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.

chocolate cake

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

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. 🙂

chocolate cake

Chocolate Buttercream

I use my favorite chocolate buttercream recipe as the base, but slightly increase the amount of each ingredient to produce enough frosting for the layer cake. 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

chocolate layer cake

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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chocolate cake

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

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

  • 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)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • optional for decoration: semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease two 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder (if using) together in a large bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or you can use a whisk) mix the oil, eggs, and vanilla together on medium-high speed until combined. Add the buttermilk and mix until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, add the hot water/coffee, and whisk or beat on low speed until the batter is completely combined. Batter is thin.
  3. Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake for 23-26 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Note: Even if they’re completely done, the cooled cakes may *slightly* sink in the center. Cocoa powder is simply not as structurally strong as all-purpose flour and can’t hold up to all the moisture necessary to make a moist tasting chocolate cake. It’s normal!)
  4. Remove the cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely in the pan.
  5. Make the buttercream: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk 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 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Prepare cake through step 4. Wrap the individual baked and cooled cake layers tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature then continue with step 5. You can prepare the chocolate buttercream 2-3 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate, then bring to room temperature before spreading onto/assembling the cake. Frosted cake freezes well, up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature or serve cold.
  2. 3 Layer Cake: You can also prepare this cake as a 3 layer cake. Divide batter between three 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans and bake for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This frosting will be enough for 3 layers. If desired, use the frosting recipe from my Piñata Cake if you want extra frosting.
  3. Cocoa Powder: Use natural cocoa powder in the cake, not dutch-process. (See dutch-process vs natural cocoa powder for more information.) Since there is no leavening occurring in frosting, you can use either natural or dutch-process in the chocolate buttercream.
  4. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is required for this recipe. You can make your own DIY version of buttermilk by measuring 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a measuring glass. Add enough milk (1%, 2%, or whole) in the same measuring glass to reach 1 cup. Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The soured milk will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in your 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. If coffee isn’t your thing, you can leave out the espresso powder and use extra hot water or hot chai tea.
  10. 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.
  11. 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! sallysbakingaddiction.com

1151 Comments

  1. I just made this for my sons birthday. He saw it on Pinterest and had to have it. I made it exactly as you have it and even made my own buttermilk and it was truly amazing!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. I really want to make this cake, it looks really good. Only problem is I need it to be eggless, do you have any suggestions? thanks in advance 🙂

    1. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. I had my high school Baking & Pastry students read your post and make this cake. It received rave reviews! I have several kids who plan to explore your website and try some new recipes for Thanksgiving 🙂

      1. That should be fine. Sometimes I use unsweetened brewed chai tea if you are interested in that. Coffee is best in terms of chocolate flavor.

      2. We don’t use coffee either nor are big hot chocolate people. If I leave that step out will it just not have as bold of a chocolate flavor or does it really need to be replaced with something?

  10. Just wana say a big thank you to Sally, your cakes are a total hit.
    Tried the chocolate cake and lemon blueberry , absolutely heavenly.

    What a kind person with a big heart to share your recipes.

    Thanks again
    Lotsa love

  11. Hi Sally! I am wondering whether I could make some sort of coffee frosting instead because I can’t go past this recipe but my brother wants choc/coffee. Thanks 😀

  12. Hello SAlly,

    The triple chocolate cake is so amazing but i had a problem when we cut it, it gets destroyed. Could you please tell me what is the mistake I have made?

  13. Hi Sally!

    Have just discovered your website and have been making lots and lots of recipes, all a huge success! I’m desperate to make this cake, but wanted to know first whether it’s crucial to have both baking POWDER and baking SODA, or if I could just use 1 type for all 3 tsps. I’m living it Italy at the moment, and there’s no such thing as baking powder here, they only do soda. What is the difference, anyway?

    Thanks a bunch! Love the blog, it’s my new obsession! Aimee

    1. Hi Aimee, I’m sure that you could only use baking soda, I am just unsure of the amount (3 tsp would be too much). I also fear using all baking soda may leave a chemical taste. Baking powder and soda are both chemical leavening agents. Even though both are used in this recipe, the baking powder does most of the leavening. Baking soda is added to neutralize the acids in the recipe (plus to add tenderness).

  14. Oh.my.god.
    Seriously. This is AMAZING. Quite possibly the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had, and definitely the most chocolatey. Thank you, Sally!

    On a sidenote, I used only baking powder (3 tsp) since that was all I had, and considerably less sugar for both the dough and the frosting (as I do any time I bake). I also made the buttermilk myself according to your directions since I couldn’t get buttermilk.

  15. Hey Sally,
    I want to bake this cake but I only have one 8 inch springform pan. Would it be okay if I bake one full cake and cut it into two layers? Or should I just bake in batches?

    Sarah xx

  16. Hey, Sally! Can I make this recipe on an 30cm round pan and cut the cake in half? I’m afraid it could break apart when I cut it 🙁

  17. First I love your site, and so does my family. You’ve made me an even better baker. Question about the flour. I know you used AP flour, would it be ok to substitute cake flour for the AP?

    1. Yep, you may use cake flour. Though you’ll have to play around with the amount– you’ll likely need more than just 1 and 3/4 cups.

  18. Cookwise and Bakewise author/food scientist Shirley Corriher gives the rule of 1 t Baking POWDER to leaven each cup flour OR 1/4 t baking SODA to leaven a cup of flour. In The Gift of Southern Cooking(Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock) there is a formula for homemade baking ‘powder’ using a combination of 2 T baking soda and 1/4 cup cream of tartar. Personally have had limited success with the homemade one.

  19. I have to say this is by far the most moist fudgy chocolate cake I’ve seen. I’m gonna have to try it real soon! Quick question Sally, why do chocolate cakes that call for boiling butter sugar hot water and chocolate tend to be quite dense and sometimes leaning towards tough? What is the science behind boiling the ingredients? I really hope you can help me out with this. Thanks.

  20. Just wanted to come back here & say that I made this cake & frosting for my son’s birthday as he is a chocolate lover. The cake tasted wonderful, but the addition of salt to the frosting was a big no. I will be leaving it out next time.

  21. Okay, so I know that the post says it won’t taste like coffee, but my mom is very, very skeptical. Is there anyone who can’t stand coffee who has made this cake and can assure her there is no coffee taste? I REALLY want to try it! =D

    1. I made this cake for my husband’s birthday; he does not like coffee, however, he loved the cake and did not taste the coffee. It is delicious.

    2. I was a bit worried about the coffee flavor too because I am making this for a kid’s birthday cake. You can taste the coffee in the batter (raw) but not when baked. The coffee helps bring out the flavor of the chocolate!

  22. I am making this cake for a New Year’s Party tonight; the only change I made was instead of using the chocolate frosting, I used your Irish Cream Frosting recipe (http://blog.bedbathandbeyond.com/bbb-recipe/guinness-chocolate-cupcakes-recipe/). Soooo good! This is my first time making a cake from scratch (I’m usually more of a pie and cookie girl), but I will definitely be making this again! Thanks for sharing!

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