I think we all have those recipes, tucked into the back of a recipe box or a binder, that gets pulled out once a year for a specific occasion. This Chocolate Espresso Layer Cake, from the genius Ina Garten, is exactly that recipe for me. Each April, I lovingly make this cake for my husband’s birthday and then – for no good reason – it tends to be tucked back into my trusty recipe binder until the next spring. I can’t quite figure out why I don’t make it more often. It is really the best cake ever: layers of rich, dark chocolate with a hint of coffee to cut the sweetness and buttermilk to keep it moist. When the recipe was published in Food and Wine years ago, Ina declared it “the most fabulous chocolate cake I’ve ever made.” I agree wholeheartedly.
The frosting is a wonder, too. Buttercream with a twist – espresso powder and an egg yolk give it fabulous flavor and a smooth, creaminess I’ve never found with just a traditional buttercream. I often double the frosting recipe to really coat the cake with a good, thick layer for my frosting loving husband but one standard recipe does cover a double layer cake.
The cake can be made and frosted up to two days in advance, but it must be kept in the refrigerator due to the raw egg in the frosting*. For food safety reasons, I would not advise keeping it longer than two days…so, eat up!
(*If you need to avoid raw eggs – for the pregnant women or others in your life that avoid raw – the frosting will still be fantastic without it! No need to add anything else, just make sure your butter is truly at room temperature before you start.)
Chocolate Espresso Layer Cake
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup hot coffee
- 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chopped roughly
- 2 sticks of unsalted butter softened
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee or espresso granules
- 2 teaspoons hot water
For the Cake:
Butter two 8 inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper and then butter the paper. Lightly flour both pans and set aside.
In a stand mixer, briefly combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla.
Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and blend until just combined.
Slowly beat in the hot coffee. Do not overmix.
Divide the batter into the two prepared pans and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 35 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Allow the cakes to cool for about 30 minutes in the pans and then invert onto cooling racks to finish cooling completely.
For the frosting:
Melt the chocolate gently in the microwave, in 30 second intervals. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium until light and fluffy.
Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat for an additional minute.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
On low speed, slowly add in the powdered sugar until just combined.
Dissolve the coffee granules in the hot water and slowly add the slurry and the cooled chocolate into the frosting mixture, beating just to combine.
On the plate or stand of your choice, place one of the cake layers flat side up. Apply a layer of frosting to the top and add the second cake layer.
Coat the cake generously in your frosting and, if desired, dust with chocolate shavings.
Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.