Mocha Cake (Doctored Cake Mix)

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This ultra moist Mocha Cake is so rich and delicious, and has the perfect combination of chocolate and espresso flavor.

Nobody would guess that this decadent dessert starts with a box of chocolate cake mix!

Keep this crowd-pleasing mocha cake recipe in mind for the coffee or chocolate-loving people in your life!

Why we Love It

There is so much to love about this easy mocha cake! Here are just a few:

How to Make a Mocha Cake from Cake Mix

You can find the full, printable cake recipe card further down in this post. Here is a quick rundown of our steps!

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F,  Grease and flour three (8x2 inch) cake pans. We also lined the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.
  • Add espresso to hot water, stir to dissolve, and set aside.
  • In the mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients: cake mix, sugar, all purpose flour, and instant chocolate pudding mix.  Whisk to blend. 
Mixture of Dry Ingredients in bowl with whisk
  • Next, add the eggs, sour cream, vegetable oil, and espresso mixed with hot water.  Mix on low speed to blend for 30 seconds.
  • Then, increase the mixing speed to medium and mixing for two minutes. Stop to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
Bowl of mocha cake batter with spatula
  • Divide the batter between the three prepared cake pans.
  • Bake at 325 for 22 minutes - Baking times may vary. When the center of the cake layers spring back when lightly touched, or a toothpick can be inserted and removed with just a few crumbs attached, the cakes are done.
  • Allow the mocha cake layers to cool in the pans on a wire rack for five minutes before turning out.
Freshly baked Mocha Cake Layers in pans cooling on wire rack

Mocha Mousse Filling

  • It is light, flavorful, and is made with instant pudding and heavy cream- and today we've added a splash of espresso.
Small bowl of espresso mixture next to bowl of pudding and heavy cream mixture.
  • Here is the finished mocha mousse after mixing with an a handheld mixer (you can stir with a whisk if you would rather).
  • The color is light at first, but will darken considerably over time. It is so good!
Bowl of Mocha Mousse Filling
  • Because the espresso flavor in the baked cake layers is extremely mild (as coffee is often used as an ingredient in chocolate cake recipes to enhance the chocolate flavor), the biggest boost of coffee flavor in this dessert comes from the filling and frosting.
  • This mocha mousse has a deep coffee flavor, but is perfectly balanced by the chocolate flavor of the cake layers.

We have used many flavor variations of this "mock mousse" filling! Here are just a few cakes with easy mousse fillings: Orange Dreamsicle Cake, Pineapple Cake, Baileys Irish Cream Chocolate Cake, and Boston Cream Pie!

Mocha Buttercream Frosting

Our Mocha Buttercream Frosting recipe is a simple American buttercream which consists of confectioners sugar, softened butter, a bit of salt, espresso, and vanilla extract.

It is so easy to make, and pipes perfectly! We've used this as a filling and frosting for our scratch Mocha Toffee Crunch Cake as well!

Bowl of Mocha Buttercream with Spatula

Assembling the Cake

  • To assemble the cake, place the first mocha cake layer on a pedestal and spread with a layer of mocha mousse filling. Repeat for the second cake layer, and top with the third cake layer.
Spreading cake layer with mocha mousse filling
  • Once the layers are filled, fill in any remaining gaps with mocha buttercream, and crumb coat with a thin layer of buttercream.
  • At this point, I like to chill the cake in the freezer for about 15 minutes (or longer in the refrigerator) to firm everything up. Then, apply the final layer of frosting.

Decorating the Cake

Time to decorate the cake! You can decorate it however you like.

  • I smoothed around the sides of my cake with a bench scraper (while rotating it on a turntable), and then added some texture with a small offset spatula.
Adding texture to the frosting with a small offset spatula
  • I swirled additional frosting on top of the cake, and added mocha mousse "stars" around the top with a french piping tip. (This is optional- I just had a small amount leftover that I wanted to use).
  • I piped a border around the base with a star tip 21. If you'd like to learn more about piping with star tips, don't miss our quick free tutorial: Basics of Star Tip Piping.
Piping a border around the base of the frosted cake with a star tip 21

We decorated around the the top of the cake with the remaining Mocha Mousse filling, piped through a french piping tip.

