Three-Tier Chocolate Celebration Cake

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: birthday, caterpillar cake, homemade cake, three tiered cake
Dessert Type: Cake
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 16
Calories: 520kcal
Author: Elizabeth LaBau
This Three-Tier Chocolate Celebration Cake is absolutely delicious with its deep devil food chocolate, fresh strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream and chunks of fresh strawberries throughout! My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
Print Recipe


For the Cake: (Make both batches, one right after the other)

    Batch One:

    • 6 oz butter at room temperature
    • 4 3/4 oz granulated sugar (2/3 cup)
    • 5 oz packed brown sugar (2/3 cup)
    • 2 large eggs at room temperature
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 cup full-fat buttermilk at room temperature
    • 4 oz full-fat sour cream, at room temperature (1/2 cup)
    • 2 tbsp water or brewed coffee
    • 7.8 oz all-purpose flour (1 3/4 cup)
    • 3 oz high-quality cocoa powder (1 cup)
    • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt

    Batch Two:

    • 9 oz butter at room temperature
    • 7 1/8 oz granulated sugar (1 cup)
    • 7 1/2 oz packed brown sugar (1 cup)
    • 3 large eggs at room temperature
    • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
    • 1 1/2 cup full-fat buttermilk at room temperature
    • 6 oz full-fat sour cream, at room temperature (3/4 cup)
    • 3 tbsp water or brewed coffee
    • 11 3/4 all-purpose flour (2 2/3)
    • 4 1/2 oz high-quality cocoa powder (1 1/2 cups)
    • 2 1/4 tsp baking soda
    • 3/4 tsp salt
    • Two 10-inch cake pans I like Magic Line cake pans--link to 10" Magic Line
    • Two 6-inch cake pans link to 6" Magic Line
    • Two 4-inch cake pans link to 4" Magic Line


    To Make the Cake:

    • Preheat the oven to 350 F (176 C). Line all of your cake pans with parchment rounds and spray the pans well with nonstick cooking spray.
    • Add the butter and both sugars to the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat them together on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix it in.
    • In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and water (or coffee, if using). In a different bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer running on low, add a quarter of the sifted flour mixture. When the flour streaks have almost all disappeared, add a third of the liquid to the mixing bowl. When that’s incorporated, continue to add the drys and wets in an alternating pattern, ending with the dry ingredients.
    • When the dry ingredients are nearly incorporated, stop the mixer. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and finish mixing the cake by hand. After you have made both batches of batter, divide the cake between the six cake pans so that the batter comes up about 2/3 in each pan. If you have a kitchen scale, these are the weights I used for each cake round:
    • 10” round: 2 lbs 3 oz
    • 6” round: 14 oz
    • 4” round: 5 oz
    • Bake the cakes until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few crumbs. Use the following times as a guide:
    • 10” round: about 28-30 minutes
    • 6” round: about 25 minutes
    • 4” round: about 22-24 minutes
    • Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then gently turn them out and let them cool completely. I find it’s easiest to cut and stack cakes that have been chilled, so if you have time, wrap them with plastic wrap and put them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, until they are firm but not frozen all the way through. If you are making these in advance, they can stay in the freezer for up to several weeks. Let them partially defrost, until they are firm but not rock-hard, before assembling.


    I made this cake using a standard 5-quart KitchenAid mixer, which is not large enough to make all of the cake batter in one batch. I assume many home cooks have mixers of a similar size (ie, not industrial size) so I’ve written the recipe in two batches, of slightly different sizes. Making both batches will yield the total amount of cake batter needed for the three-tiered cake. Of course, if you do have a 10-quart or larger mixer, you are free to combine the batches and just make it once. The same principle holds for the buttercream recipe. For the fondant, I find it easiest to make several smaller batches—it doesn’t take much extra time, and it’s easier for me to knead smaller quantities until they’re smooth than the try to tackle the whole giant batch of fondant at once. And finally, if this is your first time making a tiered cake, I highly recommend watching video tutorials of how to assemble a cake, instead of simply reading a recipe. It’s a visual process, and you will learn more by watching someone else do it than by reading these instructions. I’ve included assembly instructions for the sake of completeness, but beginners should absolutely watch tutorials before attempting to assemble the cake.


    Calories: 520kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 121mg | Sodium: 749mg | Potassium: 347mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 45g | Vitamin A: 910IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 114mg | Iron: 3mg