Chocolate and coffee are "really the perfect combination," according to recipe developer Jessica Morone, who brought us this surprisingly simple, yet super impressive-looking, three-layer chocolate mocha cake.
"What I was going with for this cake," Morone adds, is "the perfect marriage of chocolate and coffee flavors." As everyone knows, perfect marriages are rare indeed, so you know you’re in for a treat with this recipe for chocolate mocha cake. The one thing Morone hopes you don’t get bogged down on is the decorating of the cake. "I think the decorating part can be the most fun part of making cakes, so I really encourage people to be creative and have fun with it," Morone tells Tasting Table. And if fun happens to mean adding a chocolate ganache drip to the cake when serving it, or topping the cake with macarons, candy, or sprinkles, then by all means, Morone encourages you to go for it.
Gather your ingredients for chocolate mocha cake
To make Morone’s recipe for chocolate mocha cake, you’ll need the ingredients for the cake and the ingredients for the frosting, which will also serve as filling between the layers. For the cake, you’ll need 3 cups all-purpose flour, ¾ cup cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoons baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt, 3 eggs, 2 ½ cups granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 cup sour cream, 1 cup vegetable oil, and 1 ½ cups lukewarm coffee.
For the frosting, you’ll need 2 cups unsalted butter (at room temperature), 4 cups confectioners sugar, ¼ cup cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon espresso powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon salt, and 5 tablespoons heavy cream.
Make the cake batter
Start by preheating your oven to 350 F, and spraying three 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Set these aside, and turn to the dry ingredients. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, ¾ cup cocoa powder, the baking powder, baking soda, and ½ teaspoon salt.
Then, in a separate large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, sour cream, and vegetable oil.
Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined, bearing in mind that Rapone advises against overworking this batter.
Add the coffee and pour the batter into the cake pans
Once the wet and dry ingredients have been mixed, slowly stir in the lukewarm coffee until it’s combined throughout. Pour the batter evenly into the three prepared cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean.
Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove them from their pans. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Just keep in mind, while you are waiting for the cakes to bake, you can certainly move on to the next step to work on the frosting.
Whip up the mocha frosting
Place your room temperature butter in a large mixing bowl, and beat it with an electric mixer until it is smooth. Slowly add in the confectioner’s sugar, the espresso powder, the other teaspoon vanilla extract, the other ½ teaspoon salt, the remaining ¼ cup cocoa powder, and the heavy cream. Turn the mixer to "high" until the frosting is creamy. If you’re on this step while your cakes are still baking, you’ll want to refrigerate the frosting until your cakes are ready to decorate. If your cakes are already baked and cooled, you can simply move onto the next step.
Prep your cake for assembly and decoration
There are three things you’ll want to keep in mind before you start assembling and decorating your cake. The first is that if you refrigerated the frosting, you’ll want to bring it back to room temperature before assembling your cake. The second thing to keep in mind is that you’ll want your cake layers to have fully cooled (lest you end up with a gloppy, crumbly mess).
The third is that if any of the three layers baked with a significant dome on top, you can use a breadknife to slice off the top part to form a flat surface (like what you see in the photo above), although it’s certainly not required.
Assemble and decorate this 3-layered cake
When your cakes are cool to the touch and your frosting is reasonably spreadable, let the cake assembly and decoration begin. Place one cake layer on a flat surface (Rapone uses a cardboard cake disk, which can be really handy if you happen to have any on hand). Scoop about ¾ cup frosting right onto the center of the layer, then use an articulated frosting spatula to spread it gently to the edges of the layer.
Top with a second cake layer, and spread with another ¾ cup frosting. Top with the third layer. Now, all that remains is to spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. If you’d like, you can also decorate it with other items (candy or sprinkles, perhaps?). As noted above, the point here is to have fun. However, if you want your cake to turn out extra neat and tidy, you can follow these directions for crumb coating a cake.
When you want a cake that tastes as good as you morning mocha — the mix of chocolate and coffee delivering the goods — make this chocolate mocha cake recipe.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cocoa powder, divided
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 3 eggs
- 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 ½ cup lukewarm coffee
- 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 cups confectioners sugar
- 1 tablespoon espresso powder
- 5 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream for thinning the frosting, if necessary
- Decorative toppings (e.g., candy, sprinkles, etc.)
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Spray 3, 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Set them aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ¾ cup cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and ½ teaspoon salt.
- In a separate large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, sour cream, and vegetable oil.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones until well-combined, then slowly mix in the coffee.
- Pour the batter evenly into the 3 prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean.
- Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove them from the pans, and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the frosting, add the butter to a large mixing bowl and beat it with an electric mixer until it is smooth. Slowly add in the confectioner’s sugar, espresso powder, remaining vanilla extract, salt, cocoa powder, and heavy cream. Mix on high until the frosting is creamy.
- Add in an additional tablespoon of heavy cream if the frosting is still too thick.
- To assemble the cake, pipe a layer of buttercream onto one of the cake layers, top with another cake layer, and pipe another layer of buttercream on top of that.
- Add the third cake layer, then spread the remaining buttercream over the top and sides of the cake.
- Decorate further as desired, then serve.