Triple Chocolate Layer 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

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. Gorgeous!

This chocolate cake is:

  • Extra moist
  • 2 layers, but can be made as a sheet cake
  • Soft with a velvety crumb
  • Deeply flavorful
  • Unapologetically rich
  • Covered with creamy chocolate buttercream

This is, without a doubt, the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had.

chocolate cake

triple chocolate cake

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. Use all-purpose flour– cake flour is too light.
  2. Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder: Do not use dutch-process cocoa powder. If desired, see dutch-process vs natural cocoa powder for more information.
  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.
  6. Oil: Don’t use butter in this cake batter. Cocoa powder is a particularly drying ingredient, so this cake needs oil for moisture.
  7. Eggs: Use 2 room temperature eggs. Place refrigerated eggs in a cup of warm water for 10 minutes to warm them up. 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 (below). You can see that in 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 encourages the cocoa powder to bloom and dissolve. If you don’t drink coffee, you can use hot water. For deeper flavor, though, use coffee.

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.

Need cupcakes instead? Use my super moist chocolate cupcakes recipe.

Chocolate frosting in glass bowl

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 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!

Video Tutorial – Chocolate Cake

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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*
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk*
  • 1 cup (240ml) freshly brewed strong hot coffee*

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.
  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 for extra frosting, use the frosting recipe from my Piñata Cake.
  3. Cocoa Powder: Use natural cocoa powder in the cake, not dutch-process. (If desired, 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. Lately I’ve been using a mix of sour cream and buttermilk, as well as reducing the hot coffee. You can see that in my dark chocolate mousse cake. That cake and this cake are both fantastically moist, but the sour cream version has a sturdier crumb.
  5. Room Temperature Ingredients: All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
  6. Espresso Powder/Coffee: Espresso powder and coffee will not make the cake taste like coffee. Rather, 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Chocolate Cupcakes: Here is my favorite chocolate cupcakes recipe. Same unbelievable texture as this cake! You can also use this cake batter for 2-3 dozen cupcakes. 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

858 Comments

  1. Loved it made two 8inch round with frosting awsome grandson loved it the BEST CAKE ever thanks for sharing

  2. Love this recipe so much, thanks Sally! I’ve made this cake so many times this year. It’s so moist and rich, everyone always loves it!

  3. Hi Sally

    What is all purpose flour? I’m from the UK so is this the same as plain flour?

    Can I prepare the frosting in advance and freeze it?

    1. Hi Priya! Yep, it’s plain flour. You can prepare and freeze the frosting, yes. Thaw it in the refrigerator, then give it a mix with the mixer to thin it out again. (It will be pretty thick and need a spin in the mixer!)

  4. Thank you so much for this recipe Sally, I have made it and loved it for my son’s birthdays! Do you have an equivalent (in delicious fudgy texture, that can be layered, and can be frozen ahead of time) vanilla cake recipe?

    1. Hi Carlie! I’m thrilled this cake was a hit for your son’s birthdays! This is my favorite vanilla cake recipe 🙂 If you are interested in a vanilla sheet cake, I recommend this recipe!

  5. I love the flavor of the cake and the frosting is devine. However, my cake came out a tad dry. I baked it for 24 minutes and followed the recipe exactly with the exception of using imitation vanilla and not having my buttermilk at room temperature. Maybe I need to bake it for less time? Any advice is welcome!

    1. Hi Mari! Two suggestions. Make sure you’re spooning and leveling the flour. And try baking the cake layers for a little less time next time. Just until the toothpick comes out clean.

  6. I’ve made this cake 4 times since February and everyone loves it. This is now my go-to chocolate cake. It is a really nice, moist, chocolatey cake. I have frosted it with homemade white buttercream every time and not your chocolate frosting, though.
    I’m glad the instructions mention how liquidy the batter is. I would have worried the first time, if it didn’t say anything.

  7. Hi Sally, I’m so excited to try this recipe for my mom’s birthday. Do you know if you could substitute gluten free flour one-to-one for the all-purpose flour?

    1. Hi Alicia! Many readers have used GF flour in place of all-purpose flour in my recipes, but I haven’t tried this recipe that way. Sorry, I don’t have much experience baking gluten free cakes!

  8. I made this cake today and substituted gluten-free all-purpose flour 1:1 for the regular flour. I also frosted it with a chocolate cream cheese frosting. It was HEAVEN! The GF flour makes the cake very delicate (because it doesn’t have the binding effect of the gluten) so it was a bit harder to cut neatly, but everyone thought the delicacy of the crumb was extra nice! Thanks for this great recipe!

  9. Hi Sally. Made this last week and it was delicious. The only problem was that it had a dense layer, around 1/4 inch, at the bottom of each cake layer. Any idea why? I use a scale to weigh ingredients so it can’t be that and I’ve made a similar recipe to yours and the same thing happened.

