As I'm sitting here writing this column, I have before me a great big wedge of birthday cake on a nice plate and I also have an icy cold glass of milk. For my birthday I like to bake my own cake because I enjoy it so much. I love variety and I love experimenting with cake recipes each & every year. How do I choose? Well, sometimes it comes to me from reading a recipe, going through an old cookbook or from a simple craving I can't shake off. I'm always willing to try a different cake and there isn't a type that, if served to me, I will push away. Last year I made myself a chocolate marble chiffon cake that was covered in a rich ganache. We all loved it.
This year I was absolutely craving the flavor of mocha. After choosing my moist chocolate cake layers, I thought of all the different fillings and frostings that would complement the cake itself. In my mind I envisioned and tasted a good cup of cafe au lait, along with the very best piece of rich chocolate. What I created is perhaps one of the tastiest cakes I've ever had to date. My Mocha Birthday Cake is now yours!
The tall, regal birthday cake sitting on a nice cake stand.
I baked 6" layers for my birthday cake & trimmed the domes to make them level; the cakes should be completely cool before you begin this project. Since it is a very tall, three layer cake, I thought it best to give them a solid footing. One layer gets placed and centered on an 8" jadeite cake stand from my collection of Martha by Mail.
One cup of heavy cream gets turned into whipped cream and is beaten to just under firm peaks. I then fold in about 4 tablespoons of finely chopped, chocolate covered espresso beans. Not only does it give the whipped cream a bit of crunch, it also gives it a nice mocha flavor. A perfect filling.
Spread half of your espresso bean-whipped cream on top of the first layer.
A small blunder on my part. I forgot to put strips of wax paper (parchment also works) under my first layer! You, the reader, should do this before you begin. It's going to save your cake stand from buttercream smudges when you spread the frosting.
Add your second layer and spread the remaining whipped cream. I spread the cream just a bit shy of the edges. I don't want it oozing down the layers.
Place the last & prettiest layer on top. If there is any whipped cream oozing out the sides, simply use a small offset spatula and smooth it out. By the way, these dark, fudgy layers were made with Valrhona cocoa powder.
It's time to begin icing the cake. This is my delicious chocolate frosting that was freshly made. A medium-sized offset metal spatula is all you need to complete the cake.
Note: I inserted a bamboo skewer down the middle of the entire cake before icing it. This prevents the layers from shifting as I spread my frosting. A very Good Thing.
Place a large amount of icing on top of the cake & begin spreading it down the sides of the layers. The frosting behaves & applies beautifully.
Rotate your cake stand as you go. Do you see why it's important to put those strips of parchment or wax paper underneath? Otherwise, the base of my cake stand would be a chocolate mess. By the way, snip off the protruding skewer with some kitchen shears when you're done.
The finished cake.
You can leave the icing on the cake any which way; large swoops are nice. I was inspired a bit by the guys at Baked Bakery in Brooklyn, N.Y. who love to spread a ring pattern around some of their cakes. All you need to do is place the tip of the metal offset spatula along the base of your cake & begin turning the cake stand. Repeat this process all the way to the top. The crown of the cake gets decorated with concentric circles in the same manner. Voila, you're done!
The first slice of Mocha Birthday Cake.
✵✵✵The cake should be refrigerated if you're not planning on serving it in the next hour or so. Otherwise it can sit in a cool place for about one hour. If you have any leftovers, (lucky you!) they can be kept in the refrigerator, well covered, for about 2 days.
This makes 8-10 servings.
A tall wedge awaiting a lucky individual.
Whether you bake this utterly scrumptious cake for a birthday, family gathering or just because you feel like it, I think you're going to love each and every bite. The layers are downy & light, the filling is familiar, yet different because of the espresso beans, and the frosting is out of this world! It's the perfect cake for those coffee lovers in your life (you know who they are). I really ought to stop writing now because there's a giant slice that has my name written all over it and I must finish it. From my kitchen to yours, I hope you enjoy my Mocha Birthday Cake. Cheers!