Today marks the one-year birthday of this blog! I can’t believe how fast the past year has flown by…both in the blog world and real-life world. A LOT has happened in this past year (um, I made a HUMAN BEING. What?!).
One year ago, I finally worked up the courage to document my cooking after months (years?) of self doubt. I didn’t think anyone would care about what I had made or had to say about…well…anything. I didn’t think blogging was for me, even though I LOVED reading food blogs and was fascinated and impressed by people’s constant creativity. I found those people to be far more impressive than myself. Quite frankly, I didn’t think I could compete.
I’m a creative person by nature, and my real-life job doesn’t lend itself toward a ton of creative freedom (read: none). While I am perfectly satisfied at said job, I knew I needed a creative outlet. Cooking had served as one creative outlet for me since my early 20s, and being an English major, I had always loved to write. Starting a food blog kinda seemed like a no brainer. BUT, my self consciousness won over time and time again, and I would snuff out the idea as quickly as it came to me…over and over.
I’m not sure what made me finally take the plunge…because I’m still totally self conscious about anything I post on this blog! Even a year into it. Even after I’ve received such a great reaction from friends, family, and…strangers. I still read and re-read every single post/recipe before I hit the “Publish” button. I still agonize over my obviously-still-a-beginner photography. And I constantly worry about the recipes I’m putting out there. Are they good enough? Different enough? Delicious enough?
I’m my own worst enemy. Always have been.
That all being said, I’m proud of what I’ve done here in the last year. I made a deal with myself in the beginning that I wouldn’t focus on the popularity of the blog. I was not going to torture myself over the number of hits or page views I was getting. Instead, I wanted to focus on putting GOOD CONTENT out there. Something I could look back on and say “hey, good job.” I wanted to share my recipes and inspirations with people and not worry so much about how they were received. I needed a creative outlet. That’s all this blog needed to be.
Once I turned off the knee-jerk inclination to compare myself to others, I was happy with what I was putting out there. It’s been an evolution. My writing is my writing. Casual and light. Take it or leave it. My photography is still an area where I have much room to improve, but I think I’ve already improved in some ways (despite the pictures for this post – I hate every single one. Oh, the irony). Most of all, though, I’ve relished in the connections I’ve made with people over my favorite thing on Earth: FOOD. Those connections span my personal life and the blog world. People I’ve known for years were suddenly interested in trying out my recipes and giving me feedback. And strangers were postingabout/pinning my content on a daily basis (which is still shocking to me, heh). It’s been an overwhelmingly satisfying and humbling experience thus far.
OK, enough rambling. Let’s get to the good stuff: this freakin’ amazing cake.
If you’re like me, you are no expert at baking and assembling layer cakes. I have made a few (this one is a repeat offender), and they always taste a hell of a lot better than they look. And I’m OK with that. If you happen to be an expert cake decorator, then please excuse my lame attempt. Just trust me that it TASTES fantastic. That’s the most important thing, people! If you’re an “eat with your eyes” type of person, then just close your freakin’ eyes! Hah. You’ll still be a happy camper, I promise.
This cake was something I came up with a couple years ago. I had a sudden and random urge to make a layer cake. There was no occasion or reason to do so; I just had the urge. Chocolate cake has always been a so-so variety in my eyes. It was always kind of bland, never chocolatey enough. I would much rather have vanilla cake. But I knew a delicious chocolate cake had to exist out there! And I was determined to put together a recipe for just that.
Enter mocha. Coffee + chocolate = perfection. I went with that notion for all components of this layer cake. Everything from the cake batter itself to the frosting to the filling are focused on the torrid love affair I have with the coffee and chocolate combination. The result is sinfully delicious. I ADORE this cake.
Hence, it seemed most appropriate to share this particular recipe with you on the blog’s first birthday. Cakes are for birthdays, after all. And this one rocks.
Happy Birthday, Blog! Here’s to many more (cakes!)…
Mocha Cake with Fudge Filling & Espresso Frosting (makes 1 9-inch layer cake)
For the Cake:
3 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1½ cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1¼ teaspoons fine salt
3 large eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
1½ cups well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the Filling:
8 oz semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Pinch of fine salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the Frosting:
1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of fine salt
6 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Finely chopped chocolate-covered espresso beans, for garnish
For the Cake: Preheat oven to 300°F and grease two 9-inch round pans (See NOTE). Line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper and grease paper. Place the chocolate chips in a small bowl and pour the hot coffee over top. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Into a large bowl, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Beat the eggs in another bowl (I use my stand mixer) until lightened in color and slightly frothy. Slowly stream in the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to the eggs, beating until combined well. Add the sugar-flour mixture in batches and beat on medium speed until just combined.
Divide the batter between pans and bake in the middle of the oven until a tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, roughly 60-75 minutes (check after an hour).
Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove parchment paper. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.
While the cake is cooling, make the filling: In a saucepan, bring cream, sugar, espresso powder, salt, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add, whisking until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable. This should take 15-20 minutes. You want it to be of a fudgy consistency.
For the Frosting: Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until creamy, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle in the salt and half of the sugar and beat again. Meanwhile, dissolve the espresso powder in the vanilla extract. Slowly beat it into the frosting. Add more sugar as needed to reach a thick and creamy consistency.
TO ASSEMBLE: Place the first cake layer on a cake pedestal (or plate) and slide pieces of parchment paper underneath all the way around (to protect the surface of the plate/pedestal). Spread the cooled filling mixture on top of the first layer. Do not go all the way to the edge. Top with the second cake layer.
Dollop half of the espresso frosting on top of the cake and work it around the top and down the sides, swirling the frosting evenly as you go. This will serve as a “crumb coat.” Place the cake in the fridge for 20-30 minutes so the first layer of frosting can set. Spread the second layer of frosting over top of the first (this will cover up any cake crumbs that have worked their way into the first layer), smoothing everything out as you go. Garnish the cake with finely chopped chocolate-covered espresso beans.
Slice and serve! The cake will keep at room temperature, under a cake dome or well wrapped in plastic, for a few days.
NOTE: I have always made this cake using two 9-inch cake pans, but several readers have commented that this yielded way too much batter for them to fill only two pans. If this happens, I recommend using a third cake pan or filling a muffin tin and making cupcakes with any excess batter. I am not an expert baker (and I certainly have never made claims to be one), and I wish I was more knowledgable on how/why this seems to work so well for many people (myself included! Many times!) and not for others. This cake is fabulous when it comes out. So sorry to anyone who may have had issues with this recipe! It is one of my go-to cake recipes, written just as is. And my own experience is all I can go off of. Xoxo.