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

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

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), 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 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. 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

1235 Comments

  1. Hey Sally! Such a good cake! Im a baker and i was wondering if i can add more flour to make it a little thicker its really watery and very fragile to handle once baked! Im worried it wont hold up under fondant or tiers! Let me know thanks

  2. Sally, can you please advise the height of the pans you use? I used 2 x 9 inch pans as specified, and followed the recipe carefully. The result was certainly moist and fudgy but the cakes did not rise as high as I’d expected and the taste was disappointing: chocolately but not sweet at all. I used very strong coffee so that may have been part of it, but there was an unpleasant bicarbonate tang despite measuring carefully.
    I’m a big fan of your chocolate cupcake recipe but somehow this just didn’t work for me. My oven isn’t the most even so that possibly didn’t help.

    1. Hi Dee! Did you use natural cocoa powder or dutched cocoa? Natural cocoa is essential in this recipe. Without it (and the buttermilk), the baking soda won’t have enough acid for reacting. Not enough acid means there will be leftover baking soda in the recipe, which creates a metallic, soapy taste in your baked goods.

      1. Thanks for replying, Sally. I’d read your instructions about using only natural cocoa so I’d carefully looked for “cocoa” at the supermarket and avoided the packet labelled “dutch cocoa”. However your reply got me curious so I examined the tin carefully and sure enough, in tiny white writing under ingredients, it stated “dutch processed cocoa”. Not. Happy. I have been back to the supermarket this afternoon and can confirm that of the 3 brands for sale – Cadbury, Plaistowe and Nestle cocoa – all are dutch processed. So, any Australian readers out there want to tell me where I can find natural cocoa powder?
        I really want to try this recipe with the correct ingredients now!

    2. Hi Dee I used Coles brand cocoa – nothing on the packaging says Dutch process so I figured it was the best chance I had! Loved this cake 🙂

      1. I just baked this cake. 9.5inch pan and it came out perfect! I used the Coles brand cocoa. It worked a treat!

  3. Hi Sally ,
    This is my favorite chocolate cake ever!! I am making a cake this weekend and using 6 inch pans — will this recipe work for that size?

  4. Hi Sally!!!!!
    Super love the cake texture! It is moist! Chococlety!
    Everything a chocolate cake should have!
    This is the Ultimate One!!!
    Thanks.
    Jacqui

  5. Hi Sally,
    Just loved this cake. I want to make it in A4 size for my sons 7th Birthday in decorate it as a football pitch. I was just wonder do I need to increase the amount for the ingredients and what’s size tin would be best to use?.

    Many thanks
    Melissa

    1. Hi Melissa, I would love to help. Is the A4 size you are referring to about 8×11 inches? If so, one batch of batter is plenty.

  6. Oh man this was a moist chocolate cake. Did 3 layers with your peanut butter frosting in between the layers and the milk chocolate buttercream on the outside. It was amazing!!!

  7. Hi Sally,
    Your choc cupcakes were a total hit when I made them for Father’s Day last month- the best I’ve made actually! Time to try this one now:). If I halfed this recipe, can I make a single layered cake in a 7” pan? Am not a fan of any buttercream but I love ganache. Was thinking of a nice single layered cake topped with dark choc ganache without any cream in between.
    Btw, this has become my go to bake site now coz every single recipe I hv tried has turned out so well. Thank so much XXX

    1. Hi Shanta! You can halve this recipe, but there will be too much batter for a 7 inch cake. However, you can use any extra batter for a few cupcakes on the side! 🙂

  8. This is my all time favorite chocolate cake. I get compliments (which I credit to Sally) every single time I bake it.

    The cake is so delicate and moist, that it can be challenging to frost without tearing it. Does Sally have any advice on how to frost a tender cake?

    1. I’m so happy you love this recipe, Karen! My advice for frosting tender cakes is to work slowly and patiently 🙂

  9. I haven’t made this YET, but very excited too. After reading the comments, im wondering if the layers can be frozen like other cakes for easier frosting?
    Also, how strong is the coffee taste?

    1. Hi Tay! The layers can definitely be frozen for easier frosting. There is NOT a coffee taste- it simply intensifies the chocolate flavor 🙂 My husband really dislikes coffee and he loves this cake!

    1. Hi Sara! This chocolate cake already has a pretty light crumb and cake flour may cause the cake slices to completely fall apart. I don’t recommend it.

