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. This is my all time favorite chocolate cake recipe. I recently got asked to make a chocolate stout cake and I am genuinely nervous about trying any other cake recipe. Do you think I could just sub out the coffee in this recipe for guinness or a dark chocolate stout? And maybe add some espresso powder for that coffee kick? Thank you so much for just existing, you are definitely the most reliable recipe page on the interwebz.

    1. Hi Becca! Thank you! I haven’t tried this cake with guinness or stout in place of the coffee. The liquid should be relatively warm though. I would at least recommend using 1/2 hot coffee and 1/2 room temperature beer. Let me know what you try!

      1. So I used your cupcake recipe as recommended, but the 3 6″ layers weren’t nearly tall enough to stack up to the height of a beer Stein. I used 1/4c beer and 1/4 c buttermilk and the beer flavor was a little too mild. By this time I was out of brown sugar so I decided to half this cake recipe and I used half beer/half buttermilk, as well as half beer/half coffee. This one turned out much better. You can smell and taste the beer in it and it rose up much nicer than the other. Now I have 5 layers I will alternate to make a nice tall beer stein and I can play it off as intentional! Thanks again for your advice!

  2. Sally,
    This TRULY is the best chocolate cake that I have ever made, and I have made many, many good ones over the years. The photo was so inviting that I had to try. I was flabbergasted at how moist it was. I used cake flour though. Because we don’t drink coffee, I got everything ready before putting the wet and dry ingredients together and went to Starbucks. I used a little in the frosting, too, and also added a bit more cocoa in the frosting to taste. Thank you for working on this recipe. We all benefit from your various times of trying.

  3. I made this delicious cake for my chocoholic daughter’s birthday , but I added a topping of dark chocolate panache and crowned the whole thing with dark chocolate candy kisses. This was to go with her requested Double Chocolate Crinkle Cookies! There’s no such thing as too much chocolate! Lol!

  4. Hi Sally,

    This is an amazing recipe, every time I make it my friends and family love it! I was wondering if you had made it with gluten free flour before? Could you please let me know how it was as I have a gluten free family member who would like me to make it for her.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Jahcinta! I don’t have any experience baking with gluten free flour but other readers have reported back that they use it successfully in my recipes. Let me know if you try it!

  5. Hi sally such a good recipe my family loves it! One question can i use 3 eggs instead of 2 is there a difference?? Would apreciate your response.

    1. Definitely! The cake layers will be a littler thinner and require *slightly* less bake time, but keep your eye on them and use a toothpick to determine doneness.

  6. Sally, I love all of your recipes! This cake is so good. I am going to be making it for my friend’s wedding as their cutting cake! Is there anyway I can make this recipe into cupcakes? I live at around 5,500 ft elevation and for whatever reason, the chocolate cupcake recipe just won’t turn out, but this cake is dynamite.

      1. Love this recipe! My boyfriend loves chocolate cake and I never found a recipe that I particularly liked(they were always a little dry) with the added coffee this makes the cake super moist and delicious! Have already made this cake a few times. Definitely added this to my recipe box.

    1. Sally, this is my favorite chocolate cake recipe and i make it all the time. But a friend became vegan and she wants a chocolate cake for her birthday. How i can replace the eggs?
      Thank you very much, you’re very inspiring

  7. The BEST chocolate cake recipe I think I have ever had. So moist and delicious! I used hot water instead of the coffee and it still Came out AMAZING! I paired it with A peanut butter frosting and OMG. It’s a must try. Just like a Reece’s cup!!

  8. Super moist nice texture. My mom doesn’t really like chocolate cake. Too dry she says. Not this one. She told me only make this one from now on. I frosted with your vanilla buttercream. Turned out really striking visually and tasted fantastic. I didn’t have enough vanilla extract so added some almond. Yum. Thank you your recepies are the best and great step by step instructions and notes.

    1. Cake flour is too light for this cake since we’re already including super light cocoa powder. Great question!

  9. Hi Sally,
    This is the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made or eaten! I want to make a tiered chocolate cake with 2 or 3 tiers. Do you think it would work with this cake or do you have a recipe that would be better?
    Thank you,
    Natalie

    1. Hi Natalie! So glad you enjoy this chocolate cake recipe! This cake should work just fine as a tiered cake, but if you’re nervous– you can always add extra support with cake dowels.

  10. My co-workers were my taste testers when I started taking baking seriously. We went through several chocolate recipes before I found the perfect one. This one is it!!!!
    Everyone Loves it.
    Thanks Soo Much!

  11. Hi Sally! Big fan here!
    I am making this cake for our daughter’s first birthday party (layered cake banana cake and chocolate cake).
    Could I use decaff coffee? The amount of sugar is already substantial… I’m afraid that might just send her to the moon!
    Thanks!
    Amy

  12. 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

  13. 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!

  14. 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?

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

  16. 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.

  17. 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!!!

  18. 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! 🙂

  19. 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 🙂

  20. 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.

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

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