Frosted Mocha Cake

I love the shades of chocolate and espresso cake, filling, and frosting!

Mocha Cake, sliced on a white pedestal

Recipe FAQs

Because of the mocha cream filling, this cake needs to be refrigerated in an airtight container or cake dome.

However, for best taste and texture, remove from the refrigerator about two hours before serving so that the cake and frosting have time to warm and soften.

Yes, just as with the majority of our cakes (from buttermilk pound cake to WASC cake, Italian Cream Cake, and more), these cake layers freeze beautifully!

After cooling the cake layers (to room temperature or slightly warm), wrap each layer individually in plastic wrap followed by foil. We like to place each layer on a foil-wrapped cake cardboard before wrapping for extra support.

To thaw, move each wrapped cake layer to the kitchen counter. Allow to sit for 30-45 minutes before unwrapping. This allows time for any condensation to collect on the wrapping rather than on the cake layers.

Thaw to desired amount for cake assembly. (Some bakers like to assemble their cakes while the layers are still partially frozen as they are less fragile.)

The coffee flavor in the cake layers themselves is subtle (just as with our other chocolate cakes that call for coffee- including our Chocolate Sour Cream Cake and Fudge Cake).

The coffee flavor in this Mocha Cake comes mainly from the mocha mousse filling and mocha buttercream! All in all, you will have the perfect balance of chocolate and coffee flavor!

More Cake Recipes

If you love chocolate cakes, we have so many more recipes for you! Make sure to check out our BEST Chocolate Cake Recipes!

Some of our most popular are our German Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Cake from scratch, Easy Brownie Cake, and Black Forest Cake!

More Coffee Flavored Cakes to Try

In addition to today's Mocha Cake, we have more coffee infused cakes for you! Some of our favorites are White Chocolate Mocha Cake, Mocha Toffee Crunch Cake, and Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake!

Mocha Cake on a pedestal

Thanks so much for stopping by. We hope that you enjoy the Mocha Cake!

Don's miss our other Cake Recipes, including favorite cake recipes from scratch and cake mix recipes!

Mocha Cake on a pedestal

Mocha Cake (from Cake Mix)

This ultra moist, decadent cake has three chocolatey cake layers filled with mocha mousse filling and mocha buttercream frosting! It has the perfect balance of chocoalte and espresso flavor.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 22 minutes
Course: Dessert
Servings: 15
Print Recipe Pin Recipe


  • 1 Box (15.25oz) Devil's Food or Chocolate Cake Mix ( I used Duncan Hines Perfectly Moist Cake Mix).We like to sift the mix when adding to the mixing bowl.
  • ¼ cup (30g) all purpose flour (If not using a digital scale, gently spoon into measuring cup and level off with a table knife)
  • 1 (3.9 oz) small box Jello Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix (Use the dry powder, do not prepare).
  • ¼ cup (50g) sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup (108g) vegetable oil ( I use Canola oil)
  • 1 cup (242g) sour cream
  • ¾ cup (180g) hot water (to dissolve espresso powder)
  • 1 Tablespoon (3g) Instant Espresso granules/powder (to dissolve in the hot water)

For the Mocha Mousse Filling

  • 1 (3.9oz) small box instant chocolate pudding It is best to sift the pudding mix.
  • 2 cups (464g) heavy cream or whipping cream
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons espresso powder (6g) dissolved in 2 T (24g) heavy cream. Stir until dissolved.

Mocha Buttercream Frosting

  • 3 sticks (339g) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 9 cups (1035g) powdered sugar (icing sugar in UK)
  • 1 Tablespoon (7g) unsweetened cocoa (sifted)
  • 1 teaspoon 3g salt
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (5g) instant espresso coffee powder
  • ¼ cup (60g) hot water


  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees,  Grease and flour three (8x2 inch) cake pans. You could also use two 9x2 inch pans. We like to line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper.
  • Add espresso powder to hot water, stir to dissolve, and set aside.
  • In the mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients: cake mix, sugar, flour, and pudding mix.  Whisk to blend. 
  • Next, add the eggs, sour cream, vegetable oil, and espresso mixed with the hot water. 
  • Using an electric mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment if using a stand mixer), mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Then, increase to medium speed and mix for two minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. 
  • Divide the batter between the three prepared cake pans.
  • Bake at 325 degrees for 22 minutes - Times may vary. When the center of the cake layer springs back when lightly touched, or a toothpick can be inserted and removed with just. a few crumbs attached, the layers are done! (See notes for additional bake times/pan sizes)
  • Place the cake layers (still in pans) on a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes before turning out.

