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

985 Comments

  1. I’ve made this cake 3 times and it’s a hit. The last time, I used 2 – 8″ cake pans instead of the 9″. My baking time was 34 minutes. A perfect cake!!

  2. Hi Sally, always providing the BEST recipes, you are!! I would like to use my 6” baking pans. May I use 3….or how would I adjust recipe? THANK YOU!!

  3. Hi! I’ve done it a million times, and everytime it’s perfect. My friends always ask me to make it for their bdays and it turns out so good.
    There only a twist! Frosting and filling made with condensed milk, dark chocolate and a little butter over the stovetop to thicken until spreadable.

    1. Hello Gabriela, Do you replace the condensed milk for another ingredient(s) or add it to your filling and frosting? More instructions on exactly how you add condensed milk. Thank you.

  4. Every time I make this cake i say it’s my favorite! But the pumpkin cake with cream cheese icing is a close second! Thanks Sally!

  5. I have what is probably a stupid question, but I’m not a coffee drinker. How do you brew a strong cup of coffee? Like, do you just take coffee grounds and add an extra scoop beyond the ratio of water to scoops recommended on the package?

    My dad wants me to make him a chocolate cake for his birthday. He at first wanted me to just follow the recipe on the Hershey’s cocoa powder box, but agreed to let me substitute coffee for the hot water and buttermilk for the milk :P. I came here to see if you had any tips I could use for when I make it. At any rate, I am not sure what constitutes a “strong” cup of coffee.

    1. I haven’t tested this batter in a larger pan size but many readers find this chart helpful to figure out different size pan capacity: https://www.joyofbaking.com/PanSizes.html

  6. Hi Sally! My son’s birthday is Monday, we plan to have his party tomorrow (if weather allows it). I have been researching cakes to make and he and I landed on this one! I planned to make it today and refrigerate and serve tomorrow!
    However, I just read it needs to be refrigerated for 5 days! I don’t know how I missed that in my reading before! Is that step absolutely necessary?

  7. Hi, Sally. Regarding the buttermilk/buttermilk + sour cream differences in this cake and your chocolate mousse cake, (I think I am remembering correctly), which one would you say would travel better? The mousse cake since it is sturdier? I have to travel 5 hours before frosting & assembling a cake. If there is another one that you recommend, as long as it is chocolate, I’m all ears! Also thinking of using a cream cheese frosting instead of ganache or buttercream. Love your site.

    1. Hi Molly, If you are traveling an assembling the cake after traveling I would recommend this chocolate cake. Just wrap each layer individually to travel and frost when you arrive. If you want to make a chocolate cream cheese frosting this one is my favorite (just remember cream cheese frosting should be refrigerated): https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/chocolate-cream-cheese-frosting/

      1. Sally, this cake traveled well in its layers, and was a huge success this weekend. Very moist with a rich chocolate flavor. The last hefty slice is with the birthday girl as she returns to college so more traveling tonight for this dessert! I made your cream cheese buttercream, minus the lemon, frosting which the birthday girl loooooovvvvvved. Thanks for the feedback AND delicious recipes.

  8. I made this cake on Saturday for our daughter and son-in-law. On the way home, our son-in-law said it was perhaps the best chocolate cake ever, and I may have to agree! I have baked many chocolate cakes, but this one is definitely going into the regular rotation!

  9. Sally,

    OMG I love everything you bake. Every recipe has me loving your bake goods even more. I made this cake for a friend for her birthday and every one loved it. Very moist. They said to die for………. Beyond 5 stars

  10. Made this for my grandson,s birthday. A huge hit. I made it three 9” layers which baked beautifully. Since I wanted more icing I took your suggestion and used the one from the piñata cake. Then I had a light bulb moment. Why not make the three layer into a piñata cake. So I used the middle layer for the cutout and filled it with mini m&ms and it worked perfectly. Everyone was intrigued. Love your website.

