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

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. Gorgeous!

This chocolate cake is:

  • Extra moist
  • 2 layers, but can be made as a sheet cake
  • Soft with a velvety crumb
  • Deeply flavorful
  • Unapologetically rich
  • Covered with creamy chocolate buttercream

This is, without a doubt, the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had.

chocolate cake

triple chocolate cake

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. Use all-purpose flour– cake flour is too light.
  2. Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder: Do not use dutch-process cocoa powder. If desired, see dutch-process vs natural cocoa powder for more information.
  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.
  6. Oil: Don’t use butter in this cake batter. Cocoa powder is a particularly drying ingredient, so this cake needs oil for moisture.
  7. Eggs: Use 2 room temperature eggs. Place refrigerated eggs in a cup of warm water for 10 minutes to warm them up. 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 (below). You can see that in 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 encourages the cocoa powder to bloom and dissolve. If you don’t drink coffee, you can use hot water. For deeper flavor, though, use coffee.

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.

Need cupcakes instead? Use my super moist chocolate cupcakes recipe.

Chocolate frosting in glass bowl

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 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!

Video Tutorial – Chocolate Cake

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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*
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk*
  • 1 cup (240ml) freshly brewed strong hot coffee*

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.
  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 for extra frosting, use the frosting recipe from my Piñata Cake.
  3. Cocoa Powder: Use natural cocoa powder in the cake, not dutch-process. (If desired, 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. Lately I’ve been using a mix of sour cream and buttermilk, as well as reducing the hot coffee. You can see that in my dark chocolate mousse cake. That cake and this cake are both fantastically moist, but the sour cream version has a sturdier crumb.
  5. Room Temperature Ingredients: All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
  6. Espresso Powder/Coffee: Espresso powder and coffee will not make the cake taste like coffee. Rather, 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Chocolate Cupcakes: Here is my favorite chocolate cupcakes recipe. Same unbelievable texture as this cake! You can also use this cake batter for 2-3 dozen cupcakes. 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

896 Comments

  1. I am testing out cake recipes because I was crazy enough to take on the challenge of my own wedding cake! This cake is truly amazing. I think it is the winner! I am going to use an oreo mousse in between the layers to add another level of awesome! I have made many of your recipes and always enjoy them. Today I am taking on your banana layer cake. Thank you so much for all the great recipes!

  2. Hi there, this sounds fabulous. Is there any reason I shouldn’t make this choc cake with a cream cheese frosting? It is the request of my boyfriend. And Sally, are there any other ways to trick this cake out? Thanks those who recommended raspberry and coconut! It’s an important birthday, want to go big or . . .

    thank you!!! As a dietitian I can see you put a lot of food science into how you do things. kudos.

  3. Absolutely the best chocolate cake recipe everrrrrr? Huge hit this weekend!! I was wondering have you ever made it as a sheet cake (12X18)??

  4. This is the best recipe. I tried it awhile back several times and its always delicious. My husband was recently diagnosed with diabetes
    There isnt alot of good diabetic friendly recipes for deserts. Do you if substituting trulia for the sugar effects the recipe alot? My husband loves cakes and i havent found a good recipe they just dont taste as good

  5. This is the best recipe. I tried it awhile back several times and its always delicious. My husband was recently diagnosed with diabetes
    There isnt alot of good diabetic friendly recipes for deserts. Do you if substituting truvia for the sugar effects the recipe alot? My husband loves cakes and i havent found a good recipe they just dont taste as good

    1. Hi Nina! The batter should be baked right away. You can prepare the cakes 1-2 days ahead of time. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature until ready to frost. Or freeze the layers, then thaw and frost.

    2. This cake I unbelievably moist! I like to use chai instead of coffee, and I live how it enhances the chocolate flavor. I make all the birthday cakes for family members and this is always a winner for the chocolate lovers in the family.

  6. This cake is amazing!! I made it for Easter dinner and now we’re all laying on the couch and wishing we were dead. Best day ever!

  7. He there! Will this be able to make a sphere cake? I want to make a deathstar cake using this chocolate cake recipe. Would it be sturdy enough? I will be using buttercream to frost the cake. Also can butter be substituted/used in this recipe?

    1. That sounds so fun! I haven’t personally tested this recipe in a sphere shaped pan but let me know if you try it! I recommend sticking with oil here and not butter – you can use vegetable or melted coconut oil.

  8. I live at around 6,000 ft elevation. Does anybody know the proper adjustments that could make this cake work at elevation? The cake sounds amazing, and I want to make it!

