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

Comments are closed.

  1. Can you decorate this cake with Fondant or is it not firm enough?

  2. This chocolate is it!!! It’s soft and moist and deliciously chocolately. I use instant espresso as the coffee and add to the mix. The flavor depth is spot on!

  3. How do I need to adjust your recipe for high altitude?

  4. tried this recipe today… came out very well.. did not add expresso.. thank you very much for publishing the recipe… is there an option to post pictures?

    1. Hi Ajay, You are welcome! I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe. If you post a picture on social media tag me so that I can see it, or you can always email pictures to me at [email protected]

  5. I tried this recipe last Saturday , I baked for a friend’s birthday and it was great ! I have abandoned my usual chocolate recipe for this one!
    Thank you very much from the Netherlands! For anyone looking for an easy to follow chocolate cake recipe, this is it!

  6. Looks really good! Wondering if I can make the frosting without the cocoa. Would I substitute something for it?

  7. Loved this cake, I baked it for my nephews birthday and it was divine.
    The super moist sponge! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!
    I wanted to ask if there’s a different frosting I can use? I’m not a fan of buttercream that’s why… although this buttercream was really yummy too

  8. Hi All,

    I am about to try this buttercream frosting for my son’s birthday cake. My question is around storing the frosted cake at room temperature overnight. Has anyone tried that?
    Or do I need to refrigerate the cake if I make it the night before? Many thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Kate, If you are using this chocolate buttercream you can leave the finished cake covered at room temperature overnight. If you opt for a cream cheese based frosting then you will need to store it in the refrigerator. I hope your son has a great birthday!

  9. Thank you so much!!! 🙂

  10. I tried this cake recipe yesterday. It is delicious and moist- I have been looking for the perfect cake recipe for a long time after trying and failing at so many and this is it!

    1. I’m thrilled you enjoyed it so much!

  11. Made it today with some sour cream and less buttermilk. So good. I like it better with sour cream and might do more next time. I’m hyper critical of my baking and love this.

  12. Bernice Wittwer says:

    My espresso powder finally arrived and I made this yesterday. It is amazing!! It is literally the best chocolate cake I have ever made!

  13. Hi there,
    I made this cake for my birthday yesterday. I used espresso powder and coffee and I went for the only buttermilk option. The cake tasted pretty good (a little salty) but it was very crumbly. I even let it cool in its pan and then I put it in the fridge overnight before I frosted it. I let it come back to room temperature before frosting. It was very difficult to frost and it kept falling apart. I’m not sure if I did something wrong or if this cake is just naturally crumbly. Just a warning to anyone who might make this cake: it comes out very crumbly and moist. It tasted good though and the buttercream was delicious!
    Thanks Sally for your wonderful recipes. I always come to this blog whenever I want to bake something 🙂

  14. Bernice Wittwer says:

    My espresso powder arrived and I immediately made this cake. When I leveled the cake, I ate the still-warm cake and immediately considered not even bothering to frost the cake! It is the most delicious, moist chocolate cake I have ever made and that’s saying something because I have made many, many chocolate cakes from scratch. My first cake was when I was 14 and I made a midnight chocolate cake for my mom’s birthday as a surprise. We were moving and were out of eggs. That’s when I learned about ingredient substitutions! Using mayonnaise in place of eggs also created an incredibly moist cake! That was back in 1978, long before google so I had to wake my mom up and ask her what I could use in a cake recipe instead of eggs. Luckily, she was still surprised. lol I used the sour cream option when making the cake.
    This cake took me back to that time which makes it taste even better! I’m looking forward to making this for my friend’s birthday next month!!

  15. Hello sally,while baking 1 cake can keep remaining batter in refrigerator because in my oven i can bake only 1 cake at a time.i hope u’ll rply me..thank you

    1. You can try however as soon as the batter is mixed together the baking soda is activated which means if you wait to bake it your cake may not rise as much. Alternatively you can cut the recipe in half, bake one layer, and then repeat to make the second layer.

      1. This recipe was great! Best chocolate cake and chocolate frosting we ever had! Definitely will make again! A twin sister birthday was a success with this cake!

