Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake Recipe


This chocolate buttermilk cake recipe is actually a modification of my favorite vanilla cake recipe! It’s delicious, moist, and best of all, it keeps its shape!

The layers bake with smooth sides that are perfect for stacking and frosting. Another perk is that it can be made in one bowl! That’s right, ONE BOWL!!! The recipe is adapted from Kara’s Couture Cakes, and can be found below:

Chocolate Cake Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups (320 grams) flour
  • 3/4 cup (75 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups (600 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp (13 grams) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5 grams) salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter or 2 sticks (227 grams), room temperature
  • 2 tsp. (9 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup egg whites (244 grams) – about 7 large egg whites; I use egg whites from the carton to avoid wasting egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 grams) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp instant espresso (or coffee), dissolved in 1 tbsp of hot water


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7 inch pans (for taller layers) or 8 inch round pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.

Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer on low (with a paddle), until fully combined.

Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.

Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed.

Add in vanilla, espresso, and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium high for about 30 seconds.

Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. I like to use a digital kitchen scale to weigh my pans, and ensure they all have the same amount of batter.  This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.

Bake for 35-38 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers on a rack to finish cooling.

To accelerate the cooling process, I like to pop my cake layers in the freezer once I’ve removed them from the cake pans.

Once the layers have fully cooled, I sometimes like to trim the caramelized bits from the sides of the layers using a serrated knife.

While these layers bake pretty flat, sometimes I’ll also trim the top of the layers too if I’m working a super special partnership.

Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart. Below is a full tutorial showing how I trim my layers:

Below is a cross section shot of this cake recipe! You can see how moist it is, and also how well the layers hold their shape when stacked!!

This peppermint mocha cake is from I live stream I did with Food Network back in December.


84 thoughts on “Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake Recipe

      1. Hi!! I’m curious what pans do you use to bake your cakes! Then seem to be much deeper than traditional pans.

  1. I can not have dairy so the buttermilk is out for me, do you think that soy milk for the replacement would work with this recipe.

    1. It will change the texture of the cake slightly, but it should still turn out great! Since this recipe only uses baking powder instead of baking soda, you can swap out the buttermilk for whatever milk works best for you (the acid in the buttermilk isn’t essential to the chemistry of the batter)! Hope that helps 🙂

    1. The texture will turn out the same, but I really enjoy the depth the bit of esspresso gives the cake!! It’s only for flavor, so if you omit it the cake will still turn out fine!

  2. Have you tried this recipe with Dutch processed cocoa? With the baking powder it should work…and I prefer the chocolate flavor with the Dutch…just wondering if you had tried it.

      1. I tried it and it worked beautifully! I used the Dutch-processed in the cake and then made your buttercream with the same cocoa. My father-in-law LOVED it! Thank you!

  3. I have seen on your IG stories and throughout your site here that you like to freeze the cakes first. Do you freeze them solid and then use them that way?
    And once you have assembled your cakes with buttercream/drip etc and bring them to room temperature to serve, do they hold together well? I guess I am worried as I know with fondant, a cold cake can make it sweat through the outside.. and I would like to transport the cake.

    1. They are usually partially thawed when I decorate the cake, but because my buttercream is a crusting buttercream, one it’s sits in my fridge overnight it is usually very sturdy! It holds up pretty well, but I also usually cut into the cake before it is fully thawed (it’s easier to get a clean cut when the layers are still slightly chilled).

  4. Hi Chels. I’m making a silver and black drip cake for a 40th. I like the sound of this chocolate cake as my chocolate cake is lovely but very dense and possibly too rich for all the additions to this cake. Can you please help me to pair a filling/buttercream to put between the layers? I think she will love your caramel sauce and I plan on covering the cake with chocolate ganache as I’m going to to try to brush on silver to go under the black chocolate drip (if that makes sense) lol. TIA, Jolene

    1. I don’t think her chocolate cake is dense. Rich, yes, but it is light and soft and delicious. In my humble opinion, the chocolate ganache is where things get over the top…but I am not a huge chocolate lover either. All of Chelsea’s recipes that I have tried are the best recipes that I have ever used and I have been baking for decades.

      1. Thanks Chels and Amanda! I was referring to my chocolate cake recipe, that one is very dense that’s why I’m going to try this one. I will definitely try your american buttercream. It looks good! I’m just hoping the combination of it all tastes good and looks good when it’s cut open. Hold thumbs for me;)

  5. Just commenting for others who wonder about this cake in high altitude – it works perfectly without any adjustments!

  6. Hi Chelsea! Huge fan! I have to ask- how thick are your cake layers? i have the two inch thick Wilton cake pans, how much batter should i pour into the pan? (i’ll probably use a 6 inch or 8 inch pan)

    Also- how do you get your cake circle to stay on your cake stand when decorating? do you add buttercream to the bottom of the circle too? Thanks a ton!!!

