Chocolate Chip Layer Cake

Three thick layers of vanilla chocolate chip cake sandwiching fluffy chocolate chip buttercream frosting and a chocolate ganache glaze, this Chocolate Chip Layer Cake is just waiting for your next celebration!

three layer vanilla chocolate chip cake covered with chocolate chip buttercream frosting

It’s time for the next recipe in 2021’s Layer Cake of the Month series.

If you know me at all, you probably know how I feel about chocolate cake. I feel a little ashamed to admit this as a food blogger, but…. I don’t like chocolate cake. Or chocolate ice cream. Or chocolate cupcakes.

But I do like chocolate as an accent – like chocolate chips. They add a little crunchy texture and a little chocolate flavor, without being overpoweringly chocolate.

So while I don’t love chocolate cake of any type, I really like this vanilla chocolate chip cake covered with chocolate chip buttercream frosting.

It’s enough chocolate to keep the chocolate-lovers content, but not so much chocolate to drive away the chocolate-non-lovers.

In other words: this cake is perfect for everyone. If you have a reason to celebrate — a birthday, an anniversary, a new job, making it through another week to Friday — this cake will make everyone happy.

Equally important: this cake is easy to make! Because there are miniature chocolate chips in the frosting (a requirement for a chocolate chip cake, of course!), the frosting is textured. In other words, there’s no need to spend the time trying to get the frosting perfectly smooth.

Easy to make and delicious to eat? Yes, indeed!

slice of three layer white cake with chocolate chips on a dessert plate

Brown Sugar Vanilla Cake

For the most part, this chocolate chip layer cake contains all the ingredients you’d expect to find in a cake. Butter, sugar, eggs, flour, chemical leavener (baking powder and baking soda), and a liquid (buttermilk).

Most cakes (but certainly not all!) use granulated sugar. This cake, however, uses both granulated and brown sugar.

Why would we use both types? And does it matter if we use light or dark brown sugar? It’s time for my favorite subject, of course… kitchen chemistry!

Kitchen Chemistry

Brown sugar is made up of refined white sugar (granulated sugar) with molasses added back in. The addition of the molasses makes it more hygroscopic, which means it can hold on to additional water molecules.  As a result, brown sugar makes baked goods more moist and dense.

There is actually little difference in the amount of molasses used to make light brown sugar and dark brown sugar. In fact, the color difference is actually the result of added caramel coloring! Light versus dark brown sugar affects the final color of your baked good more than the taste or texture, so you can use interchangeably for cakes.

We’re using brown sugar (either light or dark!) for this cake because it both adds moisture and adds some of the classic caramel-y flavor found in chocolate chip cookies. But why not use all brown sugar for extra moisture and flavor?

Adding too much moisture changes how sugar aerates butter while creaming! If we use all brown sugar, the structure of the cake will be different as the butter will not hold as much air.

three cake pans filled with cake batter and a stack of three baked layers of cake

Chocolate Chip Buttercream

Of course a chocolate chip cake needs chocolate chip buttercream frosting!

This cake uses a standard American style crusting buttercream with miniature chocolate chips mixed right in.

Make sure to use miniature chocolate chips or chopped chocolate – full size chocolate chips are too big!

Because this buttercream has texture from the chocolate chips, it won’t spread on perfectly smooth.

My best tip for this frosting is to make sure it’s not too cold before spreading! Make sure your butter is room temperature before using.

three layers of cake with chocolate chip buttercream between layers

Assembling a Layer Cake

To make the layer cake, first we’ll add a little dollop of the frosting to the bottom of the plate. This helps hold the bottom layer of cake on the plate!

Spread approximately 1 cup of frosting on the top of the layer, spreading all the way to the edge. Add a second layer of cake, more frosting, and top with the third layer of cake.

Use an offset spatula to frost the sides of the cake. I don’t usually do a crumb coat with this frosting because it’s already a little textured — just spread frosting all around the sides and top of the cake!

