Three Layer Chocolate Cake With Frosting

It’s been a while since I posted a three layer chocolate cake recipe, but I promise you this one will make up for lost time. It’s our new favorite.

Three Layer Chocolate Cake

At first I wasn’t sure this cake would be worth the time given the array of ingredients (two kinds of flour, both chocolate and cocoa) and the fact I’m always very happy with the old Black Magic Cake or Hershey’s Perfect Chocolate Cake, but it exceeded my expectations in a big way. It’s tall in stature but only 8 inches round so it’s not huge, and it’s quite rich and moist. The key is to use Dutch process cocoa. I got a good deal on Rodelle Dutch this season and used some of that, but I think it would also be good with Hershey’s Dark. The frosting, however, is best with natural style cocoa. I’ve tried it with Dutch and never liked the flavor as much as when made with natural cocoa powder.

Let me know what you think! And I hope you like the photo. If you’re wondering who that little beaver is, it’s Buc-ee. He’s the mascot for a popular chain of roadside stores here in Texas. He obviously approves of this cake.

Update:  I made this cake again using two 9 inch pans.  The cake did not rise very much and since I used wider pans, it wasn’t as tall.  We love the flavor of this cake, but it you want a taller cake, you might want to consider a different Chocolate Cake.  The one one the link is also excellent and more statuesque.  This one is still VERY good — just not super tall when made as 2 9-inch layers.  It’s better made as a 3 layer 8 inch cake.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Three Layer Chocolate Cake With Frosting
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A super moist three layer chocolate cake with an easy and good frosting.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped -- any brand is fine
  • 1/4 cup Hershey’s Dark or Dutch Process Cocoa such as Rodelle
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (3.8 oz) -- weigh it if you can
  • 3/4 cup cake flour (3 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature (2 sticks)
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz) packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature and lightly beaten in a separate bowl
  • 1/2 cup sour cream at room temperature
Favorite Chocolate Frosting
  • 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, sift or aerate before using (about 9 oz)
  • 3/4 cup natural style cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons of heavy cream plus more as needed (or use a combination of cream and whole milk)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 8 inch round pans. If desired, line bottoms with rounds of parchment.
  2. In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Turn off heat and stir in chocolate, cocoa powder and instant coffee. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, sift together both flours, baking soda and salt.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat on medium high for about 3 minutes, scraping sides of bowl often. Reduce mixer speed to medium low and add the eggs slowly – a few tablespoons at a time. Beat just until incorporated, then beat in the sour cream.
  5. With mixer still on low, add the flour mixture and the chocolate mixture alternately, ending with the flour. Scrape sides of the bowl again and mix well but do not overbeat. Divide batter among the three pans and bake for about 23 minutes or until cakes spring back when touched. You may need to shuffle the cakes around in the oven halfway through so they’ll bake evenly.
  6. Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then invert and let cool completely before frosting.
  7. Frosting: To make the frosting, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until well mixed, then add the cocoa powder and beat until mixed – it should look crumbly and pasty. Add the sour cream and salt and beat well, then gradually add the cream, scraping sides of the bowl, until frosting starts looking smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust sugar and cream as needed.
**It's always best to weigh brown sugar since the amount varies depending on how you pack it. The weight should be 12 ounces of whatever type brown sugar you use. -- This was adapted from a 13 year old Cook's Illustrated recipe (March/April 2000). I changed the procedure a bit, increased the salt slightly and added coffee powder to enhance the chocolate flavor. You can leave the coffee out if you need to. For the cocoa powder, I recommend Rodelle or whatever good quality you can find. However, I used a pretty cheap brand of unsweetened chocolate and still got great results. For the frosting, Hershey's Natural (the usual kind as opposed to the "Dark") works perfectly.

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  1. d says

    You would think that after all the sugar I have eaten the last month, that looking at sweets would be sickening, but I can’t wait to make this!!! It looks and sounds amazing.

  2. says

    Hmm I’m intrigued because the black magic cake is also my go-to. Can you give some more detail about how the taste/texture of this one differs and in your opinion is superior? I may just give this a go.

  3. says

    I guess the best way I can describe it is a bit more fine crumbed, right crumbled and delicate than Black Magic. Hope that helps!

  4. katherine says

    My go to is Chocolate Butter Cake. It’s my favorite, along with anyone I serve it! I’m anxious to try this in comparison.

  5. says

    This looks like my perfect recipe (coffee, cocoa+chocolate, oil, butter). Curious where the recipe comes from…or is it a CM original? Happy New Year, Anna!

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