This easy and tasty mocha cake is full of rich coffee, moist chocolate and heady vanilla. It’s perfect on it’s own or with extra cream!
Fresh starts and new challenges
It’s now been 3 months since I started my new job and I’m pleased to it is going well. It was definitely time for a new challenge and a fresh start. The only down side to the new job is that it has completely zapped me of all my energy which is partly why I have cut down posting on the blog as well as across my social media accounts. There just aren’t enough hours in the day!
Jon has been sympathetic to me working so hard, and so far seems happy letting me get away with serving up a bowl of soup or pasta and pesto for mid-week dinners but I knew he wasn’t going to let me get away with a store bought birthday cake when the big day came around at the end of last month.
He turned 26 last week and regardless of how busy I was at work, or how tired I was when I got home I knew I had to make him something special. So, on bank holiday Monday I woke up at 6.30am and made him this extra special birthday cake while he snored away in the other room.
Old, reliable recipes
For the recipe I reverted to an old classic which has been lurking in the archives of the blog since 2011 – my Mocha Cake. It’s a heady mix of good quality coffee, vanilla and dark chocolate. A rich cake that I knew he would love. In fact, the first time I made this was for his 21st birthday and it went down a treat! I’ve also made it for the odd charity bake sale since. It always goes down a storm but it hadn’t occurred to me to re-blog it until now.
This isn’t the first time I’ve revamped an old recipe. In fact the Spaghetti with Chicken, Artichoke and Spinach Sauce that I posted a few weeks ago was another recipe from the archives that I decided to give a face lift, as were these dark chocolate and passion fruit cupcakes. There are some amazing recipes going back as far as April 2011 just waiting to be rediscovered! If you want to explore my archives then visit the recipe index here.
The main reason I started this blog, and the reason I keep posting, is because it is a fantastic archive of recipes for me. I can easily look back in time and see what I made, for who and when. All of my foodie memories are conveniently stored in one place. With that in mind, I’ve decided not to delete all of the old pictures that went with the original mocha cake blog post. I’m really proud of how far both my cooking and photography skills have come along so, for your amusement here are the original pictures from 2011!
Before – Mocha Cake circa 2011
It was a super hot day and you’ll see the pools of butter cream on top where stiff peaks are meant to be. I remember keeping the cake in fridge right up until the second we lit the candles as it was melting faster than I could re-ice (which I did more that once)! Fortunately we didn’t have that problem this year…
But enough giggling at my old photos.
After – Mocha Cake 2016
What makes a Mocha Cake?
For dark chocolate and coffee lovers this cake is the one. Now, I’ll admit, normally I’m not a huge coffee or dark chocolate lover. When presented with a box of chocolate I’ll usually pick out the coffee and dark chocolate truffles and hand them straight to my OH. The rest of the box is for me (obviously). But that being said, I don’t think I have ever come across a cake I didn’t like.
The trick to this is getting the balance of the 3 key components just right. First you have the sponge. It’s actually my classic birthday cake recipe with a little coffee which is why the sponge is brown rather than pale yellow. The mocha you buy from your favourite coffee shop will often have a sweetened syrup in it (whether you ask for it or not) and the vanilla helps to emulate this. The spike of coffee in the sponge helps bring harmony between the sweet cake and the more bitter buttercream and ganache.
The main buttercream coating is a rich mix of coffee, butter and icing sugar. It’s so simple and so moreish too. I also use a vanilla buttercream made with double cream as a contrast, much like the creamy top on your coffee. Lastly the ganache is a magical combination of thick, velvety double cream and glossy dark chocolate.
Often with cake baking I think you can get away with using cheaper, economy brand products. After all, flour is just flour and sugar is sugar. But, with the vanilla, coffee and chocolate I really would recommend splashing out on the best you can afford.
But enough talking. Let’s bake the cake! We can discuss decorating after…
Mocha Cake – The Recipe
- For the Chocolate Ganache
- The ganache is surprisingly easy. With a good quality double cream, and a good quality chocolate this can be whipped up (quite literally) in minutes!
- First heat the double cream in a pan until it just comes to the boil.
- Once it begins to bubble, take off the heat and pour over the chocolate (which you will need to break down into cubes). Keep stirring until the chocolate is melted and the mixture becomes glossy.
- This then needs to be whipped up - ideally with an electric whisk - until it becomes thick but spreadable!
- It will be REALLY hard at this stage not to grab a spoon and eat it all but trust me, the cake will be worth it at the end!
- At this stage it is best to pop the ganache into the fridge. This will keep it thick and glossy while you prepare the coffee frosting. Then you can build the cake at the end!
- For the Coffee Frosting
- This frosting is REALLY easy! Whisk up the egg whites and the butter. When it starts getting thicker add in the coffee then finally whisk in the icing sugar.
- You may find that you need more icing sugar on this. This will depend on how thick the mixture got when you whisked up the other ingredients.
- To build the cake, remove the ganache from the fridge and spread it straight onto the first layer of the cake.
- Spread this right up to the edges and place the other layer of the sandwich cake on top.
- You need to make sure that the ganache goes right up to the edge and there are no lumps and bumps or gaps between both layers of the cake. I found the best way to do this was to pipe extra ganache onto the edge of the cake and smooth down with a palette knife so the cake was smooth all of the way round.
- Next cover the cake all over in the frosting.
- Once the cake is completely covered, pop the whole cake back in the fridge. By keeping the cake really cool it stops it spoiling (after all there is a lot of fresh cream, egg, and butter in the cake) and it will also help with the final layer of decoration.
- When the cake has become extremely cool, begin melting roughly 300g of dark chocolate in a bowl over some hot water. Remove from the heat once the chocolate is completely smooth, and allow it to cool.
- Make sure you keep stirring so you can feel when it is about to start setting again. When the chocolate is cool but still runny, pour over the top of the cake.
- I decided to allow it to drip down the sides so I had a smooth chocolate top but you could still see the coffee frosting beneath!
The drippy chocolate effect is definitely “on trend” right now. It has appeared on blogs everywhere, in Good Food magazine and on countless cake decorating tutorials across Facebook and Youtube but you’ll see from the grainy photo taken in 2011 that I was drizzling ganache way before everyone else!
I’ve tried it a couple of times with varying degrees of success – again see the original photos above. But since that first attempt I’ve learnt a few tricks of the trade.
- Firstly, make sure your cake is cold. Place the iced cake in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, but preferably as long as an hour before you decide to do the ganache. This will help the ganache set quite quickly and prevent it completely running down the sides of your cake.
- Make sure the ganache is thick, but not too thick. If it’s too thick, it won’t run down the sides, and if it’s too thin, it will run down too much. This can also be translated into temperature. If it’s too hot it will run off the cake completely, too cool and it won’t drip enough. Once the chocolate has melted keep stirring to help it cool. Every now and then lift the spoon out of the bowl, if the chocolate slowly drips off then you’ve got the right consistency.
- Use a spoon to help ease the ganache over the sides. I’ve seen a lot of posts recommending you use a spatula to keep the top of the cake smooth, but, when it comes to getting precise drips using a spoon is much easier! You can always revert to a spatula to smooth out the top of the cake after.
- Last but not least, be patient! If you try and force the drips over the side too quickly they’ll end up running all the way down the cake pooling at the bottom! The slower you go the more control you will have.
I can’t promise it will be perfect first time (practice does make perfect after all) but the beauty of this technique is that it looks better when the drips are haphazard and at different lengths and thicknesses so don’t worry about getting it too precise.
Have you tried the drippy chocolate effect yet? Let me know in the comments below or send me a photo on twitter, I’d love to see your cakes!
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