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Ina Garten Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe is simply The Best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. It’s richly chocolate and moist with a creamy, fudgy frosting. 

This is the only chocolate cake recipe you’ll ever need. It’s great for any occasion or no celebration at all. Use it to make a layer cake, cupcakes, or sheet cake.

So….. you may be tempted to skip straight to the recipe. (I understand and I do the same thing.) I want to encourage you to read the post because I included a lot of tips and info for a successful bake.

Chocolate Layer Cake


Let me start by saying I don’t normally like chocolate cake. HOWEVER, I love this chocolate cake. It is by far, hands down The Best Chocolate Layer Cake I’ve ever had. Now, having said that, I’m obsessed with my Sour Cream Dark Chocolate Pound Cake. But, a pound cake and a layer cake are very different and these two recipes are the best of the best in their category. Promise!

In my opinion, chocolate cake is usually dry and bland. However, this Chocolate Layer Cake has a rich chocolate flavor and is super moist. The layers are tender and light while still having an intense chocolate flavor. 

I’m going to teach you how to make this perfect cake and all you have to do is read through the recipe and notes before you start. As well, follow each step and tip as close as you can. I really really really want you to make this cake successfully and love it as much as I do.

 Chocolate Layer Cake


  • Unsweetened cocoa powder. This is the most common cocoa powder, Hershey’s Naturally Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, and probably what you already use. Do not use Dutched Cocoa. It is processed differently and will react differently than unsweetened natural cocoa powder. (Dutched cocoa is what is used to get that distinct chocolate flavor in Oreos and my wildly popular Dark Chocolate Brown Sugar Cookies.)
  • All-purpose flour. Do not use cake flour it’s too fine for this cake. All-purpose flour provides the structure needed.
  • Baking powder and baking soda. I used both to leaven the cake.
  • Espresso powder. Espresso powder is magical when combined with chocolate. It makes chocolate better but you won’t be able to taste the espresso. Your cake will not taste like coffee.
  • Salt. I typically use salt in most chocolate recipes. It balances the flavor.


  • Oil. This cake needs oil. Use vegetable oil or canola oil. I do not recommend using butter in this recipe. However, if that’s all you have use melted butter or melted coconut oil. These two products change the texture slightly.
  • Buttermilk. Buttermilk adds a slight tang and tenderizes gluten. Using buttermilk in cakes makes them have a soft texture. In a pinch, you can make your own buttermilk. Add 2 teaspoons of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough room temperature whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1 cup. I don’t recommend low-fat milk for this recipe. Non-dairy milk is not as good but you can use almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, or oat milk.
  • Eggs. I used three large eggs at room temperature. 
  • Pure vanilla extract. I’m going to write that again, pure vanilla extract. Pure vanilla, NOT imitation vanilla, tastes so much better. 
  • Hot coffee. If you don’t have coffee you can use hot water, but coffee adds another layer of flavor. Therefore, I recommend hot coffee. As well, you can use decaf coffee.
chocolate dessert


For cakes, I always use my KitchenAid mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. (Yes, that’s whisk not the paddle.) However, you can totally whisk this cake hand if you prefer. (Full, printable recipe below.)

  1. Of course, turn your oven to 350°F first and prep your pans. I use parchment paper as well as solid vegetable shortening.
  2. Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder to the bowl of your stand mixer.
  3. Now, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. That’s the buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla, and hot coffee. Mix on medium speed until well combined, about 2 minutes.
  4. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom. Mix again until combined about 20 to 30 seconds. Don’t over mix.
  5. You’ll have 6 cups of batter. Divide them equally between your cake pans. (Keep reading for cooking times for different sizes.)
  6. Cool the cake completely in the pans on a wire rack. There’s less likely chance of the cakes cracking or breaking when you cool them completely in the pans. If you lined the pans with both shortening and parchment paper you shouldn’t have trouble getting them out even though they are cool.


All your cold ingredients need to be at room temperature. 

