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.

chocolate cake

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

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. 🙂

chocolate cake

Chocolate Buttercream

I use my favorite chocolate buttercream recipe as the base, but slightly increase the amount of each ingredient to produce enough frosting for the layer cake. 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

chocolate layer cake

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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chocolate cake

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)
  • 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 or whisk 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 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 by measuring 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a measuring glass. Add enough milk (1%, 2%, or whole) in the same measuring glass to reach 1 cup. Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The soured milk will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in your 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. If coffee isn’t your thing, you can leave out the espresso powder and use extra hot water or hot chai tea.
  10. 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.
  11. 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

1128 Comments

  1. This cake is absolutely delicious and I love the decorating with the chocolate chips, so pretty!!

  2. Oh my gosh Sally, my mouth is watering at this recipe! You’re right, you can’t mess with chocolate cake, and this recipe looks like a keeper! Love how moist it looks 😀 It must have tasted like chocolate heaven…yum!!

      1. Hello SAlly…I love your recipes i have a question I always have problem how to get the perfect heavy cream?is it the same with thick cream?

  3. Oh my goodness, Sally… You keep stunning me with one after another amazing creation! This cake looks soooo devilishly delicious! I’ve never found myself craving chocolate so bad so early in the morning, haha. Thanks for sharing! Have a happy Monday!

  4. I’ve been making the same chocolate fudge cake for thirty years now so I’m not allowed to switch. However this looks incredible and I’ll bet everyone in your office is thrilled!

  5. This looks like a winner, especially since it has buttermilk AND coffee in it! I can never have enough good cake recipes.

  6. Sally, I LOVE using coffee in my chocolate cakes! And I can’t stand the taste of coffee…but I love the aroma, I’m weird like that. In fact, I have a coffee maker JUST to use the coffee for baking! But the coffee truly gives it a more intense taste with chocolate, other than just using plain water. AND, without tasting the coffee. Love everything about this cake! (You rock!)

  7. oh no! Poor Sally, having to sample 3 chocolate cakes in one weekend. Sounds like a really rough time 😉 I love the addition of coffee, I always love the way it develops chocolatey flavors

  8. I’m beyond obsessed with chocolate – I once gave a lecture on the history of chocolate to my 8th grade English class. I don’t think I was ever that motivated over any other subject in all my years of schooling. I HAD to come and read this post immediately upon seeing this pop up on my Bloglovin feed. Good God, Sally – I’d give my right arm for a slice of this cake! This should be how every Monday starts – the world would be a much happier place!

    1. hahaha I don’t think I’d ever be more motivated on anything besides peanut butter. So, I totally hear you on the chocolate lecture. 🙂

  9. You DO only give us the best of the best and we love you for it!! 😉 This looks sinful and delicious!!

  10. What have you done?! You’re totally torturing me here. You had me at the title and even the first pic but the third pic was over the top amazing. It looks so super moist and amazingly delicious. I must have a slice!

  11. This looks so beautiful Sally! I love that you decorated it with chocolate chips – such a cute idea! I hate it when I test a recipe a few times to get it right and have an excess of baked goods hanging around the house (not good for my waistline haha)

    PS – I LOVE your cake stand! It’s adorable!!

  12. By far and away, without a doubt, the prettiest thing you’ve ever made on your blog. You make lots of things that are pretty and look good and get my drooling, but this is the prettiest and most beautiful! It literally…takes the cake 🙂

    The amount of work that it takes to come up with a winning cake recipe is mindblowing. When I was writing PBC, I tested PB cakes until I couldn’t even taste them anymore. It was like…omg another.pb.cake. And then last year right after that, I came up with my own chocolate cake. After more research and trials. It takes ages!!! And lots of (wasted) chocolate. Some things are good enough to donate to others even if they’re not blog-able. But some things just get tossed.

    The choc chip spikes. So beautiful. Sally, so impressed! And your smooooooth frosting and decorating skills. Wonderful! Pinning!

    1. Thank you VERY much for the kind words Averie! That means a lot coming from you. I owe it to the new lens, new lighting, and just a pretty cake overall. Still getting used to the new light. This was one of the photoshoots I actually liked! Wasted chocolate, I am all too familiar with that after this weekend. Again… thank you!

  13. Hey Sally! Oh My Gosh……this looks soooo good!!! I shouldn’t be looking at this coming home from school with my stomach growling right now hahaha 😛 I really thought I had a “perfect chocolate cake recipe but I think I need to give this one a try for my parent’s anniversary that’s coming up soon!

