Chocolate Layer Cake

Total Time:
1 hr 10 min
20 min
50 min
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 3 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups hot coffee
  • Frosting:
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 cup cooled coffee
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 cups confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Cut 3 circles of waxed paper or parchment paper to fit the bottoms of the pans, then press them in.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and eggs and mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, cocoa, baking soda and salt and mix. Add 1/2 of the flour, then 1/2 of the sour cream and mix. Repeat with the remaining flour and sour cream. Drizzle in the hot coffee and mix until smooth. The batter will be thin. Pour into the prepared pans and bake until the tops are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (a few crumbs are okay), about 35 minutes. Halfway through the baking, quickly rotate the pans in the oven to ensure even baking, but otherwise try not to open the oven. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks and let cool completely before frosting.

Frosting: In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Drizzle in the melted chocolate and mix. Add the coffee and vanilla and mix. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Mix until well blended and fluffy. To frost the cake, use a spatula to cover 2 of the cake layers with frosting. Stack them together. Flip the third cake layer over and rest it on the top to create a very flat top for the cake. Frost on the sides and top. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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    56 Reviews
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    Question about traveling with this cake: I want to make this for my DIL's birthday and will be going to their home out of state. I'm wondering if I should make the cake & the frosting but wait until I get there to assemble it. Any thoughts?
    One word: amazing. Made the recipe as is.
    This is perfect - exactly as written . Follow the directions and it will be fabulous.
    Wow! This is a tasty, moist, and perfect texture. I added about 1 tbls of roasted Saigon cinnamon to the coffee while brewing, lent it a nice subtle cinnamon taste to the cake. This is my always chocolate cake recipe. I made the frosting this morning and had a cupcake with the frosting...Oh My Oh My!!!!! Thank You!
    tasty batter, the recipe did not specify that it is THREE layers, and I over-filled the pans and it overflowed all through my oven. they should say that you need THREE pans up front and not way down in the bottom of the icing directions!
    The recipe clearly states to butter and flour 3 (9inch) cake pans in the top of the directions - the second sentence in. It is unfair to give this five star recipe only two stars because you didn't read the directions correctly.
    Its also a layer cake so its implied  
    I have tried this cake for my brothers 9th birthday because he loves chocolate and coffee !!! So far it is in the process of baking but the batter is delish and the consistancy is amazing! the batter seems to have turned out perfectly. Responding to other reviewers who asked if it was too much coffee, it wasnt. just enough to taste it and to enhance the chocolate flavor!!! Loved It
    I made this cake yesterday for a Kwanzaa celebration and everyone loved it!! The cake was super moist and sliced well. I substituted a buttercream frosting. I will be making this cake again.
    This is definitely a keeper! First time making this cake and it turned out GREAT!!! I will make this again and again. Very moist cake, just the right amount of frosting. It does take some work to do only because its like making a cake and a half worth of batter.
    Made this yesterday for my hubby's birthday. It was so moist and delicious ... everyone at the party wanted the recipe. All were shocked that it was so moist. What a HIT!
    This is the best chocolate cake recipe I've ever made. Absolutely delicious! The addition of the coffee makes this cake amazingly chocolaty. I bake occasionally and this recipe was easy to follow. I actually didn't use the frosting recipe that came with this cake, but a different, chocolate cream cheese frosting recipe that I found here on FN. I used choc cream cheese for the outside and the same choc cream cheese recipe, but substituted melted caramel for the choc for the interior layers. The cake was just mouthwatering! This is my new go to choc cake recipe.
    I am thinking of trying this...but does anyone know if I use Splenda brown sugar if the taste will be the same? I have to make a cake for a diabetic...would appreciate any feedback!
    This cake is INCREDIBLE! I don't usually bake or cook, so it was amazing that this cake came out so delicious! I've made it three times and made small mistakes the first 2 times. However, all 3 versions were so yummy. Just avoid my mistakes:
     1) To anyone who doesn't know... there's a difference between normal sugar and "confectioner's sugar." Confectioner's sugar is powdered be sure to use that instead of granulated. I made this mistake the first time I made it, and ended up with grainy (but delicious!) frosting.
     2) Be sure to use cream cheese in the box, not the plastic container. I used cream cheese from a plastic container the second time I made this cake and ended up with thin frosting that wouldn't hold the 3 layers together well enough. The cake kept sliding apart!
     If you can avoid making small mistakes like this, it's delicious! Even with these minor boo-boo's, this is BY FAR the best, easiest cake around :)
    This was my the first time trying this recipe and I am not an avid baker, but I chose this recipe because of the reviews and it seemed simple enough for even me to follow. The cake turned out perfect. It is scruptuously delicious! The most moist chocolate cake I've ever had. This is definitely a keeper. Thank you!
    Very nice cake. The texture was moist and springy. The flavor was nothing special. Next time I'll try using more cocoa powder. I'll definately use again!
