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

979 Comments

  1. Happy (very) early birthday then Tanya. 🙂 If this is your birthday cake, you have to let me know how it is. 😀

  2. Hello, gorgeous! Talk about most beautiful cake EVER! Frosted so simply and beautifully, Sally. And a chocolate cake this decadent doesn’t need over-the-top adornments.. the pattern from the chocolate chips is so eye-catching and tasty 🙂 great tip about the eggs! I never knew that, and I always use cold eggs. Next time, I’ll bring them to room temperature to see the difference!

  3. Who is this Sally? You made cake…I did a double take because I’m so used to cookies and bars from you. Not complaining though!

    I always love your little baking tips in your posts. Even though I’m a rebel and never use oil. I’m a butter girl through and through. Don’t hate me 🙂

    1. Hi Loretta! I actually have a ton of cakes, cupcakes, yeasted rolls, muffins, and breads on my website. Glad you enjoy my baking tips.

  4. I just finished making this cake, and OMG if I don’t throw up it will be a miracle. I could NOT stop eating the frosting. I did get enough on the cake to cover it, but every last lick in bowl is gone, and then I ate a big piece of the cake too. Holy hogfest heaven! I don’t even like chocolate cake, and I don’t know how I’m going to stay away from it. Well done coming up with a recipe that is so amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  5. I’ve now made this cake twice..in one week!! My husband requested it for his birthday and I obliged of course! We had friends over for dinner and I served the cake to everyone but one person who swore she didn’t like chocolate cake. I promised her that if she just tried a little I would make her favorite dessert next time. Well she tried it and LOVED it!! Was swiping her finger across the plate to gather up every last bit of frosting and cake crumbs! Hubby took the rest of the cake to work (only 8 pieces left ) and sent an email that said fastest 7 people get a piece of homemade chocolate cake! *He got first dibs hence the 7 left! It got many compliments from the lucky 7! LOVE LOVE LOVE this cake recipe, I cant wait for another reason to make this and again.!

    1. Mary! You made it again. How amazing. I love this cake so much too and I am SO GLAD you love it just as much. I’m waiting for an excuse to make it again too. We’re headed to a party this weekend – and I think I’ll bring cake!

  6. What a pretty cake! Chocolate cake is an any day of the week post. Chocolate cake is just appropriate… always. I love how you decorated it! I’m so not a decorator so I love stuff like that. 🙂

  7. Made this for my husbands birthday today & it turned out perfect. Everyone enjoyed & it was absolutely delicious!!!

    1. That is great to hear, Dinelle! Thanks for reporting back. And happy birthday to your husband! What a wonderful cake to enjoy for the special day.

  8. Hi Sally!

    I made this cake yesterday for my boyfriend exactly the way your recipe says, including the frosting. It was SO good. I was proud, and I have you to thank! 🙂

  9. Sally, this cake was SOOO good! To quote my mom: “Super chocolatey, check. Moist, check. Luscious frosting, check. Delicious, check!!”
    Thanks for another wonderful recipe!

  10. So I had been looking for a easy cake recipe for the longest time and i finally found it!! I’v made 2 cakes plus cupcakes today alone with this recipe! Yes it is that good!!!! It’s the best cake I’v EVER had!!! And what makes it even better is there’s no cake flour in there! 😀 😀 I didn’t use the icing recipe but next time i think i’ll give it a try too 😀

  11. I made this cake last night and brought it into my office today for a co-workers birthday. This is going to be my new go-to recipe for chocolate cake. And the chocolate chip decoration on the outside was the perfect touch for the non-decorator like me. I even mixed it up by making a pattern using white chocolate chips and regular milk chocolate chips! Thank you so much for sharing this fantastic recipe.

  12. Hi Sally
    I happened upon your site while searching for the perfect moist carrot cake a while back. I made it for a family sunday brunch and it was an incredible success. Your method is really clever and I thought to myself recently “she must have a moist chocolate cake recipe!” et la voila! Both of these recipes have become staples. I am a Canadian living in France where food, as you must know, is sacred. Its nice to bake classics from home and share them with my family and friends here dans ‘le beau pays’, thank you so much for sharing your recipes 🙂 They are very appreciated across the pond!

