Hey guys! I’m so excited to share this one with you, it’s one of my favorite things to make, and it’s also one of the biggest problem dishes at high-altitude. This Chocolate Layer Cake is filled with a soft chocolate buttercream, and iced with chocolate ganache, which is basically like frosting your cake with the filling from a chocolate truffle.

If that wasn’t enough to sell you, the cake is fluffy, chocolatey, and really the perfect texture. Let’s get to it!

How to Make High-Altitude Chocolate Cake

This is a super simple cake recipe, and it can easily be mixed by hand with a whisk. We’re starting by stir together the dry ingredients, in this case that’s flour, sugar, dutch-processed cocoa powder, instant espresso powder, salt, and baking soda. The espresso powder is optional, but it helps bring out the chocolate flavors and I highly recommend it! Alternatively, you can replace about 1/4 cup of the milk with some strongly brewed, cooled, coffee.

Then, stir the wet ingredients together- milk, vegetable oil, sour cream, vanilla extract, and a little bit of white vinegar. Whisk it all into the dry ingredients until well combined and smooth, and then it’s off to the oven!

While the cake is baking, whisk up the chocolate ganache. It takes a little time to cool and become spreadable, so you want to make it right when the cakes go into the oven. The buttercream comes together quickly, and I always recommend using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer for buttercream because it can take a good amount of beating.

Now it’s time to layer it all together! I’m using a crumb coat in this case using the buttercream filling, which makes frosting the outside of the cake much easier, so I recommend it. You want to use a sharp knife to level off the tops of your cooled cakes first, and then get stacking!

Here’s what the cake looks like with a thin crumb coating on it:

After a quick trip to the fridge, we’re frosting the outside:

And that’s it! It’s the perfect celebration cake, and it’s so easy to make.

Tips & Tricks For Your Layer Cake

Making a layer cake takes practice, but you can rest easy knowing that it’s always going to taste great! Here are some tips and tricks on this recipe:

  • This recipe makes 2 8-inch layers but you can also bake these cakes in 3 6-inch pans, but you’ll want to watch the bake time and check the cakes about 10 minutes earlier.
  • If your ganache hardens too much which can happen if it just chills down fairly quickly, it may be too hard to spread. Not to worry- just pop the bowl in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time, stirring, until it is just warm enough to spread. This only takes about 20 seconds for me.
  • You can’t really over-beat the buttercream and you want to beat it for longer than you might think! It will become even fluffier and yummier as you keep beating it together.
  • Do the crumb coating: It takes more time, but it really does help the final layer of frosting stay smooth and crumb-free. There’s enough buttercream to fill the cake, and give the whole thing a thin layer!
  • Layering cakes is a process so don’t rush it. Be sure to level off your cakes as best you can, using the sharpest knife you have, and give yourself time to crumb coat the thing. Taking your time makes it much easier!
  • I’m at about 5,000 ft above sea level and I typically find that most people who are between about 3,000 ft and 7,000 ft above sea level do not need to make any adjustments to my recipes!

Hope you guys enjoy this one, it’s seriously so dang good!

5 from 2 votes

High-Altitude Chocolate Cake

Servings 10 slices


For the cake:

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbs. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. white vinegar

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 2 tbs sour cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbs dark cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbs. heavy cream

For the frosting:

  • 7 oz dark chocolate chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt


For the cake:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and generously grease two 8-inch cake pans. Optionally, line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, instant espresso powder, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, sour cream, vanilla extract, and white vinegar. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry, and whisk until the batter is smooth. Pour evenly into your prepared cake pans, and bake for 32-36 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool the cakes completely before frosting.

For the filling:

  1. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sour cream, vanilla extract, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt for several minutes. It should be very thick at this point, and you really can't over-beat it. In fact, you want to beat it longer than you might think! Then, beat in the heavy cream for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the filling is very fluffy!

For the frosting:

  1. In a medium heat safe bowl, melt together the dark chocolate and butter in the microwave in 30 second increments until just melted, stirring each 30 seconds. Then, stir in your cold heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt until combined. Cover, and let it sit at room temp until it has thickened and become spreadable, about 30 minutes-1 hour.

  2. Level off your cakes, and fill with the filling, and use the remaining filling to give the cake a thin crumb coating. Chill the crumb-coated cake for about 30 minutes, and then frost the outside with your prepared, cooled frosting. Add sprinkes and enjoy!!


