Chocolate lovers, rejoice! This is not your average chocolate cake recipe. This Chocolate Fudge Cake is moist, chocolate, fudgy perfection! After making this recipe, you won’t want any other chocolate cake recipe ever again– it even comes with its own easy chocolate frosting recipe!
What’s in this Chocolate Layer Cake?
This chocolate fudge cake is full of rich chocolate flavor and topped with creamy buttermilk chocolate frosting. It uses simple ingredients and is a great recipe for even first-time bakers.
- All-Purpose Flour: Forms the base of our cake. Measure using the spoon-and-level method to avoid a dense, dry cake.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar sweetens the cake, while powdered sugar sweetens the frosting without making it gritty.
- Cocoa Powder: Gives the cake and frosting rich chocolate flavor. Make sure to use unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Leavening: Bakins powder and baking soda combine to make this cake extra light and fluffy.
- Kosher Salt: Enhances the rich chocolate flavor.
- Buttermilk: Adds moisture and a bit of tanginess to the cake. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own by measuring out 1¾ cups milk, removing 1¾ tablespoons, and adding 1¾ tablespoons of white vinegar or lemon juice. Stir well and let stand for 5 minutes before using.
- Vegetable Oil: Adds moisture and keeps the cake from drying out. In place of the vegetable oil, you can use canola oil or melted coconut oil.
- Eggs: Give the cake structure.
- Vanilla Extract: Enhances the chocolatey flavor of the cake and the frosting.
- Water: Adding hot water to the cake helps to bloom the cocoa powder, enhancing its chocolatey flavor.
- Unsalted Butter: Forms the base of our creamy frosting.
- Milk: Thins the frosting to the correct consistency. You can use plant-based milk if you prefer.
Pro Tip: Make sure to sift the flour and cocoa powder to remove any lumps. This will lead to a smoother batter.
Variations on Triple Layer Chocolate Cake
For a gluten-free chocolate fudge cake, swap the all-purpose flour for an equal amount of gluten-free 1:1 baking flour.
Try adding some chocolate chips to the cake batter to make this cake even more chocolatey, or switch things up and try frosting this cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting for extra tanginess.
While you can use any unsweetened cocoa powder you prefer, I like to use natural cocoa powder here because the baking soda helps to neutralize the acidity of natural cocoa powder, letting its rich flavor shine.
Stirring cake batter with hot or boiling water helps to “bloom” the cocoa, releasing its intense flavor and thickening the liquid.
It can be tough to tell when a chocolate cake is done baking by sight alone. Poke a toothpick into the center of each cake layer. If the toothpick comes out dry, the cake is baked.
If the toothpick is wet with batter, the layers will need a few more minutes to bake through.
A dry cake can be caused by 2 things. You may have measured the ingredients incorrectly, or you might have overmixed the batter. It’s important to scoop and level your ingredients if you’re not using a scale, and it’s important to have a light hand when mixing the batter.
With a chocolate cake, there is also the risk that you’ve overbaked the cake because it’s hard to tell when the cake begins to brown, so be sure to toothpick test the cake often towards the end of the bake.
Let the cake layers chill for at least 2 hours. If they’re still warm when you assemble the cake, the frosting will melt and the whole thing will pretty much fall apart.
How to Make Ahead and Store
The chocolate cake layers can be baked up to 1 day in advance and stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator until ready to frost.
The chocolate frosting can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container or Ziplock bag in the refrigerator until ready to use. Bring to room temperature before using.
Store leftover chocolate fudge cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Serve at room temperature.
How to Freeze
Freeze chocolate fudge cake whole or in individual slices tightly wrapped in 2 layers of plastic wrap and 1 layer of aluminum foil for up to 1 month. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before enjoying.
Serve this rich chocolate cake with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Drizzle it with some hot fudge sauce, caramel sauce, or colorful sprinkles to really set it off. Instead of the chocolate candies (pictured), I sometimes like to top my cake with amaretto truffles or chocolate covered Oreos.
