If there is anything that can top the fabulousness of peanut butter and chocolate, it is coffee and chocolate. And while they are delicious in shortbread cookies, they take on a whole new level of awesome when combined in cake form, especially layer cake form.
My sister turned 21 last month. Of course she was due a birthday cake, but since she goes to school in a town I affectionately call The Pitts, we didn’t see her until last weekend. While scanning for recipes, the words Cappuccino Chocolate jumped out at me, burrowed into my brain until I absolutely could not look at another recipe, had to make this one right now.
But of course, I made a few changes (I mean, I am a layer cake expert). I immediately tossed fudge frosting out the window, opting instead for a buttercream, subtly flavored with a touch of coffee. I originally wanted a whipped cream frosting, but the thought of it melting on our four-hour drive to Pittsburgh scared me off. I had visions of a cake so tall that it would blow the lid off our tiny car and force my dad to pull out the big wheels. (Also, I didn’t want to spend four hours stuck in the back of a coupe.)
Alas, it was not meant to be. For reasons I’m not entirely sure of, the recipe as stated below makes for one very flat two-layer cake. Sadly, like in the world of basketball, height really matters in layer cake land, and here I was, a paltry Muggsy Bogues instead of a towering Dikembe Mutombo. (Since the Super Bowl is over, I’ve switched to basketball and apparently have been playing way too much NBA Live 1997). Double this recipe for three nicely sized 9-inch layers. This recipe as written would probably work very well for my 6-inch pans, but unfortunately they were in New York.
Despite all that (and its horribly … uh, homemade appearance), this cake was pretty darn good. While I thought the coffee flavor was too subtle, my parents disagreed heartily — or at least I think that’s what they said as they shoveled spoonfuls into their mouths while driving.
I made the recipe one-bowl here, even though I wasn’t paying attention while baking and so used two while baking. But I think it may produce a lighter, fluffier cake. Also, I live in a house that carries no ground cinnamon(!), and therefore substituted nutmeg, which I actually highly recommend.
For the cake:
– 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
– 2 cups sugar
– 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 2 large eggs
– 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
– 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
– 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 2/3 cup strong brewed coffee
– 1 cup whole milk
1) Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of boiling water, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
2) Beat sugar and butter in a large bowl using an electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then add melted chocolate and vanilla extract. Add the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt and mix until just incorporated. Mix in the milk and coffee until the batter is smooth.
3) Butter and flour 2 round 8- or 9-inch pans. Divide batter evenly between the two, then bake for 35 minutes at 350˚F until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before flipping the cakes out of the pans and cooling on a wire rack.
4) Level the cakes using a serrated knife, then triple-wrap in plastic and freeze until ready to frost.
For the frosting*:
The original recipe is enough frosting for 12 cupcakes. The below recipe is 1.5 times the original, enough to frost and decorate this cake.
– 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1/2 teaspoon strong brewed coffee
– pinch of salt
– 3 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
1) Beat the butter with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the sugar, vanilla, coffee and salt and beat on low speed until just combined. Add the milk and beat until light and fluffy.
*Can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Bring the frosting to room temperature before spreading.
1) Lay one layer of the cake on parchment paper. Top with 1/2 cup of frosting, spreading thickly and evenly. Top with the second layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake thinly, catching any loose crumbs (this is your “crumb coat”).
2) Spread a second layer of frosting on the cake, rinsing your knife in hot water as necessary to allow for smoother spreading. Dye any remaining frosting with food coloring and decorate if you so choose (you want to re-beat the frosting after adding the food dye, to make sure that it is mixed thoroughly). I also added milk chocolate “polka dots,” though chocolate-covered espresso beans would have been ideal.
Note: I think a whipped cream frosting would have been really good on this as well, but I was afraid that with the traveling, etc. that it wouldn’t last. This Wilton recipe would have been my go-to. Adding gelatin to the whipped cream makes it more stable, allowing it to support a layer (or two) of cake without going flat. As a vegan or vegetarian substitute, agar-agar (made from seaweed) works in equal ratio to the amount of gelatin.