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Vertical image of Triple Layer Cocoa Cake on a white cake stand

Triple Layer Cocoa Cake

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This incredibly decadent Triple Layer Cocoa Cake is the perfect way to celebrate any occasion. My family ate every last crumb.

With three moist, tender layers and a rich, glossy ganache frosting, the chocoholics in your life will rejoice with every bite of this Chocolate Layer Cake!

Triple Layer Cocoa Cake on a white cake ceramic stand

Triple Layer Cocoa Cake

I was way overdue to make this magnificent triple-layer cocoa cake again. 8 years was a long time to wait for another taste of one of my favorite chocolate layer cakes.

My youngest moved downtown last May and we’d yet to see his apartment. We decided to pick him and his roommates up, take them out to dinner, then get a tour of their newish digs. I brought along this cake for dessert.

The boys, errr….young men, went crazy for this cake. One said he’d need a second slice later in the evening. Their metabolism is a wee bit better than mine. And the hubby was very worried when he saw two-thirds of this cake going out the door! It’s the kind of cake you don’t want to let out of your sight.

Slice of Triple Layer Cocoa Cake on a white dessert plate

Tips for Making a Chocolate Layer Cake

Don’t fret when you divide your batter between three baking pans. The layers are quite thin and will bake quickly. The results are a normal-sized layer cake, but with extra space for more frosting! Who’d complain about that??? Here are some tips to make this terrific cocoa cake.

  • I like using my kitchen scale to divvy up the cake batter. The weights of each pan with cake batter don’t need to be exactly the same, but close enough so they all finish baking in the same amount of time plus are the same thickness.
  • To check for doneness, this recipe recommends using the finger test. This means taking your index finger and lightly pressing on the top of the cake. If it’s done, the cake will spring right back up. If it’s not, an indentation will remain and you need to add a couple more minutes to the baking time.
  • Prepping your pans correctly is key. Grease with butter or a non-stick baking spray like Baker’s Joy. Also line each cake pan with parchment paper rounds and spray the top of the parchment as well.
  • Rotating the cake pans mid-baking time is key with these thin layers. Most ovens have hot spots and this ensures that all three cakes will be finished close to the same time.
  • What I loved about this cake was that no fancy frosting techniques were needed. The rich ganache frosting was just swirled with an offset spatula as I did back in 2011. Simple and elegant. The cake is impressive enough without any embellishments.
  • This is a rich cake, so only small slices are needed. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for a lovely contrast of flavor and texture.

Why Do You Add Coffee or Espresso Powder to Chocolate Desserts?

It’s been known for years that coffee intensifies the chocolate flavor in desserts. So to make this chocolate ganache frosting even more chocolaty, adding a small amount of espresso powder works wonderfully. My non-coffee drinking husband does not like mocha or coffee-flavored anything, so I often cut the amount in half. He did not even notice my addition of espresso powder in this dessert.

Triple Layer Cocoa Cake 2011
This post was originally posted in 2011. Text and photos were updated in 2019.

An excerpt from that postSchool was canceled today…the forecast was ominous: freezing rain, sleet, more rain, then snow.  The eerie sound of the wind passing through the frozen trees, and the sleet pounding the windows convinced me to stay inside and bake.  We could lose power at any time, and we’d need something for sustenance! I’d say this was my best chocolate layer cake to date…the cake was as moist as I’d imagined, and the frosting just sweet enough with a hint of coffee flavor…perfect. 

More Chocolate Recipes You’ll Love:

These easy Black Gold Cookies are a quick recipe to get your chocolate fix, a Chocolate Mousse Cake with Ladyfingers does not require an oven, and this Easy Chocolate Pudding Cake is just as it’s described, EASY comfort food! And from some blogger friends, you might like this Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer Cake,  this Chocolate Bundt Cake, and this One Bowl Chocolate Cake.

Slice of Triple Layer Cocoa Cake

Triple Layer Cocoa Cake

A rich, 3-layer cocoa cake with a decadent, chocolate ganache frosting!

Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 23 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 3 minutes
Yield 12 servings


For cake:

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup lukewarm water (divided)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature)
  • 2 large eggs (at room temperature)

For frosting:

  • 1 1/4 sticks butter (10 tablespoons)
  • 1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Butter 3 9-inch cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment and butter top of parchment. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the cocoa and 1/2 cup of the warm water in small bowl or liquid measuring cup to combine. Whisk buttermilk with other 1/2 cup of warm water in small bowl or liquid measuring cup to combine. Sift the flour and baking soda into another bowl.
  3. With mixer, beat butter and two sugars till pale yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With mixer running, add eggs and beat till combined, scraping edges of bowl as needed. Add cocoa mixture and blend. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of buttermilk. Beat till just combined, stopping to scrape down bowl as necessary. Divide batter evenly between the 3 pans...about 1 1/2 cups per pan.
  4. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or till cake pops back when pressed lightly with finger...rotate pans half way through baking time to ensure even baking. Cool completely on racks.
  5. Make frosting by melting butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in brown sugar, cocoa, and espresso powder. Gradually stir in cream, and continue stirring till mixture is hot. When cream is just about to boil, reduce heat to low and cook another minute. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into bowl and chill for about 1 1 /2 hours to thicken, stirring occasionally.
  6. To assemble cake, run knife around sides of cakes. Gently shake back and forth till cake loosens from bottom. Carefully flip one layer onto serving plate. Remove parchment. Spread about 1/2 cup frosting on top of cake and spread to edges. Repeat with second layer. Top with third layer and use the rest of the frosting to ice top and sides of cake.


Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 443Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 79mgSodium: 200mgCarbohydrates: 65gFiber: 2gSugar: 45gProtein: 5g


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62 comments on “Triple Layer Cocoa Cake”

  1. Lizzy…your cake looks amazing as usual. Great photo’s they look magazine like. I would love a piece right now with a cup of tea.

    Thanks for sharing one of your beautiful desserts again.

    Stay safe and warm in this weather.

  2. Heaven on a plate for me, a weakness is chocolate, cant stop eating it this cake wouldnt have a chance!

  3. Claudia, you’d fit right into our family πŸ™‚

  4. Lizzy,

    I showed Alex this post! He said “When are you making this?” I have all the ingredients, so, thanks to you, tonight there will be chocolate cake for dessert in our house πŸ™‚


  5. I am not even a cake lover but this one looks so good! You amaze me Liz!!!! Sure wish I was your next door neighbor! lol

  6. wowww your cake looks so amazing! I just wanna have a slice of that πŸ™‚

  7. Lizzy that frosting looks so wonderful. What kind of cocoa powder do you use? Is it a dark chocolate? I have had the worst luck trying to make a good chocolate frosting. I don’t think it turns our chocolate-y enough for me. This looks heavenly though!

  8. Thank you, everyone! Seriously, this was the BEST cake!

    Brandie, I used Ghirardelli Natural Cocoa Powder…I don’t think it was any more chocolaty than Hershey’s, but it did make a nice dark icing.

  9. Oh, wow, Lizzy! This is absolute heaven in a cake. Great job! With the Valhrona cocoa powder I have a surplus of, I bet this cake would be over-the-moon amazing. Plus, I have a few family birthdays coming up so plenty of excuses to make this cake! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Looks great Liz! I was eyeing that recipe myself!
    Too busy dealing with the ice here today…no time to bake.

  11. This looks wonderful, lizzy. I love a moist chocolate cake, and I love a touch of coffee flavoring with chocolate anything.

  12. Lizzy, you are slowly turning me into a chocoholic! This looks absolutely decadent!

  13. You had me at Triple Chocolate. Holy cow! I can feel my cheeks sticky sweet just thinking about it…and I LOVE it! :-p

  14. It looks so moist and yummy! Would love to have that piece!

  15. Oh. My. Goodness! This looks delicous, and once again, beautifully styled.

  16. Thanks, everyone!!! Bill has already requested this as his birthday cake in April…how much better of an endorsement can you get?

    Hope Alex loves it, Sandra…still laughing that he doesn’t like sweets…haha..

    Linda, we’re ice bound, too, but I decided to bake instead of clean and pay bills (what I really should be doing!). I hope you try it!

    I really, really appreciate you all stopping by to comment πŸ™‚

  17. Goodness that looks incredible. Beautiful, chocolate heaven. πŸ™‚

  18. A spectacular chocolate cake, very decadent and absolutely perfect for the upcoming Valentine’s day!

  19. This looks like the perfect cake for a snow day πŸ™‚ And as dangerous as the ice can be, it’s definitely pretty on your bushes! Stay safe and warm!

  20. Your so awesome! My mentor and I go to a local coffee shop to have their layered all chocolate cake with a hot cup of Joe. This makes me miss her. And want to make the cake and just have her over. πŸ™‚

  21. THANK YOU, all!!!! I think I’ve started a baking frenzy with this recipe…I hope you all get a chance to try this winner…ours is disappearing quickly! xoxo

  22. This looks heavenly! I love a good chocolate cake πŸ™‚

  23. I have been craving a layer cake lately…hmmm this might be it.

  24. OMG this looks amazing. Nothing beats layer chocolate cake. Soooo sinful.

  25. Thank you!!! I know I’ll be making this one again and again~

  26. Yes, Eliot, an unprecedented three days in a row…think he’ll have to bite the bullet and go back tomorrow. Scary thinking about teenage drivers out on the roads, but at least the ice has been cleared off the main thoroughfares!