Chocolate Fudge Cake Recipe
For the Cake
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour 350 grams, sifted
- 2½ cups granulated sugar 500 grams
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 100 grams, sifted
- 2½ teaspoons baking soda 15 grams
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder 6 grams
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt 3 grams
- 1¾ cups buttermilk 397 grams, room temperature (see note)
- ¾ cup vegetable oil 150 grams
- 3 large eggs 150 gramsroom temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 12 grams
- 1 cup water 227 grams, hot (180-200°F)
For the Frosting
- 1 cup unsalted butter 227 grams (2 sticks)
- 1½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder 150 grams
- 6 cups powdered sugar 720 grams
- ⅔ cup milk 151 grams
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 12 grams
For the Cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray and line the inside bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, stir the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together until well combined. Set aside for now.2½ cups all-purpose flour, 2½ cups granulated sugar, 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 2½ teaspoons baking soda, 1½ teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, lightly beat the buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract together. Beat until mixed well, about 30 seconds.1¾ cups buttermilk, ¾ cup vegetable oil, 3 large eggs, 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- On low speed, beat the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined. Do not overmix. Just beat lightly until all the dry ingredients are mixed in. Use a spatula to make sure you’ve mixed in any dry ingredients that settled in the bottom of the bowl.
- Using a spatula, stir in the hot water. Do not use the beater for this step. Gently stir in the water until it is well mixed. This cake batter will be very runny, and that’s okay.1 cup water
- Divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared cake pans (about 636 grams per pan). Try to get the same amount in each pan so that they bake at the same speed and bake up the same size (height).
- Bake in the preheated oven for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.
- Remove cakes from oven and let cakes cool in pans for 15 minutes before removing cakes from pans then placing on wire racks to finish cooling. These are very moist cakes so be careful not to break them when removing them from the pans.
- Cover cakes completely (each layer wrapped separately) in food-safe plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. This step is important because you’ll want the cakes to be firm before frosting. If they are too soft when you start frosting, the cakes may crumble and break apart.
For the Frosting
- While the cakes chill, make the frosting: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.1 cup unsalted butter
- Add in the cocoa powder and stir until smooth.1½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
- Remove from heat and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Let the mixture cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
- Beat in the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until smooth, about 3 minutes.6 cups powdered sugar, ⅔ cup milk, 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- After removing the cake layers from the refrigerator (before frosting), use a large serrated knife to cut the dome tops off of the cakes so they all have a flat top.
- Place a thin layer of frosting (about 2 tablespoons) in the middle of a cake board or cake plate then place one cake (cut side facing up) on top of that frosting. This is meant to secure the cake to the cake board or cake plate.
- Add a generous layer of frosting on top of that first layer then place the second layer (cut side facing up) on top of the first layer.
- Add a generous layer of frosting on top of that second layer then place the third layer (bottom side facing up) on top of the second layer.
- Frost a thin layer of frosting around the top and sides of cake. This first thin layer of frosting (called a crumb coat) is meant to secure all the crumbs to the cake. It helps to prevent crumbs from getting into the final layer of the cake. To get the layers of frosting smooth, use a tool like a cake scraper (smooth side) to smooth the icing out.
- Place the lightly frosted (crumb coated) cake in the freezer for 10 minutes so the crumb coat hardens up a bit before frosting the next layer.
- Remove cake from freezer and apply the second layer of frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Spread this layer as smoothly as you can using the cake scraper tool.
- Use a decorative side of the cake scraper tool to add lines to the icing on the sides of the cake.
- Using an icing bag and a Wilton 1M tip, add frosting swirls to the top edge of the cake, if desired.
- Buttermilk: If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own by measuring out 1¾ cups milk, removing 1¾ tablespoons, and adding 1¾ tablespoons of white vinegar or lemon juice. Stir well and let stand for 5 minutes before using.
- For a gluten-free chocolate fudge cake, swap the all-purpose flour for an equal amount of gluten-free 1:1 baking flour.
- You can use any cocoa powder you like in this cake.
- In place of the vegetable oil, you can use canola oil or melted coconut oil.
- In place of the milk in the frosting, you can use plant-based milk.
- Measure your dry ingredients using the spoon-and-level method to avoid adding too much flour.
- Make sure to sift the flour and cocoa powder to remove any lumps. This will lead to a smoother batter.
- Do not overmix the cake batter; otherwise, you will end up with dry, tough cakes.
- Do not frost warm cakes. The frosting will melt off!