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.
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 Ingredients
Each ingredient serves an important role. For best results, do not make substitutions.
- 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.
- 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.
- Baking Soda & Baking Powder: Remember the differences in baking soda vs baking powder? We use both here for lift.
- Salt: Salt balances the flavor.
- 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, Guinness cake, chocolate raspberry cake, and marble loaf cake too!
- Oil: Don’t use butter in this cake batter. Cocoa powder is a particularly drying ingredient, so this cake needs oil for suitable moisture.
- 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.
- 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.
- Vanilla Extract: Vanilla extract adds flavor.
- 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!)
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!)
- Original Version (pictured and written below): The original recipe produces a very thin batter. The cake is extra soft with a deliciously spongey texture.
- 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. 🙂
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:
- Unsalted Butter
- Confectioners’ Sugar
- Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- Heavy Cream or Milk
- Vanilla Extract
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.
Love a good chocolate + strawberry combo? Try my strawberry buttercream frosting with this chocolate cake instead!
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
Triple Chocolate Layer Cake
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 4 hours
- Yield: serves 12-16
- 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. See recipe Note.
- 1 and 3/4 cups (219g) all-purpose flour (spooned & 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)
- 1 and 1/4 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)
- 3–5 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
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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!)
- Remove the cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely in the pan.
- 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.
- 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.
- Refrigerate uncovered cake for at least 30-60 minutes before slicing to help set the shape. After that, you can serve the cake or continue refrigerating for up to 4–6 hours before serving. Cake can be served at room temperature or chilled.
- Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days. I like using a cake carrier for storing and transporting.
- 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.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): 9-Inch Cake Pans | Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand Mixer) | Glass Mixing Bowls | Whisk | Cake Stand, Serving Plate, or Cake Turntable | Icing Spatula | Bench Scraper | Cake Carrier (for storing)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- FAQ: The sour cream version (note above) makes a sturdy enough cake that will hold under fondant.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Comments & Reviews
Can i change the frosting to a chocolate fudge icing? Do you have any recipe for that? I love this cake so much, have made it numerous times but i fancied trying a different frosting. I have made it with your choc buttercream and also PB frosting. Both amazing.
Hi Lina, our chocolate buttercream is the richest chocolate frosting we have, but have you tried it with cooled chocolate ganache? That may be the richer type of frosting you’re looking for. Glad this is a favorite for you!
I’ve made this before, as always both try’s were awesome. The second time I substituted one cup almond milk + 2 tsp lemon juice to make it dairy free. It was great! Love your recipes Sally
Can I use cake flour instead of ap flour.
Hi JH, 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.
I put a 30 min timer. My cake was far for being done. Added another 15.
This is my mother’s FAVORITE cake and I decided to switch it up around the holidays to make it orange infused… and let me tell you I’ll never make just a chocolate cake again! I zested 3 oranges and let it infuse in the vegetable oil for a few hours. I also only used 1/2 a cup of coffee and replaced the remaining 1/2 with fresh squeezed OJ. For the buttercream I replaced the milk with OJ, added more orange zest, and a splash of Grand Marnier. My family went nuts over it! I still am eating a slice a day because I can’t get over how great it is.
would it work if you filled it like your piñata cake?
also could i do it as a 3 layer 6 inch cake?
i love your recopies
Hi Gemma, for a 3 layer, 6 inch cake we recommend using our chocolate cupcakes batter. Same great taste as this cake, but it yields the perfect amount for that size and you can follow our 6 inch cakes post for baking time and instructions. You can assemble it like a piñata cake if desired. Have fun!
baker in training
would it be possible to substitute coffee for something else. if so what could i substitute instead of coffee. i’m 11 years old.
Hi Gemma, you can use extra hot water or hot chai tea instead of coffee.
I’m an 11 year old baking in training to!!
I’ve made this recipe before and it’s fantastic but very soft and moist. If I made it with the sour cream version, would it be strong enough to be the bottom tier of a large 2 tier cake?
Hi Freya, Unfortunately we don’t recommend it as a bottom tier. Although the sour cream version is sturdier, it’s not quite stable enough for holding any tiers on top. We do recommend some other flavor options in this post. Hope this is helpful!
I love this cake!! It’s my first time making it and I won a bake-off with a few of my friends competing last night. I’m not a baker and I don’t have round cake pans so I made it in my 9×13 pan and it was moist and delicious
My husband is 33 today and requested this cake. I have used this recipe before and know it’s amazing. Sally- I just want to thank you for all of your recipes. Whenever I’m looking for a recipe in google and I see yours pop up I go straight to it because I KNOW it will be fantastic. You have made baking fun again. Thank you so much!
Hi! I know if you want to make a 1-layer cake, you suggest following the recipe for your Mint Chocolate Cake. Is there any reason I can’t just halve this Triple Chocolate Cake recipe to make it 1-layer? Thanks!
Hi Kat, you can halve the recipe for a single 9 inch round layer.
I made this for my husband’s bday 12/25/22. It’s hands down one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. Did a two layered cake. The butter cream frosting was delicious as well. He’s so funny, as he’s walking into the room with a piece of his cake he asks me “have you ever made a cake from scratch?”
I’ve made this cake many times to great success. Any reason adding peppermint extract for a chocolate peppermint holiday cake wouldn’t work here?
This would be delicious with peppermint extract! We would start by adding 1/4 teaspoon to the frosting and tasting it before adding more (it’s quite strong!)
I made this cake in September for a co-worker birthday and forgot to email you. It came out awesome and my co-workers went crazy over it. Thanks so much Sally.