    1. If this is happening with different recipes I’m wondering how you grease and prepare your pans? If you are using butter or too much baking spray that could be the culprit.

      1. Hi Stephanie, I always spray my cake pans with baking spray (like Pam or other brand), line with parchment paper, then spray the parchment paper!

  10. This has been my go-to perfect chocolate cake since 2014, and I cannot thank Sally enough for this recipe! This cake is undoubtedly moist, rich, fluffy, and perfect EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. To be blunt, I trust this cake to be delicious as cupcakes, smash cake, and layer cake, and it pairs with any type of filling or frosting. I personal favorite is covering it in a 2:3 whipping cream to chocolate ratio ganache.
    Thank you, Sally, for being my baking guru

  11. I made this cake twice in a week! It’s amazing. I was worried about how liquidy the batter was, but I shouldn’t have been. It made it so soft and moist. My family couldn’t stop gobbling it down it (hence demanding a second!).

  12. Hi Sally, your recipe is always my go to recipe whenever I need to bake a cake. I need to bake a cake for my son birthday and I have baked this cake before and absolutely loved it!! I will be using fondant this time but do you think this cake can hold up the fondant or will it collapse because of the weight of the fondant?

    Thanks

      1. This cake absolutely holds up to fondant! Freeze the layers before you build!

    1. I’m making a two tier cake 6 and 4 inches, I would like to use this recipe do you think it would do well stacking and with fondant?

  13. Made this cake with Nutella frosting for my nephew’s 10th birthday. It was INSANELY good. By far the moistest, chocolatiest, yummiest chocolate cake I have ever made. Despite the intense chocolate flavor, it was still light, airy and so so easy!

  14. Hi, Sally.

    We don’t get all-purpose flour in South Africa. How much flour should I use if I’m substituting the all-purpose flour with cake flour?

  15. DO you think it would be okay if I added chocolate chips to the batter? My son is asking for chocolate chocolate chip cake for his birthday. Thank you!

  16. Hi Sally,
    How would you recommend using this recipe for about 100 guests? I absolutely love this recipe and would like to cater for a big family gathering!
    I was thinking maybe 2x 3-layer 10inch version?

    1. For that many people I would make this recipe into a quarter sheet cake using a 9×13 inch cake pan. If you cut it into 2X2 pieces you can get 24 servings per cake. Enjoy!

  17. Hi Sally! I’ve made this recipe twice and its turned out AMAZING both times! I wanted to try doing it in 6 inch pans (maybe 4 layers, for a taller cake)? Do you know how long and at what temp I should be baking at? Thanks!

    1. Hi Cass! You’ll have leftover batter if you only make 4 6-inch cake layers. Fill them halfway and bake for about 20 minutes. But for best results, try my 6 inch cake recipe (find the link in there for how I made the chocolate version.) Basically, use chocolate cupcakes. This equals a 3 inch 6 layer cake.

  18. This is my go-to chocolate cake recipe. It is to die for and everyone loves it. I do everything exactly as the recipe states without espresso powder, but I do one thing a little differently that adds a really neat flavor. Instead of standard coffee, I use the Cinnabon coffee k-cups. Just that little hint of cinnamon is sooooo good in this cake!

  19. Cake sounds amazing. I’m making a cake for an event and have decided to give this one a try. Thinking I would use ganache rather than frosting. Just wondering if I could use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil in the cake.
    Thanks
    Mxx

  20. Hi Sally,

    This looks amazing! I’d like to bake it tonight for my boyfriend’s birthday tomorrow. Is it possible to bake the cake but as one layer and thicker (using a deeper cake tin) rather than two? If so, what baking time would you recommend? And what cake tin sizes would work? Thank you!

    1. This would be too much batter to bake as just one 9 inch round layer. For a single layer bake this in a 9 x 13 inch pan. Enjoy!

  21. hey sally, I want to bake this cake but I only have 6inch by 2 inch pans and I am wondering if it would require less time to bake or the same?

    1. I have never tested this cake in a pan that large! The capacity of a 12 inch pan is about 15 cups so this recipe *should* work in one pan. Just remember to only fill it to about 2/3 full.

  22. Amazing cake and frosting! The cake is so rich, tender, and moist. I love that you can mix it up by hand. The frosting is the perfect companion as its sweetness balances out the richness of the cake. With some sprinkles on top, this made the perfect birthday cake for my chocolate-loving 2 year old!

  23. Hi Sally, I love your recipes and would like to give this chocolate cake recipe a try. I want to bake a 4 layer 10″ round cake. Can I double the recipe for that?
    Many thanks,

  24. This cake is ahhhmaaaazing! The only modification I made is to add a little more heavy cream in the ganache so it was a little lighter when whipped/beat. I also added basic chocolate ganache between the layers. Baked this for my kid’s 2nd birthday and it was a huge hit. Love the detailed recipe. Thank you!

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