    I am using this recipe for cupcakes right now and I am at 36 with batter still left. Perfect for when you have to bake a LOT of goodies. As cupcakes they are not quite as rich as a full slice of cake; you can use less frosting for each one. I have used this recipe over and over again and it is a big hit every time. I will never use another chocolate cake recipe. This one is gold.
    I haven't baked the cake yet but have a question. Does the cake have a heavy taste of coffee or how would you rate it. Our family is not used to the taste of coffee, but all the reviews are so good I'm tempted to try it. I'm giving it a 5 even though I didn't try it yet because everyone else thinks its so good. Thanks for any info.
    I love this recipe. I've made it 3 times. The cake is delicious - chocolaty, light, and not too sweet. And the frosting is great too. The full recipe makes 3 9" layers or I used it successfully to make 2 9" layers (24 oz of batter ea) and 2 6" layers (12 oz of batter ea) and make a two tiered cake. I made another 1/2 recipe for another 6" cake with two layers and 9 cupcakes. A single frosting recipe was enough to frost all of that easily. A second day I made a 1/2 recipe of frosting and cake which made 21 cupcakes with plenty of frosting left over. To make the frosting pink I used white chocolate and subsitituted raspberry juice for the coffee. Definitely one to try. Enjoy.
    I am a pretty good cook, but a great baker. I have made this cake dozens of times. My husband and my best friend's hubby request this cake all the time. Moist, and almost too rich to eat a whole slice. The perfect chocolate cake. However, if you prefer a milk chocolate buttercream, the icing is not for you. I don't usually post reviews, but I read the negative review below and can only say that they must have been having an off day. Incredible cake!!!
    I was really skeptical considering im 19 i usually can't even bake the cakes that come in the box haha but i found this super easy to make and it came out PERFECT.. it melts in your mouth and tastes absolutely amazing. I didn't make the icing but i would DEF DEF DEF recommend this as the best and easiest chocolate cake ever!! :)
    This cake is my new favorite chocolate cake recipe. Its really moist and delicious! It came out really really good, I used room temp coffee cause I didn't want it to mess up the eggs you can use vanilla yogurt instead of sour cream if you want. Don't try to take it out without letting it cool completely.
    I've spent years searching for a chocolate cake recipe to satisfy that longing for a good "old fashioned" chocolate cake. This cake is not deep, dark, gooey, or any of that stuff. Gale gives a recipe for a very tender crumbed, well balanced chocolate tasting cake! I could use this recipe for so many occasions! The recipe did not specify what kind of cocoa to use, so I used a dutch processed, Valrhona cocoa and a medium bodied coffee (Gevalia to be exact) as I did not want to overwhelm the flavors of the cocoa.  
    The frosting was good but not what I was looking for in a frosting. I went with an Italian Butter Cream instead. BUT THE CAKE ITSELF WAS REALLY GOOD! Thank you Gale Gand!
    The cake has flavors and textures. Outstanding. Play with your frosting but encourage everyone to keep Gale's cake as the basis for all future.
    Oh. My. God!
     This is the best chocolate cake EVER for REAL chocolate lovers. Try replacing the chocolate in the frosting with part or all milk chocolate, or all white chocolate.
     Also, a little dark caramel in between the layers won't go amiss.
    I am not a great baker, especially when baking for an occasion, but the reviews convinced me to try this one for my chocolate loving daughter on her 9th birthday. The cake itself is delicious and the icing is sublime. I was worried about the icing being too rich for my daughter, so I used 4 oz unsweetened chocolate and 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate. I will never make another chocolate cake recipe again. The comments had me concerned about the coffee making the icing too thin, but I did not have that problem. Thank you, Gale Gand for this recipe. I definitely impressed my family with this one!!!!
    My daughter made me this cake for my birthday, She put pecans in between the layers of cake and frosting. It was so good. I love it.
     However the frosting was a little runny. I suggest adding less coffee to start with and add up to the correct point. Wonderful.
    Try it!!! Really easy!!!! I made with a chocolate mousse and rasberries.... Yum Yum Yum!!!
    I made this cake for the guys at the fire station when I was doing a twelve layer cake for my mom. They loved it. Just be sure the cake is completly cooled before even trying to ice it.. Or you will have it like mine.. the great leaning tower of three layer cake.
    I was afraid to make this recipe because of the horrible reviews but after scouring the internet and finding nothing else in the way of a layer cake I decided to make it anyway. I followed the recipe exactly except I made it with 3 layers instead of 7. I turned out great. The cakes, if you don't heavily grease the pans, will stick and fall apart a little. Also, make sure you meticulously line them up before they fall out of the cake was a little lopsided. As far as the frosting-if you keep it heated when pouring it onto the cake it isn't hard to spread. It will not look as pretty as the picture but everyone thought it tasted great and was perfectly moist.
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