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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. Unlike confetti cake where you can use either, do not use cake flour here — when combined with ultra-light cocoa powder, cake flour is too fine for this cake.
  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 a 1 layer cake? Use this mint chocolate cake recipe for 1 9-inch round cake.

Need cupcakes? Use either my super moist chocolate cupcakes or cream filled 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
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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 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 rounds, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans. (If it’s helpful, see this parchment paper rounds for cakes video & post.)
  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 in step 1 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 more about why room temperature ingredients are important.
  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. I want to make this cake but would like to use one of the vanilla frostings instead – which one do you recommend with this cake (I’ll make it with the sour cream for the sturdier crumb) so it won’t be overly sweet together?

  2. hey i really love this cake recipe so i wanted to ask if i could convert it to cupcakes and if i do, how long should i bake them for

    1. This is my birthday cake favourite.

      I’ve used the mocha fresh cream as a frosting and strawberries as decoration.

  3. This is the best chocolate cake recipe ever! It’s so delicious . I’ve made this a few times. I do chocolate ganache frosting and it’s so good as well.!

  4. Hi Sally.
    I’m making a 2 layer chocolate cake, I’m going to use this recipe but I’m using a 9 × 4 inch round cake pan. Would I need to double the recipe or not?

    1. Hi Chtistelle, this recipe is written for two, 9 inch cake rounds, so no need to double the recipe. Simply make it as written and divide between your two pans. Enjoy!

  5. Love this cake but it has that baking soda aftertaste. Not sure if it’s the type of baking soda I use or if I’m doing something wrong

  6. My husband said “ baby this is New Orleans restaurant good!!!!!”
    The best chocolate cake I have ever made! I had leftover ganache from a dobashe cake so I covered the whole thing in a layer . It was so so good thank you. Everything I have made of yours , I have been very please

  7. My best friend had a very small wedding in 2021, so I made this cake with a milk chocolate ganache and chocolate mirror glaze and it was a smash hit! From all of us, thank you for the fantastic recipe!

  8. Hello. I’m confused as the conversion says you need 14 cups of batter for a 9×13 but then in the notes it says you can put this in a 9×13 (even though the yield is 6 cups batter). Can I make this as a 9×13 or should I double it? Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Taylor! 14 cups of batter is the amount of batter a 9×13 pan can hold, but you don’t fill the entire pan with batter. This amount of batter will work well as a 9×13 following the recipe notes.

  9. Hi! I was wondering if I could make this into a 3 or 4 layer cake using springform pans and if so would I double the recipe? Thanks.

    1. Hi Danielle, We always recommend using regular cake pans instead of springform pans unless a recipe specifically calls for a springform pan – the extra height on the pans can cause cakes to bake unevenly. That being said, some bakers have reported success baking cakes in springform pans. For a four layer cake, we’d recommend making two separate batches rather than doubling. Hope this helps!

  10. Hello, just wondering if I can make the cake a week in advance and freeze. It says one to two days max? Will it be a problem if frozen longer before using it? Many thanks.

    1. Hi Liz, We don’t recommend this cake for the bottom or middle of a tiered cake (it’s not sturdy enough). We do list some tiered layer flavor suggestions in this post. Perhaps you could do another flavor on the bottom and a chocolate tier on top? We’d love to know what you try!

  11. Hi, planning to make this cake soon, when recipes call for buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt at room temp, how long should they sit out to be room temp? I also do baking for farmers markets and have come up with some of my own fruit bread recipes by changing certain ingredients for different flavors, like orange juice instead of lemon! I have orange chocolate chip, orange pineapple coconut, and my new one this year is cherry chocolate chip bread! Thank you

  12. Can I use cake flour instead of all purpose? If so, is the volume different for cake flour?

    1. Hi Sheila, cake flour is much too light for this cake, since it already includes cocoa powder — another very fine, light ingredient. For best results, we recommend sticking with all purpose flour.

  13. I followed the recipe to the letter, and used a 9×13 pan and it turned out so well !! I used the sour cream version, and it was so perfectly moist, even after being stored in the fridge for 2 days. I actually used it as a base for a black forest cake for a friend’s birthday, and it got RAVE reviews, and I am SO proud because this is my absolutely first time making a cake (the only thing I have baked before are brownies from your recipe Sally !), so this was an unimaginable triumph for me. Your recipes are truly magical, Sally, if they get such good cakes out of such a novice baker.

    1. We’re so glad the cake was such a success for you, Dipanwita! Thank you for making and trusting our recipes — we truly appreciate it!

  14. I like this recipe because doesn’t require. Stand mixer, I do it in my food processor. Buttercream is super easy!

    I used this recipe to fill 2 x 9inch tins as required. I cooked one tin at a time as my oven wouldn’t fit both on one shelf.

    I cooked each layer at 180 (non fan force),
    And it took closer to 45m before skewer came out clean. Has anyone else had this issue??

  15. Hi, I’m a self taught baker. I want to use this recipe with the sour cream version as a double digit ’18’ number cake. I will be using a 9×13 pan- question is- I need to make 4 layers, as I don’t like ‘torting’ cakes, would the x 1 recipe as written make 2 9×13 or do I need to make the recipe 1 1/2 times & divide into the tins for 2 layers, then repeat, so I have 4 layers? ( I have read the conversion advise). Hope my question makes sense.
    Love Sally’s recipes- especially as the grams has already been worked out! Thank you.

