Sorry to wax Shakespearean, but this cake has me feeling poetic. Let me state for the record that I hate coffee-flavored desserts and that, despite identifying as a slight coffee snob, the same goes for cold coffees. Tiramisu, frappucinos, coffee ice cream – all a big “nope” in my book.
Apparently though, the use of coffee in chocolate desserts can enhance the flavor of the chocolate, without imparting much of a coffee taste.
As a lover of both beans in their separate forms, I was intrigued. So when my husband requested a chocolate cake, I decided to try Beatty’s Chocolate Cake by Ina Garten, which is a chocolate cake, but happens to use brewed coffee in the cake batter and instant coffee powder in the icing.
Chocolate and coffee share similar qualities in that they are both inherently bitter, but different characteristics can be nuanced out of each bean through a variety of cooking and processing methods. Here the sweetness we associate with chocolate is given extra depth by the roastiness of coffee.
In researching this recipe, I found that many have cried foul, claiming it to be Hershey’s Black Magic Cake. I have linked it here and you can see that the cakes are mostly the same, but Hershey’s presents it as a bundt cake without the icing.
AS ALWAYS your final outcome is largely dependent on the quality of your ingredients. Don’t skimp out and expect a million-dollar cake. I used:
- Quality coffee brewed with filtered water
- Quality instant coffee powder
- Baking chocolate bars, not chips
- Full fat buttermilk
- Yes, extra-large size eggs
Don’t skip important steps like allowing the buttermilk, eggs, and butter to come to room temperature and sifting your powdered sugar and flour. The recipe calls for 8” pans. I did use 9” and that was fine, but my layers sank a tad in the middle, so that might have been why. Also, we make VERY strong coffee at our house, so I reduced the strength by approximately half for this recipe. Additionally, I prepared my pans the old-fashioned way by coating them with butter and a dusting of flour. I don’t always do this step, but I did line the pans with a circle of parchment paper, since this is such a sticky batter.
When you mix the batter, don’t be alarmed by the way it looks. It seems like a fine, normal cake batter, but then you add the coffee and it looks like soup. That’s okay though! “Working as intended.”
Last notes: I would not suggest slicing this cake into skinnier layers. Personally, I tried to do so the first time around and the cake is so sticky and fudgey that it was not very agreeable to the process. Also, I chose to leave the egg out of the icing. This is a French technique that results in a silkier texture, but I loved the icing without it anyway. Finally, I would suggest a mild roast coffee. We use a very dark, robust roast and the coffee flavor comes through more than it probably would otherwise.
This cake earned a lot of fans in my family with the final verdict being that it doesn’t taste like straight chocolate, but it doesn’t taste like coffee either. If you want a chocolate cake that has an extra note of interest, give this one a try! Two respectable beans – one deliciously mocha cake.