Made this for Christmas, a HIT! I followed all ingredients and instructions (buttermilk version). No chocolate chips however.
It is definitely worth it to make the cake following ALL details and instructions. Moist, rich flavor, it’s a new favorite.
I made this for Christmas dinner with vanilla buttercream and it turned out so well!! It was delicious and all my queries were answered quickly. This is the best and easiest cake I’ve ever made!!
Hey , can I exchange the buttermilk for milk?
Hi Ruebin, Buttermilk is required for this recipe. You can make your own DIY version of buttermilk if needed – see recipe notes for details.
I’m planning on making this cake today however I could only find Dutch-processed cocoa powder in the shops (Dr Oetker dark chocolate powder). How can I alter the recipe in order to use Dutch processed instead of natural?
Hi Francesca, 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.
Hi! I can’t comment on the vanilla buttercream post for some reason so I’m asking here, but can I use liquid whipped cream instead of heavy cream for the buttercream?
Hi Leo, Do you mean heavy whipping cream? Yes, you can use that.
Sally, my queen! I made this with your sour cream variation and, while it is delicious, it’s not as soft or quite as moist as I’d hoped. It’s not exactly dry or dense, but these reviews and your description make me think I may have messed up something. Would the non-sour cream version be softer?
Hi Katie! Both versions are supremely soft and moist, so we wonder if perhaps it was a bit over baked. I know you mention it wasn’t dry, but over baking the cake (even by just a minute or two) can take away some of that soft texture. Be sure to spoon and level your flour, too, so that it isn’t over measured which can also reduce the softness. Thanks for giving this one a try, and hope these tips help for next time!
Hi! I’m making this cake for Christmas with vanilla buttercream, so do you have any measurements for the amount I will be needing? Also, can I make this cake in two 8 inch pans instead of 9 inch or will need to make 3 layers in that case?
Hi Leo, You can follow our recipe for vanilla buttercream and it will be enough for this cake. 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.
Thank you so much!
This is SOOOOO good!!!!!!!! I made it for my mothers birthday and she loved it!! It was super simple to pull togetherness, exceptionally moist, and so addictive. I probably could have eaten way more. The coffee definitely helps to increase the chocolate flavor, and the buttermilk makes it super moist. A+
Would substituting the sour cream for mayo work?
Hi Paola, We haven’t personally tested it, but some readers have made that substitution and reported back with great results.
Hi Sally, would this cake be ok as a 3 layer cake (sour cream version)? And then could I cover in fondant?
Hi Brooke, you could 1.5x the recipe for a three layer cake. Using the sour cream method/version from the notes, this cake should be just find under fondant.
Hi Sally I had a similar question as Lexi. When you say 1.5x the recipe you mean multipy each ingredient by 1.5? I have made this as is several times as a 3 layer but my layers are always a bit small and would love fuller layers! 🙂
Hi Andrea, that’s right!
Do I need to bake both pans together? I have a microwave and I use it in convection mode, so bake one cake at a time. Can I keep the batter while one cake is baking and then bake the other one after say 1.5 hours?
Hello! You can bake the cakes separately, but we would do it as quickly as possible. As soon as the first cake has cooled enough to handle, bake the second. Leave the batter covered at room temperature.
Do you think this cake would work but with your chocolate cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream?
Hi Madeline, absolutely! Chocolate cream cheese frosting would be delicious here.
Hi! Is this recipe strong enough to double and make a tall layer cake?
Hi Sarah, we fear the cake is a bit too soft and moist for six stacking layers. It would be better to make two separate cakes!
I regret to say that the chocolate buttercream recipe is totally wrong. the ingredients are way out of proportion and make the texture crumbly instead of creamy
Hi Simona! Did you happen to make any ingredient substitutions or over/under measure any ingredients by chance? The buttercream should come out nice and creamy. If it’s crumbly, perhaps your butter was a bit too cold and / or there was too much confectioners’ sugar in the buttercream, causing it to dry out. Feel free to add an additional splash of heavy cream to help thin it out.
I would definitely recheck things. We make this recipe regularly and the frosting always comes out perfect.
This is my new favorite chocolate cake. It’s SOOOOOO moist, and yes, all caps was essential. I could eat it by itself, no frosting needed! It took all my willpower to only 11/2 slices, and I love how it’s so rich and chocolatey. Thanks, Sally! I’ll definitely be making this again. Bonus points because it was soooo easy to mix together. 🙂
For the strong coffee, would an 8 oz double shot americano work? We have a machine we use daily, but I just don’t know how much espresso to water/milk to use.
That would be just fine. If you could make it slightly weaker, that would be alright too.
I made the sour cream version for my friend last year! Also made cheese cake filling, strawberry compote, and fresh whipped cream to add on top. It was the most delicious dessert I’ve ever had! I plan on making it again! I do have a Nespresso machine now can hot espresso be use in place of hot coffee and espresso powder or is it best to use both?
Hi Ashlynn, that should work!
I love this recipe. I want to make this into a spherical cake (soccer ball). How would I go about that?
Hi Dani, We have not tested this recipe in a 3D sphere pan, but other readers have reported success doing so. We’d recommend you use the sour cream version outlined above in the post and in the recipe notes to make sure it’s sturdy enough. Let us know if you give it a try.
I want to make this cake….but smaller. Do you think if I halved the recipe it would work in 6 inch pans?
Hi Deb, our chocolate cupcakes recipe has the same great taste and texture, but is the perfect amount for a 3 layer, 6 inch cake!