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

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


  1. Just made this cake for my wife’s Birthday. Fantastic flavor, very moist and major chocolaty. I used two 8″ spring forms and cut them in half for a four layer cake. I used Apricot jam in the middle layer and there was plenty enough butter cream frosting for the other layers and the top. I did not sift the cocoa for the cake but probably should have. I did for the frosting and it came out perfect. Just say’in. Great cake and she and our friends were blown away.

    1. This is the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made. It turned out perfect and wasn’t hard to make at all. The cake is spongey, moist and so chocolatey and the icing is so delicious. Thank you for having weight measurements!

  2. I don’t normally like choc cake so was nervous about making this! I bake really regularly and everyone said it’s the best cake I’d made! This had to feed quite a lot of people so I made 1.5 quantity to make 3 layers and sandwiched the cakes with the buttercream and put load of raspberries in between to cut through the richness. Then made a chocolate ganache to go on top of the top sponge! I left the sides bare. Really really good and making again tomorrow!!!

  3. Hi Sally, I wanted to bake this cake in 2 or 3 layers but only have one pan. Would it be OK if I baked the layers one by one, and let the remaining batter sit outside or in the fridge while the 1st and 2nd layers bake?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amy, You can bake your first layer and leave the remaining batter loosely covered at room temperature until you are ready to use the pan again for the second layer.

  4. Hi Sally,

    I made this recipe for my daughter’s 4th birthday this past weekend and everyone loved it. I used the coconut oil and coffee and it made such a difference. Though I used 1/4 less coffee because the batter appeared too thin. Also, I will need to make sure to use the parchment paper in the pans next time as the cake is delicate and was difficult to get out of the pan without breaking. I used your Swiss Meringue recipe with a little cocoa powder because my family is not crazy about American frosting. Wished there were more instructions on how to add the chocolate flavor to SMBC. I baked in 3 6-inch pans and the centers domed a little bit. It wasn’t attractive when I finished putting together but so delicious and special. Can’t wait to try it again.

    1. There are things you can wrap around the pan before putting in the oven that prevents the domed center or use a leveler to level the cake.

    2. Yes cake strips or bake even strips

      1. Hi Sally, I made this cake and it’s simply amazingly moist. The recipe is very accurate.. Love it also love your cinnamon buns too a hit been making it ever since.

  5. Monique Carter says:

    Can I add chocolate chips inside the cake batter. If yes how many

    1. Definitely! You can fold in about 1 cup.

      1. Thank you so much. I love your blog and I love your recipes

  6. Comparing your Chocolate Zucchini Cake to this one, (they both look fabulous!) I wondered why you use the hot coffee/hot water in this one, but not the other? I have some Zucchini I’d like to use for such a cake. Love your recipes!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Betts, It’s because there isn’t the same volume of dry ingredients. The zucchini cake has a higher ratio of wet ingredients (all that zucchini!). With this recipe, we need a hot liquid to break up the cocoa powder lumps resting in all that flour.

  7. Hi Sally! Love your recipes! Would this batter be enough to fill 3 6’2 cake pans? I have 4 6 inch pans

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alaa, This recipe (and the sour cream version) yields about 6 cups of batter. For a three layer 6 Inch Cake you will need between 3-4 cups of cake batter. These chocolate cupcakes fit perfectly into three 6 inch pans.

  8. Hi Sally

    This is my third post so hope it gets posted.
    What can I use as an egg substitute for this receipe and in what quantity ?
    Thanks so much

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shubha, We haven’t tested this recipe with any egg substitutes but let us know if you try any!

  9. My first ever cake and it came out absolutely amazing. My son gave me an order for his birthday
    Delicious and easy. Thanks for this. Surely going to repeat this!

  10. Tatiana Robson says:

    Hi Sally!
    I was super nervous to make this cake and was astounded at how amazing and easy it was to do! So incredibly moist and scrumptious! Thank you for sharing this recipe.. I was wondering if there was a way to make this gluten free?? Thank you so much!

    Mahalo nui,

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tatiana, We are so happy you tried and enjoyed this recipe! We haven’t tested this cake with gluten free flour but let us know if you do.

  11. Like Paul I made this cake for MY wife’s birthday and it was a big hit! I did the sour creme version–very moist and good structure. Good thing too, because I made the buttercream icing with 1.5 sticks of butter not 2.5! It was much stiffer than it should have been but tasted great.

  12. Delicate yet deliciously moist. This is my new favorite chocolate cake recipe. I’m not a cake fan in general, so you know this must be good. I used the sour cream/hot coffee/espresso powder version. AMAZING! I made it for my dad’s 88th birthday & everyone wanted more.

  13. Martha Martinez says:

    Hi Sally. I made this recipe with Namaste GF flour and it came out perfectly and so delicious!

  14. Hi Sally! I made this cake as a mounds cake, with coconut filling and coconut buttercream, for my husband’s birthday and it was fabulous! Everyone loved it!
    I’m making it again for a large batch of cupcakes. How would I double this recipe? Thx! ❤️

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jessica, That sounds amazing! For the best texture we recommend making this cake batter twice instead of doubling. It’s very easy to under or over mix the batter when doubling which leads to a dense baked good.

