More Great Recipes: Cake

Cocoa Layer Cake

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Serves 12-16 | Prep Time | Cook Time

Why I Love This Recipe

I don't think that one of us doesn't have at least one great memory of their grandparents. For me, I will always remember my grandfather sitting in his recliner, smoking (okay, so maybe not all imagery of grandparent's bring that slight fuzzy feeling of childhood, but the other's do...) and drinking coffee all hours of the day.

That coffee. I wanted it so bad. To heck with the point that I was only six years old and that it would "stunt my growth". Since my grandfather had such an addiction to the substance of coffee, he knew what it meant to crave it and he knew that yes, while I was just a kid, a little won't hurt. He used to yell over to my grandmother to put a little in my milk. Yes, a kid craving coffee but is sufficing milk with just a drop of coffee. And yes, there were times when I would sneak a little more in than I was supposed to.

I remember my grandmother mumbling under her breath as she handed her six year old granddaughter milk with coffee. Wasn't a kid not supposed to like coffee? Sometimes I even would sit there with the milk/ coffee mixture in a mug, sipping it like my grandfather. Two peas in a pod I thought.

Throughout my childhood I had many coffee cravings. Coffee ice cream, coffee shop concoctions and then wow! Starbucks Frappacino! Coffee heaven.

While my appetite for all things coffee has subsided, my craving for a little espresso in my desserts waxes and wanes. Right now, I am waxing poetic on espresso. Love it. Who can dismiss the fact that chocolate and coffee go oh so well together?!

When I came across this recipe, I was elated. Espresso powder in the frosting. I will give this a try, and was I sure glad I did. Enjoy!

Ingredients You'll Need


1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)

1 cup lukewarm water, divided

1/2 cup buttermilk

1.5 cups cake flour ( spooned into cups to measure, then leveled)

3/4 teaspoon baking sode

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 large eggs, room temperature, beaten to blend


10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter

1 1/3 cups (packed) golden brown sugar

1 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

special equipment

3 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2 inch-high sides


Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Butter three 9-inch-diameter cake pans. Line with parchment paper rounds; butter parchment. Whisk cocoa and 1/2 cup warm water in small bowl. Whisk buttermilk and 1/2 cup water in another small bowl. Sift flour, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beath both sugars and butter in large bowl until pale yellow and fluffy (mixture will appear granular) about 5 minutes. With mixer running, gradually add beaten eggs then beat until smooth and fluffy about 15 seconds. Add cocoa mixture; beat to blend. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 2 additions, beating to blend after each addition. Divide batter among pans (about 1 3/4 cups each).

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, reversing pans halfway through baking about 18 minutes. Cool completely in pans on racks.

Directions for frosting

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar, cocoa, espresso powder and 1/2 teaspoon (scant) salt. Gradually stir in cream. Stir until mixture is very hot and just begins to simmer at edges. Reduce heat to low; stire 1 minute to let flavors blend. Transfer to medium bowl; stir in vanilla (frosting will resemble chocolate sauce) Chill until just thickened, stirring occasionally about 1.5 hours. Let stand at room temperature.

Run knife around cake sides. Carefully invert 1 cake onto plate (cake is very tender) peel off parchment. Spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Invert second cake onto palm of hand. Position cake 2 inches above frosted cake layer. Carefully slide cake onto first layer. Peel off parchment. Spread cake with 1/2 cup frosting. Repeat with third cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.

Do Ahead

Can be made 1 day ahead. cover with cake dome; let stand at room temperature. Cut into wedges and serve.

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