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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: Remember the differences in baking soda vs baking powder? We use both here 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 and marble loaf 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!

Print
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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 1x
  • 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

Scale
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (219g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 3/4 cup (62g) 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, at room temperature
  • 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
  • 3 and 1/2 cups (420g) 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, 3 Tablespoons 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 1-2 more Tablespoons of cream if frosting is too thick. (I usually add 1 more.) Taste. Add another pinch of salt if desired.
  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 room temperature 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 room temperature full-fat 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. the best chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever tried! It’s so chocolaty and moist, will definitely be making again

  2. Hi Sally.
    Thankyou for posting such detailed recipes. You are such a star ⭐️. Baked this triple chocolate cake for my dads birthday and it was so so amazing. Everybody loved it and it’s the best cake I have ever made. Big Thankyou to you.
    Quick question- can we half the recipe ? I ended up making a 2 kg cake with your recipe details , which is a LOT. I want yo make a smaller cake so wondering if the recipe can be halved and does the over temperature and timing change?

    Thank you
    Somjita

    1. Hi Somjita, so glad you enjoyed this cake recipe. Thank you! You can halve this recipe for one 9-inch cake if desired. Same bake time and temperature. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. I also have a one layer chocolate cake in my chocolate cake pops post if you want to try that one. Same great flavor.

  3. This was the perfect combo of moistness, chewiness and flavour. We used the sour cream frosting and added some jarred Morello cherries to make a black forest cake. The espresso made a lovely smoky, deep and bitter tint that balanced the rich cake. Will do again!

  4. Made this cake for my daughters 18th birthday. I can’t tell you how EASY and DELICIOUS it was. We all loved it!!

  5. I think I have a new favourite chocolate cake recipe – I made this for my nephew’s sixth birthday cake and it was lovely. I’m often underwhelmed by chocolate cakes because they tend to be dry compared with my favourite carrot cake, and/or don’t have a satisfying chocolate flavour, but this one ticked both those boxes, yet it wasn’t excessively sticky like a mud cake. That’s a difficult balance to strike! I baked the cakes ahead of time, froze them per your instructions and thawed them a few days later to decorate. Thank you very much!

  6. I tried out cake with the above recipe. The cake was very soft and tasty. Thank you.

  7. Just wanted to see if this makes enough icing for the 9 inch cake to do a border on the top and bottom (in addition to the filling and regular frosting?

    1. Hi Jenel, You should have enough. If you wish to make a very large border (like with a Wilton 2D tip or any similar large size) you may wish to make a little extra just to be sure!

  8. Well…yummylicious! This recipe is a definite keeper. I liked that you call for less sugar than Ina Garten’s recipe and I thought it was plenty sweet. Extremely moist and decadent and made me feel like I spent hours in the kitchen creating this, when it was quite simple of make. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Hi Sally,

    I tried this recipe…it was just short of perfect as the cake was tooooo crumbly for my taste. Could you point out what i can do to make it a stiffer texture ? Thankyou

  10. I watched the tutorial, read the whole page, the notes, the comments, etc., because it was my first time making a cake from scratch. Thank you, Sally, for adapting this Ina Garten recipe! Your tips were very helpful because they had alternatives, for example, I made my own buttermilk because I didn’t have the real thing, also I used milk for the frosting. I greased and floured 2 different-sized round cake pans because I didn’t have parchment paper, didn’t even know what it was! I also added a bit of espresso powder to the frosting. It came out great! Not magazine worthy, but not bad for a beginner! Your recipe made me feel less intimidated about baking cakes from scratch. Thank you, Sally!

  11. This cake was amazing. Deep chocolate flavour and the perfect density. I used sour cream instead of buttermilk. Thank you!!

    1. I made the cake recently for my husband’s birthday (used a peanut butter swiss meringue to ice it). Hands down this is the best chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever used. Thank you!

      Quick question…have you tried making this in a half sheet pan? If so, how long did you bake it for?

  12. Wow this cake turned out awesome the sponge super moist! I used your Nutella butter cream recipe for the frosting, delish, my husband gives it 10/10 🙂

  13. I followed your recipe exactly .amazingly soft and moist cake.thank u Sally.

  14. Hi Sally,
    I absolutely love this cake and have so many requests for it touring to parties. I have a question how can I make mocha frosting with it? I had a request for that for my friends grandmothers birthday tonight

    1. Hi Michele, We are so glad you enjoy this recipe! For mocha frosting you can add around 2 teaspoons of espresso powder to this frosting recipe. Enjoy!

  15. Will this hold up to decorating? I’m wanting to use this for a birthday cake but I need it to be sturdy enough to stack, as well as be able to make a smooth icing finish.

