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. Made this 2-layer cake with Nutella frosting for a “chocoholic” co-worker’s birthday. It was out of this world Sally! I have also made your Death by Choc cupcakes in the past and they amazing – the two cakes are a bit different but both are absolutely delectable. My search for choc cake recipes has officially come to an end. Honestly Sally, your recipes never disappoint and even though I browse a couple other blogs, I just don’t trust other recipes as I do your’s!!! Thank you for creating such a wonderful base of tried-and-true dishes! And for sharing them 🙂

  2. Sally, I made this chocolate cake with my granddaughter last night for grandpa’s birthday and we followed the instructions. Everything went well, but it was getting late after soccer practice, so I did the frosting and applied it to the first layer while the cake was still hot. Then proceeded to place the top layer (baked on a bundt pan) but the frosting softened up with the heat and the top layer started sliding to the side. Trying to keep it in place, went ahead and covered it with the rest of the frosting. OMG, the top layer started splitting like a flower, and the frosting went all over. Lesson: Never apply the frosting on a hot cake!! Thanks for the recipe.

  3. Hi Sally! Just found you on Pinterest and I am so glad I found this recipe. It looks delicious! My question is since this is a moist cake can I stack it (tiered) and will it hold or is it to moist that it will sag?


    1. I fear it would be a little too moist and delicate for a tiered cake.

  4. I baked it! It was great…. all my guests got surprised by eating such a delicious homemade cake…. I loved it… I have baking addiction like you and so happy to find your page… cant wait to bake others… thanks Sally

  5. This look amazing and I want to try it soon. Have you ever used this recipe for cupcakes?

    1. Yep. Delicious. About 20 minutes bake time, same oven temp

      1. Thanks! My son wants cupcakes for his upcoming birthday, so this is what I’m doing!

  6. I’ve been on a roll lately baking up your recipes (white chocolate pumpkin sniickerdoodle cookies, fudge cupcakes with pumpkin cream cheese frosting, and now this cake). This triple chocolate cake was the best cake by far that I’ve made in recent times. I made it for a friend’s birthday celebration. Moist cake, creamy frosting that spread very smoothly….and it was oh, so chocolatey! I decorated with both chocolate and white chocolate chips. In the center I put clusters of both chocolate and white chips in sort of a yin-yang pattern, then decorated the rim and sides alternating between the two types of chips. It looked lovely! I called it my yin-yang cake (giving you credit for the recipe, of course) and told my guests….”this cake shows that, to achieve true balance, you must have plenty of chocolate!!! Thanks Sally for making me look so good!

  7. Hi Sally,
    Would you recommend making this cake the same day it’s going to be served? Or would it taste better if I make it a day ahead (refrigerate overnight?)?

    1. Either way is fine. My family likes it the 2nd day, actually. Cover the layers tightly – no need to refrigerate overnight. Assemble and frost right before serving.

      1. Oh my goodness, this may have been the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had!! I made it with hot water instead of coffee.. did not disappoint!! One thing I learned for next time.. I only sprayed the pans with Pam. Next time I’ll use my spray that has flour in it (don’t know what it’s called) because it stuck just slightly. There was not ONE crumb left of this cake after my family gathering. I also made your funfetti cupcakes for the same occasion, and thought about putting the vanilla buttercream frosting in between the cake layers.. but didn’t know how that would taste, so i didn’t.

  8. Hi Sally!
    This cake looks ABSOLUTELY scrumptious and mouth-watering 😉 I can’t wait to bake it, but I have one question before I proceed. For the cocoa powder, does it matter if it’s dark or just natural(light)?

    Much love,

    1. I always use natural. but super dark (tried that before too!) is excellent. either is fine!

  9. Never baked a cake from scratch and after this Im glad I did. It was great! Looking foward to getting your book!

  10. Hi Sally I made your chocolate chip muffins today and they were a great hit with the kids thank you very much. I mustered enough courage to try the chocolate cake. Generally when making cakes I use caster sugar but since your recipe stated granulated sugar I used the normal grainy sugar I use to make my cuppa. It did not rise and was a bit of a disaster. Yet the kids still loved the taste of the failed to rise cake saying it tasted yum. SO I would like to have another go at it. where did I go wrong? And it was the same baking powder I used in the morning for the muffins that rose beautifully.

