This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

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. More on the science behind using dutch-process vs. natural cocoa powder here, if you’re interested.

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: Remember the differences in baking soda vs baking powder? We use both here 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 and marble loaf 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, German chocolate cake, and chocolate peanut butter 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 chips. Press a handful on top like we do with warm chocolate chip cookies, or go with “the more the better” motto like we did. Let’s eat!

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
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 1x
  • 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

Scale
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (219g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 3/4 cup (62g) 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, at room temperature
  • 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
  • 3 and 1/2 cups (420g) 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, 3 Tablespoons 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 1-2 more Tablespoons of cream if frosting is too thick. (I usually add 1 more.) Taste. Add another pinch of salt if desired.
  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 room temperature 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 room temperature full-fat 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 and originally from Hershey’s

Keywords: cake, chocolate cake

Reader Questions and Reviews

    1. Hi Theresa, This is a very moist and soft cake but we are happy to help troubleshoot. If it was simply too moist it may simply have been under baked. Next time, even an extra minute or two in the oven could help. Any chance you used cake flour? Cake flour is simply too light for this cake and the cake would fall apart. Also, if you try it again you can use the sour cream version detailed in the notes, which creates a slightly sturdier crumb with the same great taste.

    1. Hi Lisa! No, they are very different ingredients. Espresso powder is like an instant coffee powder. If you don’t have espresso powder you can omit or use the same amount of instant coffee.

    2. Interesting… I actually did use espresso grounds and it gives the cake an interesting coffee texture its a hit!

  1. I am planning to make this for my son’s 13th birthday next week. I have 8 inch pans. Do I need to add an additional half recipe, or can I use 2 or 3- 8 inch pans with the recipe aa written. Planning to make the sour cream version. Thank you.

    1. Hi Andrea! You can use this recipe as written to make a two layer 8 inch cake. The layers will be slightly thicker and may take an extra minute in the oven, so keep an eye on them. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

      1. Trina, would three ind layers be a possibility? I don’t want a dry or short cake. One other question, what vanilla buttercream would you recommend, I am thinking of going with the proportions for the funfetti layer cake.

      2. Hi Andrea! You can make 1.5x this recipe for a three layer cake. The vanilla buttercream recipe form our funfetti layer cake would be perfect to go with this cake!

  2. This was beautiful & very delicious! I didn’t have espresso, so I used hot chocolate mix for an extra “pop”. I went with the melted coconut oil also.
    I added about half a thin bar of 70% finely chopped, melted chocolate to the buttercream. We loved it!

  3. Hi.. my cake takes more than an hour to bake.. it’s always cooked on sides but the middle is gooey always.. and by the time this is done, my sides become hard and rubbery.. i have a convection oven and bake at 180c.. any tips.. and on a different note can you please help with a microwave chocolate cake recipe plzz

    1. Hi Raj! Are you using two 9 inch pans as instructed? Using different pans could result in too much batter in the pans – which won’t bake through evenly. We also always recommend conventional settings for baking (not convection/fan). The flow of air from convection heat can cause baked goods to rise and bake unevenly and it also pulls moisture out of the oven. If you do use convection/fan settings for baking, lower your temperature by 25 degrees F and keep in mind that things may still take less time to bake. We don’t have a microwave chocolate cake recipe, but let us know if you find one you love!

  4. I can’t find natural cocoa powder where I live…is there a way to make this work with Dutch processed (like maybe add a splash of lemon juice?)

    1. Hi M, Dutched cocoa will change how the cake bakes and tastes, and that switch would require additional testing. If you test anything out, please let us know. Using all natural cocoa really is best here.

  5. the cake looks so good but for me i would omit both coffee in the cake cuz i not a coffee drinker and not going to buy it just for a cake. would use a 9×13 pan

  6. Made this cake this evening and covered it in butterfinger crumbs! Cake came out perfectly and was a huge hit!! I’m a stay at home mom and your blog has been a real highlight in our household giving me and my kids something fun (and delicious!) to do and we never have to do the same recipe twice, but of course we do because almost everything has came out near perfect and keeps me motivated to move on to the next one and baking more often. So thank you, Sally for helping me find a way to better keep my sanity!! You’re truly an inspiration!

  7. Would this cake be strong enough for a tall stacking cake, ie 5 layers of the sponge….

    1. Hi Kerenza, We haven’t tested this but we fear the cake would not be able to withstand being stacked that high. If you wish to try it we recommend using the sour cream version in the recipe notes for a sturdier crumb. Let us know if you give it a try!

  8. I was wondering if anyone has tried it with gluten free flour? I’d love to know how it worked out. Thanks!

    1. Hi Danielle, We have not tested this recipe with gluten free flour but let us know if you try it!

  9. Turned out amazing with bobs gluten free!! I even used half munkfruit/ erythritol blend with half regular cane sugar. The texture and flavor was spot on!

    1. Hi Yani, Buttermilk is required for this recipe. You can make your own DIY version of buttermilk if needed – see recipe notes for details.