  9. Wow! What a brilliant recipe! Thank you so much for sharing this. The cake is super moist, super soft and incredibly chocolaty! I’ve tried many chocolate cake recipes thus far, and have finally found the perfect one…it’s great even without any toppings!

  10. My sugar never gets properly incorporated into my buttercream. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

  11. I made this cake yesterday, and it was delicious last night. But this morning (yes, chocolate cake is a breakfast food sometimes!) it is even better. Even my husband, the self appointed food critic, said it was very good.

    I waffled between 4 and 5 stars only because the layers are very fragile. I turned them out too soon on the cooling racks and the tops crumbled and stuck. They were fully done, but the cake is so moist that it will stick to the racks. I will cool them in the pans next time. I ended up deciding on 5 stars because the recipe is that good, but I suggest adding that they should be cooled in the pans for a while before turning out, and then cool with the top side up and the paper still on the bottom so they don’t stick to the racks.

    This was my very first attempt at a home-made chocolate cake and I thank you, Sally, for the recipe.

    The other observation that I have is that you add the salt to the icing at the end. In my case, my salt was slightly larger crystals that the standard Morton’s and it didn’t dissolve entirely in the icing. This leaves tiny crunchy bursts of salt flavor. I don’t find it objectionable, and in fact, it kinda breaks the sweetness of the icing in a pleasant way, but if the salt were added earlier it would probably result in a smoother, more conventional butter cream.

    That being said, the entire recipe is a hit. I will be making it again. Other than the chocolate chip garnish I did follow the recipe (unusual for me!) as I’ve not made many cakes before and wanted to make it successfully before playing with things.

    The end result is moist, full of fudge flavor, and yet not too sweet. Next time I may make a dark chocolate ganache swirl on top or something to that effect, or maybe some raspberry filling between the layers.

  12. Hi sally! Can i use hot milk as an alternative to the hot coffee , water or tea! For a richer taste!

  13. What kind of coffee do you recommend?
    Like would espresso coffee work or more of a classic roast?

  14. I made this for my friend’s birthday last weekend and was told it was “god tier”. Men are so silly. 🙂 But I will say even I was amazed by it, even though I’ve made it before and I don’t like to toot my own horn! Somehow it was even better this time than the last time I made it. I’m making it again with peanut butter frosting for my mom this weekend and I’m excited to see her reaction.

    1. Hi! I made this in a 9×13 for my sons construction themed birthday cake. Do you think I could cut it in half lengthwise and make 2 layers out of it or would it be better to make an additional cake layer? Thank you!

  15. Tried this recipe and it was Amaziiinnng!!!! I’m planning to do this again, just a question… Can the recipe be doubled for 2- 9×13 pan? Thank you much for all the yummy recipes ❤️

    1. Hi Lalaine! Sure can! But I recommend making the batter twice instead of doubling. Extra volume in the bowl risks over or under-mixing.

  16. Oh my! I tried this recipe today and totally agree it is the best chocolate cake I have ever tasted. I used a 9 x 13 pan and it was ready in 35 mins. Also I found it sturdy to carve a lightening mcqueen cake from it. Thank you so much for this super amazing recipe.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the cake – I bet it looked amazing! Be sure to tag me if you post a picture on social media so I can see it! 🙂

  17. Can I make this with butter? If so, how much should I use? I noticed some recipes call for butter in chocolate cake and others do not. Id like to use butter if it would work

    1. Hi Jake! I recommend sticking with oil in this cake– it’s the power ingredient providing a lot of moisture to the baked cake. You can try replacing with melted butter, but the cake will taste different.

  18. I’ve made this many times and it’s a family favorite! My question is, can I frost it with homemade whipped cream instead of buttercream? I’m making it for a friend who doesn’t like buttercream. Thanks!

  19. I am confused with hot coffee in ingredients.1 cup hot coffee means how much water and how much coffee.Can I use classic nescafe?

  20. Hi Sally! Would using Cake/Pastry flour work okay for this recipe instead of all-purpose? I have a giant bag of it to use up!

  21. Made this for my boyfriend’s birthday on Sunday and it was amaaaaaaazing. Everyone loved it! Thanks so much for the recipe 🙂

  22. Hello Sally! I would like to make this in a 6 inch cake pan, what should be the oven temp and for how long? I’d like to make it for a friends bridal shower

      1. Thank you so much, Sally! I will def let you know how it turns out. Thank you for sharing your recipes with us. Btw, I’m also planning to do your seasoned pretzels as favors.

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