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

931 Comments

  1. This cake is AHHHMAZING! One of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever made. However, it is SUPER tender and kind of fragile. I followed the recipe as is…was a bit skeptical when the batter was so runny. No complaints though, it’s so good and tender.

    But, if I wanted to alter this to make it a bit more dense and/or sturdy- what would you recommend trying? More flour? Less coffee (or less liquid, more concentrated coffee?)

    I don’t want to ruin it, but would like to make it a bit more sturdy. Open to your suggestions!

    Thanks for such an amazing recipe!

    1. Hi Seleena! I’m so glad you enjoy the taste of this chocolate cake. An easy fix for next time is to replace 1/2 or 3/4 of the buttermilk with sour cream. This will create a thicker batter and therefore, a sturdier cake.

    2. Thank you so much for responding. I never would have thought to do that. I will experiment with the sour cream and see how it goes. Thanks so much!

  2. Sally, I can’t thank you enough for all your tips. I was once scared of making chocolate cake because it was always dry. Since your red velvet cake recipe, I have been using that recipe for any chocolate cake and I don’t look back! Thank you for sharing the secret of making your own cake flour! Because butter milk is expensive, I have been using 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to 320mls of milk. People who don’t like cakes, can’t resist a slice or two of this scrumptious chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting.
    Now I will try this newest addition. Pity I don’t know how to upload a picture to your blog, but I’ll keep giving you the feedback.
    Always thankful
    Lidia

  3. This recipe was so delicious!! I have never felt the need to comment on any recipe before, but this cake was so good that it needs to be noted. (Not that the other comments don’t previously do so.) The best part, however, was the chocolate buttercream. It was rich, creamy, chocolatey, and so good. Thanks for sharing!! All of your recipes that I have tried so far are incredible!

  4. Hy Sally, i have tried your chocolate cupcakes, and they are just amazing. I am going to give this a try. Can you tell me if this batter is enough to make 3 layers in 6″ round pan? i am going for a tall cake.

    1. Hi Areeba, I actually wrote an entire post on making three layer 6-inch cakes! You can read all about them here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/6-inch-cake-recipes/
      And in that post there is a link to the chocolate cupcake recipe I used to make this size chocolate cake. Enjoy!

      1. Great 😀 Thanks.
        Another question. Should i simple syrup the cakes before packing and refrigerating for 2 days? or simple syrup them right before i am ready to frost them?

  5. Hi Ruth, I’m afraid this isn’t ideal to be the bottom layer of a 3 tiered cake. It’s not strong enough, though the cake dowels would certainly help. If you were making a tiered cake with all of this chocolate batter, that would be fine. But the top layers you are using may likely be heavier.

  6. Hi Sally,
    I absolutely love your recipes. I have made several of your cakes and they have all turned out AMAZING. I would like to surprise my best friend with her favorite cake for her birthday, a Chocolate Cake with Marshmallow frosting. I was thinking of using this cake recipe but wanted to know if you had a recipe for marshmallow frosting, or had another cake recipe all together that combined both.

  7. I’ve made this twice now and both times it’s been incredible. This time I covered it with marshmallow fondant for a baby shower cake and it was delicious!

  8. Hi Sally, Can this cake be used with fondant? I am planning to make a birthday cake-chocolate flavour. But have to decorate it with fondant. It will be a one tier cake though. If this cannot be used please suggest if you have any chocolate cake recipes that can be used instead.

    Thanks,
    Ami

    1. Hi Ami, The cake should hold up to fondant. However it is an extremely moist cake so if you are worried about it you can replace 1/2 or 3/4 of the buttermilk with sour cream. This will create a thicker batter and therefore, a sturdier cake.

  9. Hi Sally, I made this cake for my friend who is getting married in 2 weeks. She loves this cake. It was a 3 layer 8″ cake with your vanilla buttercream. I would like to make a 2 tier cake ( top cake is 3 layer 8″ and the bottom is 3 layer 10″) Would this cake be alright for this recipe? I will be using dowels to support the top cake. And my second part of the question is…how do I adjust the recipe to make 3 – 10″ cakes?

    1. Hi Tamara, If the top tier is also this cake, then it will be fine as the bottom tier as well. (Heavier cakes wouldn’t be ideal on top of this cake). Cake dowels are always wonderful for extra support, too. You may want to make the batter 3x to ensure you have enough for the 3 8-inch layers and the 3 10-inch layers, too. Fill the pans halfway, then use any leftover batter for cupcakes. 🙂

      1. Thank you. I will try it this week. The cup cakes are a great idea! Will post photos of the end results at the wedding! Cheers

  10. Hi Sally. I just made this for my thirteen year old son; he said, and I quote, “This is the nicest cake I have ever had”. That’s about as good a compliment as you will ever get. Thanks for the great recipe!

  11. Hi Sally, this looks beautiful. I am still searching for the perfect every day chocolate cake and would love to try this. Do you think it would be ok to use a Bundt pan?

    1. Hi Aysegul, I recommend my chocolate cream cheese bundt cake but without the cream cheese filling. To make it even more sturdy, reduce buttermilk to 1/4 cup and increase sour cream to 1 cup.

      1. The Bundt without the cream cheese filling is currently in the oven, and it smells amazing! Thank you …

  12. I don’t usually bake chocolate cake but my brother requested one for my niece’s birthday. So happy I tried this recipe because it’s the best chocolate cake I ever had! And that chocolate buttercream is to die for! I followed the recipe exactly, including the hot coffee and espresso powder. This cake is so moist and delicious and full of chocolate flavor! This will be my go to chocolate cake from now on!

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