  16. Made this cake yesterday and it was delicious. I did not have buttermilk so subbed with milk and 1 3/4 tsp cream of tarter. Made in 9 x 13 pan. My kids and I loved it! My son has now requested for his birthday.

    1. I made this cake for the first time as my family and I are in self . We were all craving chocolate so we gave it a go! Let me tell you, It did not disappoint! In fact hands down this will be my go to Birthday Cake or any and all occasions CAKE!!!! It was too die for. I followed the recipe completely except left out the espresso powder. I didn’t think it was needed bcs the cake still had traces of coffee flavour in it! Also, in my opinion, the cake flavour on its own was even better without the frosting. It was so chocolatey moist and delicious! Thank you Sally!

  17. Delicious!
    I used some of the sour cream adjustments and I did use Dutch cocoa…
    Came out wonderful!

  18. Great cake to bake while we’re stuck at home. Kids loved the flavor and adults too. We used hot water instead of coffee. Will definitely be making again. Thanks Sally!

  19. Hi. Made this cake today. Whole family loved it. Going to make this again and again for sure. Thanks for this recipe.

    1. You are welcome, Jitha! I’m so happy your family loved it!

  20. The cake turned out amazing. It’s delicious and moist. We didn’t use expresso powder and put less sugar in the icing. Will definitely be making again! Thanks

  21. How long for 8 inch pans?

  22. Carmella Riley says:

    This was a winner! I made this as my “” bday cake. Had to use 1TBSP of Vinegar in 1CUP of milk to substitute for buttermilk and it came out perfectly. If I have to “stay safe at home” I’m happy to do it with this cake!

  23. Maryam Bucheeri says:

    the best chocolate cake ever❤❤❤ thanks Sally

  24. Hi Cassidy! See the recipe note for exact details on that variation 🙂

  25. Hi Sally – I am planning on making this for my daughters birthday on Saturday. Since we are “shelter in place”, I can not get to a grocery store. If I make buttermilk using skim milk will it work? Thank you.

    1. In a pinch, yes!

  26. Hi Sally-
    My soon to be 6 year old wants his birthday cake to be chocolate cake with vanilla frosting…I’d like to use this wonderfully sounding chocolate cake, but can you recommend your favorite vanilla frosting to go with this cake?Thank you!

    1. Hi Lisa! Here is my vanilla buttercream.

  27. Hey sally this cake is delicious, however everytime i bake it, even tho its well baked , it always seems to sink a little in the middle how can i combat that? Maybe adding 1/2 tsp. More Baking powder? Also for a less strong chocolate flavor would using the hot water instead of coffee work? Thank you.

    1. Hi Angie, There could be several reasons why a cake would sink in the middle. Over mixing the batter, oven temperature, and fresh leaveners all play a role. Check out my top 10 Tips for Perfect Cakes for more details!

  28. My husband baked tonight for the first time in 30 years- using your recipe! He made me your chocolate cake. Haha:) I helped him decide on using your recipe because I’ve used so many of yours over the last few years. And they are foolproof and DELICIOUS. He did a great job with it, and I think he got a big kick out of baking by volume instead of measuring everything. So thank you for including those in your recipe:) You do great work!

    1. Andrea Coulson says:

      Hi what kind of oil do I use?

  29. Holy moly. This cake is AMAZING. I’ve never made cake from scratch before, and the instructions were easy to follow and it turned out beautifully! I frosted it with cream cheese icing, and my housemate, who “doesn’t even like chocolate cake,” absolutely loved it.
    I don’t have any cake pans in my house, so used a 9×13 pan. IMO if you do that, you might consider cutting back on the recipe by 1/3 or 1/2 as it turned out huge and very dense (in a good way). I do a hack where I cut the pan in half and stack into a “square 2 layer cake,” and this baby weighs a ton! (I really need to get cake pans. 🙂

  30. Perfect chocolate cake, frosting included. We used black coffee in the cake and the sour cream version you mention but skipped the espresso powder (couldn’t find any). This was so good and would recommend to everyone!

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