This Triple Chocolate Layer Cake is so moist, fudgy, and packed with chocolate flavor. Ganache is used in between the layers and the whole cake gets covered in a silky chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream. It's SO decadent and is the best cake to celebrate the birthday of a chocolate lover.
Looking for the BEST chocolate cake? This Triple Chocolate Layer Cake is it. Four layers of chocolate cake filled with a creamy chocolate ganache and covered in the most luxurious chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream.
This cake is better than box mix, made totally from scratch, and is so incredibly decadent. Rather than using a super sweet American buttercream, this Swiss meringue buttercream is only lightly sweet which compliments the chocolate in the cake and the ganache layers perfectly.
Top the cake with these fun (and super easy) chocolate curls for the most festive version. This cake is perfect for any birthday celebration, or for any reason, really!
For more chocolate cake recipes, try:
- Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Terry's Chocolate Orange Cake
- Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream
- Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake
- Black Velvet Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Want the chocolate cake in cupcake form? Follow the instructions for my Double Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes and sub out the strawberry frosting for the chocolate frosting in this recipe!
Ingredients & Tools Notes
For this Triple Chocolate Layer Cake recipe, you'll need chocolate in three forms: for the cake, ganache, and frosting. Be sure all butter, dairy, and eggs are at a true room temperature before using. Unsure what room temperature butter means? Check out my Butter 101 post.
- Dry ingredients. All-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, kosher salt.
- Cocoa powder. This recipe uses dutch-processed cocoa powder. In most grocery stores, this will be the Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa, but I like to use Rodelle and order online.
- Large eggs. You'll need full eggs, some yolks, and some whites. The whites will be used for the frosting. You'll need 6 eggs in total.
- Unsalted butter. Four sticks total (452g) are needed between the cake and should be at room temperature.
- Vegetable or canola oil. The oil is necessary to offset the cocoa powder, as it's a particularly drying ingredient. The oil keeps the cake moist!
- Dairy. Rather than using buttermilk, this cake uses both sour cream and whole milk. Greek yogurt can also be used in place of sour cream.
- Coffee or water. This needs to be simmering hot from a stove (tap water won't be hot enough). The coffee helps with depth of flavor, but water can be used instead. The hot liquid also helps to bloom the cocoa powder, enhance the flavor, and get it evenly distributed in the batter.
- Semi-sweet chocolate (60-70% cacao). It's best to use chocolate bars and chop them up as they melt best this way. Semi-sweet chocolate chips can be used in a pinch.
- Heavy whipping cream. For the ganache - this cannot be substituted.
- Granulated sugar. For both the cake and the buttercream.
- Stand mixer with whisk and paddle attachment. A handheld mixer can also be used, if necessary.
- Offset spatula
- Piping bag. For decorations (optional)
- Bench scraper. For chocolate curls (optional)
How to Make the Chocolate Cake
Before beginning, be sure all ingredients are at room temperature. This includes the butter, eggs, sour cream and milk.
Because this cake includes quite a few ingredients, I like to measure everything out before hand to be sure I'm not missing any ingredients as I go along.
STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 350℉/177℃. Grease and parchment line two 8-inch round cake pans and set aside. I like to use pre-cut parchment rounds, but you can also follow this parchment tip to line the bottom of your cake pans.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt).
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks, oil, butter, greek yogurt, milk and vanilla until smooth, then add to the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated.
Next, add in about ⅓ of the hot coffee and quickly stir to temper the mixture. Add in the remaining coffee and mix until fully combined, careful not to slosh it over the sides. It's a very loose batter.
STEP 2: Divide the batter evenly between the two pans (I like to use a digital kitchen scale for this) and bake on the middle rack for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the sides are starting to pull away from the pan.
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans, take off the parchment layer, and finish cooling on the racks. When cool, wrap each cake layer in plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge for about an hour while you work on the next steps.
Don't skip the fridge time! This helps the layers to firm up, which will make frosting and assembling the cake much easier.
Chocolate Ganache Layer
STEP 3: Begin by chopping the chocolate and placing in a heatproof bowl. Heat the heavy whipping cream in a small saucepan until it's just about to simmer, then pour over the chopped chocolate.
Allow it to sit for about one minute, then use a mini rubber spatula or spoon and mix, stirring from the center and slowly move outwards until the mixture is totally combined.
Keep the ganache at room temperature as the cake chills in the fridge and allow it to cool off and thicken up. Once it's at a spreadable consistency (think creamy peanut butter), it's ready to use.
If you need to speed up the thickening process, pop it in the fridge or freezer and stir it every 5 minutes until it becomes the correct consistency.
Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
This buttercream is the most luscious buttercream you'll ever eat! It's far less sweet than a traditional American buttercream and compliments the cake perfectly.
