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Chocolate Mocha Cake

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This Chocolate Mocha Cake is a 3-layer chocolate cake with a coffee infused buttercream. The moist chocolate cake is made with a dark brewed coffee and covered in a mocha frosting and chocolate shavings.


A 3 layer chocolate cake covered in a mocha buttercream is laying sideways on a white rimmed plate and the larger cake is blurred out in the background

Twenty nineteen must be the year of chocolate cakes, I just can’t get enough. I am obsessed with my moist chocolate cake recipe, so it’s not so surprising how many different chocolate cakes I’ve made recently.

I’ve actually been holding onto this Chocolate Mocha Cake for a while, but can you blame me? It’s a moist chocolate cake made with a dark brewed coffee and covered in a mocha frosting and chocolate shavings. Every bite is so heavenly.

I first made a variation of this frosting when I made my mocha cake with Kahlua buttercream. You can absolutely spike your frosting for this cake with Kahlua if you want to, but if you’re looking for a kid friendly version, then just follow the original recipe.   

A gold serving spatula is holding a slice of 3 layer of chocolate cake with mocha buttercream and chocolate shavings.

The cake itself is super easy. It’s an oil-based cake, so it’s really quick to come together and you can get it in the oven in 10 minutes.

When stored properly, it stays moist for several days, and that is in part due to the sour cream in the recipe. I get a lot of questions about substitutions for the sour cream. If you don’t have sour cream, I recommend using a non-fat Greek yogurt.

You’ll notice the cake isn’t overly sweet, and it’s more of a mild chocolate flavor that complements a sweeter a frosting.

A close up shot of the side of a large cake covered in mocha buttercream and chocolate shavings

When it comes time to pick a cocoa powder for the cake, I often use Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder, it’s one reason this chocolate cake is so dark. Regular cocoa powder will work as well, but I prefer the dark cocoa myself.

You can bake this cake in three 8-inch rounds or two 9-inch rounds, you’ll just need to adjust the baking time accordingly, and you’ll definitely have some leftover frosting. Personally, I love the look of the 3-layer cake.

Once your cake is baked and cooled, it’s time to make the frosting. The mocha frosting is so dreamy. It’s whipped to perfection and bursting with coffee flavor.

A slice of 3 layer chocolate cake with a coffee buttercream laying sideways on a plate has a few bites taken out of it and a gold fork leaning up against the side.

This frosting is flavored with a mix of strong brewed espresso and also powdered espresso. The brewed espresso gives the frosting that toasted brown color and gives a subtle underlying mocha flavor.

You’ll brew the espresso with ¼ cup of hot water and 1 tablespoon of espresso powder and then allow it to cool completely. I usually throw it in the freezer. Then measure about 2 tablespoons of the brewed espresso to add to the frosting.

Use a pastry brush to spread the leftover espresso on the chocolate cake before you assemble them.

Then there’s the espresso powder itself that is added directly to the frosting. This is what gives you the burst of coffee. Without this, the mocha flavor isn’t very strong, so I highly recommend adding it.

A 3 layer chocolate cake covered in a mocha buttercream is laying sideways on a white rimmed plate with chocolate shavings, there's two gold forks in the background and a crumpled up napkin

Assembling the cake is quite easy. I loved adding the chopped chocolate to the outside of the cake. Simply take 4-6 ounces of chocolate and chop it up with a sharp knife. Then press it into the sides of the cake right after frosting the cake. You can use any leftovers to sprinkle on top.

The contrast of the dark chocolate and mocha frosting in this Chocolate Mocha Cake is pure dessert bliss.

A large 3 layer chocolate cake is covered with a coffee buttercream. The cake has a large slice taken out of it, and the cake is covered with chocolate shavings.

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A close up of a 3 layer chocolate cake covered in a mocha buttercream is laying sideways on a white rimmed plate with chocolate shavings, there's two gold forks in the background.

Chocolate Mocha Cake

  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
  • Yield: 10 servings


This Chocolate Mocha Cake is a 3-layer chocolate cake with a coffee-infused buttercream. The moist chocolate cake is made with dark brewed coffee and covered in a mocha frosting and chocolate shavings.


