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

1233 Comments

  1. Letty Borrego says:

    Hi Sally,
    Can you use a combination of white and brown sugars, instead of using all white sugar?

    1. I don’t recommend it for this recipe.

  2. Hi Sally,

    This looks amazing! I’d like to bake it tonight for my boyfriend’s birthday tomorrow. Is it possible to bake the cake but as one layer and thicker (using a deeper cake tin) rather than two? If so, what baking time would you recommend? And what cake tin sizes would work? Thank you!

    1. This would be too much batter to bake as just one 9 inch round layer. For a single layer bake this in a 9 x 13 inch pan. Enjoy!

  3. hey sally, I want to bake this cake but I only have 6inch by 2 inch pans and I am wondering if it would require less time to bake or the same?

    1. Hi Anna, most 6 inch cakes take around 18-21 minutes to bake. You can see all of my tips for 6 inch cakes here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/6-inch-cake-recipes/

  4. I want to make this cake in a 12inch circle pan. Would this full recipe be used for one pan?

    1. I have never tested this cake in a pan that large! The capacity of a 12 inch pan is about 15 cups so this recipe *should* work in one pan. Just remember to only fill it to about 2/3 full.

  5. Amazing cake and frosting! The cake is so rich, tender, and moist. I love that you can mix it up by hand. The frosting is the perfect companion as its sweetness balances out the richness of the cake. With some sprinkles on top, this made the perfect birthday cake for my chocolate-loving 2 year old!

  6. Hi Sally, I love your recipes and would like to give this chocolate cake recipe a try. I want to bake a 4 layer 10″ round cake. Can I double the recipe for that?
    Many thanks,

    1. I haven’t tested larger pan sizes but I do refer to this chart to figure out pan capacity: https://www.joyofbaking.com/PanSizes.html
      Also I recommend baking the recipe twice instead of doubling it!

  7. This cake is ahhhmaaaazing! The only modification I made is to add a little more heavy cream in the ganache so it was a little lighter when whipped/beat. I also added basic chocolate ganache between the layers. Baked this for my kid’s 2nd birthday and it was a huge hit. Love the detailed recipe. Thank you!

  8. I love love this recipe. It makes the best chocolate fudge cake. It is my to go to recipe!!!

    1. I’m thrilled that you enjoy it, Janice!

  9. I loved your chocolate cupcakes recipe and figured that I should give the chocolate cake a try as well! I plan on making this cake (3 8″ layers) and want to decorate it by piping large rosettes all around the cake. Do you think the recipe is enough for a rosette cake or should I 1.5x or double the recipe? Thanks!

    1. Hi Bonnie, It should work well to pipe roses on this cake. I hope you love it!

  10. This is the best chocolate cake recipe I have found and Sally’s is my go to site for looking up baking recipes. I’ve been using this chocolate cake recipe for a couple of years and I didn’t think it could get any better until I read somewhere about substituting mayonnaise for the egg and oil. Somehow the Mayo makes this recipe even more moist and delicious! Just substitute the half cup oil and eggs for a half cup of real mayo. I tried this trick on carrot cake and it did not turn out well so I think it might only work for chocolate cake.

  11. The best chocolate cake ever! So moist, rich and oh so good!!! Made this for my daughter’s 7th birthday cake and it was a hit! People who normally don’t eat cake, ate 2 slices! The best chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever made. I love all your recipes, such a great website, my go to for any recipe!

  12. I’ve made this cake 3 times and it’s a hit. The last time, I used 2 – 8″ cake pans instead of the 9″. My baking time was 34 minutes. A perfect cake!!

  13. Hi Sally, always providing the BEST recipes, you are!! I would like to use my 6” baking pans. May I use 3….or how would I adjust recipe? THANK YOU!!

    1. Hi Jennifer! Thank you so much. My recommendation is to use my chocolate cupcakes batter for a 3 layer 6 inch cake (as described here!). The texture and flavor is the same as this chocolate cake and the amount of batter is perfect!

      1. Jennifer Chase says:

        You’re amazing!! Thank you for your lightening fast reply!!

  14. sounds incredible

  15. Hi! I’ve done it a million times, and everytime it’s perfect. My friends always ask me to make it for their bdays and it turns out so good.
    There only a twist! Frosting and filling made with condensed milk, dark chocolate and a little butter over the stovetop to thicken until spreadable.

    1. Melanie DeBenedetto says:

      Hello Gabriela, Do you replace the condensed milk for another ingredient(s) or add it to your filling and frosting? More instructions on exactly how you add condensed milk. Thank you.

  16. Can the eggs be substituted for something else? I’m baking for a family with a child with an egg allergy.

    1. I haven’t tested this recipe with an egg substitute but let me know if you do!

  17. Every time I make this cake i say it’s my favorite! But the pumpkin cake with cream cheese icing is a close second! Thanks Sally!