  11. Megan Kenwabikise says:

    I made this in a 13×9 inch pan and it baked at 350 for 27 minutes. It was a light metal pan. It’s amazing

  12. Sally you have outdone yourself! WOW! Words cannot even explain how beautiful and moist your Triple Chocolate Layer cake is! The frosting is the perfect match. Thanks to your wonderful cake I have just introduced my entire workplace to your website that I’ve been keeping a secret for myself to use at all available opportunities. Can’t wait to make this for another birthday. It was a huge hit! xx

  13. I used hot chocolate, since I’m making this for a three year olds birthday party! *

  14. Why must you tempt me so? haha This looks amazing!

  15. This cake was so amazing! Easy to make, delicious and moist. Perfect chocolate flavor. A lot of chocolate cakes have a weird after taste to them, NOT THIS ONE! It was quite possibly the best cake I have ever made. My family can’t seem to decide if they like the Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake you have or the Triple Chocolate better. That is a good problem to have 🙂 Thank you for all of your wonderful recipes. Can’t wait to get your cookbook for Christmas!!

  16. Wow, this was absolutely amazing. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe. I am by no means an expert baker, yet the cake came out perfectly. Better than any chocolate cake I’ve had for sure. I’m still amazed that I made it 🙂

  17. What does half-and-half mean?

  18. Hi Sally! I made your pumpkin cupcakes for a party a few weeks ago and they were a huge hit! Now I’m back for more! I want to use this triple chocolate cake recipe for my daughter’s birthday this weekend and have a question about the icing. Is it light and airy? My household likes less whipped and more fudgy icing so wondered if this fit the bill or if I could try your dark chocolate icing recipe instead? Any sage advice?? Thanks so much!!

    1. hi sarah, the dark chocolate frosting is much more rich and fudgy, this has more of a whipped consistency. so i would go with the dark chocolate!

      1. Holy wow! This cake turned out amazingly delicious! I used your dark chocolate frosting and it was perfection. This is officially my long sought after go-to chocolate cake recipe. Thank you thank you thank you!!

  19. Hi sally! Ive made this cake before and ive used 8inch cake tins. The cake would come out mushy in the centre so I was wondering if I jus used one big square 9inch tin or ten inch will that be better? . Sorry if I postes this twice 🙂

  20. Hi sally,
    i was wondering if the frosting is piping consistency

  21. I love the way you lined the cake with chocolate chips. How exactly did you do it?

  22. Does this cake *taste* like coffee or is it just an added element?

    1. Lol please don’t Answer me! Now I see where it says it will not taste like coffee! Doh!

  23. I made this cake and topped it with a 1.5 batch of your mint chocolate chip frosting and it was AWESOME! The cake is SO MOIST, probably the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. The mint choclate frosting goes so perfectly with it. Yummmm.

  24. Dearest Sally, I don’t like the reddish colour, I want a brown/black cake. What do I have to do for that? Should I replace baking soda entirely with baking powder? Please reply ASAP, I have to make it this week.

  25. Is baking cocoa the same as unsweetened cocoa powder?

    1. Yes. Baking cocoa powder and unsweetened is same. Just check on u r baking cocoa if it says sweetened or unsweetened.

  26. Hi!! I would like to make this for my sons bday this coming sunday..and was wondering how many recipes I have to make for 30 people?

    Thank you so much! cant wait to try this cake!

    1. I’d say double it and put it in a half-sheet pan, or two 9×13’s. That should feed 30 people pretty easily. Unless you plan on serving ginormous pieces.

  27. Hi Sally!!! I’m in loooooooove with ur blog!! it’s really awesome!
    I’ve already successfully cooked nutella filled cupcakes. sweet rolls with cinnamon were a bit far from perfection

  28. Okay the cake was good, but the frosting recipe is off. I followed exact directions and when mixing the frosting it was so thick it broke my mixer….I looked up another recipe and it called for more butter. It came out perfect. So cake I rate a 10 frosting a 1

  29. You can make an easy egg substitute by mixing one tbsp of ground flax with 3 tbsp water, mix and let sit for a few minutes to thicken. This equals one egg. It also works with ground Chia seeds and water, same amounts.

  30. Has anyone tried making this cake in a 9×13 pan? I want to use this recipe for the pirate cake I’m making for my sons birthday party this coming weekend and I was hoping someone would be able to give me an idea of how long to bake it in that format. Thanks.

    1. Amanda, I made this cake in a 9×13 glass pan and baked at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, it came out great!!

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally