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 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! sallysbakingaddiction.com

1198 Comments

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  1. Barb Tompkins says:

    Hi Sally,
    I’m making my first unicorn cake using the Wilton 3D pony cake pan 10 1/2 x 12 x 2. Would this recipe work for this size pan? My granddaughter LOVES chocolate!

    1. Hi Barb, Without testing that exact pan I am unsure but you can use my post on Cake Pan Sizes and Substitutions to help figure out how much batter you will need. This is a very moist cake and I’m unsure if it will hold a 3D shape, I recommend following the recipe notes for the sour cream version if you wish to try it!

      1. Barb Tompkins says:

        Thanks for the info! I think I will try another recipe of yours for chocolate cake. This one may be a bit rich for the little ones.

    2. Carson Parris says:

      The chocolate cake I have been looking for my whole life… I use the sour cream version and, although I can’t get enough dark chocolate, skip the espresso powder for my honey’s taste. Perfect cake! Since it’s usually just my family of 2 adults and a toddler eating this, I use 6″ cake pans and make cupcakes to freeze with the rest of the batter.

  2. If the cake is baked the day before a celebration, should it be refrigerated overnight? And then brought to room temperature before serving?
    It just came out of the oven & our entire home smells delicious!

    1. Hi Katherine, The cake will be fine covered tightly at room temperature for one day.

  3. Hi Sally,

    I’ve made so many recipes from here and they’ve all come out wonderfully! You’re my very favourite resource for baking information and explanations too. I wanted to try this cake out, and the only non-dutched cocoa I can get my hands on at the moment is raw cacao, you mention to use less, as it’s more drying and more bitter – how much would you recommend I reduce the amount by in this recipe? Should I increase any of the wet ingredients.

    1. Hi Nina, unfortunately I’m unsure off the top of my head. If you test anything out, please let me know. Or if you find a chocolate cake recipe you love that calls for dutched cocoa, let me know too! Natural cocoa really is best here.

  4. Leslie McDonough says:

    I made this as in a bundt and used your chocolate ganache as a super rich glaze. Making it in a bundt pan made this so easy. The cake is delicious by itself but the ganache took it over the top. Thanks again, Sally!

  5. I have three 7 inch round cake pans. Will one recipe be enough to do all three pans?

    1. It will be plenty. I recommend filling each only halfway and using any leftover batter for cupcakes.

  6. WOW, another total winner. I was a little skeptical because when I handled the cooled cakes they seemed a little flimsy (or spongy? something seemed off) But … In Sally We Trust. Although I did find I had to bake the layers a little bit longer, but I think oven temp calibration may be the culprit.
    I baked the cakes a couple days ahead, wrapped and froze them. Made the buttercream and frosted them the day of the party. Perfect amount of icing! Perfect texture! So chocolatey and rich and moist! Got rave reviews from everyone. It looked a little small (I am incapable of judging portion sizes, in all fairness), but makes 18 very decent cake slices. And now the sound of me shredding all my other chocolate cake recipes…

  7. Hi Sally,
    I’m looking forward to trying out this cake for my son’s birthday this weekend, but I’m really struggling to find non “dutched” cocoa powder in the UK. Is there a way to adjust the baking soda/powder in this recipe to adjust for using “dutched” cocoa? Thanks!
    Liz

    1. Hi Liz! I’m sure there is, but that would require testing. If you test anything out, please let me know. Or if you find a chocolate cake recipe you love that calls for dutched cocoa, let me know too! Natural cocoa really is best here.

  8. Hi Sally! I am looking to make this chocolate cake but was wondering if you would recommend any other frostings? I am looking for a lighter substitute instead of butter cream. Any options using heavy whipping cream?

    1. Hi Alaa, You can certainly top the cake with a simple Homemade Whipped Cream. Or try my recipe for Perfect Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

  9. Made this for my daughter’s first birthday and it was a hit:) thanks alot for this amazing recipe.

  10. I make this cake time and time again. Comes out perfect every time!

  11. Simran Malhotra says:

    Can this be made as cupcakes? If yes what changes should I make ?

  12. can i use water instead of coffee?

  13. Hi Sally! I’d like to use this recipe to make a 3-layer cake with peanut butter frosting between layers and on top. Would that work for this type of cake? If so, would your peanut butter frosting recipe be enough for in and on/around the cake? Thank you!

    1. You can divide this batter between 3 9-inch cake pans. The layers will take a little less time to bake since they’ll be thinner. I would double the peanut butter frosting recipe. Enjoy!

  14. Oh me, oh my this is a delicious cake! just finished it and am decorating now and I’m stealing pieces from leveling and a scoop of the frosting… I must get this cake out of my house ASAP! I will be sharing this cake with everyone I know! Thanks as usual Sally for perfection again.

  15. LOVE this recipe. I have probably made it 25 times since you originally shared it; it always gets rave reviews. The sheet pan instructions make this a very portable cake for family gatherings, church potlucks and office treats. This and your Biscoff cookies are two rock-the-house faves. Oh, I can’t forget the Chicago deep dish pizza and soft pretzels: two savory faves. Keep ’em comin’ please. And congrats on baby news!

