Chocolate Blackout Cake

A moist, rich, triple layer chocolate blackout cake with a chocolate cream cheese frosting. Warning: for extreme chocolate lovers only!

Chocolate Blackout Cake |

This is the third time we’ve made this chocolate cake. Yes, we’ve made this HUGE cake three times now!! The first time I made it was for a birthday party, a risky choice, but it totally paid off. Everyone loved it! We also made it again for Valentine’s Day so I could snap a few process photos. Sometimes being a food blogger is rough ????! This cake requires a bit more prep work, but it tastes amazing and can be decorated however you like. I stuck with a pretty simple design (just classic chocolate buttercream frosting), however, you can add sprinkles, chocolate, fresh fruit or salted caramel. It’s bound to be a hit!

Grab three 9-inch cake pans and butter/flour them. If you plan on doing a ‘naked’ cake, I’d suggest using cocoa powder instead of flour, that way the edges of the cake won’t look white and dusty. If you’re going to frost the edges, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Chocolate Blackout Cake |

Bake the cakes in a preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until set. The tops should look glossy and the center should be set. You can insert a toothpick or cake tester into the center of the cake to check for doneness. 2 out of the three times the center of the cake was slightly sunken (about ¼ inch or so), so don’t worry if that happens. You can use a sharp serrated knife to level the cake. You can also use baking strips (soak them and wrap them around your pans before filling them with batter) to create evenly baked layers. Over-baking will result in a dry crumb, so keep an eye on them around the 27 minute mark.

Chocolate Blackout Cake |

As soon as the cakes have completely cooled, make the frosting. This is a simple chocolate cream cheese frosting recipe, nothing overly fancy. Whip it up until it’s light and creamy, then spread between the layers of cake, and around the outside edges. You can save a little frosting to pipe on top or around the bottom edges, that’s totally up to you. I’ve done chocolate sprinkles around the top edge and it looked really pretty too.

I prefer to allow the frosting to set and the layers to firm up a bit before serving. I generally refrigerate my cake for 1-2 hours before I plan on cutting into it. FYI: the images seen in this post were taken before it was refrigerated.

Chocolate Blackout Cake |

Our family loves this chocolate blackout cake! It’s rich, decadent, and incredibly moist. It can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion, and can easily feed a crowd. Attention all chocolate lovers- this cake is for you!!

Chocolate Blackout Cake Recipe

A moist, rich, triple layer chocolate blackout cake with a chocolate cream cheese frosting. Warning: for extreme chocolate lovers only!
4.52 from 75 votes
Pin Rate
Course: Cakes & Cheesecakes
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
Servings: 18 servings
Calories: 1049kcal
Author: Natalie Dicks
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  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3 c. granulated sugar
  • c. quality unsweetened cocoa powder - I prefer Scharffenberger or Guittard Cocoa Rouge
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • tsp. baking powder
  • tsp. coarse kosher sea salt - not fine
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • c. warm water + ½ tsp. espresso powder - espresso is optional
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • For the frosting:
  • c. 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz 1 block cream cheese, softened
  • c. unsweetened cocoa powder - same as above
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 7 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream - more if needed


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray or butter/flour three 9-inch cake rounds.
  • Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a stand mixer using a low speed until combined.
  • Add eggs, sour cream, buttermilk, warm water, oil, and vanilla. Beat on a medium speed until smooth, about a minute.
  • Divide batter evenly between the three pans (about 3 cups of batter per pan).
  • Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Keep an eye on it, you don't want to over-bake this cake!
  • Remove from the oven and allow to the cakes to cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert onto wire racks. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  • For the frosting, in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), beat the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Carefully add in the cocoa powder, vanilla and salt, beat until combined.
  • With mixing speed on low, gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. When all of the powdered sugar has been added, beat in heavy cream, then add more to create a spreadable consistency. The frosting should be on the thicker side, however, it will thicken even more when the cake is refrigerated.
  • Spread the frosting in between the cooled layers, then on the sides and on top. Spread into a smooth, even layer, using an offset spatula. Decorate as desired. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour before serving.


*My favorite cocoa powder is Guittard Cocoa Rouge, however, Scharffenberger works well too.
-Dissolve the espresso powder in the warm water before adding to the remaining ingredients. This is an optional ingredient, however, it helps enhance the overall chocolate flavor of the cake.
Adapted from The Stay at Home Chef


Serving: 1g | Calories: 1049kcal | Carbohydrates: 201g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 102mg | Sodium: 493mg | Potassium: 1452mg | Fiber: 14g | Sugar: 132g | Vitamin A: 826IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 151mg | Iron: 9mg

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  1. Hi
    I am planning on making this cake for birthday party in a few days. I was just wondering if the chocolate icing after its been refrigerated sets hard? Would it stand up to a white chocolate icing drip over the top which would initially be warm before it cools down. I need a white background for decorating the cake but I don’t want to miss out on the chocolate icing (yum)!