  1. Nancy

    January 24, 2021 at 10:48 am

    There are no eggs or baking powder. How does this cake rise?

    • Dough-Eyed

      January 24, 2021 at 11:41 am

      Hi Nancy! This cake uses baking soda to rise, which reacts with a small amount of white vinegar in the batter.

  2. Carol Powers

    January 25, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    Hi Nicole! Would regular or dark cocoa powder be okay to use? I have both in my pantry but no dutch process. I'm making the biscuits from your cookbook tonight (I halve the recipe, there are only 3 of us) and I used a bunch of the cookie recipes for Christmas!! We moved here to WY from NC and your cookbook has been a lifesaver, I'm an avid baker! Thank you so much for all you do!! <3 My birthday is coming up early next month and I would love to make this cake to celebrate!!

    • Dough-Eyed

      January 30, 2021 at 9:49 am

      Hi there!! So glad to hear you're enjoying my recipes!! So most cocoa powder that is labeled as "dark" is actually dutch processed, or a combination of dutch and natural. I would suggest using either dark or dutch processed, and you should be able to use them interchangeably with no problem!

  3. Cindy Austin

    February 12, 2021 at 1:19 pm

    Hi Nicole,

    Loving your book and all of the things I have tried since COVID hit. I am wondering on the butter that you use. Most of recipes that I have seen do not specify salted or unsalted. Thanks!

    • Dough-Eyed

      February 12, 2021 at 2:53 pm

      Hi there! Glad to hear that you're enjoying the recipes!! I always use unsalted butter without exception so that I can better control the amount of salt going into a recipe. Thank you!!

  4. Pamela Grob

    February 16, 2021 at 3:11 pm

    Can yogurt be used instead of sour cream in this recipe?

    • Dough-Eyed

      February 28, 2021 at 6:41 pm

      Yes, yogurt will work perfectly!

  5. Amy Kamber

    March 18, 2021 at 10:02 pm

    5 stars
    OMG this cake is sooooo good! It came out amazing and even my husband (who is usually the baker in the house) said it was good! The only thing I would do differently next time is put more of the frosting in the middle layer – I thought I wasn't going to have enough for the crumb layer (it's all good – I just ate the little bit of leftover buttercream!). Thank you for another amazing recipe!

    • Dough-Eyed

      March 19, 2021 at 4:55 pm

      Yay so glad to hear it!!

  6. Maggie

    May 16, 2021 at 6:49 am

    Can this cake be made in a 9 x 13 glass pan? I am baking a birthday cake and theeere will be 14 at the party. What would the temperature and the baking time be?

    • Dough-Eyed

      May 20, 2021 at 8:29 am

      Hi there- you can bake the cake in a 9×13 yes. The temp will be the same, and I would start checking for doneness around 25 minutes and go from there. Note though that you'll likely have too much frosting this way since the recipe is for a layer cake!

  7. Kim Leibbrand

    May 24, 2021 at 9:22 pm

    5 stars
    This cake is delicious. My cake pans are from my Mom. I couldn't find but one, and then I remembered I used one to make concrete lawn decorations. So I bought a new pair, and the cakes came out beautifully.

    All of your recipes work for our elevation, 5030'. <insert heart emoji>

  8. Wendy

    May 28, 2021 at 4:48 pm

    All your recipes look delicious — this one especially! What alterations would you make for 800 ft elevation?

  9. Nancy

    February 2, 2022 at 11:11 pm

    This looks wonderful. Can you make in a bundt pan?

    • Dough-Eyed

      February 4, 2022 at 1:26 pm

      Hi there- Yes, it can be made in a 10-12 cup bundt pan and you'll need to bake it for a bit longer- I would start checking it at 1 hour and see if you may need more baking time. Hope that helps!

  10. Ann

    November 11, 2022 at 12:02 pm

    This looks delicious 😋. How fo I adjust for 7400-8200' elevations?

    Thanks so much!

    • Dough-Eyed

      November 14, 2022 at 11:03 am

      Hi there- for your elevation I would recommend reducing the sugar by 2 tbs, and decreasing the baking soda to 1 1/4 tsp. Finally, I'd add an additional tbs of flour to the cake batter just for the added structure. I am unable to test recipes at other altitudes, so I can't confirm this will work, but it should definitely help!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

Never Miss a recipe