Mocha Filling

  • In a small bowl, add espresso powder to two tablespoons cream. Stir to dissolve and set aside.
  • Combine the sifted pudding mix, espresso mixture, and heavy cream in a mixing bowl. I prefer to mix with a hand held mixer, but using a whisk is fine too. If using a mixer, start on low speed until well combined.
  • Then, switch to medium speed and whip the pudding until thick and fluffy. If the mousse is too thick, you can stir in a bit more cream (1-2 tablespoons at a time) to reach the desired smoothness and consistency.

Mocha Buttercream Frosting

  • Mix the instant espresso coffee powder into the ¼ cup of hot water, set aside to cool slightly
  • Beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Blend in the vanilla and cocoa powder and salt.
  • Add half of the powdered sugar and half of the coffee. Beat at medium speed until the powdered sugar is incorporated.
  • Add the remaining powdered sugar and coffee and mix at medium speed another 3 to 6 minutes scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.
  • This recipe makes 6 cups of frosting. This is enough to fill, frost and add a moderate amount of decorative piping on a 3 layer 8 inch cake.
  • If your consistency is too thin, add more powdered sugar. If too thick, add a bit more water or milk, a teaspoon at a time.

Assembly of the Cake

  • When the cake layers have completely cooled, it is time to assemble and decorate the cake!
  • Place the first cake layer on cake plate or pedestal. Spread with a layer of mocha mousse filling.
  • Add the next cake layer are repeat. Top with the last cake layer. Fill in any gaps between the cake layers with buttercream. Crumb coat the cake (thin coat of frosting). At this point I like to chill the cake for 15 minutes in the freezer, or longer in the refrigerator. Finish with the final layer of frosting. Decorate however you like!


Bake Times

If baking with two 8x2" pans, bake time is 30-40 minutes
For two 9x2" pans, bake time is 31-37 minutes.
Always peek in as the end time approaches, as bake times may vary.


When tightly wrapped individually in plastic wrap and foil (or double wrapped with plastic wrap and placed in a freezer bag), the cake layers can be frozen for up to three months! We like to place each cake layer on a foil-wrapped cake cardboard before wrapping for added support.
Defrost, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight or on the kitchen counter.

Decorating the Cake

To decorate the cake, I smoothed the final coat of frosting around the sides with a bench scraper. I then added texture with an offset spatula. I added a bottom border with a 21 star tip. I swirled additional frosting on top of the cake, and added french tip stars of our Mocha Mousse on top of the cake.


This cake should be refrigerated because of the filling. However, for best taste and texture, remove it a couple of hours before serving. This will allow everything to soften.

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  1. Mmmm as usual looks fantastic. I would like to make this , but I live in uk and am wondering what I cld use instead of jello..mix please.? Thank you v much. Maggie
    ps u hv such delicious recipes using this instant pudding mix and I really wld like to make them too! Thank you again.!

      1. Thank you so much for your reply, I just love reading and trying some recipes. They r also so pretty. I will try to find a substitute for the pudding mix, there must be one! Xx

  2. I can't use eggs , with other cakes I have substituted sour cream for the eggs. This cake calls for 1 cup of sour cream so can I still substitute the eggs by using exta sour cream?
    Thank you,

  3. 5 stars
    Oh my GOSH! This cake is absolutely divine! People who ate this at the birthday party said it was the best cake they have ever eaten! It was moist, pretty and just had a hint of coffee. It is very rich, so small slices and make sure you let it sit out about 1-2 hours to soften that hard frosting. I was worried about that frosting being too hard but it ended up being perfection! A+++++++
    tytyty for this keeper!