Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe

When I think about chocolate cake, I want the cake layers to be moist. I want them to be packed with chocolatey flavor, and to have a soft texture.

The baker in me also wants the cake layers to have structure, so that they don’t fall apart as you try to frost them.

I also wanted a chocolate cake recipe that could be carved for sculpted cakes!

The Perfect Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe

That’s how this recipe came to be. I had been playing around with different chocolate cake recipes for years, and they all were delicious. 

Each recipe had some of these attributes, but none of them had it all.

Was it greedy to demand so many things from one chocolate cake recipe?? No. We deserve it!

If we’re going to take the time to make a cake recipe from scratch, we deserve to have cake layers that are moist and keep their shape (as seen below).

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My First Chocolate Cake Recipe

Speaking of my past chocolate cake recipes, I’m not saying they’re not great in their own way. The first chocolate cake recipe I really fell for was my moist chocolate cake recipe.

It is incredibly soft and fluffy, and  I love the way it tastes!! It’s a great recipe for beginning bakers, and is really easy to make.

My moist chocolate cake recipe actually can be made in one bowl, AND can be made without a hand mixer!! Talk about the perfect starter recipe, right?

Photo Of Baileys Chocolate Cake

The only downside is that it isn’t the easiest to stack and frost with perfectly smooth sides!

When I was first getting into baking, taste was my #1 priority, so this didn’t bother me much.

My Chocolate Butter Cake Recipe

As I became more interested in cake decoration, I was obsessed with frosting cakes with smooth sides.

It was so much easier to frost cake layers that had a bit more structure, like my favorite vanilla layer cake recipe.

I fell in love with the strength of the layers, and how well they help up while being frosted.

I altered the recipe to a make a chocolate version, and used this as my chocolate layer cake recipe for a while.

photo of chocolate layer cake recipe

The only downside is that I like to trim my layers to remove the caramelization on the sides.

This means an extra step in the process, and I wasn’t completely satisfied with the texture of the layers.

Classic Chocolate Sponge Cake Recipe

This lead me to continue to try out new chocolate cake recipes, and experiment. I really loved using Yolanda Gampp’s chocolate sponge cake recipe, but didn’t like that they baked with such huge domes!

Photo of chocolate sponge cake recipe

I felt like i was cutting off 2/3 of each layer when I leveled them. However, the layers tasted great with simple syrup, and had great structure.

My Favorite Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe

I used Yolanda’s recipe as the starting point, then combined my favorite elements from all my past chocolate cake recipes.

The other element I really wanted to change was the size of the domes on top of each cake layer.

While creating this recipe, I chose to use black cocoa instead of regular baking cocoa. I love the taste and color it creates!! 

You can see what a beautiful color the black cocoa adds to the cake layers by looking at this slice of my raspberry chocolate cake.

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I also swapped some of the water for buttermilk to add more moisture, and used less baking soda.

The result?? A soft, tender chocolate cake that doesn’t need simple syrup, and that holds its shape well while being frosted and stacked. 

I’m obsessed with this recipe, and hope you all will be too!

If you don’t have access to black cocoa or don’t want to buy it, you can also use regular baking cocoa in this recipe! That’s exactly what I did in my triple chocolate wrap cake below, and it was delicious. 

Photo of Chocolate Wrapped Cake With Chocolate Covered Strawberries

You can add a splash of simple syrup if you love using it, or think that the cake layers will be exposed to air for long period of time.

I highly recommend adding simple syrup if you’re making a carved cake or a wedding cake!

Tips for Making This Chocolate Layer Cake:

  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake, to make it easier to stack and frost.
  • Mix your cake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated; this will ensure your cake layers are tender and fluffy
  • Be sure to properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients
  • Use a serrated knife to level your cake layers once they’re fully cooled, to make it easier to assemble and frost your cake
  • I do NOT recommend using this recipe to make cupcakes! Instead, I highly recommend trying my chocolate cupcake recipe (I like the texture better for cupcakes)
  • Use my small batch chocolate cake recipe to a 6-inch layer cake

Making These Cake Layers in Advance and Storage Tips:

  • Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them: It breaks the process up and make it more approachable.
  • Make your frosting ahead of time too, or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.
  • A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!
  • If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.
image of chocolate blackout cake, sliced into to show moist chocolate cake layers with pudding and ganache filling

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try this chocolate layer cake recipe, please tag me @chelsweets, and use the #chelsweets, so I can see your beautiful creations!!

