Triple Layer Chocolate Cake

Satisfy your sweet tooth and impress your guests with this triple layer chocolate cake with vanilla-cream cheese frosting and salted caramel.

Recipe by Sarah Mccullen | Photographed by Joe Worthem

Cake making is its own sort of art form. Invitation Magazines’ food stylist Sarah McCullen loves to experiment with layered cakes, and she often uses seasonal greenery to decorate them. Read on for step-by-step directions for her Triple Layer Chocolate Cake With Vanilla-Cream Cheese Frosting and Salted Caramel. For more creative cake-baking inspiration, follow McCullen on Instagram @sarahbakedacake.

Triple Layer Chocolate Cake With Vanilla-Cream Cheese Frosting and Salted Caramel


3 cups all-purpose flour

3 cups granulated sugar

1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa (such as Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa), plus more for dusting the cake pans

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons salt

4 large eggs

1 ½ cups buttermilk

½ cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 ½ cups warm brewed coffee

Salted butter for greasing pans


½ cup salted butter, at room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

¼ cup heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

7 to 8 cups powdered sugar


1 cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature

½ cup heavy whipping cream, at room temperature

1 teaspoon salt


Edible greenery and flowers (from a florist)

Flaky sea salt

1. Prepare the Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, using a handheld mixer or stand mixer on medium speed, beat together eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Slowly pour coffee into egg mixture, beating as you pour. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, one-third at a time. Stop mixer, and using a rubber spatula, scrape down sides and bottom of bowl. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute more. (Do not overmix.)

2. Butter 3 (8-inch) round cake pans, and dust each with cocoa. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans, and bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean and cakes don’t jiggle, about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove cakes from oven, and cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans to parchment paper-lined countertops, and cool completely (about an hour).

3. While cakes are cooling, prepare the Frosting: Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat butter and cream cheese on medium speed until creamy and smooth. Add heavy cream, and continue to beat mixture until cream is incorporated, about 1 minute. Add vanilla, and beat on low speed until combined. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating on low speed until well blended after each addition. Stop mixer, and using a rubber spatula, scrape down sides and bottom of bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until frosting is completely whipped, about 1 minute.

4. Prepare the Salted Caramel: Cook sugar in a medium-size saucepan over medium, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until sugar becomes fragrant and begins to melt, about 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is completely melted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and add butter, stirring vigorously until well combined. Add heavy cream, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until cream is fully incorporated, about 1 minute. Stir in salt, increase heat to medium, and bring to a boil. Boil without stirring for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Let caramel cool slightly, about 5 to 10 minutes before transferring to a glass bowl to cool completely, about 1 ½ hours.

5. Assemble Cake: After cake layers have cooled, use a long, sharp knife to cut the rounded top off each cake layer to make flat.

6. Place 1 cake layer on a cake plate, trimmed side down. Spoon half of the frosting into a ziplock plastic freezer bag; set remaining frosting aside. Snip 1 corner of bag to make a ¼- to ½-inch hole. (The frosting should be able to flow in a thick line.) Pipe 2 to 3 rings of frosting from outer edge of cake inward.

7. Fill center of ring of frosting with 2 to 3 tablespoonfuls of cooled Salted Caramel. Stack second cake layer on top, trimmed side down, and repeat frosting and caramel procedure. Top with third cake layer, trimmed side down.

8. Pipe a line of frosting along edges of cake layers, filling in any gaps showing between layers.

9. Spoon about a cup of remaining frosting onto top of cake, and using a long, smooth knife or icing spatula, push frosting to edges. Spread frosting along sides of cake in long, smooth strokes. To minimize crumbs, do not move knife back and forth very much. Add frosting as needed to create a thin layer around entire cake, allowing cake layers to peek through for a rustic look.

10. Once cake is frosted, refrigerate about 10 minutes. Scoop about ½ cup cooled Salted Caramel on top of chilled cake, and gently spread. Transfer remaining Salted Caramel to a ziplock plastic freezer bag, and snip off corner of bag to make a small hole, about ¼ inch in size. Pipe Salted Caramel around the edge of cake, allowing caramel to drip over edge of cake and filling in any gaps between edge of cake and caramel on top. Refrigerate cake, uncovered, until caramel is set, about 15 minutes.

11. Decorate Cake: Place greenery and flowers along 1 side of cake, starting with the largest greenery pieces to anchor the center of the floral decorations. Gradually add smaller greenery pieces and flowers to each side to create a crescent shape. Garnish with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.

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