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!


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


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.


  • 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


  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.


  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!


  1. I love all your recipes so far (a go-to blog when I’m hunting for recipes)! I’m looking to make this for a birthday party and stack it but I don’t have enough cake pans for the layers (I’m wanting to do 3 8-inch layers). I know cakes can get weird and flat if the batter sits before baking but would this one be fine for an hour until I get my first set out of the oven since it relies partly on baking powder to raise?

    1. Hi Sarah, I don’t recommend letting this batter sit for that long. Instead, make a full recipe and bake two layers. Then once your pans are clean and cool, make just half of the batter (cut the recipe in half) and bake your third layer.

  2. I made this cake 2 weeks ago to celebrate my puppy surviving a 6 hour neurosurgery and it is seriously the best cake. My best friend’s aunt said it was the best cake she’s ever had and ate the 2 slices I had sent my friend home with. I’ve been thinking about this cake since I finished it and will most likely make it again in the coming week. I’m not a huge buttercream fan so I did a chocolate cream cheese frosting. SO GOOD.

    1. I’m so happy to read this! I hope your puppy continues to heal 🙂 Thanks for your positive feedback, Shannon!

  3. Hi Sally,
    I have celiac disease so I read your recipes for fun and a lot of wishing I could enjoy them. I am wondering if this recipe would work with a flour substitute like Cup-for-Cup and a sugar substitute like Swerve?

    1. Hi Katie, while I can’t speak from experience, some readers have had success using a cup for cup GF flour replacement in this chocolate cake recipe. I’m unsure about the sugar replacement. Let me know if you test anything.

  4. Kelsey C – I too use buttermilk powder, but the instructions on my can say to add powder to dry ingredients and water with wet ingredients. Don’t know if this is a solution to your problem.

  5. Sure can!

  6. Hi Sally,
    Do you have a recipe with the sour cream that you used in the video.
    Thank you…..I want to make this cake today

    1. Hi Barbara! See my recipe notes about using sour cream 🙂

      1. Thank you, Sally.

  7. instead of espresso powder, can I use additional hot coffee instead of water?

    1. Hi Grace, you can skip the espresso powder. No need to replace with anything.

  8. Absolutely divine chocolate cake recipe with flavor just as Sally describes. I like the version with sour cream and it’s great for stacking or using for a tiered cake. If anyone is wondering that. Best chocolate cake I have ever made.

    1. Thank you so much for your positive feedback, Lorene! I’m thrilled you love this chocolate cake recipe 🙂

  9. Hi Sally! I always have a problem with crumbs when frosting. Do you have any helpful tips that would prevent them? Thank you!

    1. Hi Nicole! Apply a thin crumb coat on the cake. Refrigerate it for 30 minutes, then apply the rest of the frosting. A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting that catches all the crumbs. Once it sets in the refrigerator, you have a smooth surface for the rest of the frosting.

  10. I would like to make this cake a one-later cake by halving the recipe and using a 9” springform pan. Do you think this would work? Thanks~

    1. Hi Gail! I recommend using the chocolate cake recipe I use to make these chocolate cake pops in your 9-inch springform pan.

      1. Thanks for your reply. I’ll check out the cake pop recipe. What if I made the Triple Chocolate Cake recipe (halved) and put it in a regular 9″ cake pan? Just curious. Thanks~ Gail

      2. That works as well, just be extra careful with your measurements.

  11. Sally, my whole family is obsessed with this cake recipe! I’ve made it more times than I can count.

    1. Thank you, Sally~

    2. I’m so happy your family loves this recipe, Laurel! Thanks for your positive feedback 🙂

  12. Hi – looks delicious. Just curious on the coffee if it can be instant coffee?

    1. The hot coffee can be made from instant coffee, yes.

  13. This quite frankly is the best chocolate cake I have ever made. Thanks for reposting it!

    1. LOVE reading this- thanks for your positive feedback!

  14. Hi Sally! I’m a big fan of your recipes! Just took these chocolate cakes out of the oven and they sank in the middle :(. I seem to have this happen with any chocolate cake recipe I try. Any tips? Thanks!

    1. Hi Kandra! Expect slight sinking whenever you’re working with cocoa powder in chocolate cake. It’s 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. Of course if it’s sinking too much, though, the cakes could be under-baked. It’s best to test doneness with a toothpick. If the toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, it’s done.

  15. I made this cake for my dad’s birthday in November. He liked it, but my husband, mom, and I were not huge fans. I’m not sure if I did something wrong, but the cake itself didn’t have much flavor. It tasted pretty bland and not chocolate-y or sweet at all. The chocolate buttercream was delicious, though. It saved the cake for sure! My dad insisted on me using Hershey’s cocoa powder, so that could’ve been part of the problem, as I very much prefer ghiardelli’s when making chocolate baked goods.

  16. Sally, can this cake be frozen? I am supposed to be on a low fat diet, but I allow a small amount of sweets on occasion. I could make it in sheet cake form and cut it in pieces. Would the frosting hold up? Thank you.

    1. Hi Terry! You can freeze the baked and cooled cake with or without frosting. See freezing instructions.

  17. Hi Sally. I have made several of your recipes over the last few years and they have all been perfect and delicious. I know when I choose an “SBA” recipe, it will not fail. I tell everyone about your website! I have made this chocolate cake several times, including this week, and it is the very best chocolate cake ever. I do substitute a half cup of dark brown sugar for the white sugar and I use a cup of French Roast dark coffee with a 1-serving packet of instant espresso dissolved in the cup of coffee and it is incredible. I also add a block (8 oz.) of cream cheese to the buttercream and then do a chocolate ganache coating over the whole cake after it is frosted and the drizzle down the sides makes it so pretty and I still have a “triple” chocolate cake! I love your savory dishes also, especially the soups. Thanks for all the time and effort you put into your recipes and the website. It is beautiful and reliable.

