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52 Weeks of Baking: Espresso Cake

Ask and you shall receive.
This week's baking experiment is a delectable four-layer espresso cake that you guys voted for. Unlike some of my other baking adventures, this one was definitely a time consuming treat. The recipe comes from a book called Death by Chocolate Cakes by Marcel Desaulniers, and although the cake came out great, there were still a few things I would change about it. For instance, it calls for dividing the batter into four pans instead of two (and then splitting the layers). I found that this led to drier layers and if faced with this recipe again, I would definitely make two cake layers and split them each in half instead. Also, the cake itself wasn't amazing, I prefer fluffy cakes with a nicer crumb texture. However, the folks I made it for didn't seem to notice, the cake was devoured before the day was finished.

Also, I actually don't drink much caffeine these days and after three bites of this cake, I was crazy wired. So don't eat this one as a midnight snack, okay?

To check out the recipe, complete with step-by-step picture instructions,

Excessively Expressive Espresso Ecstasy Cake
From Marcel Desaulniers

DSC_8634.JPGChocolate Espresso Cake
5 oz unsalted butter cut into 1/2 oz pieces; plus 1 tbsp (melted)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 oz semisweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs (room temperature)
1/4 cup instant espresso powder
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache
12 oz semisweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp granulated sugar

DSC_8669.JPGEspresso Mousse
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup instant espresso powder
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped and melted

1/4 cup espresso beans
3/4 cups sliced almonds, toasted and crushed with your hands*
12 chocolate-covered espresso beans
Note: If you're like me and you don't really enjoy almonds in your chocolate, you can replace with other nuts, coarsely chopped chocolate, or for a kick (which is what I did) more espresso beans

The Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat the insides of four 9×1 1/2-inch nonstick cake pans with some of the 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper (or wax paper), then lightly coat the paper with more melted butter. Set aside.
  2. In a sifter combine 1 1/4 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sift onto a large piece of parchment paper (or wax paper) and set aside until needed.
  3. Melt 6 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate, 5 ounces butter, and 3 ounces chopped unsweetened chocolate in the top half of a double boiler, or in a microwave oven, and stir until smooth. Note: If you don't have a double boiler, or a microwave, you can use a metal or glass bowl on top of a pan. Just make sure that the water doesn't touch the bowl, you only want the steam to melt. Also, I find that it's best to take the bowl off of the pan once the chocolate is 2/3 melted, and then stir until the rest melts.
  4. Place 1 1/2 cups sugar, 5 eggs, and 1/4 cup espresso powder in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes until thick. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the melted chocolate mixture and mix on medium to combine, about 20 seconds.
  5. Operate the mixer on low while gradually adding the sifted dry ingredients; mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup sour cream and 2 tablespoons vanilla extract and mix on low to combine, about 15 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the ingredients until thoroughly combined.
  6. Immediately divide the cake batter into the prepared pans (about 1 2/3 cups of batter in each pan), spreading it evenly.
  7. Bake on the top and center racks in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake layer comes out clean, about 22 minutes. (Rotate the pans from top to center halfway through the baking time.) Remove the cake layers from the oven and cool in the pans for 15 minutes at room temperature. Invert the cake layers onto cake circles (or onto cake plates). Note: If you don't have cake circles, use a piece of cardboard, or flat plates
  8. Carefully peel the paper away from the bottoms of the layers. Refrigerate the cake layers until needed.

Chocolate Ganache

  1. Place 12 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate and 4 ounces chopped unsweetened chocolate in a large bowl.
  2. Heat 2 cups heavy cream and 2 tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil. Pour the boiling cream over the chopped chocolate. Set aside for 5 minutes; then stir with a whisk until smooth.
  3. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the ganache to a baking sheet with sides, spreading it evenly. Set aside at room temperature the remaining ganache and the ganache on the baking sheet until needed. Note: This is to allow the ganache on the pan to cool faster.

Espresso Mousse

  1. Place 2 cups heavy cream, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup instant espresso powder in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a balloon whip. Whisk on medium-high for 2 minutes until firm, but not stiff, peaks form.
  2. Add 1 1/2 cups of the whipped cream to 4 ounces melted unsweetened chocolate, and use a rubber spatula to fold them together until thoroughly combined. Add the combined whipped cream and chocolate to the remaining whipped cream and use a rubber spatula to fold them together until smooth and thoroughly combined.


  1. Remove the cake layers from the refrigerator. Use a cake spatula to spread about 1 1/2 cups of Espresso Mousse evenly and smoothly over the top and to the edges of each of 2 of the inverted cake layers.
  2. Transfer the 1 1/2 cups of ganache from the baking sheet to the top of another inverted cake layer, and use a cake spatula to spread the ganache evenly over the top and to the edges.
  3. Refrigerate the remaining amount of mousse (about 1 cup) until needed to complete the assembly of the cake.
  4. Use a utility turner to remove the ganache-coated cake layer from the cake circle; then stack that cake layer onto one of the mousse-coated layers. Note: If you do not have a utility turner, use a large spatula (my turner has gone MIA, so used a pancake flipper).
  5. Top with the other mousse-coated layer. Place the remaining inverted cake layer onto the top of the preceding mousse layer and gently press it into place. Refrigerate the cake for 1 hour, until the mousse layers have firmed, before completing the assembly. Note: Don't overdo it on the mousse like I did. If you do, scrape the excess off after firming, but before final frosting.

Frosting & Finishing

  1. Place 1/4 cup espresso beans in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse the espresso beans for 45 seconds until coarsely chopped. Combine the almonds and espresso beans on a baking sheet with sides. Set aside. Note: I decided to forgo the nuts and went all espresso beans. Let's just say it definitely adds a bunch more caffeine to the final result.
  2. Transfer the remaining ganache to the top of the cake. Use a cake spatula to spread a smooth coating of ganache over the top and sides.
    Note: Make sure the ganache is cool enough before doing this step. I did not check and poured the ganache on top. The ganache on the bottom of the bowl was much much warmer than the ganache on top. If I was doing this again, I would probably spread the ganache out on a pan like I did for the first half. Because my ganache was not cool enough, and I had too much espresso mousse oozing out on the sides, the two melded together and was definitely a bit of a mess. Luckily, I wasn't worried about pretty here because I knew I would be coating the sides with crushed beans.Not totally cooled, so it mixed with the espresso mousse more than I would have liked.Not totally cooled, so it mixed with the espresso mousse more than I would have liked.
  3. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes. Use a utility turner to transfer the cake onto a clean cardboard cake circle. Note: Since I did not have any cake circles in the house, I assembled my cake directly on my cake stand.
  4. Press the chopped almond and espresso bean mixture into the sides of the cake, coating it evenly.DSC_8703.JPG
  5. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip with the remaining cup of mousse. Pipe a circle of 12 evenly spaced mousse stars along the outside edge of the top of the cake. (Depending on the size of the stars, you may end up with a wee bit of mousse left over. Mmm!) Top each star with a chocolate-covered espresso bean. Note: If you do not have a pastry bag, put your mousse into a ziploc bag and snip a corner.
  6. Refrigerate for 1 hour before slicing and serving. Heat the blade of a serrated slicer under hot running water and wipe the blade dry before cutting each slice.

After assembly, you may keep the Excessively Expressive Espresso Ecstasy in the refrigerator for 2 days before serving. To avoid permeating the cake with refrigerator odors, place the cake in a large, tightly sealed plastic container.

Serves 12 - but honestly, you will only need a sliver, I fed over 20 people.

Click on a picture for a larger view:




































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