STEP 3: Start by chopping and melting the chocolate. I do this in 20-second bursts in the microwave and stir in between each until it's smooth. You can also do this in a double boiler.
Once melted, stir the mixture occasionally to help it cool.
From Meringue to Buttercream
STEP 4: Next, prepare a double boiler for the meringue. Add about 1 inch of water to a saucepan and place a heatproof bowl over top. Be sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.
Separate the eggs and take care not to get any yolks in the whites. Then, add the whites, sugar, and salt to the bowl. Whisk, and turn to medium heat. Continue whisking occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the mixture becomes slightly foamy and warm to the touch.
To test if the sugar is dissolved, rub your fingers together in the mixture. If you can still feel sugar granules, keep heating and whisking until you can no longer feel the granules.
STEP 5: Transfer the egg white mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix on high speed until the meringue reaches stiff peaks and a ball of meringue holds in the center of the whisk.
Be sure the bowl is no longer warm to the touch before adding the butter. If stiff peaks have formed but the bowl is still warm, allow it to sit until it cools off.
STEP 6: Once the bowl is cool, switch to the paddle attachment, turn the mixer on medium and add the room temperature butter two tablespoons at a time. Wait to add the next bit until the previous addition is incorporated.
Note that after about half of the butter has been added that the mixture will look thin and potentially curdled. This is normal! Continue adding the butter until it's gone and then let the mixer run until it starts to thicken and look smooth. About a minute.
At this point, a swipe through the mixture with your finger will show a fluffy, creamy frosting.
STEP 7: With the mixer on low, add in the cooled and melted chocolate and mix until combined.
STEP 8: Remove the cake layers from the fridge and using a serrated knife, cut any dome off of the top so the cake becomes flat. Then, cut each cake round evenly in half so you have 4 layers.
Score an edge around the outside to make sure it's even, then begin pulling the knife towards yourself and the center, moving the cake in a circular motion.
Add a small dollop of buttercream to a cake stand or whatever you plan to serve the cake on and add the first cake layer. This helps the cake from moving around.
STEP 9: Add a large dollop (~⅓ cup) of ganache to the first layer and spread evenly to meet the sides. Add the next layer and repeat until all 4 cake layers are assembled and stacked.
Add the remaining ganache (be sure to scrape out every last bit, there's just enough to cover the entire cake) and fully cover the top and sides with a very thin layer.
Transfer the cake to the fridge to chill for 15-30 minutes or until the ganache has hardened and sealed the cake.
Cut 3-4 rectangular pieces of wax or parchment paper and slide it under the cake on all sides. You will remove these when you’re done icing the cake - this helps to keep a clean presentation surface.
STEP 10: Cover the cake completely with the chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream. I like to add a few large dollops to the top, and work it down the sides. Then, smooth it out with the offset spatula (or a cake scraper).
If you have a turn table, you can replicate this design by holding the tip of the offset spatula at the bottom of the cake and slowly move upwards as the table turns. For the top, start from the center and slowly move the spatula outwards as the table turns.
STEP 11: Using a piping bag with a piping tip (I used a Wilton 1M), pipe swirls onto the top. This step is optional, but makes for a nice presentation.
Making the Chocolate Curls
STEP 12: To make the chocolate curls, melt together ½ cup chocolate and 1 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil. Spread evenly into a very thin layer on the bottom of a clean cookie sheet and place into the freezer until solid.
Remove from the freezer and let stand for about 2 minutes, the use a bench scraper at a 45 degree angle to push from the bottom to the top to create the curls.
If the chocolate isn't curling and just making shards, it may still be too cold, so give it another minute and try again. If it becomes too soft and just folds, return to the freezer for a few minutes.
You'll get the hang of it after a few rounds! Watch me make the curls.
Storing and Freezing
Store the cake at room temperature for two days, only covering the cut and exposed cake pieces with plastic wrap.
After two days, move the cake to the fridge and keep for one week total. Allow the slices of cake to come to room temperature before eating.
To freeze, flash freeze sliced pieces on a baking sheet with parchment paper, then wrap completely in plastic wrap and transfer to a ziptop bag. Store the slices for up to two months. Unwrap completely and thaw at room temperature before enjoying.
If you have any leftover buttercream, it stores at room temperature for two days and in the fridge for a week. After being in the fridge, you’ll have to bring it back to room temperature and whip it again for a minute or two.
It can also be frozen and stored in an airtight container for 3 months. Transfer it to the fridge to defrost, and whip to make airy and light again.
FAQs & Tips
I would highly suggest making these One Yolk Chocolate Chip Cookies by Buttermilk. Rave reviews and absolutely delicious.
The best way to get a moist cake is to include fat and sugar. Sugar is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs and holds liquid. The more sugar, the more moist your cake will be!
For chocolate cakes specifically, you'll need extra fats such as canola or vegetable oil to counteract the drying capabilities of the cocoa powder.