  13. I made this cake yesterday for a dear friend’s birthday. OMG! It was so moist and delicious. I didn’t use the chocolate chips, instead placed chocolate sprinkles on the top. It was beautiful and everyone loved it. It is definitely the BEST chocolate cake and frosting I have ever had. Thank you so much for your delicious recipes. I’ve made a few of yours and each one is spectacular.

    1. Elizabeth – that’s how I describe this frosting too. It’s literally the best frosting in the world. I just made it yesterday again for a new recipe. Thanks for reporting back!

  14. I’m a chocolate cake girl and a pretty good baker. I felt challenged to try this cake, since you didn’t use butter. I made this cake today and it is absolutely, moist, tasty and very easy to make. The frosting is very good as well. I made my cake a 3 layer and knit turned out great. Thanks for a superior recipe.

    1. Thanks Eugena! Oil leaves the cake’s crumb more moist than butter would in this recipe. Glad you enjoyed it!

  15. Sally for president 🙂

    Awesome recipe Sally. Two questions:

    1. If you don’t care about the color, will using dutch processed cocoa affect the taste or texture?

    2. Have you ever used coconut oil in your cakes? I tried it recently in a yellow cake and it was one of the moistest and most delicate versions I’ve ever had.

    Keep up the awesome work,

    – Armi

  16. Hey Sally,
    Firstly everything you have here is just amazingly scrumptious looking. I tried out your triple chocolate cake recipe complete with the chocolate chips decoration idea and I must say it was a blockbuster hit with everyone and there wasn’t a crumb left behind. The measurements were spot on, I followed it exactly and it came out perfect, perfect PERFECT! Can’t wait to try more of your recipes and thank you for so much for sharing these with us!!
    Cheers
    Sam

  17. I have what might be a dumb question, but I’m a beginner at baking. How thick is the cake supposed to be in the pan after you bake it?

  18. I made this cake over the weekend and it is amazing!!! It’s super moist with just the right amount of chocolate. It almost reminded me of a brownie. I had no issues…it came out perfectly. My cake was done at about 23 minutes.

  19. I made this cake this weekend for my brother’s birthday and it was a huge hit! It was the first time I’ve ever seen a whole cake go- no leftovers what-so-ever! It’s literally the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had and is now on my major recommendation list. Thank you so much for the effort put into creating it and for sharing it with us!

  20. Hi Sally,

    I remade this cake the next day using flower nails in the pans and added 5 degrees to the temperature and it turned out perfect. My oven was off. It was so great and my family loved it! It was by far the best chocolate cake I have ever had.

  21. OMG Sally, this chocolate cake was to die for!!! I didn’t end up making the frosting but the cake on its own was just out of this world. It was super rich, super moist and sinfully delicious. Again I shared it among many and they all said it was the BEST! We ourselves couldn’t control our taste buds and before we knew it, not a crumb left.

    This is the by far the BEST chocolate cake ever & will be my all time recipe from now on. I will be making it again in a few days and this time with the frosting. Thank you Sally for providing us with such lovely treats. I’ve already got the ingredients set for the “peanut butter cup crunch brownies” and the “Monkey Bread with Caramel Sauce”. Can’t wait as I know they are going to be equally fantastic 🙂

    1. Hi Jess! So glad you loved it so much. You have to try the frosting sometime, too! And those recipes you’re going to bake next are a couple of my favorites. Let me know how you like them! 🙂

  22. OK, Im making this cake for a birthday party this weekemd, there will be about 35-40 people. Ive only ever made it in round cake pans. Have you tried this as a full sheet? Im nervouse!

    1. Hi Mary – no I have not tried baking it in a 9×13 pan before. I’m unsure of the baking time but it would work. Let me know if you try it!

  23. OMG just the thing I was looking for… I can hear my stomach growling… your explanations are great and easy to understand… I am having a girl’s night with all my friends tonight and this would be a great addition to the food.. Will let you know how it turns out.. Can’t wait to get baking.. 😀 Thank you Sally… xx

  24. I rarely comment on things, but I have to comment on this. I made this recipe after sifting through TONS of chocolate layer cake recipes. I thought this one looked best, and I was right! I followed the instructions pretty much exactly and was very happy with the results! I made this for a family birthday party and it was quite a success. We couldn’t believe how moist and delicious the cake was. Thanks so much for the recipe. I will definitely use it again!

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