Cappuccino Cake: Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Layers, Cappuccino Frosting, and Optional Ganache

This cappuccino cake is a moist chocolate cake with luscious cappuccino frosting and optional chocolate ganache. It brings back memories of my junior high school days when my family would celebrate special times at Daryl’s Restaurant. Our meals always ended with their famous cappuccino cake with buttercream cappuccino frosting (made with brewed coffee) and two very large scoops of chocolate ice cream.

Cappuccino Cake with Buttercream Layers and Cappuccino Cake on a green cake stand with pink plates with sliced cake and chocolate ice cream and a stack of coffee cups on the left side and cocoa powder on the right
One of the pleasures of life is eating a big piece of cappuccino-frosted chocolate cake with a huge scoop of chocolate ice cream!

Decades later, my version of this cappuccino-chocolate cake recipe is still adding sweetness to special occasions. It makes the perfect birthday cake (I always request it for mine). And with the dark chocolate ganache, it makes an elegant groom’s cake. My daughter Milly and husband Scott prepared this beautiful cake for my son Forrest’s wedding last year.

two-layer chocolate ganache groom's cake with chocolates on top and border of fresh red roses and white flowers

My love of chocolate flavor has existed since the first taste of chocolate passed my lips. What a wonderful ingredient God made! You can imagine what a delight when my coach would allow our gymnastics team to snack on Hershey’s chocolate bars during meets. Then and only then, we could eat as much chocolate as we liked, and I liked A LOT! Though I can’t do all the tumbling I once could, the love for chocolate has remained.

For the chocolate lovers like me, this cappuccino chocolate ganache cake recipe includes an optional extra drizzle of dark chocolate ganache on top.

Buttermilk in Cappuccino Cake? Yes!

The secret ingredient in this cappuccino cake—besides the high-quality chocolate, of course—is the buttermilk. Buttermilk seems to make the cake extra moist. Buttermilk also tenderizes gluten, leaving a soft texture to the cake. Taste-wise, it adds a subtle tang that gives even more depth of flavor to this sweet treat!

Vegetable Oil vs. Butter or Lard in Cappuccino Cake

Traditional homemade cakes are usually made with butter for the flavor and airiness in the cake. I use vegetable oil in this recipe instead of butter or lard. The oil, I’ve found, makes the cake much moister and more tender. The results of this recipe seem plenty light, so the added moistness makes oil the natural choice for me. 

Buttercream Frosting, Cappuccino Frosting, AND Ganache? Why not?

Although there is an extra frosting to make, to me it is SO WORTH IT. I totally love a traditional buttercream icing, but this decadent cake dictates the use of silky chocolate like Ghirardelli or Callebaut.

cappuccino chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, on blue plate resting on front porch railing

The buttercream gives the icing texture without overpowering the chocolate and leaves room for the just the right amount of cappuccino icing to create the perfect texture and flavor in your awesome bite of cake. Adding the expresso to the chocolate makes it richer and more beautiful. Don’t be tempted to skip that step. It makes the cappuccino frosting. 

For extra chocolate decadence, add the chocolate ganache over the top and sides of the cake.

This recipe makes a 4-layer cake that feeds 24. You need to know that because once you start making this cake, it will become a permanent request from family and friends. 

If you like chocolate as much as I do, you may want to try my chocolate flourless cake. I pretend it is healthier since I leave off the crust! 

4 layer cappuccino cake on green cake stand with knife in front of it along with cocoa powder in a sieve
Cappuccino Cake 4 layers high with cocoa powder sprinkled on top is a mouthwatering tower of greatness.
4 layer cappuccino cake on green cake stand with knife in front of it along with cocoa powder in a sieve

Cappuccino Cake

This recipe makes a 4-layer cake with cappucino and buttercream frosting.
5 from 1 vote
Course Dessert
Cuisine American


  • butter or Crisco for greasing the pan
  • 2 1/2 cups flour plus more for flouring the pans
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups freshly brewed hot coffee
  • Buttercream Frosting for the layers
  • Cappuccino Frosting for the top

Ingredients for the Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Ingredients for the Cappuccino Frosting

  • 3 ounces good milk chocolate such as Ghirardelli or Callebaut, chopped
  • 4 ounces good semisweet chocolate such as Ghirardelli or Callebaut, chopped
  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Ingredients for the Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Butter four 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and then butter and flour the paper.
  • In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix on low speed until combined.
  • In a medium-sized bowl add buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla and mix well. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. With the mixer on low, slowly add the coffee until just combined. Scrape down the sides and stir with the spatula until mixed well.
  • Pour the batter evenly among all four pans. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove pans to a cooling rack and allow to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Instructions for the Buttercream Frosting

  • In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the butter and sugar and mix on low until incorporated and then high until butter mixture is light yellow and fluffy. Add vanilla extract and whipping cream and mix for about 3 minutes.

Instructions for the Cappuccino Frosting

  • In a heat-proof bowl placed over a pot of simmering water, add the chopped chocolate. Stir until just melted and set aside.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter until light yellow. Lower the speed of the mixer and gradually add confectioners’ sugar for about 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • In a small bowl add 2 tablespoons of very hot water and espresso powder and mix well. Add espresso mixture to the chocolate and mix until incorporated. With the mixer on low, slowly add chocolate mixture, cream, and vanilla to the butter mixture and continue to mix for about 1 more minute.

Instructions for Chocolate Ganache Frosting

  • In a medium bowl, add the cream and chocolate chips. Place bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir the cream and chocolate together. If the chocolate isn’t melted, place back in the microwave for 15 seconds and continue this process until the chocolate is melted but not hot.

To assemble:

  • Place one cake on a serving plate, flat side up. Frost the top of that layer with the buttercream. Place the second layer on top with the flat side up and frost the top with buttercream. Place the third layer on top with the flat side up and frost the top with the buttercream. Place the fourth layer on top with the flat side up. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the Cappuccino Icing. If desired, sift cocoa powder over the top of the cake and decorate with strawberries.
  • To add the chocolate ganache to the top of the cake, place a funnel over a squeeze bottle and pour the ganache into the squeeze bottle. Starting in the middle of the cake, squeeze a thin layer of the melted chocolate over the top in a circular pattern all the way to the edge of the top of the cake. At this point, begin making the drips. In even spacing, squeeze just at the edge of the cake and create a drip that cascades down the cake. Continue around the entire cake.
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  1. Will this need to be kept refrigerated?

  2. Kathleen Mulhair says:

    Would this recipe convert to cupcakes?

    1. I think it would!You could even use the middle layers by using a piping bag and piping some into the middle, then using the frosting to put on the outside!

  3. Kathleen Mulhair says:

    Yes! Great! Thank you!

  4. Donna Oliphint says:

    Are the measurements in this recipe really correct? 5 cups of liquids to 2 1/2 cups of flour? It looks yummy.

    1. Yes, I double checked and they are right. When you pour the batter into the 4 pans equally, the batter is quite loose. It will create a light, yummy cake!! I hope you will give the recipe a try!

  5. Do you let the espresso mixture cool before adding to the cappuccino frosting?

    1. I’ve done it both ways. Sometimes the icing separates if the espresso is too hot, but once whipped it tends to cool pretty quickly. It would be best to wait a few minutes and let it come to almost room temperature. I am super impatient!

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