    1. Love reading your kind words, Judy! Thank you so much for your positive feedback and for baking and trusting my recipes 🙂 I truly appreciate your loyal readership!!

  18. Judy Maldonado says:

    I made this today for our Friday Empty Nesters potluck. I told them it was my first time making it and someone asked if they were my guinea pigs! I said yes! Well, this cake was a big hit! It is the best cake I have ever tasted, and everyone agreed! So soft, moist, fluffy, dense….gosh it’s so hard to describe! I’ve never had a cake so good. And I’m not a chocolate cake fan! Until now! When we were leaving they all said they will be my guinea pigs anytime if I keep bringing desserts like this cake! And the frosting! Pure heaven. When making the frosting I didn’t think all those dry ingredients would fit in the wet ingredients but I kept beating it and it turned into the frosting of dreams! I can’t express how much everyone loved this cake. Thanks for sharing!

    1. What incredible feedback, thank you so much Judy! I truly appreciate you baking and trusting my recipes!

  19. The absolute best cake I’ve ever had!

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed this cake, Jessi! Thanks for your positive feedback 🙂

  20. Hi Sally

    I am planning to bake this cake for my daughters birthday and I am a HUGE fan of all your recipes. But I have only one 9inch spring form pan. Can you advise if I can bake all of the batter at one and slice the cake into half ? If so, what is the cooking time required? If not, please advise how I can proceed. Thanks a ton. BIG fan !! ❤️❤️

    1. Hi Ash! Do not bake all of this batter in the 9-inch springform pan. I recommend either (1) baking half of the batter and letting the remaining batter sit at room temperature or (2) halving the recipe and baking 1 layer, then halving the recipe again to bake the 2nd layer. With the first option, the baking powder is initially activated once wet so the 2nd cake may not rise as much.

      Or try my 1 layer chocolate cake baked in a 9-inch springform pan. The one I use for my chocolate cake pops. 🙂

      1. Also, if I am using your 6 inch chocolate cake recipe for this, how can I make sure I add espresso powder or coffee for that extra richness? Please advise on the same too.

      2. Hi Ash! There’s no need to add hot liquid (coffee) for the smaller amount of batter (the chocolate cupcakes for the 6 inch cake) because we’re not using as much cocoa powder/dry ingredients that need breaking up. You can add 1-2 teaspoons of espresso powder for extra extra flavor though.

  21. This is the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made. It is perfectly moist and tastes incredible!

    1. Thank you so much for your positive feedback, Sarah!

  22. It was great but i dont think my buttercream came out right or maybe i just dont like it but i did mix in some chocolate ganache and it came out great

  23. Made this cake twice and loved it. Once I added fresh raspberries to the buttercream filling and also used them as decoration and it was a delicious match.
    However, the second time I used coconut oil (the first I used sunflower seeds oil) and once refrigerated the cake became very dense, it almost had a brownie like texture and also was tasting a lot like coconut. Have I done something wrong or did you experience the same texture using coconut oil?
    Next time I’ll stick to sunflower seeds oil or some other liquid oil.


    1. Hi Anna, Thank you so much for sharing your experience with the different oils! The coconut oil will certainly leave some coconut taste. After refrigerating did you bring it back to room temperature before serving? It should not be as dense at room temperature.

      1. I left it out of the fridge for about 45 minutes.. maybe I should have taken it out earlier and allowed for a bit more time as it was a big cake (I’ve doubled the doses). Anyways it was still very good and a success, just different.

  24. This is such a wonderful cake! I made it dairy-free by using non-dairy creamer mixed with vinegar for the buttermilk. It turned out so moist and delicious!!

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed this cake, Jackie! Thanks for letting me know how it worked with non-dairy alternatives 🙂

  25. Terrilyn Hayward says:

    Hi Sally, I’m loving this recipe . Just curious why the cake needs to cool inside pan instead of turned out on wire rack?

    1. Hi Terrilyn! Cooling cakes either way makes no difference in the final result. I just always prefer to cool layers in the pan. If greased well enough and using a parchment paper round, it releases easily.

  26. Alison Hirons says:

    Hi Sally, my son has asked me to make a 3 tiered naked wedding cake. Bottom tier chocolate, middle coffee and top vanilla.
    Will this chocolate cake be suitable for the bottom layer and please do you have a recipe for a coffee cake?

    1. Hi Alison! This chocolate cake isn’t sturdy enough to be the bottom tier of a 3 tier wedding cake, even with cake dowels in place. (Even using the sour cream version in the notes– you could TRY replacing the buttermilk in that version with more sour cream– a total of 1 and 1/4 cups sour cream, but I still fear it wouldn’t be strong enough.)

  27. Heather Smith says:

    I’m in Fort Collins and I make this recipe all the time using the recommended adjustments per the King Arthur chart Sally linked and it works perfectly! Best chocolate cake recipe ever!!!!

    1. Ginger Bergman says:

      Thanks Heather. I’m going to give it a try using that chart.

  28. Hi, I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong – but my cake has been in the oven for almost 40 minutes and the toothpick is still coming out with batter on it! I set it at 170 C, it’s a fan oven. Then, after it was still very liquid after 25 minutes, turned it down to 150 C. I followed the ingredients to the letter – was surmised though at how liquid-y the batter was though, but you do say it is supposed to be thin…

  29. Came out absolutely delicious. Followed to the letter. Thank you for sharing such reliable recipes.

  30. Made this as a three-layer cake and frosted with Sally’s chocolate cream cheese frosting. I served it with raspberries and vanilla ice cream and it was delicious! (Only change was no espresso powder). Quick and easy with amazing results. Thank you, Sally, for another fabulous recipe!

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