  2. I see this at the end of the instructions: Dissolve the espresso powder in the warm water before adding to the remaining ingredients. This is an optional ingredient, however, it helps enhance the overall chocolate flavor of the cake.
    However, I don’t see anything about espresso in the recipe. Can you explain?

    1. Hi Shelly, you can dissolve 1/2 tsp. of espresso powder in the 1 1/2 c. warm water (added in step 4). Again, it’s totally optional. Hope that helps 🙂

  3. The yummiest chocolate cake ever! We substituted dark unsweetened cocoa powder for the frosting and it made it even more decadent and delicious. 10/10 recommend.

  4. We’re traveling and I was hoping I could make it ahead of time (and not do the frosting until day of). Think the cake itself could be made 2 days in advance and be left in fridge and still be good? Thanks!!

  5. So, I’m currently in the process of making the cake and I have two things to say – first one is that the frosting is waaaaaaay too sweet for me (but hey, different people like different stuff) and the second – I have no idea what happened, but as far two of my cakes have broken in half. :c
    I don’t know why that happened and was wondering if you could have any tips for me.

    Right now the cake is in my fridge, half covered with frosting, and bound with pan (the type that has a removable bottom) and in an hour I’ll try to get it out and hope it stays glued to itself. ;-;

    1. Hi… this is Tracy. As a professional baker for super moist cakes like this one I use parchment paper in the bottom to keep it from sticking. Spray the pans, apply parchment paper and spray the paper. Also you HAVE to cool the cakes IN THE PANS for 15 minutes to finish setting and then flip onto a wire rack to finish cooling. It shouldn’t break then. Another problem may be a tad too much liquid if not measured correctly. Hope this helps.

  6. Natalie this cake was truly incredible! I’ve been craving a good chocolate cake and this was top notch. Super moist, super chocolatey, and down right delicious. I’ve tried many chocolate cake recipes and I must say this one is by far the best! Thank you for the recipe! 

  7. I made this cake last night because I am a chocoholic and it looks SUPER delicious. I wanted to make a different chocolate cake and
    the buttermilk, sour cream and cream cheese drew me in. I followed the recipe exactly. It baked beautifully and came out looking exactly like your picture… actually better. But the taste was NOT to our liking. There is TOO much Cocoa and salt for our taste. I have practically an entire cake to trash and I spent almost $50 on the ingredients. It’s a shame… 3 people tasted it and none of us liked it. I am a retired professional baker/decorator/owner of over 30 years. This is the FIRST chocolate cake that I met and did not like. I used Ghirardelli chocolate. I didn’t notice only 3 people rated BEFORE I made this cake and 2 of the 3 people did not make the cake….it was my fault for not reading the ratings beforehand. Smh

    1. Sorry to hear that Tracy. It’s definitely supposed to be a rich, dark chocolate cake. You can always cut back on the salt to 1 teaspoon, however, if you’re using coarse kosher sea salt (not fine table salt) it shouldn’t be an issue.

  8. Do u bake the cack using  Fahrenheit degrees or Celsius ? 
    As well I wanted to aske about the ‘c’ in your recipe.. it stands for ‘cup’ right? 
    Thanks  .xx.

    1. It’s far too big for a 9×13 pan. You would need to halve the recipe. There shouldn’t be any issues with removal. A piece of parchment paper at the bottom of your pans + baking spray or butter & cocoa powder will ensure you get a clean release.

    1. Must be crazy sweet. 
      We (in Europe) use in a chocolate cake frosting about 200g sugar. Here is used almost 4x this amount. 

    1. Yes the cook time will just be a hair longer. I used a 10 ” baked for 20 min each came out perfect. For yours I would try the 35 min. See where there at. If it’s not done yet stick it in for another 5 min. Once you get the time down on the first one. You will be able to just set a timer for the other two.
      Oh and use melted butter + 1 or +2 tablespoons ( depending how rich You want the flavor.) Instead of the oil in the cake mix. Use unsalted butter for the frosting you can always add it if you need it.

  9. This recipe is wonderful. I made this cake on Christmas Eve. It turned out so perfectly and was incredibly delicious. My family and guests loved it. I used the parchment paper in the bottom of my 9″ round pans along with spray. Cakes came out of the pans easily. I was worried at first because the cake batter seemed too thin, but the cakes baked up just perfectly. I also used the baking strips and the cakes baked perfectly evenly. This is now my go-to 3-tier chocolate cake recipe. 

  10. I have remembered it’s recipes and also bookmarked this site for my party for my next birthday. You have really make a very beautiful and innovative cake. Thank you so much for such a nice work.

  11. Hey wow thus cake looks lovely! Making it for my dads 86! Wanted to know, do you think the cake would stay fresh if I baked and add icing to it and serve only in 2days? Should I refrigerate it or leave at room temp? Should I cover it or can I leave it open ? Thanks xxx

  12. So, I followed this recipe exactly the same except

    Instead of espresso powder (which my store doesn’t carry), I brewed espresso coffee. 

    I added 8 extra oz of cream cheese to offset the chocolate a little and used quite a bit more heavy cream for the frosting. 

    Oil the pan then add parchment and oil again. Seriously. This was key. 