For the Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups Granulated Sugar, (285 g)
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 3 large Eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract, (15 ml)
  • 1/2 cup Light Sour Cream, (118 ml)
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour, (280g)
  • 1/2 cup Natural Cocoa Powder, (55g)
  • 1 tablespoon Espresso Powder, (5g)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder, (9g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda, (2g)
  • 1 teaspoon Salt, (5g)
  • 1 1/4 cups Coffee, (296ml)

For the Frosting:

  • 1/4 cup Hot Water, (59ml)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Espresso Powder, (38g), divided
  • 2 cups Unsalted Butter, (459g), cold
  • 8 cups Powdered Sugar, (1041g)
  • 1 tablespoon Heavy Whipping Cream, (15ml)
  • 2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract, (10ml)
  • 46 ounces Dark Chocolate, chopped (113-170g) (optional)


For the Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare three 8-inch round baking pans, line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the sides. Prepare your bake even stripes if desired.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract.
  3. Beat on medium speed until the eggs and oil are well incorporated and the batter is lighter in color. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.
  5. Alternate half the dry ingredients followed by half of the coffee and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate.
  6. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  7. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans, about 1 2/3 cups of batter per pan.
  9. Bake at 350°F for 20-24 minutes. Rotate your pans in the oven halfway through baking.
  10. Test the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, your cake is done.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

For the Frosting:

  1. Prepare the espresso. In a microwave-safe dish, heat the water until it’s almost boiling and add 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder, stirring until it’s dissolved.
  2. Place the espresso in the freezer to cool it down. Once cooled, measure out 2 tablespoons of brewed espresso to add to the frosting and brush any leftovers over top of the chocolate cake layers prior to assembling.
  3. Cut the butter into pieces. Using the paddle attachment, whip butter for 3-4 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until the butter looks light in color.
  4. Alternate adding 2-3 cups of powdered sugar at a time with a portion of the liquid ingredients: brewed espresso, heavy cream, and vanilla extract.
  5. Ensure all the powdered sugar is well combined and beat for 2-3 minutes before adding additional powdered sugar. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons espresso powder into the prepared frosting.
  6. Once all ingredients have been added, whip for 3-4 minutes until the frosting is light and airy. If the frosting is too thick, add additional heavy whipping cream 1 tablespoon at a time.

To Assemble this Cake:

  1. Level off your cakes by removing any domes.
  2. Place a dollop of frosting on your cake board and place the bottom layer of cake over that.
  3. Pipe the first layer of frosting, pipe in circles working outside edge to the middle. Spread evenly with an offset spatula.
  4. Add the second layer of cake and add the remaining frosting. Place the third layer of cake on top.
  5. Use your offset spatula to press any excess frosting onto the edges of the cake.
  6. To finish, pipe the frosting along the outside edge of the cake using a large open round tip, or a cake icer tip. Then use an offset spatula or icing smoother to create a smooth edge.
  7. Chop the dark chocolate into thin and small pieces and gently press it into the sides of the cake.
  8. Fill the piping bag with the remaining frosting to pipe the rosettes on top. Sprinkle to top with leftover chocolate. Store in an airtight container.
Nutrition Information:
1/10 of recipe
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: mocha cake, chocolate cake, cake

This recipe originally appeared on Food Fanatic


A 3 layer chocolate cake covered in a mocha buttercream and chocolate shavings sitting on a light gray rimmed plate

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Recipe rating

23 Responses
  1. David Shields

    Quick question, the other buttercream frostings/icings I have made call for the butter to be at room temperature. What change in the frosting will it make if the butter is at room temperature as compared to cold?

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      This recipe and all my frosting recipes do start with cold butter. They are designed that way to be thicker and much less runny. If you start with warm butter, you’ll need to reduce the liquid ingredients, otherwise the frosting will be runny. The butter is whipped in the mixer for several minutes until it’s whipped and fluffy. This is basically softening the butter for you.

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