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Chocolate Three-Layer Cake with Milk Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Scott Phillips

Yield: Yields 1 8-inch, 3-layer cake

Servings: 12 to 16

This classic layer cake is rich and chocolatey but not too sweet. It would also taste great with vanilla frosting in place of chocolate.


  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pans
  • 12 oz. (2-2/3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
  • 1-1/4 cups hot water
  • 2-1/2 oz. (3/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 recipe Milk Chocolate Ganache Frosting, or your favorite frosting


  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, and butter the parchment. Dust with flour and tap out the excess.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the hot water, cocoa, and sour cream; set aside to cool, about 10 minutes.
  • In another large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together until mixture looks smooth, about 7 minutes. Add both sugars and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 7 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until well incorporated. Add the vanilla, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and beat again for 30 seconds. Alternate adding the flour mixture in three additions with the cocoa mixture in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  • Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack, remove the pans, and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.
  • Frost with Milk Chocolate Ganache Frosting or your favorite frosting.


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Reviews (3 reviews)

  • tinytoenail | 09/08/2020

    Update: In the end, the cake was lovely (we made it ignoring the weights and using just the volume measurements). It was a fun cake to learn with, because of the brown sugar, sour cream, etc. -- lots of different kinds of measuring. It baked perfectly and tasted great.

  • tinytoenail | 09/07/2020

    Mistakes in the ingredient list? I was using the weights and realize that 3/4 C butter is not 12 ounces. And checking the 12 ounces of flour that I've weighed, it is quite a bit more than 2 cups. I threw out the dry ingredients that I've already mixed, but am forging ahead since I've mixed the sour cream, etc. But, please, fix! I was using this recipe to show my middle schooler how to bake a cake, so this was an especially unhappy discovery!

  • SikaB | 08/13/2018

    This was a good, rich cake with a moist, delicate crumb. I used Dutch processed cocoa since that's what I had, and the recipe didn't specify what kind to use. I wonder if using normal cocoa would be better...I recommend making the ganache frosting a day ahead or early in the morning. It needs a lot of time to set up, and if it's a hot day (like it was for me), you'll need a lot of refrigerator time to get it to set. Anyway, the family loved it, and there wasn't much cake leftover (the birthday boy took it home with him). However, it wasn't the best chocolate cake recipe I've ever made. Perfectly good though.

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