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

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*
  • 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

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. (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.

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, 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

Triple Chocolate Layer Cake. The fudgiest homemade chocolate cake ever! sallysbakingaddiction.com

1336 Comments

  1. Loved the flavor, moistness and firmness (made the sour cream variation). Didn’t love that it sank in the middle. The recipe warned to expect this but I have never had a cake sink so much and I followed the directions exactly (room temp ingredients, oven temp, spoon & level, etc.). Chose not to level it as I would have lost too much cake so I filled the “crater” with peanut butter cream cheese frosting. Tasted great but not the best visual once you cut into it. Oh well.

  2. What could I use instead of sour cream to make this dairy free?

    1. I have not tested this with a dairy free alternative but you can try a dairy free yogurt.

  3. Hi…I’d like to try this recipe in a Bundt pan. Will the cooking time differ? Thank you!

    1. Hi Snow, I recommend following my Chocolate Cream Cheese Bundt Cake recipe, but you can leave out the cream cheese swirl. It has the same great taste as this cake but is a little sturdier to hold up to a bundt pan.

      1. Thank you! I was considering that recipe but was wanting a cake that was super moist and not too dense.

  4. Amazing! My favorite chocolate cake recipe!

  5. Hi! I’m so nervous about making this cake for my son’s first birthday (would get a bakery cake …but ‘rona). That said, you have a range of measurements for the icing …for two 9’ in cakes layered as one, would you recommend going with the maximum measurements? Just wasn’t sure. Thank you!

    1. Hi Nina, The range for the confectioners’ sugar and cream have to do with your desired consistency for the frosting. I recommend starting with the lowest amount (i.e. add 3 cups of confectioner’s sugar) and if you want the frosting to be thicker add up to 1 cup more. I hope this helps!

  6. Hi, I tried your red velvet cake recipe and it was divine!

    I want to try this chocolate cake recipe. Can I use instant coffee instead of espresso powder? If yes, how much extra instant coffee should I add?

  7. My only recommendation is make it one day in advance. The 2nd day flavors were so much more delicious. Sally you are the best baking blogger. Hands down my favorite.

  8. This is a great recipe. The cake came out perfect. Everybody loved it. Best part is that no recipe adjustments are required! Can be used as is.

  9. Hi Sally,
    I made this yummy cake for my quarantine birthday yesterday . We all loved it !! Just followed your recipe except I used one full egg and one egg white alone – medium size. I felt cake needs to be more stiff, not sure it’s because I didn’t add one egg yolk to the recipe . I cooled it completely and refrigerated for more than hour before doing frosting /butter cream and my microwave oven allows me either 170 or 180 centigrade . So I opted 180 centigrade while baking . Thanks for guiding for a yummy cake !!

  10. Have you ever used Cacao powder with baking? Just wondering the difference vs cocoa powder?

  11. The cake is awesome. But I found the buttercream too sweet. Oddly nobody else in the comments felt that. I followed the recipe exactly..and I can cut the sugar by half in butter cream!!
    I am still surprised..why just me!
    Otherwise, everything about the cake is perfect!

  12. Hi Sally, Thank you so much for this yummy moist chocolate cake recipe, I’m in love with all your recipes, Especially chocolate chip cookies… Thanks

  13. Is it possible to add chocolate chips to the batter or will they sink?

    1. Hi Kim, You can add 1 cup (180g) of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. Enjoy!

  14. I made this cake with my kids this week, and it is hands-down the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made, and possibly, ever tasted. Thank you, Sally!

  15. Hi Sally,
    I am new to baking but love baked goods. I am in the hunt for a simple cake recipie (White/Yellow/Chocolate) that doesn’t taste too sweet. I love desserts when sugar is not dominant but just to make it mildly sweet. So a cake with 1/3 sweetness of a regular cake would be awesome, as we can relish the other flavors of the cake. It has been a challenge to find such a recipe, but thought I can ask you since I enjoy the science behind the baking that you explain. Thank you!

