This is definitely the Best Chocolate Cake Recipe with 3 moist tender layers frosted with a decadent Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. Chocolate on chocolate is always a crowd-pleaser with my family!
This Chocolate Layer Cake is perfect for holidays, birthdays or anytime you want to treat a chocoholic to a special treat!
Best Chocolate Cake Recipe
I thought I found the best ever chocolate cake when I baked my Triple Layer Cocoa Cake, but it’s no fun to make the same cake over and over. So when my friend, Sandra, made this recipe and shared a photo of a decadent slice, I knew I had found my son Nick’s birthday cake! He was adamant that his celebration would involve a homemade chocolate cake and the birthday child always gets what he wants!
Homemade Chocolate Cake
Though I love doctoring up a chocolate cake mix when time is short, there’s nothing better than a cake from scratch. And when you add a third layer, it’s even more celebratory!! It’s the same Hershey’s Chocolate Cake recipe, just divvied up between 3 cake pans. The buttermilk in the batter is the secret ingredient that makes the cake so unforgettable!
What Does Adding Buttermilk to a Cake Do?
Buttermilk is more acidic than milk. In fact, you can make your own buttermilk by putting one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice into a liquid measuring cup, then filling the cup up to the one cup mark with milk. Wait a couple of minutes and the milk will curdle. At that point, it can be used in your recipe.
It’s that touch of acid in the buttermilk that helps break down the gluten fibers in the flour. Gluten is what gives baked goods their strength and structure. It forms an elastic web of proteins when the gluten-containing flour is mixed with liquid. If you want a tender cake, using cake flour works because it contains less protein/gluten. Since this recipe uses all-purpose flour, the buttermilk helps deactivate some of the gluten’s power.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
It’s the pairing of a delectable chocolate cake recipe and a simple buttercream that makes this such a comforting cake recipe. This is an old-fashioned, classic chocolate cake recipe that’s been popular for decades. It doesn’t need a fancy Swiss meringue buttercream, though that would be delicious, too. The chocolate buttercream frosting is a simple recipe with butter, cocoa, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. I did double my recipe to make sure there was enough for the extra layer. No one at this house complains about the extra frosting! In fact, there’s always a volunteer to lick the bowl.
And once again, when I tried to discern which of my chocolate cake recipes was the “best” one, I got the usual answer: “You’ll have to bake them all for side by side comparisons.” I think the family just wanted more cake!
How to Bake Even Cake Layers
There are two ways to make sure your cake layers are the same height. One is to use a few toothpicks to check the depth of the batter. Just add some batter to your pans, then use a clean toothpick to check the depth of each. Don’t completely distribute the batter as you will need some extra to add to those pans that need some more. Add batter to those with less, checking and rechecking until all pans have about the same amount of batter.
A more efficient method is to use a kitchen scale. Having all the same brand of pans helps, so they all weigh the same. Start by adding batter to each pan without using all the batter. Weigh each pan and add more batter to the pans that weigh the least. Keep weighing and adding batter until all 3 pans weigh approximately the same and the batter is all used.
How to Bake a Flat Cake
This cake baked up with relatively flat layers, but having domed cake layers is another problem. You can always slice off the dome, but then you’re wasting cake and create a crumbly mess you’ll need to frost.
There are special fabric strips that are moistened and wrapped around the pans before baking. The moisture of these cake strips helps keep the edges from heating up faster than the middle and help the whole cake bake at the same rate. You can make cake strips at home from an old towel. Just cut strips the height of your pan in a length that will wrap around the outside of the pan with enough overlap to pin to secure.
To use the cake strips, wet them and squeeze out excess moisture. Wrap around the outside of the pan and secure with safety pins. Bake as directed. Alternatively, Wilton makes cake strips you can purchase. See a link in my recipe card FYI. They’re also available at Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics.
More of Our Favorite Chocolate Cake Recipes:
- Wacky Cake from Namely Marly
- Devil’s Food Cake
- Coca Cola Cake
- Chocolate Pudding Cake Recipe
- One Layer Fudge Cake
- Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Filling
- Tunnel of Fudge Cake
- Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake
- More Cake Recipes
This recipe was first shared in May 2011. Text and photos were updated in 2019.
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 cup hot coffee (I used one cup boiling water with 2 teaspoons instant coffee)
- 12 tablespoons butter (at room temperature)
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 5 1/3 cups powdered sugar
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350º. Grease and flour (or use Baker's Joy) three 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment rounds and grease the parchment, too. Set aside.
- With a stand mixer, stir together the first 6 (dry) ingredients. Add eggs, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla and beat for about 2 minutes on medium speed, scraping sides of the bowl at least once. Stir in coffee.
- Divide batter between the three pans. I like using a kitchen scale to divide the batter evenly. The batter will be thin.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool for about 10 minutes, then run a knife around edges of pans. Carefully remove cakes from pans to a wire rack to cool completely. Gently remove parchment.
- Cool completely before frosting.
- To make the frosting, cream the butter. Add cocoa and powdered sugar alternately with milk. Beat until it reaches spreading consistency, adding more milk as needed. Mix in vanilla.
Adapted from Foodess and Hershey's
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9-inch USA Pan Bakeware 1070LC Round Cake Pan, Nonstick & Quick Release Coating, 9-Inch
4-Piece Bake Even Strip,Cake Pan Dampen Strips,Super Absorbent Thick Cotton,Cake Strips for Baking,Cake Pan Strips
Nicewell Food Scale, 22lb Digital Kitchen Scale Weight Grams and oz for Cooking Baking, 1g/0.1oz Precise Graduation, Stainless Steel and Tempered Glass
Serving Size:1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 568Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 63mgSodium: 546mgCarbohydrates: 105gFiber: 3gSugar: 82gProtein: 7g