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!


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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


  1. This cake was amazing! So moist and chocolatie, but not too sweet. I made it for my mother in law’s birthday anf she absolutely loved it! Hopefully I gained some brownie (or.. cake?!) points!

  2. Jessi McCoy says:

    This was amazing! I made this cake for my family tonight for dessert and everyone loved it. My two year old said mmmmm….lol thank you for sharing this recipe 🙂

  3. 😀

    JAW DROPPING! Chocolate cake is my dad’s FAVOURITE and I HAVE to make it for his birthday every year. Usually, a birthday cake is the ONE exception where I use a mix but this year, I’m going to try it from scratch, thanks!!!

  4. Stephanie Mitchell says:

    Hey Sally! I also have baked your vanilla cupcakes this weekend and they were a hit! So yummy! Felt like I was eating Haagen Daaz ice cream in cake form! I made about 90 mini cupcakes for an event by doubling the recipe, which was way more than I expected but they didn’t go to waste 🙂
    Now I want to try this recipe, but I have one question. I have an 8×3 in round pan and I was wondering if I could bake the whole thing in there and then later cut the cake in half for the filling? Or should I stick to baking if in two seperate 8×3 in pans (which is all I have)?

    Thank you in advance for your help ☺️☺️☺️☺️

    1. Hi Stephanie! Love those vanilla cupcakes. For this cake, you must do two separate layers in your 8×3 pan. There is a lot of batter!

  5. I just got the text: “cake is amazing!” 🙂 I made this cake today for a friend who just brought a new miniature human into the world. (I promised her, months ago, that if a fabulous chocolate cake is what she wanted upon birthing her son, then by gosh a chocolate cake is what she would have!)

    The recipe is awesome. It’s straight forward, easy to follow and doesn’t include ingredients I have to source from several shops. ALWAYS great. …now I really need to make it again so that I can try it, too! But it looked outstanding. 🙂

  6. Akriti Sharan says:

    Hi Sally

    Made this chocolate cake last night for my husband’s birthday and decorated it with M&Ms! It was a hit, I will be recommending this recipe to everyone! He liked it so much, he said he wants one every year for his birthday.
    Great recipe! I only used one and a half cups powdered sugar in the frosting, and the M&Ms gave the added sweetness. Other than that, I followed the recipe to the T and it turned out moist, delicious and decadent. Five stars!

  7. I’ve made this cake twice so far, and it’s turned out delicious both times! The first time I made it, I made it the way you did, with the milk chocolate frosting. The second time, I made a german chocolate frosting, and it was a huge hit! Thanks for another great recipe!

  8. Hi Sally!
    Firstly I want to say that I LOVE your site, I stumbled across it about a year ago when I was looking for the perfect choc chip cookie recipe – and oh boy did I find it! Since then I have been slowly making my way through your recipes (and your cookbook) and I have rediscovered my love of baking – and it is certainly making me popular in the office 😉

    Just a quick question about this recipe – the sugar says 1 and 3/4 cups of sugar is 350g but I work it out to be 175g, are you able to let me know which is correct? I’m making this for my Pop’s birthday this weekend 🙂


    1. Hi Ellen – 1/4 cup of sugar is 50 grams. So 1 3/4 cups is 350 grams. Happy birthday to your pop!

  9. For this recipe, I find room temperature milk is not necessary. Thanks Jacky, enjoy!

  10. Hi Sally! I don’t have heavy cream or whipping cream here, can I sub whole milk or all-purpose cream for the frosting? Which of the two would be better?

    1. Whole milk would be best. Enjoy!

  11. Hi Sally! would this cake go well with salted caramel cream cheese frosting? 🙂

    1. Definitely!

  12. Sally- This cake was a big hit at my family’s Mother’s Day BBQ! If I make cupcakes with this recipe what would the baking temp and time be? Thanks for the yummy recipes. This is the fourth of yours that I have made:)

  13. Is it possible to freeze the cake without the frosting?

    1. Yep – up to 2-3 months.

  14. Hi Sally,

    Thanks for your fabulous recipes, I always know I can trust them!

    I have (foolishly) agreed to make a friend’s wedding cake and the bottom layer will be chocolate. I was wondering if I double the quanities for this recipe would that be enough for a 12″ cake pan? If you could advise on cooking time also that would be great.

    Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Helen, you shouldn’t have to double the recipe for a 12 inch cake pan. In fact, you may even have too much. Fill it halfway and then use any extra batter to make a few cupcakes. I’m unsure of these bake times.

  15. Just made your cake (and the death by chocolate cupcakes, also a huge success) for a birthday party and it was a HUGE success. Let me say that again a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE success!!!!! I made four thin cake layers and used the chocolate frosting and your vanilla frosting (chocolate, vanilla, chocolate frosting layers and coated the outside with vanilla frosting). It was a show stopper when we cut into those layers. The cake was sooo moist. One comment I have to share was said by a 50 year old, “this is how cakes used to taste when I was growing up.” Wow, what a compliment! Thank you for sharing this recipe.

    I recommend anyone thinking of trying this cake recipe to stop thinking about it and do it, it’s just that good!!!

    1. Haha… im about to make a double batch for a 4 layer cake and was going to use sallys white choc frosting on the inside and the chocolate on the outside!
      and how awesome are those cupcakes!!

