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


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.


  • 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


  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.


  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 and originally from Hershey’s

Keywords: cake, chocolate cake


  1. Pamela Cardoso says:

    Hello, where I live is 4226 feet high, do you think I should change something in this recipe?
    I’m excited to try this recipe! ♥️

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Pamela, we wish we could help, but we have no experience baking at high altitude. We know some readers have found this chart helpful: We’d love to know if you decide to give this recipe a try!

  2. This looks amazing – but what do you mean by espresso powder? Do you mean fine-ground coffee as for making espresso? Or is this an instant thing? (Apologies if this is a duplicate question – I’m working my way through the comments but there are MANY!)

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mel! It’s an instant powder. You can use the same amount of instant coffee (the powder) instead of espresso powder if desired. Enjoy!

  3. Loved this cake! Will be making again this weekend as I had a request from my trainer at the gym to bake but with Swiss meringue buttercream icing … any tips on how I could decorate besides just spreading all over? 🙂

  4. What a fabulous cake! I made it for someone’s birthday, and it was loved by all the guests. I baked coffee grounds at 170 degrees to make the expresso powder. I might make this cake again and not even frost it. Just the cake with a little vanilla ice cream is amazing

  5. Hi Sally,

    I am so excited to bake this cake. I have only two 8″ cake pans. Do you think it’ll turn out okay if I divide the batter between two 8 ” cake pans ?


    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amaira, You can use this recipe as written to make an 8 inch cake. The layers will be slightly thicker and may take an extra minute in the oven, so keep an eye on them. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

  6. Cake was a hit with my partner who requested a super rich cake! My only one comment was the cake smelt a bit funny, which wasn’t a problem in the slightest for him but put me off a bit. Not sure if it was the eggs or the buttermilk?

  7. Hi Sally! Thanks for sharing your recipe! I’d love to give this a try but I do not have any coffee brewer at home. I’d love to add the coffee though, I’ve heard so much of how it brings out and intensifies the chocolate flavour. Do you think theres a way I can get the 240ml of freshly brewed coffee with just hot water and instant coffee instead? How much instant coffee would that require? Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Carrie, absolutely! Any kind of hot coffee will work – instant included. Prepare according to the instant coffee directions to get the one cup needed for the batter. Let us know how it turns out for you!

  8. Hi Sally, if i halve this recipe, will it be enough to make 3 layers 6 inch cake? i don’t really want thick layers, medium thickness (around 1.5″) is fine for me. Have a nice day! can’t wait to try this out!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Teresa, we’d recommend using our Super Moist Chocolate Cupcakes recipe instead — it yields the perfect amount for 3, 6-inch layers. And it’s equally as rich and delicious!

  9. Hi Sally,
    If I have to use this Chocolate cake recipe for 4, 6 inch cake pans. How will I have to change the quantity of ingredients.
    Also, if I wanna make some cup cakes additionally, should I have to do the whole process again and again.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Meenu, 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. Or, you can make two batches of our Super Moist Chocolate Cupcakes instead — one batch yields 3, 6 inch layers, so two batches (mixed separately!) would give you enough for your four layers + some leftover cupcakes.

  10. I made this cake for my mom’s birthday and it’s the best chocolate cake recipe ever, moist and rich. Can’t wait to make it again.

  11. Hi! This recipe is 6 cups of batter right? Does that mean I can bake a one layer 8 inch cake with the recipe as written? Thank you so much!!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Victoria, correct, it yields 6 cups of batter, but that will be too much for 1, 8-inch layer. You can make it as is, filling the pan 2/3 of the way full and using the leftover batter for cupcakes. Or, you can use out handy Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions guide to scale the recipe.

  12. I had to bake longer time + 10 minutes. Did exactly as in recepie just didn’t work out. Shame I left it too late. Can’t try one more time.

  13. Can we skip eggs

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Seema, the eggs are crucial for this recipe. We haven’t tested any alternatives, but let us know if you give any a try. Or, here are all our egg-free recipes on our site.

  14. I was just wondering how the baking time would change if this were to be baked in a Bundt pan? Thanks in advance!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nina, we’d recommend our 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. Hope you enjoy it!

  15. Just so wonderful. I halved the recipe and omitted the frosting—just ate it as a plain 8” cake—because I wanted something simple and not too sweet. It was so lovely! Incredible flavor, and somewhat grown up with the addition of extra espresso powder. And so easy to make!

  16. Hi Sally,
    I was planning on baking a three layer chocolate birthday cake with the buttermilk only recipie. Would Hershey’s cocoa powder be correct to use? Also, I was going to fill and frost the cake with Nutella ermine frosting (not fondant) and decorate the top with frosting swirls, ferrero Rocher and chocolate sprinkles. Would this work with this cake? Would it be best to freeze the cake layers a day or two ahead before trimming, levelling , weighting and frosting? I wondered if this would firm them up enough to do this successfully? Can’t wait to try this glorious cake, the reviews are fantastic!
    Thank you

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kate, you can use Hershey’s cocoa powder, as long as it’s unsweetened natural cocoa powder. Sounds like a wonderful way to decorate your cake! Depending on how much you’re planning to add in buttercream, candies, and sprinkles, you may want to use the sour cream version for a slightly sturdier crumb — but use your best judgement here. Freezing cakes is a great way to make them ahead of time, but be sure to thaw them completely before decorating. Let us know how it turns out!

  17. I’ve been using another very similar recipe for chocolate cake but I decided to try this one out. It’s better then my last recipe! Moist, fluffy and rich, this cake is delicious. I was surprised by the amount of coffee and espresso powder but there is very little coffee flavour. I also used your chocolate cream cheese icing recipe instead, also delicious. Thank you!

  18. I just reviewed but I forgot to write I used Dutch cocoa and the cake was perfectly fluffy and nothing weird happened. I can see why I technically shouldn’t but nothing happened this time I used it.

  19. Hi Samantha, can I use melted chocolate chips for the butter cream instead of the cocoa powder?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Abi! That would change the consistency of the buttercream too much, we suggest sticking with the cocoa powder.

  20. Carolyn Russell says:

    Hi Sally,
    Thanks for the awesome recipe! I made this cake exactly as described and even decorated it with chocolate chips. It was a huge hit. Very soft, delicious and moist.

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