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 24

Chocolate Layer Cake

Photo of my nutella chocolate cake, made with my go-to chocolate layer cake recipe

This is my go-to chocolate layer cake recipe! It makes soft, tender, chocolaty cake layers that can handle a splash of simple syrup, and still hold up while being frosted.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (390 grams)
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar (500 grams)
  • 1 tsp salt (6 grams)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (6 grams)
  • 1 tsp baking soda (6 grams)
  • 4 large eggs, room temp (224 grams)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp (2 sticks, 226 grams)
  • 1 cup hot water (237 grams)
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temp (240 grams)
  • 1 cup black cocoa (100 grams)

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Instructions

Chocolate Cake Layers

  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line four seven-inch or three 8-inch pans with parchment rounds, and spray with non-stick baking spray.
  2. Add the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix on high for 1-2 minutes with a whisk attachment or hand mixer. The mixture should become light in color.
  3. Mix in the eggs on a low speed, two at a time.
  4. Add baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix on high for another minute.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the cup of hot water, and cup of buttermilk. Pour in the cup of black cocoa, and whisk until no clumps remain.
  6. Next, add 1 cup of flour into the butter/egg mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, to ensure the flour is fully incorporated.
  7. Pour in half of the buttermilk/cocoa mixture, and gently pulse the mixture to incorporate the liquid (if you don't, you'll end up splattering the cocoa mixture all over you kitchen!)
  8. Mix in the 2nd cup of flour, at a low speed. Pour in the remaining buttermilk/cocoa mixture, and again gently pulse, then mix on low until fully combined.
  9. Add in the last cup of flour, and mix on low until the flour is incorporated.
  10. Evenly divide between the prepared pans. I like to use a kitchen scale to ensure each pan has exactly the same amount of batter.
  11. Bake for 32-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  12. Allow layers to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the edge of the pans to help separate the layers from the pans.
  13. Place the pans in the freezer for about 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers from the pans.
  14. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers, and then frost as desired.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the chocolate buttercream frosting.
  2. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment or hand mixer, until smooth. 
  3. Add in the sifted cocoa and salt, and mix on low until the cocoa is fully incorporated, and no clumps remain.
  4. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
  5. Mix in the cooled, melted chocolate.
  6. Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.
  7. If the frosting is too thick, add an extra Tbsp of heavy cream. If it's too thin, add in another 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.
  8. Stir by hand with a rubber spatula for a couple minutes to get the frosting SUPER smooth.

To Assemble The Cake:

  1. Stack and frost cake layers on a greaseproof cake board, using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board.
  2. Add an even layer of chocolate buttercream between each cake layer with a large offset spatula.
  3. Spread a thin coat of frosting around the the cake, to fully cover the cake layers.
  4. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (20 minutes) or freezer (10 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  5. Add a second, thicker layer of frosting to the cake, and smooth using a bench scraper. Then decorate as desired!

Notes

Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them: It breaks the process up and make it more approachable.

Make your frosting ahead of time too, or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!

If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Nutrition Information

Yield

24

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 450Total Fat 16gSaturated Fat 9gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 61mgSodium 274mgCarbohydrates 73gFiber 3gSugar 54gProtein 5g

209 thoughts on “Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe

  1. Hi! For the frosting – where you say the chocolate should be cooled – how cool? I’m assuming it still needs to be in liquid state? But how long should it sit after melting? Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Jessica,

      For sure! I like to let my chocolate cool for 5-10 minutes, so it’s not piping hot but is still in a liquid state. Hope taht helps, happy baking!!

  2. I made this for daughters 1st birthday last week. WOW! so moist and what a delicate crumb. Thanks to isolation we could only have our parents over for it so there was so much left over but we enjoyed it the next day as well. Delicious. This will definitely be part of my cake repertoire. Thank you

    1. Hi Oluwatosin,

      You can make 4, 6-inch cake layers with this recipe! They’ll end up being pretty thick layers, and might need to bake for a couple extra minutes (35-37 minutes). Hope that helps, happy baking!

  3. I love this cake! I bought the black cocoa and I love the taste. Can you mix it longer so it’s a little fluffier? Thanks.

    1. So happy to hear that Lesley!! That’s wonderful! You can mix the batter on a high speed after adding in the eggs to make it fluffier / more spongy. Just don’t overmix the batter once you add in the flour or it will make dense, tough cake layers. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  4. Hi Chelsea! I’m obsessed with your instagram and blog; I’ve made your red velvet cake, carrot cake, pumpkin cake, and all of your small batch recipes with great success! I’m looking for a chocolate cake that I can make in 8 inch pans, but that will have more height than a regular three layer cake. Do you think the layers in this cake are thick enough that I torte them to make six 8-inch layers? Or, is there another chocolate cake recipe of yours that you’d recommend for more height?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Lauren,

      You’re too sweet! If you torte this recipe it would make it a bit taller, but I don’t think it’d be quite as tall as you want it to be with 8 inch cake layers. Sadly I don’t have a larger recipe! You could try making 1 1/2 batches of batter though and baking 4, 8-inch cake layers! That should make a taller cake like you want 🙂 Hope that helps, happy baking!

  5. Hey Chelsea— I only have 9” baking pans and I want to make a 3 layer cake. Should I change the amounts at all or keep them the same?

    1. Hi Tatum,

      I’d recommend making 1 1/2 batches to make 3, 9″ cake layer. Hope that helps, happy baking!

Let me know what you think!