    1. This cake, as written, will fit into a 9×13 inch quarter sheet pan. However, 4 layers of it would be an enormously thick cake. I know you mentioned you don’t want to torte the cake, but making 2 9×13 inch pans and slicing in half would be the best best. Or you can 1.5x the recipe, divide that batter between 2 9×13 inch pans and repeat. Unsure of the exact results, so let me know how it turns out.

      1. thank you for taking the time to reply. Planning to do the recipe 1 1/2 times [ divide between 2 9 x 13 pans for the number ‘1’, then repeat for the number’8′. Will return to update.

  16. I baked this yesterday in a 9x 13 pan and it was delicious! My husband said its a keeper.
    Is the sour cream version more dense like a brownie but still moist?

    1. Hi Daniela! The sour cream version is still light and fluffy but with a little more structure.

  17. I’ve tried SO many chocolate cake recipes, but THIS one literally takes the cake. Thank you so so so much. ♥

  18. I’m so excited to try this recipe! I was debating adding chocolate chips to the batter at the end or adding it as a layer in between the cakes along with a layer of strawberry preserves. What are your thoughts on which would be better please?

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

      1. Thank you so much, will do! I really appreciate your prompt reply!

  19. I made the 9×13 version (with sour cream) of this cake last year for my daughter’s birthday and it was such a hit she’s asked for it again this year!
    However, it will be for a much smaller group and am wondering if this recipe could be halved to make just a 9-inch round single layer?

    I always enjoy your recipes, Sally!! You are my first stop when looking for something new!

    1. Hi Summer, thanks so much for your note! So glad this cake is a favorite for your family. Yes, you can halve the recipe for a single 9 inch round layer. Hope it’s a hit again!

  20. I tried to use instant coffee powder instead of espresso powder with the dry ingredients as instructed (in addition to the liquid coffee), but little clumps kept floating to the top of my finished batter, no matter how much I stirred. Would it work the same way flavor-wise to just add the extra instant coffee powder to the liquid cup of coffee to help it dissolve better?

  21. The best cake! It’s a version of Marcy Goldman’s chocolate cake found in Jewish Holiday Baking that I’ve been making for about 15 years. Always comes out perfectly. Instant coffee granules added to the cup of hot coffee eliminates the ‘powdery’ grainy clumps disappear. Love your recipes, Sally!

  22. Hi Sally, do you think I could make this into a two tier wedding cake if I used the wooden support pegs?

    1. Hi Julie, We don’t recommend this cake for the bottom or middle of a tiered cake (it’s not sturdy enough). We do list some tiered layer flavor suggestions in this post. Perhaps you could do another flavor on the bottom and a chocolate tier on top? We’d love to know what you try!

  23. I just made this baby.
    The cake is really really good- moist and extremely tender with a good crumb.
    What killed it for me was the buttercream.
    The butter/ sugar ratio was off and it was cloyingly sweet and did not have a good chocolate flavor. I think cutting the sugar by a good third and adding more butter would really help.
    Maybe add some Frangelico or Amaretto would be a nice touch.
    Still, it’s a solid recipe and would be a big hit with kids

  24. Hi sally can I make this cake in an 8 inch cake tin and half the recipe.do I then need to use two 8 inch cake tins if I had the recipe?
    9 inches is quite big.

    1. Hi Natasha, yes you can make these in 2 or 3 8-inch cake tins instead of 2 9-inch pans. The bake time may vary, but there are no other changes to the recipe. Enjoy!

  25. Sally, I received rave reviews from the lucky folks that got a slice of this cake. “Best I’ve ever eaten”, “Better than steakhouse chocolate cakes” just to mention a couple.
    I don’t mean to blaspheme this outstanding recipe but could it be adapted for a bundt cake pan and if so about how much time to bake?
    PS My wife’s name is Sallie and her maiden name was Salley. 🙂

    1. Hi Gary, we recommend following our 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 shaped pan. Glad this one was a hit for you!

  26. Thank you for this recipe! I was looking for an easy chocolate cake!
    I have to transport this cake 3 hours in the car. I plan to put it on the floor of my car with the air conditioning on. Should this cake hold up to transport? Thank you!

    1. Hi Ashika, if you can use a cake carrier or cake box, transporting the cake should be just fine. Hope you enjoy it!

  27. Hey I was wondering would this cake be sturdy enough to do six layers of 6 inch cake or would it collapses on itself.

    1. Hi Yasmine, We generally do not recommend this cake for that tall of a cake. You can try to make the sour cream version in the recipe notes, which is a bit more sturdy, but you would definitely need a cardboard support between the first three and second three layers with dowels. You may wish to use a different flavor for the bottom three layers. Let us know what you try!

  28. Loved the taste and richness of the cake. You did say there would be a light “sinking” in the middle of the layers, but mine was excessive. I live on a mountain at about 3800 feet. Could this or something else I did or didn’t do have caused this.
    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Darlene! Altitude certainly plays a role. Some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

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