Patrick's Favorite Three-Layer Chocolate Sour Cream Cake Recipe

It was Patrick's birthday last week, which by coincidence is also St. Patrick's Day. Every year when March 17 arrives, I can look forward to eating three things: corned beef, colcannon, and a chocolate sour cream cake.

I had never heard of sour cream cake until six years ago when I had my first slice, and it was life changing. I instantly understood why this was Patrick's favorite cake. There's really nothing else quite like it - three heavenly layers of moist and fluffy chocolate cake, frosted with thick and fluffy, lightly sweetened whipped cream.

If the idea of sour cream in a cake is weird, it's really like adding in any other dairy into a cake, like milk or buttermilk. The sour cream gives the cake a balance of acidity and fat that makes it moist and light in texture.

Patrick's mom has been making this particular chocolate sour cream cake for him since he was a kid. She was out of town this year, so I took the day off from work to bake. I must warn you that while straight-forward, this recipe is a little difficult to nail. The first time I made this cake a few years ago, it tasted good but wasn't up to par to his mom's because I wasn't consistent in beating the batter.

In this recent attempt, I messed up on the first batter due to not properly timing the melted chocolate before incorporating it, so I had to start all over again. My advice is to get enough ingredients in case you need to do a second attempt and to follow the directions precisely - timing is everything. 

I am happy that my final attempt turned out pretty freakin' close to his mom's cake! It was so good that Patrick and I devoured 75% of the cake ourselves within a week. The remaining 25% went to his dad and brother.  

This cake has become one of my favorites and I'm pretty sure it will become your favorite as well.

Three-Layer Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

By Rebecca Linkous adapted from San Francisco A La Carte: Junior League San Francisco 


  • 2 cups cake flour (I use Softasilk)      
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup regular sour cream
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted (I use Guittard - very crucial to let this cool near room temperature before adding to bowl - read step 2 below)
  • ¼ cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 eggs



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Measure all dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.  Then add the rest of the ingredients.  I usually add the chocolate last since I am still cooling it at the last minute.  If you do not cool the chocolate properly (close to room temperature) and you add it to the cold ingredients like sour cream, water or eggs, it will go solid and cause you to have a chocolate chip cake.  Trust me, it is ugly and does not taste the same. 
  3. Beat all ingredients for ½ minute on low speed, scraping the sides of the bowl constantly. Then beat for 3 minutes at highest speed.  Batter should be a really thick consistency.  
  4. Pour into 3 – 8” greased and floured cake pans. I highly recommend covering the bottom of the pans with waxed paper to stop the sticking. 
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. 


  1. Beat 1 1/2 pints of heavy whipping cream with 6 tablespoons of powdered sugar until extremely thick.  
  2. Slather this on each layer thick and even thicker on the outside.  Then shave a nice milk chocolate bar on top with a peeler. It is important to work quickly and then refrigerate the cake or the icing will run away.

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