  10. Loved it made two 8inch round with frosting awsome grandson loved it the BEST CAKE ever thanks for sharing

  11. Love this recipe so much, thanks Sally! I’ve made this cake so many times this year. It’s so moist and rich, everyone always loves it!

  12. Hi Sally

    What is all purpose flour? I’m from the UK so is this the same as plain flour?

    Can I prepare the frosting in advance and freeze it?

    1. Hi Priya! Yep, it’s plain flour. You can prepare and freeze the frosting, yes. Thaw it in the refrigerator, then give it a mix with the mixer to thin it out again. (It will be pretty thick and need a spin in the mixer!)

  13. Thank you so much for this recipe Sally, I have made it and loved it for my son’s birthdays! Do you have an equivalent (in delicious fudgy texture, that can be layered, and can be frozen ahead of time) vanilla cake recipe?

    1. Hi Carlie! I’m thrilled this cake was a hit for your son’s birthdays! This is my favorite vanilla cake recipe 🙂 If you are interested in a vanilla sheet cake, I recommend this recipe!

  14. I love the flavor of the cake and the frosting is devine. However, my cake came out a tad dry. I baked it for 24 minutes and followed the recipe exactly with the exception of using imitation vanilla and not having my buttermilk at room temperature. Maybe I need to bake it for less time? Any advice is welcome!

    1. Hi Mari! Two suggestions. Make sure you’re spooning and leveling the flour. And try baking the cake layers for a little less time next time. Just until the toothpick comes out clean.

  15. I’ve made this cake 4 times since February and everyone loves it. This is now my go-to chocolate cake. It is a really nice, moist, chocolatey cake. I have frosted it with homemade white buttercream every time and not your chocolate frosting, though.
    I’m glad the instructions mention how liquidy the batter is. I would have worried the first time, if it didn’t say anything.

  16. Hi Sally, I’m so excited to try this recipe for my mom’s birthday. Do you know if you could substitute gluten free flour one-to-one for the all-purpose flour?

    1. Hi Alicia! Many readers have used GF flour in place of all-purpose flour in my recipes, but I haven’t tried this recipe that way. Sorry, I don’t have much experience baking gluten free cakes!

  17. I made this cake today and substituted gluten-free all-purpose flour 1:1 for the regular flour. I also frosted it with a chocolate cream cheese frosting. It was HEAVEN! The GF flour makes the cake very delicate (because it doesn’t have the binding effect of the gluten) so it was a bit harder to cut neatly, but everyone thought the delicacy of the crumb was extra nice! Thanks for this great recipe!

  18. Hi Sally. Made this last week and it was delicious. The only problem was that it had a dense layer, around 1/4 inch, at the bottom of each cake layer. Any idea why? I use a scale to weigh ingredients so it can’t be that and I’ve made a similar recipe to yours and the same thing happened.

    1. If this is happening with different recipes I’m wondering how you grease and prepare your pans? If you are using butter or too much baking spray that could be the culprit.

      1. Hi Stephanie, I always spray my cake pans with baking spray (like Pam or other brand), line with parchment paper, then spray the parchment paper!

  19. This has been my go-to perfect chocolate cake since 2014, and I cannot thank Sally enough for this recipe! This cake is undoubtedly moist, rich, fluffy, and perfect EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. To be blunt, I trust this cake to be delicious as cupcakes, smash cake, and layer cake, and it pairs with any type of filling or frosting. I personal favorite is covering it in a 2:3 whipping cream to chocolate ratio ganache.
    Thank you, Sally, for being my baking guru

  20. I made this cake twice in a week! It’s amazing. I was worried about how liquidy the batter was, but I shouldn’t have been. It made it so soft and moist. My family couldn’t stop gobbling it down it (hence demanding a second!).

  21. Hi Sally, your recipe is always my go to recipe whenever I need to bake a cake. I need to bake a cake for my son birthday and I have baked this cake before and absolutely loved it!! I will be using fondant this time but do you think this cake can hold up the fondant or will it collapse because of the weight of the fondant?

    Thanks

      1. This cake absolutely holds up to fondant! Freeze the layers before you build!

  22. Made this cake with Nutella frosting for my nephew’s 10th birthday. It was INSANELY good. By far the moistest, chocolatiest, yummiest chocolate cake I have ever made. Despite the intense chocolate flavor, it was still light, airy and so so easy!

  23. DO you think it would be okay if I added chocolate chips to the batter? My son is asking for chocolate chocolate chip cake for his birthday. Thank you!

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