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Nine Layer Chocolate Cake Recipe

Follow our easy, step-by-step, photo illustrated instructions to learn how to make this delicious, chocolatey, nine layer cake. An old Southern favorite. Printable recipe included.

This chocolate cake is an old Southern favorite. We’re doing nine layers, but some folks make them with even more. It’s easier than you might think, just takes a little more time and patience, but well worth the effort.

When you need a great cake for a special occasion, this just might be what you’re looking for. It’s sure to impress just about anyone, especially a chocolate lover. Smile.

It might look a little intimidating, but it’s a very basic cake with an old fashioned boiled chocolate icing. The main difference is this one just has multiple smaller layers than your regular cake.

Yes, it will take a bit more time to make all the layers, but not much more. And, Yes, it will be worth the extra time and effort that you place into it.

You’ll see this cake listed many ways, usually by the number of layers it actually contains, but mostly just as a “little layer cake.” I’m not sure where it originated, but it’s very popular around where I live.

You’ll find them in 12 layers, 18 layers, even 24 layers and more. Our Nine Layer Cake is pretty much the starting point for making them. After you get a little experience, you might want to try making thinner layers and adding more. I wish you lots of success with that. Smile.

Mama made a great chocolate layer cake for my birthday each year, but I don’t recall her ever making one of these little layer cakes. Her cakes also used the boiled icing, and it was without a doubt my favorite cake of all the different ones she would prepare.

Set aside a little more time in your day to prepare this cake. You could even make the layers one day and the icing the next if that helps. It’s what I did.

The icing goes on while it’s still warm and it’s best if you can let the cake sit overnight before cutting and serving it. It just gives the icing more time to set up better.

Ready to give our recipe a try? Alright then, let’s head on out to the kitchen, and… Let’s Get Cooking!

Nine Layer Cake Icing Recipe – You’ll need these ingredients to make the icing. Please note that you will need TWO of the 12oz cans of Evaporated Milk.

PLUS you’re going to need some ingredients to make your cake layers. You can use boxed cake mix to make the layers, or you can use TWO batches of our made from scratch Basic Cake Layers recipe. I’ve got all the instructions on how to make layers from scratch posted at the link here on Taste of Southern.

You will need to do things a bit differently when you go to bake the layers of course, so let’s take a look at that first, then we’ll show you how to make the icing and complete the assembly of your cake.

I started out weighing my cake batter to get even layers. As it turns out, I used ONE measuring cup of cake batter in each pan. You could use 3/4ths a cup for a bit thinner layer, but the one cup turned out easy to work with layers for my cake.

I honestly can’t tell you how many boxes of cake mix you would need. I’ve never used a boxed mix. But, I can tell you that you will get SIX layers, possibly 7, out of a full batch of my Basic Cake Layers recipe if you decide to use that.

Yes, I stated earlier that you would need two batches of the batter. Yes, that would be enough to make 12 layers. This also gives you an extra layer or two in case you damage a layer or it doesn’t bake level. Better to have an extra layer and not need it than to come up short. Smile.

You’ll need to spread the 1 cup of batter out evenly in the baking pan.

I’m totally sold on using parchment paper in my baking pans. I buy the packages of circles that are pre-cut and find them well worth the few pennies they cost.

I lightly sprayed a baking spray with flour in the bottom of the pan, then placed the parchment paper in the pan. Then, I lightly sprayed the paper. I’ve never had a layer to stick this way.

Place the cup of batter in the center of the pan and use a spoon to spread it out to the sides. You want the batter to touch the sides of the pan and to be as evenly distributed in the pan as possible.

The batter is not going to spread out or move enough to cause it to level out, so take the time needed to get it spread out as evenly as possible. Then, bake your layers. I baked three at a time.

Bake at 325F degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Remove the layers when done and place them on wire racks to cool for about 10 minutes.

Remember, these THIN layers will bake up much quicker than the normal layers you’ve become accustomed to baking.

Watch for the cake to pull away from the sides of the pan and to turn slightly brown on top. They will be done at this point. I found one batch cooked in about 10 minutes, while another batch might have taken closer to 15 minutes. Oven temperatures vary, so just keep a close eye on the layers.

Let them cool on the rack for about 10 minutes.

After about 10 minutes, flip the layers out of the pans. Let them cool completely on the wire racks before moving them.

After I turned the layers out of the pans, I removed the parchment paper and used a paper towel to wipe out the pans. Then, I sprayed them lightly again with the baking spray, added a fresh parchment cake circle, lightly sprayed again, and added more batter to repeat the whole process of baking more layers.

Some folks like to use the disposable aluminum pans, but I preferred to use my regular cake pans. Your choice of course. Do what works best for you. Smile.

Once you have all the layers baked and cooling, start preparing the icing. Let’s take a look.

Add 3 cups of Granulated Sugar to a large sauce pot.

I’m using my 5 quart sauce pot. You need something big and deep.

Add 1 cup of Cocoa Powder.

Add 1/8 of a teaspoon of Salt.

Whisk all the dry ingredients together until fully combined.

Add TWO of the 12oz cans of Evaporated Milk.

Add 3 Tablespoons of Corn Syrup.

Place the pot over Medium heat on your stove top. Stir constantly while the sugar dissolves and everything is mixed together.

Place a candy thermometer in the pot and cook the icing until it reaches the soft ball stage which is about 234-236F degrees. Stir it pretty often, scraping the bottom of the pot so nothing sticks to the pot.

Be prepared for it to spit and spatter some. This stuff is hot, and I had more than one speck of it to pop onto my hands and arm while I stirred the pot. Just be careful with it.

This will probably take about 10 or more minutes.

When it reaches the proper temperature, add 2 sticks of Butter to the pot.


Add 1 teaspoon of Vanilla flavoring.

With the heat off, continue to stir the butter as it melts until it is completely mixed in. This may take another couple of minutes, but keep stirring until you do not see any traces of the butter left. Remove the pot from the stove and lets assemble your cake. You will do this while the icing is still warm.

Assemble your cake.

I’m placing my cake on a 9 inch cake board. This is going to get messy, so I suggest you place a large sheet of parchment under your plate or cake board to catch any icing that drips off.

I always place a dab of icing or frosting on the cake board first, then place the layer on top of that. The icing will help hold the layer in place as you work up.

Place your first layer on your plate or cake board.

I placed this layer bottom down because the bottom is always flat while the top of the layer may have a bit of a dome.

I was very pleased that all of my layers baked up nice and flat without that dome. It was a good day in that respect. Smile.

Add a layer of icing on top of the first layer.

Add the second layer. I placed this one top side down.

Repeat the process of adding icing and layers until you have stacked all nine layers of your cake up on your cake board. Look it over carefully, and adjust any layers that might have tried to slide some and get it as even as possible.

Place some icing on the top of the cake and begin to spread it out to the edge and let it run over the sides and drip down the side of the cake. Using a spatula, add icing to the outside of the cake as needed.

Remember, I did tell you this could get a bit messy. Smile. I had placed a layer of parchment paper on top of my cake decorating turntable because I knew it would probably get covered in icing before all was said and done.

Maybe it’s just a male thing, but I didn’t worry about it and just let it happen. Don’t judge me.

It’s really good to let this cake “set up” overnight. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but it helps to let the icing continue to thicken as it cools.



And there you have it, a Nine Layer Chocolate Cake. Pat yourself on the back because you deserve it. Now, get ready for all the ooohs and aaahs that will be coming your way when your family and friends see and taste your handiwork. Congratulations on a job well done.

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