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!)…
For the Cake:
- A couple tablespoons of softened butter, for greasing the cake pans
- 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 canola oil
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the Filling:
- 8 oz semisweet chocolate chips
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (or instant coffee 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 (or instant coffee powder)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Finely chopped chocolate-covered espresso beans, for garnish
For the Cake:
- Preheat oven to 300°F and liberally butter two 9-inch round pans (See important NOTE below).
- 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, whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs until lightened in color and slightly frothy, about 2 minutes.
- In a large measuring cup, stir together the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla.
- Slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the eggs, mixing until well combined. Do the same with the chocolate-coffee mixture.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture in two or three batches, mixing until just combined. Resist the urge to overmix the batter. You want to mix until all the dry ingredients are visibly incorporated.
- Place the cake pans on a large baking sheet. Divide the batter between the prepared 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 the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes and then carefully invert them onto cooling racks to finish cooling.
- Cake layers may be made a day or two ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, in the fridge. I actually prefer to do the cakes ahead because they are easier to frost if chilled.
For the Filling:
- In a saucepan, bring cream, sugar, espresso powder, salt, and corn syrup to a simmer 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 20-30 minutes. You want it to be of a fudgy consistency so that it does not run out the sides of the cake during assembly. I let it cool until it is a similar consistency to frosting.
For the Frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter with the whisk attachment for 2 minutes, or until they are fluffy, creamy, and well combined.
- Add in the salt and half the powdered sugar and whisk on LOW to combine.
- Meanwhile, dissolve the espresso powder in the vanilla extract and then add it to the frosting, mixing to combine.
- Add more powdered sugar as needed to reach a thick and creamy consistency (for me, this is usually 5 cups of powdered sugar, but depending on the moisture of your ingredients, you may need a little more).
- Place the first cake layer on a cake pedestal (or plate). Spread the cooled fudge 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 of frosting), smoothing everything out as you go. Garnish the cake with finely chopped chocolate-covered espresso beans (an optional step!).
- Slice and serve! Store any leftover cake well wrapped in the fridge and allow enough time to let it come back to room temperature before serving again (See NOTE below).
- I have always made this cake using two 9-inch cake pans without any issue, but several readers have commented that this yielded way too much batter for them to fill only two 9-inch pans. I am unsure why this recipe has worked perfectly for some (myself included! I’ve made this cake at least 10 times without issue) and has been a disaster for others. These are the exact cake pans I use (they are the BEST). Dividing the batter between two of these pans has never caused me any problems – the batter recipe fills them two-thirds full, and during the baking process, they always bake right up to the top of the pans without overflow. If you have cake pans with lower sides, I highly recommend baking this in three cake pans and assembling the cake as a three-layer cake. I also recommend baking with the pans set on a baking sheet so that if there is overflow, it goes on the baking sheet and not your oven.
- Baking this cake at a lower temperature (300°F) yields a fudgy, very moist cake. I recommend baking at this lower temperature and adding more time, as needed, to get the cakes cooked through. The longest I’ve had to bake these cakes is for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Because this recipe has a higher wet-to-dry ingredient ratio, the resulting cake is a bit crumbly and extremely fudgy and moist. I highly recommend that you frost the cakes after they have been chilled in the fridge – this makes it much easier! Not only will the cakes hold together better in general, but you also will have fewer crumbs getting into your frosting.
- MY TIMELINE: My plan of attack is usually to bake the cakes the day before I want to serve them, let them cool completely, wrap them well in plastic wrap, and keep them in the fridge until I’m ready to assemble. I make the filling and the frosting on the day that I want to serve and then assemble while the cakes are still chilled. Once the cake is frosted, I recommend keeping it in the fridge. Take it out roughly 30 minutes before you want to serve it so it isn’t ice cold.
- Category: dessert
Keywords: mocha cake recipe, chocolate mocha, espresso buttercream recipe, chocolate mocha cake, layer cake recipes