  15. Chocolate Cake says:

    This is the best cake I’ve baked ever! Thanks Sally for this wonderful recipe. It was so easy to prepare, ingredients are readily available and mine came out just perfect!!! ❤❤❤❤❤

  16. Hi Sally,
    It’s my nephew’s birthday today so I made this cake. I made the same cake two months ago for my other nephew’s birthday and everyone loved it. I baked it in a car cake pan today because my nephew loves cars and then I made frosting with different tints and my sister and I decorated the cake. We haven’t cut the cake yet, but my nephew’s already oohing and aahing over it. I just want to say thank you. Your recipes are so wonderful and easy to follow. Before discovering your website, I couldn’t even bake a cake from boxed mix and now I bake cakes from scratch all the time and everyone loves them. Thank you!

    1. What a lovely comment to read today– I’m glad I didn’t miss this one! Thank you so much for taking the time to write, Sofia. I appreciate it so much!

  17. This looks delicious and I am thinking of making it for my husband on his birthday. Based on your pan conversions, I believe I can use two 8 inch square pans, is that correct? Also, if I am using instant coffee, do I use the same amount as espresso powder? Not sure if it’s a 1:1. Thank you, Sally!

    1. Hi Reem, this cake will fit nicely into 2 8-inch square baking pans. I’m unsure of the exact bake time though. You can swap instant coffee for the espresso powder. Feel free to use a little extra, even up to 1 Tablespoon.

  18. This is the first time i bake a cake that sinks in the middle. Any idea why this happened?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rawya! Expect slight sinking whenever you’re working with cocoa powder in chocolate cake. It’s 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. Of course if it’s sinking too much, though, the cakes could be under-baked. It’s best to test doneness with a toothpick. If the toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, it’s done.

    2. I made this cake for my daughter’s birthday and the first time it sank pretty badly. Fortunately I had made it in advance intending to freeze it. I bought nicer aluminum cake pans (nordic ware were the ones I was able to find in brick and mortar stores) like Sally recommends. I made the cake again it and turned out beautifully. I think because it is such a moist cake the cake pans really matter.

  19. Hi Sally, can I use olive oil in this recipe instead of vegetable oil?

  20. hi Sally

    I am assuming this recipe makes total of 12 cups of batter since 2 x 9″ pans are needed? I do not have the pans, am thinking of using my existing 8 x 3″ pan instead then slice the cake into 2 layers when done. Do you think the batter can fit into my pan and what about the baking time please? Your advise is much appreciated.

  21. Hi there! I am planning to make this cake and was wondering if you can recommend a peanut butter frosting recipe to go with it? Really looking toward to devouring this cake :). Thanks so much!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Bec, Our Creamiest Peanut Butter Frosting is wonderful with this cake!

  22. I used 6inch round pans for this cake and put two in at the same time at 350 for 25minutes, I used 3/4 cup of sour cream, 1/2 buttermilk and 1/2 cup of hot coffee. When I took them out they had baked on the outside but were completely raw/liquid on the inside! Any idea what I might’ve done wrong? I put one back in the oven and used the left over batter (which only filled a half pan) and was able to get them to cook all the way through, but they had a pretty big dip in the middle. They seem to be pretty moist, which is a good!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kaylyn, Did you put all of the batter into 2 six inch pans? If so it was too much batter in each pan to bake properly. For that size pan try either using this chocolate cupcake recipe and follow the directions for a three layer 6 Inch Cake, or if you are using this recipe with 2 inch high pans only fill each pan 1/2 to 2/3 full and use the remaining batter to bake some cupcakes on the side.

  23. Hi Sally,

    I know you said that this quantity will work fine for 2 x 9inch pan, but I am wondering if the layers will be too thin and if I should rather multiple the ingredients by 1.5 or will this mess with the consistency? Thank you!

    1. Sorry I meant to say 3 x 9 inch pans! I want to make a triple layered cake with thickish layers to feed 22 people.

      1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Kylie, If you wish for the layers to be thick you can certainly make 1.5 times the batter for three layers. Happy baking!

  24. This was probably the best chocolate layer cake I have ever made. I made it exactly to your instructions and it came out soft and moist and chocolately. I used an Oreo frosting though. Leftovers the next day, after being in the refrigerator for 24 hours or so the cade was still soft and moist.

  25. Hi Sally,
    I baked this cake last week for my boyfriend’s birthday and he loved it.

    I did not use the espresso powder as instructed and used brewed coffee but it still turned out amazing.

    Thank you so much for the recipe.

    1. Hi Sally,

      Just discovered that all-purpose flour is not the same as cake flour… I am baking this today but only have cake flour or self-raising flour on hand. What should I do?


  26. Hi Sally,

    Will I be able to refrigerate the cake in between the crumb coat and 2nd coat of icing? Will it make the cake hard?

    Thanks 🙂

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, you can. I do that all the time to make frosting the cake easier!

  27. Lindsey Hicks says:

    Best chocolate cake recipe in the universe!

  28. I made the original version, no sour cream. Made buttermilk with 1 Tbsp. white vinegar and 1C. milk. Also used avocado oil because it’s what I had on hand. Amazing. Best cake I’ve ever had and we didn’t even frost it since it was just a test cake for my sons upcoming birthday. This cake is so good it doesn’t even need the frosting. My husband raved about it and said it’s better than the cakes at our local fancy bakery. So easy to make too! The only step I did different was sifting the dry ingredients together. My three year old tried it and immediately said it tastes like magic cake. So that’s what it will be called here from now on! Thanks for sharing your magic!

  29. Made this for the first time this week and it is delicious. Love your recipes.

  30. Hi sally,
    I want to try this cake, and I was relieved that you included how to make my own diy buttermilk, but would the recipe still work if I didn’t use any sour cream?

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