  27. Oh my, this cake looks fabulous! My husband also has an April birthday and he LOVES chocolate… I think I may have just found his birthday cake. πŸ™‚

  28. Lindsey, a friend made it yesterday and her husband has requested it again for Valentine’s Day. If he’s a chocolate lover, you’ve found your cake πŸ™‚

  29. No! I didn’t know the Titanic actually sank! (ok, that reference is lost via the interwebs- but I haven’t had a chance to bust my Bon Appetit out of the plastic yet)
    This does look super beautiful and yummy though! I can’t wait to flip through the pages. πŸ˜€

  30. Lizzy, I spotted this cake a couple of days ago, but was trying to resist it calling me. I haven’t gotten mine yet, can’t wait. I really need this cake. Hope you are having a great week.

  31. Wow,what a beauty! πŸ™‚ Looks really delicious!

  32. this is a breath taking cake – looks more than perfect.
    Thanks for sharing Lizzy, have a wonderful Friday

  33. Thanks you, my friends!!! Happy Friday to you all, too πŸ™‚

  34. Beautiful cake Lizzy! I would love a huge piece of this with some milk!

  35. Thanks so much, Amy!

  36. You are so gifted, Liz! This cake looks amazing… I would love to just sink my teeth into it.

  37. Oh, you are too sweet, Kate. Thank you!

  38. I have that magazine and saw the recipe. You did a fantastic job with the cake. I love your frosting application. Wow. After having done the ribbon torte, I’m staying away from anything so deeply chocolate for a while. Enjoy a piece for me.

  39. I just came across your blog and noticed you baked this cake the same day I did – which was my birthday. We loved it too – it’s definitely for serious chocolate lovers! πŸ™‚

  40. Lizzy, first time dropping by and see this beautiful cocoa cake! The cake is so moist and I love the thick chocolate frosting on it!

  41. Thank you, all!!!

    Welcome, Melissa and Ah Tze!!!

  42. Such a lovely blog you have…..Mindblowing collection of revipes….

  43. Such a lovely blog you have…..Mindblowing collection of recipes….

  44. This sounds like a chocolate lover’s dream come true and I love the way you swirled the top!Β 

  45. Beautiful swirls on top, and the cake looks seriously rich and definitely a perfect cake for any chocolate fan.

  46. The chocoholic in my life is ME! This is a perfectly beautiful layer cake and I’m just drooling looking at each one of those layers with that frosting. I can’t wait to make it. Anything baked with buttermilk is guaranteed to be moist and yummy!

  47. This is one of the best chocolate cake’s that I’ve ever tasted! Thanks for the great recipe!

  48. The swirled icing finished the cake off beautifully. I’m not surprised some of those boys went for a second slice. You must be very popular with the lads! I hope your son hasn’t moved too far away – I’m sure he wouldn’t want to be too far from your cooking! xx

  49. You definitely have some lucky men in your life!! I would LOVE a slice (or two) of this. Chocoholics, raise your hand!

  50. Let me slide my pinky finger in that rich deep Chocolate so I can taste the icing on the cake. Oh how that looks so temptingly good! πŸ™‚

  51. Chocolaty goodness!! I’ll never pass up a slice of this.

  52. I love chocolate layer cakes. Ihave my standard recipe that everyone loves but it sure would be nice to try something new! I think this could be it!

  53. The best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten. I doubled the cocoa powder and vanilla, but wow!

  54. Dear Liz, this must be one of the most elegant, delicious, perfect looking chocolate (cocoa) cakes I have ever laid my eyes on…goodness it looks fabulous!

  55. This dessert looks amazing! Every chocolate lover’s dream!

  56. This looks absolutely perfect!!! You should start a dessert business out of your house!!

  57. This is a dream come true for every chocolate lover!!

  58. Be still my heart! Triple chocolate has never looked better! πŸ™‚

  59. that piece of cake looks so perfect from every edge so delicious recipe and i see chocolate in every layer πŸ™‚

  60. Best cocoa cake recipe!!! I have probably used it 15 times. You don’t need espresso if you do not have it, I never add it and it’s still so good!! Thanks for sharing …

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