Chocolate Cake with Espresso Buttercream

My heart is racing, I have butterflies and can’t quite think straight. I’m in love.

With this chocolate cake. Three layers of moist, dense chocolate cake, layered between whipped espresso buttercream, and dripping in thick fudge-y ganache. (Warning: NSFW)

When my best friend Diana turned 24 in December, I told her I’d make her the cake of her dreams. Well, between the holidays and her very crazy schedule as a PA student (PA = like a doctor but less years of school), it took us until February to make that happen. If it’s really true that the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, then D and I are soulmates.

We met four years ago in the Netherlands while studying abroad and basically bonded over our love of Dutch stroopwafels, flaky pastries, and coffee – amongst other things. She’s my girl. We’ve travelled to Paris together where we had a rule that we had to stop into every pâtisserie we walked by. We made it our sole quest to explore the city, asking for directions in broken French, to find Pierre Hermé – the best macaron shop in the city. In a nutshell, that trip pretty much sums up our relationship – we just understand each other. Four years later, we’re lucky to have found our way back to each other in Boston.

As D is one of the biggest chocoholics I know, this cake is decadent and over the top. It combines one of our favorite flavor pairings: coffee + chocolate. I used the same cake recipe as I did for my Orange Chocolate Cake since it was such a hit. This time, I baked the batter in three six-inch round layers, making the cake look cute and mini while also tall.

The espresso buttercream is so simple, only 4 ingredients, but the coffee flavor is rich, and it melts in your mouth. I spread a thin layer of buttercream between the three cake layers and then around the sides, scraping the excess off to get the naked cake look. Then I chilled the whole frosted cake in the fridge for 30 minutes. The dense cake and light frosting get the perfect finish with intense, rich chocolate ganache. I poured the cooled ganache over the top of the cake until it pooled and ran over the sides. Chilling the cake, before adding the ganache, prevents it from running down the sides too quickly, and the chocolate drips set beautifully against the sides.

As if that wasn’t enough chocolate, the cake is topped with even more. I melted down bittersweet chocolate into bark and sprinkled in crushed cookies, hazelnuts, cranberries – basically whatever I could find in my pantry. When the bark cooled, I broke it up into shards and jabbed (technical baking term) them into the top of the cake.

I just so happened to bake this cake for a birthday, but Valentine’s Day (better known as the day you’re given permission to eat excessive amounts of chocolate) is right around the corner. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for your partner or best friend or just trying to treat yo self, this cake is guaranteed to make you swoon.


Chocolate Cake
For the recipe, check out Molly Yeh

I baked my cake at 350 in three six-inch cake pans and let them cool to room temperature before frosting. The cakes took about 25 minutes before the toothpick came out clean.

Espresso Buttercream
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powder sugar
1.5 tsp vanilla
1.5 tsp espresso powder or instant coffee

Whip the butter until light and fluffy. Dissolve the espresso/coffee in the vanilla and whisk into the butter. Add in the powder sugar until beat until incorporated and airy.

Chocolate Ganache
4 oz or about 3/4 cups good quality semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp corn syrup

Place chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan until it is just about to simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir the corn syrup into the melted chocolate. Let the ganache cool to room temperature before pouring over cake.


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