    My oven took about 24 min for a pan. So, I’d check at the 20 min mark. They aren’t as moist as Id like, and that may be due to not checking soon enough. 

    It’s good, but it is LOTS of chocolate. Super rich chocolate. I’m thinking of adding a layer of toasted coconut for flavor and looks. 

  13. Just baked this today, after it being on my to do list for some time!
    Converted the recipe to 3 8″ tins and it’s turned out perfect. Sponge is super super moist, as the recipe promises! The icing is to die for! Will definitely be making this again – when I’ve recovered from my chocolate overdose

  14. Made this twice. Not enough batter for 3 pans. Used only 2 the second time and it was perfect.   For the cocoa I buy double Dutch and black cocoa off the King Arthur Flour website and mix it. I cup double Dutch 1/2 cup black. Used King Arthur espresso powder too. Oh and I use peanut oil. Might try walnut oil next time.   I use the best butter I can get. President or Plugra brand. Something imported usually.  If you think the batter is too thin. Don’t worry about it. It’s fine. 
    One last thing, 2-3min for mixing is too long  especially with a wisk.  
    I use the extra frosting to put on pretzels when my wife has her period and she hates me a little less. 

    1. P.S.  forgot I used dark brown sugar too and I wrapped the pans with a wet strip of towel held with safety pins and put a small bowl of boiling water on the bottom on the oven.   Did I mention your wife will love you if you learn to bake this. 

  15. I’m planning to make this as my daughter’s birthday cake. I don’t have 3 x 9 inch tins, but have a 12′ tin. Do you think it would work, if I just make it in the big tin, cool it down, and cut it in two halves?

  16. This cake was delicious. I made it for the first time yesterday for my 4th of July barbecue. It was a hit. It is very moist. The icing works very well with this cake. I had some leftover which I will freeze for later. I whisked mine together in one large bowl. Super easy a good.

  17. So yummy! We made this with dark coccoa powder instead and it was a perfect birthday cake. Very rich, moist and big chocolate cake. If you are craving a delicious chocolate cake… this is the one. I reccomend this recipe and will make it again.

  18. Wow when you said HUGE you weren’t kidding! You also weren’t kidding about needing to be a chocolate lover to like this cake haha. I love chocolate so this was amazing. I made this cake for a small get together and it was a HUGE hit (see what I did there) every single piece was gone. I was so surprised. It was so big I knew I’d have some to take home. Thank you so much for this recipe. Easily best cake I’ve ever made. 

  19. I made this cake for my daughter’s birthday and it was so good, I have printed it out for the “permanent” recipe collection. I had Hershey’s cocoa on hand and subbed 1/2 c. Dark Cocoa. It was so dark and not too sweet, it was perfect!

  20. I made this recipe last night for my husband’s birthday.  This is now my favorite recipe for chocolate cake. It was so moist and decadent.  And we used all the frosting. 

    The only things I changed was dark roast coffee to substitute for the warm water and expresso. And Instead of heavy cream  I used whole milk for the frosting. I used Hershey’s dark cocoa powder; it’s dutched processed and I didn’t see the one you suggested. 

    I baked the batter in 2 round 8″ dark metal tins and a dark metal 12 cupcake tin lined.  I baked all three at the same time. Cupcakes on the top rack and the two rounds on the middle rack The cupcakes were done at 30 minutes and the 2 rounds took 40 minutes. 

    I read the reviews about sticking so I buttered my tins and used the cocoa powder to “flour” them. Worked perfectly. I also let the cake cool in the tins about 45 minutes. Not sure if that matters. I also ran a plastic knife around the edges to help loosen it before removing it to the cooling racks 

    This cake is so rich and tasty!  I cut the cake in half and was able to get 12 thin slices and no one needed seconds. It’s just that satisfying. A little goes a long way. 

    I can’t wait to try more of your recipes!!

  21. Hi! Can’t wait to try this recipe!!! I just have one question. Guittard Cocoa Rouge is dutch-proccesed, would be okay to use a high quality cocoa powdered like pernigotti cocoa, even though it is not dutch proccesed? 

  22. This cake is so amazing! I made it for my birthday party and it was the biggest hit I have ever had. I ended up with extra frosting, but I will use that on something else. Thank you!!

  23. I made the frosting with only 3cups powdered sugar and it was PERFECT! I couldn’t imagine it with more sugar.

  24. 5 stars
    Looks amazing! I would like to make this cake with 4 layers. Can I do this by just putting less batter into 4 pans (8″ or 9″)? Would I need to cut down on the baking time?

    1. Thank you! Yes, you could. They might be thinner layers, but you could. I would use 8 in pans & you can cook for maybe 25 minutes? Just start checking on them about the 23-25 min mark. Good luck!

  25. 5 stars
    This is the absolute best chocolate cake I have ever tasted! So rich and moist! Perfect with a cold glass of milk …so YUMMY!

  26. I was wondering that generally we put baking soda 1/4th the amount of baking powder or you can say vice versa but here you have used soda more than baking powder. May i know the reason please?