  10. Hi! Was wondering if I need to do anything different for baking at a higher altitude?? I live in Colorado and I’ve heard that some recipes need to be adjusted for the altitude?

  11. I love the organization of this blog. The instructions are so clear which is super helpful!!

  12. I just wanted to thank you for this recipe, I’ve used it twice now, my son’s 4th birthday and my husbands 30th, but times the cake has been a huge hit. I made it with and espresso powder and the boiling water, it makes it to rich, I get so many compliments. I split the batter into three cake tin, it actually gives lovely thinner layers so I can get that extra layer of chocolate butter cream in there. Thank you again, such a pleasure to make and eat. Eternally grateful, Jenna. P.s. I’ve got some photos if it would help your site.

  13. Such a moist flavorful chocolate cake! I used cafe bustelo for my espresso, and strong maxwell house coffee. And a single layer 10” round, and served with creme anglaise! Sooo GOOD! Thank you!

  14. Wow! Decadent and moist. I followed the sour cream version of the recipe with espresso powder. Can’t wait for a slice tonight.

  15. I made this for my daughter’s fifth birthday and even after 3 days, it remained as soft and as moist as from the first. Holy moly! It was fantastic! My only trouble was spreading the buttercream frosting on the top without it ripping the sponge because it was that soft. Any advice on this particular problem? We waited until the sponges were cooled down. Regardless, this will be my go to recipe for future cakes, that’s for sure!

    1. Hi Linda, We are happy you enjoyed the cake so much! You can chill the cake before frosting which can help, and adding a crumb coat first is very helpful. For a sturdier cake that is a bit easier to frost you can try the sour cream version listed in the recipe notes.

    1. Hi Caroline! After decorating anything with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, it’s fine for 1 day at room temperature. After that, we would refrigerate it. But, use your best judgment and whatever you are comfortable with- we’ve never had any problems leaving frosted desserts at room temperature for a day.

    1. Hi M! Because this cake uses cocoa powder, a very fine ingredient, we use all-purpose flour to help give the cake structure and sturdiness. We don’t recommend using cake flour here.

  16. I made this cake for everyone’s birthday last year! It’s always turned out well. I make my own buttermilk (milk and lemon juice) and I always add the coffee, I just use instant coffee, it doesn’t taste of coffee but I do think it adds something. This cake is so moist and fudgy. The cupcake version is great too. I’ve tried it with lots of different buttercream flavours. Saturday is my daughters 23rd birthday and this cake has been requested!

  17. I love to mke this chocolate cake. The cake becomes very seeet with the frosting. Is it possible to reduce the amount of sugsr to
    1 1/2 cups?

    1. Hi Aliya, Sugar is used for moisture and texture in baked goods as well as taste. You can certainly try reducing the sugar in the frosting, but the resulting texture will be different than intended.

  18. can I add less hot water/coffee and would this make the cake easier to decorate and more steady?

    1. Hi Molly! We would use the sour cream version detailed in the recipe notes for a slightly sturdier crumb.

  19. I love this cake! I want to make three layers (using 8 inch pans). Would the layers just be thinner than if I did two 9 inch pans? I am trying to do a taller 8 inch cake with three layers. Any advice?

    1. Hi Vanessa, you can make this cake as written as a three layer cake – see recipe notes for details!

      1. Hi! Yes I read that it can be made as a three layer. My worry is how thin those layers will be using three 8 inch vs using two 9 inch pans like I normally do. I am making it for a birthday so I want the cake to be tall. Wondering if I need to do 1.5x the recipe or if I am okay as is.

      2. Hi Vanessa! You can make the recipe as written for three slightly thinner layers, or multiply the recipe by 1.5x for an extra thick and tall cake. Happy baking!

  20. I have made this recipe several times in different pans, most recently in my 6″ sphere cake pans. The quantity is perfect and the cake remained so moist even with a longer bake time needed for spheres. This has become my go-to chocolate cake recipe. Thank you!

  21. It was delicious, but I had to bake it for about 35 minutes because when I pulled it out at 23 minutes the outside was perfectly baked but the inside was still raw batter. I would still recommend this recipe, though.

    1. Hi Rachel! See recipe notes for chocolate cupcake instructions. You can add 1 cup (180g) of chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate (semi sweet or dark) if desired. Use the sour cream version also detailed in the notes, which creates a slightly thicker batter to hold them up. Enjoy!

      1. I am just curious why a recipe for cupcakes differs from a recipe for cake?
        Thanks

  22. Made the cake exactly as written (I didn’t have the espresso though) and it was so good! I piped with whipped cocoa frosting and sprinkled with minced walnuts and it was such a hit with everyone. Thanks for a great recipe.

  23. Hello. Would this cake be suitable to cover in fondant? or is it too delicate for that?

    1. Hi Vash, using the sour cream method/version from the notes, this cake should be just find under fondant. Hope it’s a hit!

  24. can you use all purpose whole wheat flour we are stuck at home in a blizzard and thats all we have

Leave a Review!

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.