  14. My cakes are in the oven right now!! The part im not looking forward to is the frosting! I really really really dont like making frosting! When I make birthday cakes I order butter cream online! 🙂 But for the love of chocolate I will do this and it will be great! BTW kitchen is still not clean, why its actually messier yah!

    1. Just finished decorating and taking pics of this cake, and here is what I know:

      1. In about 5 minutes I will be officially removing myself from anymore blog posts from sallysbakingaddiction.com

      2. The frosting alone on this thing is good enough to be considered a last meal choice on death row.

      3. I probably just made about 500 new BFFS after I just posted pics of the cake on Facebook.

      4. I will go to the gym tomorrow for about 8-10 hours after eating a piece.

      5. I WILL SHARE THIS CAKE WITH NO ONE, not even my 2 year old son or husband. Ok, my son can have some, he doest eat a lot anyway.

      ok ok only #2 is true! I haven’t cut into this cake yet, but I’m going to go ahead and make a guess that its better than it looks!!

      1. I got scared reading #1. But I am so glad you were only joking. So glad you loved this cake and the frosting – I know, it’s dangerously good! Share your pictures on my facebook page. I want to see it. Thanks Mary!

  15. Wow, Sally, your photographs are always incredible, but I think these are some of your best! The focus is great and I love how clean all your lines are. The chocolate chips look fabulous too, and for a largely brown post, the pictures are NEVER boring to look at. Great work! About the recipe…do you happen to know whether the make-your-own buttermilk thing works with almond milk?

    1. Thanks so much Caley! I got a new lens over the weekend, and this was my first photoshoot with it. (got the Canon 50mm 1.4). So glad you noticed the better quality photos, thank you for that! Unfortunately, you need dairy milk to replace the buttermilk when using the lemon juice/vinegar.

      1. There is a great product that I use whenever buttermilk is called for in a recipe. The brand is SaCo and it is a Cultured Buttermilk powder. You measure the dry powder and mix it with the rest of your dry ingredients, and then add the appropriate amount of water to the rest of the liquid ingredients. It can be stored in the refrigerator so that it is always ready to use. I find it in the baking aisle. It is so convenient; I never have to be concerned if I have real buttermilk on hand, or figure out what to do with the rest of the buttermilk that I didn’t need.

  16. Coffee in chocolate desserts is the best thing ever. LOVE this cake Sally! It’s gorgeous!

  17. OMG, what a gorgeous cake! I love adding coffee to my chocolate cakes, though I have to admit, it’s been far too long since I’ve made one. I think that’s going to have to change–soon. This looks perfect – you can see how moist it is from the pictures. LOVE!

  18. Oh Sally! This made my morning! My sweet husband (who never bakes) bakes a chocolate something for my birthday every year – later this month. I’ve been on the fence about what I want this year – brownies or chocolate cake, but you may be tipping the scales in favor of cake with this one! The texture of the cake looks perfect!

  19. Love this cake! Defo death by chocolate! And I love that you used buttermilk, I never really used buttermilk till this weekend- used it in 2 recipes and I definitely pondered about it in a chocolate cake and here we are! So funny! The milk chocolate frosting looks like I could take a spoon to it! Drool!

  20. I have to try this recipe. I’m very picky about chocolate cake recipes because my grandmother passed down such a fabulous one. This one sounds like it may be as fabulous as my grandmother’s. You are absolutely right about buttermilk in cakes. My grandmother swore by it, and told me never to make a cake without buttermilk in it. I tried recipes without it, and found out she was correct.

    One thought about the vegetable oil. If anyone is concerned about genetically modified (GMO) food, make sure to get a vegetable oil that is certified organic. And stay away from canola oil if GMO is something you want to avoid. Most canola in the U.S. is GMO.

    And if you are concerned about artificial color, find food dyes that are natural. As someone with ADD, I avoid artificial colors and flavors like the plague.

  21. Sally, I am positive that everyone in my house would go crazy for this cake!! OMG, I would kill for a slice…..or 3!

  22. Happy (very) early birthday then Tanya. 🙂 If this is your birthday cake, you have to let me know how it is. 😀

  23. Hello, gorgeous! Talk about most beautiful cake EVER! Frosted so simply and beautifully, Sally. And a chocolate cake this decadent doesn’t need over-the-top adornments.. the pattern from the chocolate chips is so eye-catching and tasty 🙂 great tip about the eggs! I never knew that, and I always use cold eggs. Next time, I’ll bring them to room temperature to see the difference!

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