My birthday was last weekend, and if you think that I’d let an opportunity like that go by without baking to celebrate, you don’t know me. Every year, I
demand eagerly insist that I make my own cake. Last year I debated and dawdled until the last possible minute, and I finally decided to make an spectacular almond variation of a german chocolate cake from the Pastry Queen (see online renditions).
But this year was different. I’ve had this recipe bookmarked since I got this cookbook last Christmas. The picture completely drew me in: a shiny chocolate ganache dripping over a perfectly smooth coffee buttercream with multicolored chocolate-covered espresso beans as a garnish. Nine months later, I was finally tasting it, three thick layers of chocolate cake with a potent coffee buttercream sandwiched between, finished off with that tantalizing glaze and the crunchy dark-chocolate coffee beans. Don’t you love when a photo tastes as good as it looks?
Chocolate Coffee Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache
adapted from Baked Explorations
Don’t let the name “coffee cake” fool you; this is not your morning cup of joe accompaniment–it’s a rich, rich triple layer cake with a coffee-flavored buttercream. The cake is a traditional chocolate cake, kept moist from sour cream. The buttercream, a cooked flour-sugar-milk mixture was interesting and delicious. It had a slightly different flavor than quick or Swiss meringue buttercreams and was far smoother–great for frosting tall, perfect sides.
For the classic chocolate cake
3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup sour cream
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the coffee buttercream
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water, cooled to room temperature
For the chocolate glaze
8 ounces dark chocolate (60-72%), coarsely chopped
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
10-12 chocolate-covered espresso beans, optional
Make the chocolate cake
Preheat oven to 325° F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line them with parchment paper, and butter and flour the parchment, knocking out excess flour.
In medium bowl, stir together the cocoa powder and sour cream with 1 1/4 cups hot water and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
Using a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until very smooth and light, about 3 minutes. Add the sugars and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 more minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition until the egg is incorporated into the mixture. Add the vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again for 30 seconds.
Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, add the dry ingredients and the cocoa mixture to the batter in three alternating parts. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake the cakes for 35-40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool for 30 to 45 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack and let them cool completely. Remove the parchment.
Make the coffee buttercream
In a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool (this takes about 7-9 minutes; however, you can speed it up by pressing bags of frozen produce around the bottom and sides of the bowl). Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about another 1-2 minutes.
Add the vanilla and espresso mixture and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.
To assemble the cake
To prevent your serving platter from being covered in frosting, place scraps of parchment paper on the bottom around the cake. Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface, and evenly spread about 1 1/4 cups frosting on top. Add the next layer, trim and frost it, then add the third layer. Spread a very thin layer of frosting over the sides and top of the cake and put it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to firm up. (This is the crumb coating which will help you keep loose cake crumbs under control when you frost the outside of the cake.) Spread the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Refrigerate it for 15 minutes to firm it up.
Make the chocolate glaze
Place the butter, chocolate, and corn syrup in the top of a double boiler. Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir the glaze to release excess heat.
Glaze and finish the cake
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place your cake on a wire rack over the baking sheet. Slowly pour about 3/4 cup of the glaze over the cake. Use a small offset spatula to smooth it out to the edges. Place the cake in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to set the glaze. Remove from the refrigerator and slowly pour the rest of the glaze over the cake. It should run down the sides in thick streams. You should be able to control the size and length of the streams by the pour. Feel free to experiment and play around. Remove the parchment from underneath the cake. Garnish with chocolate-covered espresso beans, if using. Chill the entire cake for approximately 20 minutes, or until glaze is set, then transfer to a cake plate. Serve at room temperature.
The cake can be stored, covered in a cake dome or cake saver, at room temperature for up to 3 days, or refrigerated for 5 days.