    1. Hi Amber, I recommend following the Sour Cream Version in the recipe notes for a sturdier crumb. Either way it’s fine to stack as a layer cake as shown, but it won’t hold up as a bottom tier if you are making a tiered cake.

  16. Hi Sally! Do you have a trick for easily removing the cakes from the pans? Is it sufficient to grease the pans, then flip the cakes out, or do you need parchment paper? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jess, We always use parchment rounds! The best method is to give your pan a light spray with nonstick spray (which helps the parchment stick), place a round piece of parchment in the bottom of the pan, and then spray again. If needed you can run a knife around the edges after the cake bakes before you flip it out. We’ve never had a cake stick this way 🙂

  17. I made this for my daughters 32nd birthday, and she said it was the best chocolate cake she’s ever had!! I used buttermilk and didn’t have espresso powder, so I substituted instant coffee. I had to agree with her, it was fabulous!!

  18. Would this stand as a 5-layer cake (6-inch pans)? It looks very moist so I want to make sure it would stay standing. Thanks!

    1. Hi Veronica, We haven’t tested this but I fear the cake would not be able to withstand being stacked that high. If you wish to try it I recommend using the sour cream version in the recipe notes for a sturdier crumb. Let us know if you give it a try!

    2. This is my favorite chocolate Cake. I love it. Is it possible to double up this recipe?

      1. Hi Liz, We are so happy you enjoy this recipe! For the best results we recommend that you make the recipe twice instead of doubling.

  19. Hello Sally!

    Just wondering, when you say “freshly brewed strong hot coffee” you don’t mean the instant stuff, do you? But actually coffee bean coffee?

    I don’t drink coffee at all so this left me a little stumped!

    1. Hi Kay, Any kind of hot coffee will work – you can make it from instant coffee if that is easier for you!

  20. This is SERIOUSLY the best chocolate cake I have ever made. It was so moist and flavorful! I have searched for SO MANY chocolate cake recipes that are actually moist and chocolaty but not too dense, and this was definitely it. Im surprised its not more popular. Absolutely amazing. I baked mine for 20 minutes though, because my oven runs hot. I also made my own chocolate frosting bc I prefer my recipe, but the cake was absolutely incredible.

  21. Thk you for this recipe! I used Dutch processed cocoa and substituted 3/4 cup of almond flour. It works perfectly.. super moist and dense cake. Finally I got someone for all my baking recipes. Thk u!

  22. Hi Sally!
    I wanted to ask if you recommend leveling this cake and
    do you flour your tins after greasing?

    1. Hi Sam, If cooled cakes are domed on top then yes we recommend leveling the cakes. See step 6 in the directions. To prepare the pans we recommend spraying with non-stick spray, line the bottom of each pan with a round piece of parchment paper, then spray the parchment paper. If you use a non stick spray called “baking spray” it usually has flour in it.

  23. This is without question, the best chocolate cake I have made. And it is one of the best chocolate cakes I have eaten. I used the sour cream version and the cake is amazing. Moist and big tender crumb with a deep chocolate flavor. Thank you for this recipe. I will be making this many many more times as it is my new go to chocolate cake.

  24. The most amazing chocolate cake and chocolate icing EVER!!! My new go to cake!

  25. This is the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had! A huge plus for me is that it’s not too sweet – it has that rich, chocolatey flavour with a hint of coffee rather than just tasting like sugar. We halved the recipe and made cupcakes and it was perfect!

  26. I have not made this yet, but I made your strawberry cake and it was amazing. I have never liked cake until I ate that cake. I liked it even more because I was able to successfully bake it without destroying it! So thank you for your in depth instructions. I love that you explain WHY you use certain ingredients and what they do. It’s been so helpful for me!

  27. I don’t usually post reviews but this cake was truly incredible! I paired it with Sally’s creamy peanut butter frosting and the result was spectacular!
    Love your website Sally!

  28. Hi sally! Wondering if I can let the batter sit as I bake the first batch since I only have one cake pan? Thank you! and I’m planning to use a 6inch, three times.

    1. Hi Marie, You can bake half of the batter and leave the remaining batter loosely covered at room temperature until you are ready to bake the second half. Enjoy!

  29. Hi, I want to make this cak but here in the Netherlands we only have Dutch process cacaopowder. But doesn’t the baking soda react with the buttermilk? Or does it really need the acid in natural cacaopowder?

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

  30. Hi Sally!
    Thank you again for this recipe! It’s delicious. I’m just curious if you know by any chance how much caffeine the coffee and espresso adds. I know caffeine doesn’t bake out like alcohol and was worried about feeding this recipe to my kids. They are hyper enough . I plan on using this again to make my anniversary cake at the end of the month. My husband loved it.

    1. Hi Kristy, Every brand of coffee is different so you can check the exact products you are using for how much caffeine they contain. You can also use decaf coffee (or even hot water) if you wish!

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