so, what temp?

  20. Alyssa Sofat says:

    Hi Sally! If I were to make this into a 3 layer cake instead of 2 how would I go about doing that?? Should I just 1 1/2 the recipe?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alyssa, see recipe note #2!

  21. Hi Sally, I made your lemon cake today (my first cake in about 30 years) and it was a hit at my family’s “distanced” backyard get together. It was soooo good. I’m learning so much from your site. Thanks for all your tips and tricks. Now I want to try this chocolate one next weekend. I usually don’t buy milk, so wondering if I could use almond milk in the icing? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jill! So glad you enjoyed the lemon cake recipe. You can use almond milk in this chocolate frosting, yes.

  22. Is it possible to substitute Bakers unsweetened baking bar (100%cacao) for the cocoa powder?

  23. Alice Bracknell says:

    I made the Triple Chocolate Cake today as a trial run as I am making a cake this weekend for a party. The recipe is wonderful as always and I will replace my go-to chocolate cake with this one the chocolate buttercream was easy to work with as well.
    I have a question… for some reason my frosting tastes grainy, like there is granulated sugar in it, which of course there is not. Why would this happen? Thank you

    1. Hi Alice! I’m so glad to read that you love this chocolate cake recipe. Sifting the confectioners’ sugar should help– you could also try switching brands. I know some taste coarser than others.

  24. Can you double up on this recipe to make a two layered 10” cake? I love this cake btw it is literally the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had! I’m a chocoholic BEST CAKE! Please let me know if I can double up thanks! And if yes how so?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Bebe, We are so happy you enjoy this recipe! We haven’t made this cake in a 10 inch pan. To calculate how much batter to use for different size pans see the post Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions.

  25. I tried this recipe, such a lovely cake, so moist! Would it be possible to use this recipe for a vanilla sponge (so without the coffee and cocoa powder)?

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