I also use additional egg yolks in this specific cake, which helps with moisture and a fudgier texture.
Searching for more chocolate recipes?
- Double Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes
- Chocolate Snack Cake (with Salted Caramel Frosting)
- Double Chocolate Banana Muffins
- Chocolate Espresso Tart
- Chocolate Chai Snickerdoodles
- Caramel Brownie Pie
Pin for Later
Triple Chocolate Layer Cake
- Two 8-inch cake pans
- Stand mixer with whisk and paddle attachment (or handheld mixer)
- Piping bag and tips (optional)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour 240g
- 2 cups granulated sugar 400g
- ¾ cup dutch-processed cocoa powder 75g
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks room temperature
- ½ cup vegetable oil 3 fl oz
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted (113g)
- ¾ cup sour cream (full fat) room temperature (60g)
- ¼ cup whole milk room temperature (60ml)
- 1 cup very hot coffee or water 8 fl oz
- 1½ cups heavy whipping cream 360ml
- 12 oz bittersweet chocolate
Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- ¾ cup granulated sugar 150g
- 4 large egg whites
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ cups unsalted butter room temperature (339g)
- 10 oz bittersweet chocolate chopped, melted & cooled
Chocolate Curls (optional)
- ½ cup semi sweet chocolate
- 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
- Preheat the oven to 350℉/177℃. Grease and parchment line two 8-inch round cake pans and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks, oil, butter, sour cream and milk until smooth, then add to the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated.
- Next, add in about ⅓ of the hot coffee and quickly stir to temper the mixture. Add in the remaining coffee and mix until fully combined, careful not to over mix (or slosh it over the sides).
- Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake on the middle rack for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans, take off the parchment layer, and finish cooling on the racks.
- Once cool, wrap each cake layer in plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge for an hour. This will firm up your cake which will help when it’s time to frost and assemble!
- While the cake is cooling, chop the chocolate and place it in a bowl.
- Add the heavy cream to a saucepan and bring to a simmer, then pour over the chocolate. Allow it to sit for about one minute, then stir constantly from the center until the mixture is totally incorporated.
- Set it aside to cool and thicken. You'll want it to reach a spreadable consistency to go in between the cake layers and fully cover the cake.
Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Chop the chocolate and melt (either in a double boiler or in the microwave - carefully) and set aside to cool.
- Add the egg whites, sugar, and salt to a bowl over a double boiler on medium high heat, whisking constantly until the sugar is dissolved, warm to the touch, and slightly foamy. You can check that the sugar is dissolved by rubbing your fingers together. If you can still feel the sugar granules, keep whisking and heating.
- Transfer the egg and sugar mixture to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip the whites on high speed until it reaches stiff peaks. A large ball of meringue will form in the center of the whisk and the peak will stand up on the end.
- Once you’ve reached stiff peaks, switch to the paddle attachment and on medium speed, add 2 tablespoons of the softened butter at a time, waiting until fully incorporated before adding the next 2 tablespoons.
- Continue this process 2 tablespoons at a time until all of the butter is used. It may look curdled around the halfway point, but just keep whipping and it will come together. After all the butter is incorporated, add the cooled, melted chocolate and mix on low until combined.
- Cut off the top mounded layer of the cake (and freeze for snacks), then cut each cake evenly in half using a serrated knife. When you’re done, you’ll have 4 even discs of cake.
- Put a quarter sized dollop of ganache onto the base of the cake stand, plate, or whatever you plan to serve it on, then add your first cake layer.
- Add a large dollop of ganache on top of the first cake layer and spread evenly the whole way to the edges. Add the next cake layer, and repeat the steps. Once the top layer has been added, use the remaining ganache to entirely cover the cake with a thin layer. This is the crumb coat and will help to prevent any crumbs getting into the Swiss meringue buttercream.
- Transfer the cake to the fridge for 15-30 minutes so the ganache can harden up prior to adding the buttercream.
- Remove the cake from the fridge and add a few large dollops of buttercream to the top of the cake. Working from the middle, gently push the buttercream to the edges, then down the sides of the cake and cover all layers. You will need to continue adding buttercream until it is completely covered and you can’t see any of the chocolate ganache through the layers.
- Smooth it out using an offset spatula or cake scraper, then use the excess buttercream to pipe decorative swirls, if you’d like.
- Melt together the chocolate oil in 20 second increments in the microwave, stirring between each.
- Spread evenly into a very thin layer on the bottom of a clean cookie sheet and place into the freezer until solid.
- Remove from the freezer and let stand for about 2 minutes, the use a bench scraper at a 45 degree angle to push from the bottom to the top to create the curls.
- If the chocolate isn't curling and just making shards, it may still be too cold, so give it another minute and try again. If it becomes too soft and just folds, return to the freezer for a few minutes.