Remember the quality of your ingredients directly affects the taste of your cake. If you use imitation and generic baking products it can effect the taste and texture of your cake, cookies, or pies. Generic products are generally made with cheaper ingredients and fillers. Read the ingredients, compare the ingredients. 

This batter is thin.

For this tender cake, I use parchment paper as well as solid vegetable shortening. Grease the pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the paper. 

I have had success using 1 to 1 gluten-free flour in this recipe.

I wrote this detailed post on How to Make the Chocolate Pocky Heart Decorations shown in the photos.

slice of chocolate cake with hearts


  1. If you use two 8 or 9-inch pans the cooking time is 23 to 27 minutes.
  2. If you use three 8 or 9-inch pans the cooking time is 22 to 26 minutes
  3. You can make this in a 9×13-inch cake pan. It’ll take 35 to 40 minutes to bake.
  4. I don’t recommend this recipe in a bundt pan. For a bundt, I recommend my Dark Chocolate Pound Cake.
  5. For cupcakes, I bake at 325°F for 20 minutes.


Click the title or photo for the recipe

And in other news, you may enjoy these recipes.

  1. Crock Pot Crack Chicken
  2. Easy Strawberry Cake
  3. Ground Beef Mongolian Noodles
  4. Captain Rodney’s Dip
  5. Whipping Cream Pound Cake
  6. Lemon Cobbler
  7. Coconut Cream Cheese Pound Cake
  8. You can also find great recipes at Recipe Index
Ina Garten Chocolate Layer Cake


This is the best-tasting, moistest, and most tender chocolate cake I've ever had.
Author: Paula
5 from 8 votes
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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 16 servings
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  • 1 and ¾ cups all-purpose flour sifted then measured, spoon & level
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 and ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
  • 1 cup coffee hot


  • 2 cups unsalted butter softened
  • 3 and ½ cups confectioners' sugar sifted
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or whole milk or half & half, room temp
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract



  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8 or 9-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper.


  • Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder to the bowl of your stand mixer.
  • Add the wet ingredients (buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla, and hot coffee) to the dry ingredients. Mix on medium speed until well combined, about 2 minutes.
  • Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom. Mix again until combined about 20 to 30 seconds. Don't over mix.
  • Divide them equally between your cake pans.
  • Bake for 23-26 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on it. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Even when they're done, the center may sink slightly.
  • Cool the cake completely in the pans on a wire rack.


  • Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, 3 Tablespoons heavy cream, salt, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds or until creamy and smooth.


  • If the cake layers are domed on top, use a large serrated knife to slice a thin layer off the tops to create a flat surface.
  • Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and spread remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Repeat if you have another layer.
  • Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour before slicing it. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Add ¼ cup more confectioners’ sugar or cocoa powder if frosting is too thin or more cream if it’s too thick.


Calories: 498kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 103mg | Sodium: 73mg | Potassium: 195mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 49g | Vitamin A: 840IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 2mg
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Recipe adabted from Ina Garten.


  1. 5 stars
    Currently have dark chocolate cocoa powder. Will it dramatically change the flavor/texture of this cake?


  2. Hi Paula,
    I’m going to be using this recipe for a triple layer German chocolate cake. I was wondering what size pans you used and if you had to double the recipe. I have 9” pans and I am debating whether to follow the recipe and have thinner layers or if I need to double or 1 1/2 the recipe to get enough batter for three layers. Would love your thoughts.

    1. It’s enough for three 8 or 9 inch pans. I used 6-inch pans. My layers are really thicker than I like but I wanted a skinny, tall cake. You could double it for thicker 9-inch cake pans. There’s a toggle button in the recipe card to help you make these changes.

  3. I want to make this cake in 9 inch pans with three layers. How do I increase the ingredients

    1. If you want 3 thick layers, you can double the recipe, doulbe each ingredient or you can adjust the servings in the recipe card. Then the cooking times are in the recipe post for different size pans.

  4. 5 stars
    This sounds so decadent and delicious! And I love the hearts as decoration. Would be perfect for Valentines.

5 from 8 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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