  16. I haven’t tasted the cake yet because I made it for a birthday later today. But the frosting tasting amazing. It has a very good chocolate flavor and is very silky on the tongue. It spreads very well. I did need quite a bit more heavy cream, probably about 10 tblsp and I only used 3 cups of the powdered sugar. The cakes look so good, like a real devils food cake, they rose well and have a very shiny surface. I can’t wait to try this cake, since the batter was delicious I have no doubt that the cake will be fantastic.

  17. I rarely bake from scratch because of time, but I always make an exception for this cake. My husband’s favorite. It’s a very good chocolate cake! This recipe is so wonderful, even I don’t mess it up!

  18. Delicious!!

    1. Honestly, you should rename this the Bruce Bogtrotter cake… I made it this afternoon (with ganache icing instead of buttercream) and holy batarang batman. It is the epitome of the cake on the movie Matilda. Its so rich and gooey and oh my giddy aunt. I’m in cake heaven!!

  19. This cake was DELICIOUS!! I made a 9×13 cake and it was so moist and fluffy. It was perfect even made two days ahead, and it was devoured by my friends in no time!

  20. Great chocolate cake recipe and just as you describe. I used the sour cream version with the hot coffee. I frosted it with your peanut butter frosting. Excellent cake! Whole family loved it.

  21. I was wondering if this cake could hold up fondant, sometimes too moist of a cake won’t hold the fondant and it ends up dipping down in the centre

    1. Hi Samantha, using the sour cream method/version from the notes, this cake would be just find under fondant.

      1. oh perfect! thank you

  22. Hi Sally, I want to make this cake and decorate it as a Kit Kat cake(with the Kit Kat fence and a ribbon). I’m unsure whether the height of the cake will be sufficiently low enough for this… Please help.

  23. This is the best chocolate cake I have ever made. The only thing I changed was I reduced the butter to only 1 cup in the frosting. It was fluffy and light. I baked it in two 8 inch pans and it was perfect. Thanks for this recipe.

  24. I forgot to leave stars.

  25. The chocolate cake itself came out quite well, my only issue was I had some bubbling at the bottom forming craters but I believe that was my fault. However, I had very big problems with the buttercream frosting. The recipe itself was straight forward sk I know I didn’t miss an ingredient or do something wrong. My icing came out lumpy and separated. I tried saving it by adding more sugar/cream but it simply didn’t work. If the icing was usable it would have received a five star rating but I ended up using another recipe for the icing.

  26. Hello I’m going to test run this choc cake as most of my previous ones have always been too dry (after scouring tips & recipes & explanations from website for past 3 hours a lot has been explained)! … I’m wondering if it will hold up under a mixture of soft fondant & sculptures icing which (hopefully) I will make into Simba from lion king – which will entail a lot of sculpting with cake tools for his fur & mane ……h-e-l-p as 1st attempt (for my daughters 21st in 3 weeks)

    1. Hi Michelle! I’m happy to help. Using the sour cream method/version from the notes, this cake would be just find under decorative fondant.

  27. Stephanie Burns says:

    Hi, Sally! I was wondering how I can adjust this recipe to accommodate two 10 inch cake layers? Can I make a 2 layer 8inch cake out of it as well?

    1. Hi Stephanie, You can use this recipe as written to make an 8 inch cake. Your layers will be slightly thicker and may take an extra minute in the oven, so keep an eye on yours. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. To scale this (or any!) recipe to a different size pan, my post on Cake Pan Sizes and Conversions should be helpful.

      1. Stephanie Burns says:

        Thank you very much! I just checked that out. How many cups about does this recipe make? Do you think if I doubled it that will be plenty for two 10inch layers? Cant wait to try this cake looks heavenly!

      2. This recipe yields about 6 cups of batter. For the best texture I don’t recommend doubling any cake recipes, instead make it twice.

  28. Made this yesterday for my brother’s birthday and the whole family loved it!! No mods, wouldn’t change a thing 🙂

    1. Hi Sally!! This cake looks delicious, but I’m looking to make a double barrel (with doweling and cake rounds) since I have to serve around 30 people. Do you think this recipe would hold up or should I look for another?

  29. Made this recipe a lot of times and loved it! But recently te recipe changed a bit. I tried that but I did really taste the coffee. I added the espresso powder and the coffee. Which should I leave out next time? The espresso powder or substitute the coffee for water?

    1. Hi Rosa, You can leave out the espresso powder next time and keep the hot coffee. That should still give you a rich chocolate taste!

  30. I made this cake and the result was so perfect! Delicious. The best chocolate cake we have tried. I followed the exact recipe, which is very easy! Thanks for this 🙂

    1. Amal Mubarak says:

      Hi Sally, I really love your recipes. I made this one today with my little boy ( two and half years old) and he couldn’t wait to eat it.
      Well, I didn’t have espresso powder so, I used Nespresso machine to make a small shot of decaffeinated espresso. I used the buttermilk version and the cake is so fluffy and soft. I followed your chocolate ganasch recipe for the decorations. It is very yummy. Thank you.

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