  11. Hi Sally, is their any chance I could bake this with orange in it. I am wanting to make a chocolate and orange birthday cake. If so please could you give me the recipe.
    Thank you
    Raj

    1. Hi Raj, you can add orange zest to this cake batter and try replacing *some* of the buttermilk with freshly squeezed orange juice. Let me know what you test!

  12. Hi Sally
    Can I put all the batter in a 9-inch pan or does it have to be two seperate ones, as I dont want it to be layered, but still want it to be round? 🙂

  13. Hi, I made your vanilla cake recipe and I thought it tasted delicious (from the batter) haven’t actually eaten it yet

    But this one seems sooo rich to me? Maybe its cause chocolate isn’t my favorite and I can really taste the cocoa, I did use hot water over coffee because I don’t drink it and I didn’t wanna make a cup (so I’ll have to try that) but any other suggestions?

  14. Hi Sally
    I have made this cake before, but I cannot remember, espresso powder grinder fine, or instant?

  15. Hi Sally – I made this cake last weekend for my neighbor. They absolutely loved it! I did have a question while I was making it. You say to not over whip the buttercream. Only whip 1 minute. Every other buttercream recipe I have says to whip for 3-5 minutes and it always turns out great. What is your reason for not whipping it more than a minute? Does it add too much air?? Thanks! Love your recipes!!

  16. Sally, for recipes like this that are for quarter sheet cake size, how would you suggest making a half sheet out of this? Would you double the recipe?

    1. I haven’t tested this as a cake that large but yes you can try it! Be very very careful however when doubling any cake recipe that you don’t over mix the batter which will result in a dense cake.

  17. This cake is beyond amazing !!!! Everyone loves it , I made it many times . Sally I would love to use this cake to make a strawberry chocolate Cake . Will you pls suggest what filling and frosting that includes Strawberries will work with this amazing chocolate Cake pls .

  18. I found the link to this cake in your naked cake post. I just want to confirm that you can use this type of cake to make a naked cake? I have not seen many chocolate naked cakes and read that chocolate cakes have more crumbs which make it difficult to do the icing. Do you recommend this cake for use in creating a naked cake? Thanks for your advice!

    1. Hi Trinda! This chocolate cake is definitely a little more crumby than the vanilla naked cake, but that’s never stopped me from making it a naked cake style. Still looks lovely in my opinion.

  19. This is my favorite chocolate cake recipe!! I need to make a black cake for Halloween and prefer not to use a bunch of black dye. Any idea if I can swap the regular cocoa powder out for black cocoa powder?

  20. Thus is my go to chocolate cake and I’ve made it countless times exactly as Sally has written! THE BEST! THANKS Sally!

  21. This recipe is fantastic! It has been my daughter’s go-to birthday cake for the past few years with no signs of stopping! It’s moist and rich with a balanced chocolate flavour. Frosting is also amazing. I have to cut the coffee quantity in half otherwise it’s overpowering – maybe because my coffee is too strong?

  22. Hi Sally,
    I love this recipe!! Made it earlier this year and it was delicious and moist. Going to make it again this weekend for another bday but was asked to make a 2-layer quarter sheet cake. Do you think the cake recipe as-is would fill two 9×13 pans enough – or do you suggest doubling the recipe? Thank you!!

    1. Hi Monica, This recipe makes one 9×13 inch cake. See recipe notes for baking instructions. I recommend making this twice rather than doubling it for two layers that size.

  23. Hi Sally! I’m planning to make your Chocolate Buttercream frosting for a yellow 2-layer cake. In comparing the ingredients of your original chocolate buttercream frosting recipe to the slightly increased amounts of ingredients for frosting a layer cake, I am wondering why the original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, but the frosting recipe for a layer cake (with slightly increased amounts of ingredients) only calls for 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract?

    1. Hi Kathy! This is a great question. With so much chocolate/cocoa flavor, you can’t really detect higher amounts of vanilla extract. You can use anywhere between 1-2 teaspoons and it will be just fine. Trust me! (Using 1 is great because you aren’t wasting as much.)

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