  18. I have what is probably a stupid question, but I’m not a coffee drinker. How do you brew a strong cup of coffee? Like, do you just take coffee grounds and add an extra scoop beyond the ratio of water to scoops recommended on the package?

    My dad wants me to make him a chocolate cake for his birthday. He at first wanted me to just follow the recipe on the Hershey’s cocoa powder box, but agreed to let me substitute coffee for the hot water and buttermilk for the milk :P. I came here to see if you had any tips I could use for when I make it. At any rate, I am not sure what constitutes a “strong” cup of coffee.

    1. Hi Sera, If you are using instant coffee then yes, you can add more then the instructions call for to make it strong!

  19. Hi Sally! I would like to use 2 x 10” cake pans. How can I adapt this recipe? Thank you!

    1. I haven’t tested this batter in a larger pan size but many readers find this chart helpful to figure out different size pan capacity: https://www.joyofbaking.com/PanSizes.html

      1. Woow this is very useful!!! Thank you!

  20. Hi Sally! My son’s birthday is Monday, we plan to have his party tomorrow (if weather allows it). I have been researching cakes to make and he and I landed on this one! I planned to make it today and refrigerate and serve tomorrow!
    However, I just read it needs to be refrigerated for 5 days! I don’t know how I missed that in my reading before! Is that step absolutely necessary?

    1. Hi Gloria! Refrigerate the leftover cake for up to 5 days. Not before serving. 🙂

  21. Hi, Sally. Regarding the buttermilk/buttermilk + sour cream differences in this cake and your chocolate mousse cake, (I think I am remembering correctly), which one would you say would travel better? The mousse cake since it is sturdier? I have to travel 5 hours before frosting & assembling a cake. If there is another one that you recommend, as long as it is chocolate, I’m all ears! Also thinking of using a cream cheese frosting instead of ganache or buttercream. Love your site.

    1. Hi Molly, If you are traveling an assembling the cake after traveling I would recommend this chocolate cake. Just wrap each layer individually to travel and frost when you arrive. If you want to make a chocolate cream cheese frosting this one is my favorite (just remember cream cheese frosting should be refrigerated): https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/chocolate-cream-cheese-frosting/

      1. Sally, this cake traveled well in its layers, and was a huge success this weekend. Very moist with a rich chocolate flavor. The last hefty slice is with the birthday girl as she returns to college so more traveling tonight for this dessert! I made your cream cheese buttercream, minus the lemon, frosting which the birthday girl loooooovvvvvved. Thanks for the feedback AND delicious recipes.

  22. I made this cake on Saturday for our daughter and son-in-law. On the way home, our son-in-law said it was perhaps the best chocolate cake ever, and I may have to agree! I have baked many chocolate cakes, but this one is definitely going into the regular rotation!

    1. I’m thrilled the cake was such a hit, Judi!

  23. Tricia Shirley says:

    Sally,

    OMG I love everything you bake. Every recipe has me loving your bake goods even more. I made this cake for a friend for her birthday and every one loved it. Very moist. They said to die for………. Beyond 5 stars

  24. Made this for my grandson,s birthday. A huge hit. I made it three 9” layers which baked beautifully. Since I wanted more icing I took your suggestion and used the one from the piñata cake. Then I had a light bulb moment. Why not make the three layer into a piñata cake. So I used the middle layer for the cutout and filled it with mini m&ms and it worked perfectly. Everyone was intrigued. Love your website.

  25. Rajinder Giudici says:

    Hi Sally, is their any chance I could bake this with orange in it. I am wanting to make a chocolate and orange birthday cake. If so please could you give me the recipe.
    Thank you
    Raj

    1. Hi Raj, you can add orange zest to this cake batter and try replacing *some* of the buttermilk with freshly squeezed orange juice. Let me know what you test!

  26. Can I bake this on 3 8inch pans instead of 9 inch pans ? Thanks .

    1. Absolutely. Bake time will be about the same or a couple minutes shorter since you’re dividing between more pans.

  27. Hi Sally
    Can I put all the batter in a 9-inch pan or does it have to be two seperate ones, as I dont want it to be layered, but still want it to be round? 🙂

    1. Hi Anna! There is too much batter for one 9-inch cake. Feel free to bake the cake as directed in 2 pans and freeze the extra cake. See how to freeze cakes.

  28. Any reason this wouldn’t work with 7 minute frosting?

    1. Should be great!

  29. Hi, I made your vanilla cake recipe and I thought it tasted delicious (from the batter) haven’t actually eaten it yet

    But this one seems sooo rich to me? Maybe its cause chocolate isn’t my favorite and I can really taste the cocoa, I did use hot water over coffee because I don’t drink it and I didn’t wanna make a cup (so I’ll have to try that) but any other suggestions?

  30. Hi Sally
    I have made this cake before, but I cannot remember, espresso powder grinder fine, or instant?

    1. Hi recommend a finely ground espresso powder, but I’ve used instant coffee powder too– and it turns out just fine!

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