    1. Thanks! My cake layers usually bake to be between .75-1.5 inches tall! I usually use 7 or 8 inch pans. The recipes makes pretty tall layers if you spread it between four 7 inch pans. If you use 6 inch pans, you will have to make more than four layers, or save of the batter for something else. I use 2 inch tall pans. I have a non-slip mat which i cut into a circle, and place beneath my cake round. works like a charm!

  7. Hi Chelsea! How do you line your cake pans? I want to try and make this as fool proof as possible 🙂 thank you!

  8. Hi Chelsea..
    Huge fan of your work.. hats off!!
    Just a little query..
    Can i replace baking powder, flour and salt with self raising flour?

  9. Hey Chelsea. I’m making a Wonder Woman cake for my daughter birthday with a minecraft for tier two. The bottom layer will be around 10 inches in diameter so I can decorate with the square minecraft block on top of the round tier. I don’t want it to be too high. Do you think this recipe would work for two layers of the bottom tier?

  10. Would this recipe work with three 8 inch round pans? I am doing a two tier cake and want this recipe for the bottom 8inch round tier. How much batter should I put in each pan?

  11. If I want to make a chocolate and vanilla marble cake, would I use the full recipe of your chocolate and vanilla cake?

  12. This is the first recipe I’ve seen for sponge using only egg whites, I appreciate American cakes can be very different to UK recipes, why no yolks?

    1. it’s not really a sponge cake, it’s a buttermilk cake base! If helps the buttermilk taste shine through, and keeps the batter a bright white shade. You can use 5 eggs in place of the 7 egg whites if you want though!

  13. Would this be enough for 2 8″ (2″ sides) pans and 2 6″ pans? I need my layers to be the full 2″ tall. So would I fill the pans fuller and just bake a little longer?

    Same with your vanilla cake recipe.

  14. 2 8″ pans and 2 6″ pans didn’t work. They are too thin. So remaking today using 2 8″ and 1 6″. I can use the thinner layers to add height.

    The vanilla layer cake worked perfect I’m 3 6″ pans. All cakes came out 2″ high.

  15. I was wondering if there was any way to get a “richer chocolate color”? These just seem so much lighter than any chocolate cake I’ve made. Thanks!

    1. I substituted the regular unsweetened cocoa powder for Dutch processed cocoa powder and it worked beautifully. It has a darker color. Or you could use black cocoa powder. Then it would be super dark!

  16. Hi there! I would like to make this for the taco cake recipe you have but as per the taco cake instructions I only need one 6″ choco cake. Seems like I will have a ton of extra batter left over. Do you have a smaller recipe for chocolate cake or can I just half it or maybe use the rest for cupcakes?… Thank you!

  17. Hi Chelsea, love this recipe but just saw that in this one it says that 1 cup of butter is 454 gram but in your vanilla recipe it says that 1 cup is 226 gram of butter. Just to let you know

      1. Hi, I’ve just seen this update and had written your recipe down before the change to the butter quantities…my cake is in the oven with 454g butter – will I need to start again?

  18. Hi, can you bake 2 2x 10 cakes with this recipe? How long would you bake it for? Thank you so much for your recipes!

    1. yes, you can! I’m not quite sure, but I’d think about 45-50 minutes! I’d recommend adding a metal flower nail upside-down in the center of the layer to help it bake faster!

  19. How many 10×2 inch cakes could you make with this recipe? I want the cakes to be 2 inches tall if possible. How long would you need to bake them at and what temperature?

    1. They take about 45 minutes to bake! I’d place a flower nail in the center to help them bake more quickly and evenly! This recipe can make 2 10 inch layers, but they won’t be 2 inches tall!

    1. slices of leftover cake can be frozen for several weeks if they’re wrapped up correctly in an airtight container! You can also leave it unsliced, and frost over the exposed areas of cake to keep it nice and moist, and keep in the fridge for up to a week! in general, I make cakes at least one day in advance, and sometimes several days in advance! The buttercream locks in the moisture, so they keep well!

  20. Hi Chelsea!
    I was wondering how many 6 inch cakes you could make with this recipe? How tall would they be and would you need to change the bake time and temperature?
    Thanks so much!

  21. Hi chelsea
    What can i use as egg substitute please
    I really wanna try your receipe for my kids 1st and 5th birthday so please if you can let me know..

    1. Hi Palak! I’ve heard that 1/4 cup of apple sauce can be used in place 1 egg, but i’ve never tried it before! that’s my best suggestion though, hope that helps! <3

  22. Hi chelsea! I just started learning and making cakes from scratch! I want to become a great baker and you are one person I look up to (:. I just have a problem I did this cake last night and I have done others too but my I don’t know why my cakes are not coming out fluffy or moist ): they come out dry.
    Thank you !

    1. Aw thanks Rubi! If your cakes are coming out dry, you might be using too much flour (sometimes when you scoop out of a bag you end up packing a lot more flour into the cup than the recipe calls for (by weight), or you may be overmixing! Those are usually the two main culprits for dense/dry cake layers <3 hope that helps!!?

Let me know what you think!