Then I like to finish with a chocolate ganache drip – add to a small squeeze bottle or a zip top bag with the corner snipped off and drip chocolate down the sides of the cake.

one slice of chocolate chip cake being removed from the whole cake

Tips and Tricks for the Best Chocolate Chip Layer Cake

  1. For the best cake texture, use room temperature ingredients. Butter should be room temperature to properly aerate with the sugar and to create the proper frosting consistency.
  2. To keep cake layers perfect flat, use Bake Even Strips (or wet cloth soaked in water and wrapped tightly around the outside of the cake pan).
  3. Cake components can be made ahead of time to make assembly even easier! The cake layers can be baked 2 days ahead of time and stored at room temperature, or frozen for up to 3 months. The buttercream frosting can be made 2 days ahead of time and stored at room temperature. The fully assembled cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen fully decorated for up to 3 months.
  4. Adjust the ingredients to make a different size cake! This recipe is written for 3 8-inch cake pans. To bake in 6-inch pans, halve the ingredients. To bake in 9-inch pans, multiply each ingredient by 1.5.
  5. Prevent leftover cut cake from getting stale by wrapping leftover slices in plastic wrap or push wax paper against the exposed edge to minimize contact with air.
two slices of cake on small dessert plates

More Chocolate Chip Recipes

2021 Layer Cake of the Month Series

Chocolate Chip Layer Cake

Chocolate Chip Layer Cake

Yield: Serves 16
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Three thick layers of chocolate chip vanilla cake sandwiching fluffy chocolate chip buttercream and a chocolate ganache glaze, this Chocolate Chip Layer Cake is just waiting for your next celebration!

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (297 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (319 grams) brown sugar
  • 5 eggs, large, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups (420 grams) flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (284 grams) buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (221 grams) miniature chocolate chips

For the Frosting:

  • 2 cups (452 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 9 cups (1021 grams) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 cup (177 grams) miniature chocolate chips

For the Ganache:

  • 1 cup (170 grams) chopped chocolate
  • 3/4 cup (170 grams) heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, then spray parchment paper with nonstick baking spray.
  2. Make the cake batter. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and two types of sugar until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add half of this mixture to the butter and eggs and beat until just combined. Pour in buttermilk and vanilla extract, mix to combine, and follow with the remaining flour. Beat until just combined and no lumps remain. Fold in the miniature chocolate chips.
  3. Bake the cake. Scrape the cake batter into each of the tree prepared pans, weighing to ensure equal amount of batter in each pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out with a moist crumb. Remove from the oven, allow to cool in the cake pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Make the frosting. To make the frosting, cream together the butter and 6 cups of the confectioners sugar using a mixer on medium high speed until well combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Add one cup of the confectioners sugar and one tablespoon of the heavy cream. Turn the mixer to high and mix for one minute. Add another cup of the confectioners sugar and tablespoon of the heavy cream, turn the mixer back to high and mix for one minute. Repeat one additional time, also adding the salt, one additional tablespoon of heavy cream and vanilla extract. If the frosting is too dry or thick, add an additional tablespoon or two of heavy cream. Mix in the miniature chocolate chips.
  5. Assemble the cake. Level the cakes if necessary.  Cover the bottom layer of cake with 1 - 1.5 cups of the frosting. Top with a second cake layer and cover with another cup of the frosting. Place the final layer on top of the cake, face down, and frost the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting.
  6. Make the ganache. Combine the chopped chocolate and heavy cream in a large microwave-save bowl. Microwave for 1 minute at 70% power and stir well. Repeat with heating for 1 minute intervals and stirring after until ganache is completely smooth. Allow the ganache to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer into a squeeze bottle or a piping bag and drizzle over the edge of the cake. Top with additional miniature chocolate chips, if desired.

Notes

  1. Buttermilk can be substituted for 1 cup of whole or 2% milk + 1 teaspoon of lemon or vinegar.Mix together and set aside for 5 minutes before adding to the batter.
  2. For perfectly flat, even cakes, weigh the batter to ensure the same amount is in each pan and use Bake Even strips while baking.
  3. This recipe makes 3 thick 8 inch layers. To use 9 inch pans, keep the ingredients the same but start checking for doneness at 30 minutes -- cake layers will be thinner. For thick 9-inch layers, multiply each ingredient by 1.25.

Chocolate chip layer cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. Unfrosted layers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and frosted after thawing. Individual slices of cake can be frozen on a sheet pan, then wrapped in plastic wrap and foil once frozen, and stored for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature.

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Chocolate Chip Cake: Three layers of chocolate chip cake surrounded by fluffy chocolate chip buttercream, this easy cake recipe is just waiting for your next birthday or celebration!