  16. HAD to leave a comment to say thank you so much for this recipe! I am new to baking, and this is the first chocolate cake I have ever made, and it is the best chocolate cake I have ever had! My family absolutely loved it and couldn’t believe I actually made it. Super moist, super chocolatey, and super easy to make.

  17. Sarah Allister says:

    Also y, since my family doesn’t like sugar, will it be OK if I reduce the sugar to one cup? Will I need to make any changes if I reduce the sugar to one cup?

  18. I have the same question as well. Will it be OK to reduce the sugar to 1 cup?

    1. I’ve never tried it, so I cannot say. I suggest making the recipe as written for best results.

  19. Hey Sally thanks for your reply :*) The thing is, I’m using carob powder and that is sweeter than cocoa powder. So I was thinking that in my case, perhaps 1 3/4 cups of sugar is a bit sweet (with the already sweet carob powder) so in that case , it would be fine to reduce the sugar right?

  20. Hi Sally

    This cake and the death by chocolate cupcakes looks delicious!! Im looking for a chocolate cake or cupcake recipe for my son first birthday party and I want them moist. Which one do you recommend? Whats is the difference between this 2?

    1. Hi Irmaris. Great question. This recipe was adapted from Ina Garten and I wanted my own self-developed chocolate cupcake recipe, which is why the two are different. All the same ingredients, just mixed up/portioned differently. I truly love them both and can’t choose a favorite. Both moist, soft, fudgy, perfect.

  21. Hi Sally. I am addicted to your website! I am always checking if you have uploaded a new recipe. I was wondering I only have 1 circular pan so would that be ok ? And would I have to wait for it to cool down ? And how long would that be ? Thanks!

    1. Hi Chloe – having 2 cake pans is ideal. You will have to let it cool for at least 30 minutes before baking the second layer.

  22. Kate @ Diethood says:

    Oh mah worrrrrrd!!!! I had a *shut the “front door”* moment when this beauty appeared before me on my Pinterest feed!! LAWD, that is one insaaaane cake! Beautiful job, as always!!

  23. OH MY GOD! Seriously, this has got to be this recipe is OUT OF THIS WORLD DELICIOUS! If anyone every has a need to chocolate, this will send you into an eternal bliss.

    I am trying to gain confidence as a baker. Started out with small things like cupcakes and took the plunge to make my first cake ever with this recipe and I’m ready to take on the world.

    When I served it, you couldn’t hear a pin drop. People were in deep bliss! lol lol… Half went in less than 15 mins and everyone went for seconds. THANK YOU, SALLY! You made me look like a baking goddess! lol lol

    P.S. Small note of discrepancy that I noticed:

    For the cake you have:

    3/4 cup (65g) unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch processed)

    And for the frosting you have:

    3/4 cup (95 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder

    Shouldn’t 3/4 cups equal the same amount of grams? This worked fine with me but just thinking of those who use grams instead of cups as it may be confusing.

    1. Hi Kay! I am so happy that you and everyone else love this chocolate cake recipe! I just added the gram measurements recently, so thanks for catching that! It’s 65g for 3/4 cup of the cocoa. Thank you so much for reporting back.

      1. Dearest Sally,

        My apologies for such scrambled sentences and grammar. I think I was a little emotional from the cake. lol lol

        If you have a recipe for a vanilla or pound cake, please let me know where to find it.

        Thanks again for your wonderful recipes!!! 🙂

  24. Do you use dutch processed cocoa powder for the frosting?

      1. Jenny Cantrell says:

        Huh? I am confused by this answer…  The recipe for the cake & icing say “unsweetened cocoa powder”.  The cake recipe also says NOT Dutch Processed Cocoa.  I am making this soon so I want to make sure I am using the correct Cocoa for the icing.  

      2. Dutch processed should NOT be used for the cake. It is OK for the frosting!

  25. Hi Sally, I’m a fan! I frequent you site almost every week to find a recipe to
    Try out for the family during the weekend.. And thankfully, a success each time! Thank you! I have 2 questions though.
    1) how do u separate the cake to spread the frosting in the middle? What’s the best way to do it?
    2) my husband loves cakes with a biscuit base, could I bake this cake like how u baked your s’mores pie, pouring the batter over the graham crackers?

    1. Hi Shah – this cake is baked in 2 separate cake pans. And I’m sure a graham cracker base would be tasty!

  26. Hi Sally! Im gonna do this tomorrow for my birthday! I hope it tastes good as those cakes on the mall! Im kinda nervous about the outcome but Im sure by following your instructions it will be as good as yours. Thank you for this recipe it really is a mouth-watering and drooling cake you have there!!!

  27. This cake looks amazing!! I’m going to bake this tonight for my husband’s birthday tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it turns out—I’m sure it will be fabulous!!

  28. Will this cake be ok in a 10′ square pan? I’m making a 8′ round and 10′ square.

  29. Hi sally! I just came across your recipe and it looks delicious. I was wondering if i could substitute the egg with something as I’m allergic to eggs,.was hopping you could help because the recipe is very tempting and I’m waiting to try it! :)thanks!

  30. Sally! Thank you for your great recipes! I have made so many and they are always big hits! I was thinking of making this chocolate cake but with a raspberry buttercream in the layers and chocolate frosting on the outside with some fresh raspberries and chocolate curls on top ….. Do you think that would taste ok? Or do you have any other suggestion?

    1. Definitely. I love chocolate and raspberry.

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