Chocolate Espresso Cake

This three-layer chocolate espresso cake is rich, moist, and topped with coffee frosting. A homemade cake that’s easier than you think, but so impressive!

Do you love impressing your family and friends with a gorgeous cake that tastes as good as it looks? If so, this is, this stunning 3 layer, coffee flavored chocolate cake is the next one to try.

The secret to this chocolate espresso cake recipe is the use of both cocoa powder and instant coffee (or espresso powder). This makes the finished product taste like a chocolate espresso truffle, only in cake form.

a 3 layer slice of chocolate espresso cake sitting on a plate

About this chocolate espresso cake recipe:

  • Flavor: Chocolate cake is rich and flavorful, but when you add espresso or coffee to chocolate, that flavor is enhanced even more. The frosting doesn’t have chocolate in it so the main taste is a sweet coffee flavor. If you don’t like coffee, I wouldn’t recommend this cake.
  • Texture: Soft, moist, fluffy chocolate cake layers frosted with creamy, smooth, rich, espresso buttercream frosting. The combination is perfection.

Why do coffee and chocolate go together?

Mochas have been all the rage ever since coffee shops became popular decades ago. And honestly, it combines two of my favorite things: coffee and chocolate.

You’ll find endless recipes that combine coffee and chocolate. But why? Because coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate. They each have complex flavor profiles, but they combine together nicely. In recipes such as our chocolate peanut butter cake, you’ll find it includes a small amount of coffee that you likely won’t even taste.

But in this recipe, the coffee flavor is enhanced through espresso powder. You’re meant to taste it. And it is going to make the chocolate flavor even more decadent.

Tips for Making Espresso Chocolate Cake

  • This cake bakes in 3 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper, then spray with cooking spray so that they come out easily. Don’t have parchment? Use Baker’s Joy baking spray or our cake release recipe to ensure the layers come out cleanly.
  • Buttermilk is a must for this recipe. However, if you don’t have buttermilk, simply add ½ tablespoon of white vinegar to the ½ cup measuring cup, then fill the rest of the measuring cup with milk. After a few minutes, the milk will start to curdle slightly. This will work as a substitute for buttermilk.
  • Whisk the dry ingredients in one bowl and mix the wet ingredients separately, then combine the two into a large bowl. This is to ensure you don’t over mix the batter which can result in a crumbly cake.
  • Divide the batter as evenly as possible between the three prepared pans so that they bake evenly.
  • It’s best to use a stand mixer to mix up the frosting. For this recipe, I throw everything in the mixer and mix slowly first, then up the speed and mix until well combined. It will melt in your mouth!
  • Use a large piping tip (Wilton 1M or 2D) to pipe swirls on the top and bottom of the cake. Sprinkle with coffee beans for a pretty look. Or use chocolate covered espresso beans to decorate the the top.
overhead view of a chocolate espresso cake with frosting swirls and coffee beans

Storage Instructions

  • Room temperature: Store in an airtight container on the counter for up to 3 days.
  • Refrigerator: If you’d rather store in the fridge, store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature or enjoy chilled.
  • Freezer: Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw before serving.
a 3 layer slice of cake sitting on a plate
a 3 layer slice of cake sitting on a plate

Chocolate Espresso Cake

4.67 from 74 votes
This three-layer chocolate espresso cake is rich, moist, and topped with coffee frosting. A homemade cake that's easier than you think, but so impressive!
Servings 15
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 27 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 27 minutes


For the cake:

For the buttercream:

For garnishing:

  • coffee beans


Make the cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°. Line the bottoms of 3-9” cake pans with parchment paper and lightly spray with baking spray. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment combine sugar, butter and brown sugar. Add in the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and mix on low speed to combine. Add in the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in hot water and instant coffee.
  • Evenly divide the batter between the 3 prepared cake pans. Place the pans into the preheated oven on the center rack. Bake for 27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Once baked, remove from the oven and place onto wire racks to let cool completely before frosting.

Make the buttercream:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment combine powdered sugar, butter, instant coffee, vanilla and salt. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth. (Note…if the buttercream is too thick, add milk or heavy cream one tablespoon at a time until it is the consistency you'd like.)

Assemble the cake:

  • Once the cakes have completely cooled, carefully remove them from the cake pans. Place the 1st cake onto a plate or cake stand. Add about 1 1⁄2 cup of frosting to the cake and evenly spread with an offset spatula. Place the 2nd cake on top and repeat the frosting process, ending with the 3rd cake on top.
  • Once all of the cakes have been layered, frost the top and sides of the cake. Using an icing spatula to get a smooth finish. Spoon the remaining frosting into a piping bag that is fitted with an open star tip. Pipe a border along the top and the bottom of the cake. Top with espresso beans.
  • Cake may be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


*Use hot coffee in place of water for even more of a mocha flavor.
Refer to the article above for more tips and tricks.
The calories shown are based on the cake being cut into 15 pieces, with 1 serving being 1 slice of cake. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the calories shown are just an estimate. **We are not dietitians and recommend you seek a nutritionist for exact nutritional information. The information in the nutrition box are calculated through a program and there is room for error. If you need an accurate count, I recommend running the ingredients through your favorite nutrition calculator.**


Calories: 837kcal | Carbohydrates: 104g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 46g | Saturated Fat: 28g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 166mg | Sodium: 656mg | Potassium: 274mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 78g | Vitamin A: 1429IU | Calcium: 86mg | Iron: 2mg
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Calories 837
Keyword 3 layer cake recipe, chocolate cake

Other Chocolate Cake Recipes

You can never go wrong with a slice of chocolate cake!

About Julie Clark

We are Julie, Maddie, and Kinslee – a mother and daughter team sharing with you the best cakes to satisfy any need or sweet craving that you may have. Welcome to our family’s kitchen!

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