Chocolate Cake with Coffee Buttercream

I made this as a birthday cake for my aunt, who loves chocolate and coffee.  Pretty appropriate, no?  I was inspired by a recipe that I saw in the Baked Explorations cookbook.  Their recipe calls for a three layer, from scratch chocolate cake with lots of coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache.  But I refrained myself, partially because I had learned my lesson on another recipe from this book (an experience which I will share with you soon) and partially because there will only be 6-8 people at the birthday party, and I know I don’t need to eat all that leftover cake.  So I used the same chocolate cake shortcut that I shared in this recipe — starting with a boxed cake mix and substituting one cup of coffee for one cup of the water called for on the box.

To make the cake a little fancier used two round pans, and made a two layer cake.  You’ll want to grease the pans first, then line the bottom with wax or parchment paper, then coat the bottom and sides with a light dusting of flour,

Assemble the cake mix according to the package instructions, substituting the coffee for the water.  Divide the mixture evenly between the two pans.  Before putting them in the oven, give each pan a good whack on the counter (striking the bottom of the pan) to release some of the air bubbles that formed during mixing.

Cook the cakes per the directions on the box, and allow them to cool, and remove from the pan.  I made my cakes the night before, wrapped them in plastic wrap, and left them fridge overnight.

Coffee Buttercream 

This was my first attempt at a traditional buttercream.  It’s a little intimidating at first, but it comes together beautifully and makes a airy and creamy frosting.  This recipe comes from Martha Stewart, and made just enough to cover a two later cake generously.

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
3/4 cup sugar
3 large egg whites
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place espresso powder in a small cup; add the boiling water, and stir to dissolve. Let cool.

Bring a saucepan with about 2 inches of water to a simmer. Combine sugar and whites in a large heatproof mixer bowl set over (not in) simmering water. Whisk until whites are warm to the touch and sugar is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes.

Place bowl on mixer stand; whisk on low speed until mixture is foamy. Whisk on medium-high until stiff, glossy peaks form and mixture is completely cool completely, about 10 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium-low; add butter 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking to incorporate fully well after each addition (if buttercream appears curdled, at this point simply beat until smooth). Whisk in vanilla and espresso mixture.

Switch to paddle attachment; beat on lowest speed to reduce air bubbles, 3 to 5 minutes.

Assembly
If your cakes have a bit of a dome shape on top, slice off the top with a serrated knife to form a flat surface.  Place the cut side of the cake down on a plate and spread thick layer of the frosting on top.

Place the other cake, cut side down, on top and cover the entire cake with a thin layer of the frosting.

At this point I put the cake in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up the the icing.  The thin layer helps prevent any crumbs from getting in the final icing layer.  Take the cake out of the fridge and spread the rest of the icing over the top and down the sides with a spatula.

I had a little design maker in my cake decorating kit, so I made some fancy lines on mine. And, then, to finish it all off, I melted about a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips with 1-2 tablespoons of milk to make a ganache and drizzled it around the top.

The cake turned out delicious, and the chocolate ganache really sealed it.  And it was the right choice to tone down the original recipe a bit.  We still have about half the cake left, but I think the philosophers might be able to help me take care of that this week.

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