Chocolate and Coffee Cake with Espresso Buttercream

This month's We Should Cocoa challenge is to produce something using chocolate (of course) and coffee. One of my favourite flavour combos, I must admit I didn't know where to start with it. Cupcakes? Muffins? Choux buns? (Yes, I know that's pushing the envelope a little for me, but still, one day I'll make them again, eh?) Anyway, I turned to the interweb thingy for inspiration, and found it in a  fantastic recipe from Ken, of Hungry Rabbit via a guest post he did last year on My Man's Belly.

I was immediately  taken with the simple beauty of the cake, and that it came from a straightforward buttercream icing, carefully applied, with just a few chocolate covered coffee beans as a simple garnish. I immediately realised I wanted to give it a go. My presentation isn't as good, but then that's a great reason to practice a bit more (so I think you can probably expect more iced cakes in future!).

Anyway here it is. I've converted the original recipe (which is an American one) into UK measurements, and I substituted a couple of ingredients where necessary. I also used a slightly different method to make the cake batter.

Chocolate and Coffee Cake with Espresso Buttercream


115g plain chocolate, chopped finely
25g cocoa powder
2 tbspn espresso powder
120ml freshly boiled water
280g plain flour
3/4 tspn baking soda
170g soft unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
130g soft light brown sugar
3/4 tspn fine salt
4 medium eggs (each 57-64g weighed in the shell)
1 tspn vanilla extraxt
140ml buttermilk (the original recipe uses 3/4 cup soured cream but I didn't have that so I used a lesser amount of buttermilk - as it was runnier)

Espresso Buttercream
280g soft unsalted butter
5 cups icing sugar
1/4 tspn fine salt
4 tbspn espresso powder
1 tspn vanilla
4 tbspn double cream

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 175 conventional / 350F / Gas 4. Grease and base line two 23cm (9 inch) loose bottomed sandwich tins.

Place the chocolate with the cocoa and espresso powder in a small bowl and pour over the water. stir to melt and then whisk for a minute or so until you get a smooth mixture. (At this point my inner baking diva was screaming 'but water and chocolate don't mix!?!', but in this case they did - see the piccie below!)

Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer along with the sugars and salt until soft and creamy. Mix the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract in a small jug. Sift the flour and baking soda together. Add a third of the flour to the butter and sugar mix, and then mix briefly. Add half the liquid, and then alternate with a third of the flour, the final half of liquid, and then the final third of the flour, mixing each time briefly until incorporated.

Add the chocolate mix and mix again briefly until it is evenly distributed. Turn the batter into the sandwich tins (half in each one) and gently level the surface.

Bake in the oven for about 25 - 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to continue cooling. Allow to cool completely before assembling the cake.

To make the buttercream, mix the espresso powder with the cream and vanilla . Set aside. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat briefly so that it is smooth. Add the icing sugar, salt, and the coffee/cream mix. With the mixer on low at first, beat to combine the sugar with the butter, then turn up to medium high and beat for a good few minutes until the buttercream is soft and fluffy.

Crumb coated
Cut the cakes in half to give four layers. Layer each with a little of the buttercream. Smooth a thin layer of buttercream over the whole cake to give a crumb coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes so this firms the crumb coat, then ice the cake using the remaining buttercream. I used a decorative scraper to get the lines on the side. I then chilled the cake for another 30 minutes to allow it to firm up slightly before cutting.

The cake was very soft and moist, but as you are supposed to cut each in half horizontally, it made it a little difficult to handle and had a tendency to crumble easily. It was really delicious though. The espresso buttercream is very strongly coffee flavoured. The original recipe uses coffee extract as well, but as I didn't have any, I used the full 4 tablespoons of espresso powder, despite cutting the butter (I do that as I find US recipes tend to be too runny if I use the full amount stated). I would cut the espresso if I make it again, maybe just using half. 

All in all, a delicious chocolatey, coffeeish hit of a cake. I'm submitting it to We Should Cocoa, the brainchild of Choclette and Chele, which this month is being hosted by Lucy at the Kitchen Maid. This month's roundup will be published sometime after 25 June, so why don't you check out the other entries then?

As this is an American recipe, I'm going to be cheeky and also enter it into the United Bakes of America challenge, hosted by Gem at Cupcake Crazy. Gem will publish the round up of this month's entries sometime after 30 June. Well worth a look, especially if you're into your American baking!




  1. I LOVE chocolate and espresso cake! It looks amazing.

    1. Thanks, I'm glad you like it. Ken's version on My Man's Belly is definitely worth a look, as his presentation is fab. Luckily with cake, it can still taste great, even if it's a bit scruffy! ;)

  2. Oh wow! This cake looks divine & I'm sure it taste heavenly too! How I wish I can have a piece now! YUM! :)

  3. What a fabulous cake...this looks perfect!!! I want a slice!!! I love the chocolate covered coffee beans on the top too! :-)

    1. Thanks Laura - I think I'm growing an addiction to the coffee beans as I found myself nibbling on them! :)

  4. Awesome cake - I love the chocolate and coffee combination in cakes. Just made some espresso choc chips cookies now. Your decoration is great - I must invest in a scraper.

    1. Thanks Ros - the scraper definitely made it easier to get a better finish on the cake. I think if I'd used a spatula it would have just gone all over the place! :)

  5. That looks absolutely amazing - the perfect combo of cake and icing, not to mention coffee and chocolate! Thanks for joining in #weshouldcocoa this month. BTW, did I see a mention on your blog about a magic gadget to scrape down the bowl of your Kitchenmaid? I thought it was genius at the time, but forgot to write it down...

    1. Thanks Lucy. Yes, if you have a look under 'My Kitchen' at the top of the page there is a link there to what I referred to. It's called a 'BeaterBlade' and it's basically a paddle attachment with two flexible edges on it so that it scrapes the side of the bowl really well as it mixes.KitchenAid do one, but while theres is a metal paddle, it's only got one flexible blade edge - I've not tries that so don't know what it's like, but I do love my BeaterBlade. It doesn't eliminate the need to scrape down the bowl totally, but does reduce it a lot! :)

  6. Beautiful cake. I need more recipes like this to use up some of my espresso powder. This would go perfectly with a good cup of coffee too.

    1. Thanks Maggie! Yes, I now have a fairly full jar of espresso powder to use up, too! It was good to use it in the sponge and icing, and dissolving it in the cream means you could use it as a coffe flavoured cream for a dessert. Like a plain chocolate cake/pudding with a coffee cream. Or I guess coffee ice cream? Now there's a thought ... Might have to try that out :)

  7. This isn't cheeky at all! What's more American than an American recipe! I love this, I think your presentation is great, love the indentations in the frosting...they look so stylish! Thanks for entering into UBA! It's been such a Brit filled month I wasn't sure how many people would do any American baking!

    1. Thanks Gem! In my book there is always room for an American recipe! Glad you like this one. :)

  8. What a fabulous cake and you've decorated it beautifully - the lines are really effective. I've recently used double cream in buttercream for the first time and it did give it a nice finish. Thanks for joining in with WSC.

    1. Thanks Choclette - I thought the cream definitely added a little smoothness to the buttercream. Was well worth doing :)


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