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A Perfect Pair: Chocolate Cake with Coffee Buttercream for Josie

Chocolate Cake with Coffee Buttercream and Dark Chocolate Ganache

My friend Josie is set to have her twins any day now, and our group of friends couldn’t let this occasion pass without a surprise for her. It was almost a year ago that these same friends surprised me with a baby shower, and I so wish we were all together again. Since we can’t be, we decided to throw a little virtual shower for Josie. Annie had the idea for us to incorporate foods that are perfect pairs to celebrate Josie’s two sweet boys, and I couldn’t resist doing something with chocolate and coffee (one of my favorite flavor combinations). I think Josie’s going to love the pairs that everyone chose. Annie used tequila and lime to make a Paloma cocktail, which is actually one of Eric’s favorite drinks. Elly put sausage and biscuits together into one perfect breakfast item, and Tara made the classic combination of shrimp and grits.

You don’t have to convince me that chocolate has an infinite number of perfect matches, but something wonderful happens when chocolate and coffee come together. And, seeing as how Josie will soon be a mom of four, I figured she’d need some extra coffee in her life. This cake is lusciously decadent and oh so delicious. This is basically the chocolate cake of my dreams – moist, fluffy and perfectly sweetened. The coffee buttercream is smooth and has a subtle coffee flavor. The recipe description says that even coffee-averse people will like this cake, and I totally agree. As if a chocolate cake with coffee buttercream wasn’t awesome enough, this one is covered with dark chocolate ganache, taking it completely over the top. I mean, seriously. How could anyone resist a cake with chocolate dripping down the sides?

A note about the buttercream: This recipe is unlike any recipe for frosting I’ve made (and this is coming from someone that worked at a cupcake shop). It’s a cooked frosting, but it’s not Swiss or Italian meringue. This frosting is made with, wait for it, flour. The flour is cooked, along with milk and cream, to create a gravy-like sauce (think béchamel). Apparently, this type of frosting was common during WWII since it uses significantly less butter and sugar. Pretty cool!

Josie, I’m so excited for you and can’t wait to meet your two new additions!

Chocolate Cake with Coffee Buttercream and Dark Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate Cake with Coffee Buttercream

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Yield: About 12 generous slices

Chocolate Cake with Coffee Buttercream


For the chocolate cake:
¾ cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
⅔ cup sour cream
1¼ cups hot water
2⅔ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and softened
½ cup vegetable shortening
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
For the coffee buttercream:
1½ cups granulated sugar
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole milk
⅓ cup heavy cream
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, soft but still cool
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons coffee extract
For the chocolate ganache:
8 ounces dark (60 to 72%) chocolate, coarsely chopped
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and softened
1 tablespoon light corn syrup


To make the chocolate cake, heat the oven to 325º. Butter three 8-inch cake pans, line them with parchment and butter the parchment. Lightly dust the inside of the pans with flour and tap out the excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, sour cream and hot water. Set aside to cool. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and shortening together on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add the sugars and continue beating until light and fluffy, an additional 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low and mix in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture and cocoa mixture to the bowl in three alternating parts, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then divide the mixture evenly between the prepared pans. Use an offset spatula to smooth the top of the batter. Bake the cakes for 35-40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool for about 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the rack to cool completely.

To make the coffee buttercream, whisk the flour and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Add the milk and cream and whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed until the mixer bowl cools to room temperature, 7-9 minutes.

Reduce speed to low and add the butter, a few pieces at a time, and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase speed to medium high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, an additional 1-2 minutes. Add the vanilla and coffee extracts and continue mixing until combined. At this point, if your frosting is too loose, it can be refrigerated. On the other hand, if it's too firm, you can heat it over a pot of simmering water until it reaches your desired consistency.

Assemble the cake by placing one layer on a cake stand. Level as needed, then top with a heaping cup of buttercream. Spread the buttercream nearly to the edges. Repeat with the next layer. Once all three layers are stacked, spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides to create a crumb coat. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake and refrigerate for another 15 minutes while making the ganache.

To make the chocolate ganache, place the chocolate, butter and corn syrup in a bowl (preferably one with a pour spout) set over a pot of simmering water. Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture until smooth and combined. Very slowly pour about ¾ cup of glaze over the frosted cake. Use a small offset spatula to carefully smooth it out to the edges. Refrigerate for about 5 minutes to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and slowly pour over the remaining ganache, letting it drip down the sides in thick streams. Chill the entire cake for about 20 minutes to set. Serve at room temperature.

The cake can be stored, covered in a cake container, at room temperature for up to 3 days.


Baked Explorationsby Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

  • Josie

    Well, you know how I feel about coffee. And chocolate. And cake. This looks amazing, Courtney! You guys are so awesome.

  • elly @ elly says opa

    Gorgeous cake, Courtney! And of course it sounds amazing.

  • Warm Vanilla Sugar

    What an awesome way to celebrate! Loooove this cake!

  • Tara Trapasso Liptak

    I don’t know what you were talking about yesterday, Courtney, because these photos are stunning! I’m dying to make it now! You certainly know Josie and her coffee love. :)

    • Courtney

      Aw thanks! :)

  • Courtney Rae Jones

    What a gorgeous cake! Wow! Beautiful photos. Congrats to Josie!

  • Crystal

    Beautiful cake and pics Courtney!! And, sounds so yummy!

  • kelly

    Holy gorgeous, Courtney! This cake looks phenomenal. Seriously. I want to lick my screen. And great choice–as I was scrolling through my google reader, I thought this was peanut butter and chocolate (also delicious combo), but I love chocolate & coffee. Oh my goodness. Congrats to Josie–if for some reason she can’t accept this cake, I would gladly do so on her behalf :)

  • Melissa Hasenmayer

    This looks simply to die for! Of course, since I’ve been on my “no sweets” diet, everything chocolate has become irresistible to me. Chocolate and coffee are the perfect marriage.

  • Courtney

    Oops, that’s what I meant. I corrected it in the recipe. I haven’t made this specific cake with all butter, but I do often use butter in place of shortening, so I think you’re probably fine to do that. Happy birthday!