    1. Send me an email and we can figure out a perfect recipe for you! [email protected]

  16. Even though I took my cakes out too early and they fell apart, I was able to make them into little cake pops with the frosting (I read the cake pop recipe earlier) I think that they taste AMAZING and thank you for all the great recipes!!!

    1. I took them out of the pan too early, not the oven btw.

  17. Hi Sally, I want to make this cake as a layer in an ice cream cake. Do you think it will get pressed under the ice cream layer and fall apart? My plan was to have a chocolate cake layer on the bottom and top and have the ice cream layer in the middle. I’m also worried it will be too hard or frozen when it’s time to cut it.

    1. Hi Taylor, I haven’t used this cake recipe as an ice cream cake, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work as long as the cake isn’t over-baked. Cool it completely before layering.

  18. Hi Sally,

    I made this recipe today but I only used half of the recipe as I was tasting it and it turned out very well. Thank you for sharing this.

    I have left over Chocolate Ganache and stored it in the fridge, how do I melt them? Should I reheat it or just let it stand on room temperature?

    Thank you again!

    Marizel

    1. Hi Marizel, thank you! You can reheat chocolate ganache on the stove. Stir constantly over medium heat. Or microwave in 20 second increments, stirring after each, until you reach your desired heat and texture.

  19. Sally, this cake is phenomenal. I’d never made chocolate cake from scratch before, mostly because my husband is not a fan. He finds chocolate cake tastes “dirty.” He LOVES this one. Neither of us can get enough.

  20. I haven’t tried the recipe but something I like to make for my kids is simple ice cream. You can make it with only 3 ingredients; coco powder, milk/half and half, and sugar. All you do is mix it all well and let it freeze over night. It comes out light fluffy and cold it is SOOOO GOOOOOD!!!!!!!!!! My kids love it so much I give it a 10/10. You should give it a try sometime.

  21. Thanks for the recipe process. It really looks yummy, I don’t know I’m able to match it or not but it inspires me a lot to prepare. I would try this out.

  22. Hi! Thanks for the recipe process. I enjoy baking your recipes. The cake and the frosting was so good!! yummy, yummy! Thanks Sally.

  23. Robert Acker says:

    Hi Sally,I love cooking and baking and have had success and failures. I have never sent a response to a recipe, but I just have to let you know how great your Triple Layer Chocolate Cake came out. Very moist, very shiny! I did add a half cup of sour cream and only used two sticks of butter for the icing which made the butter cream soft and not as rich. I will be looking up your recipes! Thanks.

  24. Hi Sally, I made the sour cream version of this cake and the family loved it! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

  25. Hi Sally, I was wondering how much frosting I should put on the bottom layer of the cake?

  26. Tina Schauerte says:

    Hi Sally,
    I’m making this cake with my son but he is looking to make blue frosting for the cake. Is there another frosting you could recommend for the cake?

    1. Hi Tina, you can use the vanilla buttercream from my vanilla cake and tint it the desired color if you’d like.

  27. Ces Bautista says:

    Hi Sally! Can I use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour?

    1. Hi Ces, no cake flour is too light for this cake when paired with ultra-light cocoa powder.

  28. I made it for my boyfriend and he loved it! Thanks Sally! I’m not much of a Chocolate cake person, but this one was so soft and rich that I couldn’t wait to dig in for more.

  29. WOW, Sally I must say that this chocolate cake was incredible! It tasted amazing and was so deliciously moist! I could eat it all day. This cake was also super sturdy and didn’t become a mess while decorating and stacking! I loved making and, of course eating this amazing dessert. Looking forward to making this again, Thanks Sally!

  30. Hi Sally,
    Can I use plain yogurt instead of sour cream? (I read that 1 cup of yogurt+ 1tsp of baking soda is a substitute for 1 cup of sour cream).

    1. You can use plain yogurt (1:1 substitution) for the sour cream. No other changes necessary.

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