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.
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 Ingredients
Each ingredient serves an important role. For best results, do not make substitutions.
- All-Purpose Flour: The structure of the cake. Use all-purpose flour– cake flour is too light.
- Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder: Do not use dutch-process cocoa powder. If desired, see dutch-process vs natural cocoa powder for more information.
- Baking Soda & Baking Powder: Use both baking soda and baking powder for lift.
- Salt: Salt balances the flavor.
- 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.
- Oil: Don’t use butter in this cake batter. Cocoa powder is a particularly drying ingredient, so this cake needs oil for moisture.
- 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.
- 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.
- Vanilla Extract: Vanilla extract adds flavor.
- 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.
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.
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:
- Unsalted Butter
- Confectioners’ Sugar
- Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- Heavy Cream or Milk
- Vanilla Extract
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.
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
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*
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk*
- 1 cup (240ml) freshly brewed strong hot coffee*
- 1.25 cups (2.5 sticks or 290g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3–4 cups (360-480g) confectioners’ sugar
- 3/4 cup (65g) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)*
- 3–5 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Remove the cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely in the pan.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Refrigerate cake for at least 30-60 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
- Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Room Temperature Ingredients: All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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