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 (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)
- 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)
- 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
Hi ive made your moist carrot cake many times using 9 inch tins.
But if i wanted to make a larger cake and do it in 10 inch tins by how much should I multiply the recipe please? Sorry this is on the wrong post just could not enter a question on the carrot cake post.
Hi Pete, here is everything you need to know about cake pan sizes and conversions for scaling our carrot cake recipe. Happy baking!
Hello! Could I make a three layer 6 inch cake with this recipe and make cupcakes with the extra batter that would be left? Do you know how many cupcakes that would make? I am hoping to make a small cake along with cupcakes for my son’s birthday party this weekend and I’m trying to see if I can make one batch of batter to keep things a little easier. 🙂 Thanks!
Hi Lynne! We’re unsure exactly how much extra batter you would have after making a 6 inch cake. Our cake pan sizes and conversions guide may be helpful and our 6 inch cakes post details how to make 6 inch cakes from cupcake recipes – our chocolate cupcake batter would make the perfect amount. You could make two batches of that batter – one for your cake and one for cupcakes. Let us know what you try!
Sally!!! I’m so upset rigHt now, some one plagiarised your cake on FB even the pic 🙁 … check out GLORIOUS CAKES
Hi Kavita, Thank you so much for letting us know!
Greatly appreciate your swift reply. Will look at the suggested site. Thank you.
This recipe is really great and so easy to make. Sally which chocolate cake recipe would you recommend for a10ins bottom tier if not this one?
Hi Dawn, at this time we don’t have a sturdy enough chocolate cake for the bottom tier. Check out the post: Simple Homemade Wedding Cake Recipes for ideas of cakes that make a great bottom tier.
This is from now on my go to chocolate cake recipe! I made this cake with your vanilla buttercream recipe instead of the chocolate. It was super moist and had great chocolate flavor. The cake is very soft and I found your descriptions about it being fudgey and such super helpful. I think I would have over baked it misjudging it because it is such a soft moist cake! So thank you for all the descriptions. Everyone in my family went wild for this cake!
I haven’t made this yet, but was wondering if I could omit the cocoa from the frosting and make it as is for a regular vanilla buttercream icing? This looks amazing!
Hi Christine, Here’s our recipe for vanilla frosting. See recipe Notes for amount needed for a two layer cake. Enjoy!
This is a great recipe everyone loved it and I have made it several times. I was wondering if I could one and a half times the recipe and have 3 layers, would this work or be too heavy.
Hi Van Van, you can 1.5x this recipe for a 3 layer cake. Be careful not to over or under mix the batter with the added volume. Enjoy!
I love your recipes! Thank you
Oh my goodness this was soooooo delicious Sally thank you. I made it for the kids, but honestly I could have devoured it all myself. Hahahahha….It was moist, chocolatey, succulent, just a perfect sponge. Can’t wait to try again
Exactly what I wanted from a chocolate cake, the sponge was light and moist and the frosting was perfectly fudgy. I didn’t have coffee, so I just did hot water, but it was still great!
I just made this cake and frosting and it was delicious! very easy and it came out moist and flavorful. I like a less sweet chocolate cake so I used 1.5 c granulated sugar instead of 1.75 c
Hi, I’m planning planning on making this next weekend for my mother in laws birthday. Is there a reason you use all purpose flour instead of cake flour? Or could I use cake flour instead?
Hi Kayla, cake flour is much too light to use in this recipe, since we also use cocoa powder (another very light ingredient). For best results, we recommend sticking with all-purpose flour.
I’d like to make this for my 10inch 3 layer bottom tier wedding cake using the sour cream option. Are you able to let me know what amount of ingredients I would need for this. Also will this be OK as a bottom tier. There will be 3 tiers in total, 10, 8, 6 inch.
Hi Jacquie, 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 used to be a full on vanilla cake fan, but this choco cake recipe has converted me
I would like to make a giant cup cake. Is this cake stable enough and what quantities would be best
Hi Rita, it depends on the size and capacity of your large cupcake pan. We’d recommend using the sour cream version for a bit more stability. 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.
Delicious! Not much of a chocolate fan but I had two pieces! Very delicious.
I’ve made this cake so many times, I don’t even need to use the recipe anymore! By far, the best chocolate cake recipe around…. You definitely need the coffee at least, the stronger the better
I made this cake today without the expresso- but with fresh strong coffee (1/2 cup) and the sour cream. It came out picture perfect and so delicious! Moist and as recommended I put it in the refrigerator for about 40 mins before serving and it sliced perfectly.
It’s always great to get that perfect moist cakes everytime I try a recipe from your blog. Been following your page since many year and you never disappoint, I love the way you explained and the measurements were on spot!! Had many accolades from my circle for my baking skills, all thanks to you
Made this with my daughter. It is simple and delicious. I think it will be our go to chocolate cake recipe. So far all the recipes I have tried on this site have been great.
I love your recipes 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing them online for free access 🙂 All my friends loved it 🙂 According to some of my friends, this cake is very addictive 🙂
Sally I loved this cake. I have made a lot of chocolate cakes, but this is the best! If you use the batter for cupcakes, how long would you recommend baking it for? All of your recipes are great!
Hi Rhonda, bake cupcakes for about 20-22 minutes. The closest cupcake version of this triple chocolate cake is in this recipe for cream-filled chocolate cupcakes. You can follow the instructions in that recipe for the cupcakes, and leave out the cream filling if desired. Enjoy!
Hi Sally! If I don’t have any buttermilk at the moment, can I substitute milk and white vinegar?
You bet! See recipe notes for details.
You have notes saying not to use this recipe for cupcakes. I am looking to make 1 smash cake and about a dozen cupcakes – would I need to make two different recipes? Or can this be adapted?
Hi Lisa, this recipe would make about 2-3 dozen cupcakes, which would translate to a 3 layer, 6 inch round cake and about a dozen cupcakes. You can use the bake time and directions from our 6 inch cakes post as a guide for the cake. For the cupcakes, follow the baking times from our chocolate cupcakes. If you’re interested in other cake sizes, this recipe makes about 6 cups of batter which is helpful for determining other cake pan sizes and conversions. Hope the cake and cupcakes are a hit!
Can I use less sugar in the frosting?
Hi Leonie, you can try reducing the sugar, but keep in mind that it plays an important role in thickening the frosting, too. Less sugar will mean a thinner frosting.
Can I use butter in place of veg oil??
Hi Amanda! Don’t use butter in this cake batter. Cocoa powder is a particularly drying ingredient, so this cake needs oil for suitable moisture, using butter would yield a dry cake.
Me and my kids absolute loved this cake! As far as chocolate cake goes we’ve never found one that’s beaten the Betty Crocker devils food cake mix, until now!
Fluffy, soft and just all round chocolate goodness!
This is the only chocolate cake I will ever eat again! Uncompromising deviousness! I’ve baked and sold baked goods on and off for 20 years – I’ve made this cake 3 times in 2 months and there were no left overs 5 adults for dinner – And we can’t get enough of this moist decadent treat! Yummmmm
The Chocolate Butter Cream recipe calls for 2 t. vanilla. I looked up your 3 layer cake frosting recipe it calls for 1 t. vanilla. Is this correct?
Hi Joyce! It’s correct, you can add slightly more if you wish.
My experience wasn’t good like the others. I used 6gr baking soda and 4gr baking powder. I dislike the cake, the smell was terible, it was moist and fluffy but in the mouth it wasn’t good. I will try again but with more sugar, less cocoa powder and baking soda.