Without fail, every time I ask my Pater (‘Father’ in Latin, we’re a family of hardcore nerds) what kind of cake he wants for his birthday or Father’s Day, he requests a Black Forest Torte or a Mocha Cake – like this one, this one, or this one. When I bake a cake for someone, I always ask them to challenge me – give me a random assortment of your favorite flavors, colors, things in general and I’ll make it work – but with baking cakes for Pater, I have to challenge myself to make the next one better than the last.
This year, when Pater said he wanted a Mocha Cake, I wanted to make it better than any I had ever made before. Ever. I knew that I would go to my trusty chocolate cake recipe (used in the 2015 Black Forest Torte), but since Pater is on the gluten-free bandwagon now, I planned to use brown rice flour instead of regular white flour in the cake. I was also on the hunt for another good dairy-free frosting recipe.
I scoured the internet again for a fluffy dairy-free frosting recipe and came across this one as a starting point. I ended up making multiple changes to this recipe to get my mocha frosting, but I give the original credit to that gal.
I preheated my oven to 350 degrees and combined all of my dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. You can prep this batter in a mixer, but I like to work things by hand in general. There’s something soothing about stirring batter. Once I had sifted my dry ingredients together (brown rice flour, sugar, unsweetened black cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda) by whisking the mix, I added my wet ingredients (melted margarine, eggs, almond milk, vanilla).
If you do use a mixer (or just have ridiculously strong arms) you can beat the batter together for 2 minutes to make the cake super fluffy when it comes out of the oven.
I split the batter evenly between two Pam’d round cake pans and set them in the oven for 35 minutes or so. I pulled them out when a toothpick inserted into the center came out clean. I let the cakes cool in their pans for about 20 minutes to set. Then, I inverted them onto cooling racks and started the frosting.
The original recipe for the frosting starts with 1 ½ cups of shortening being whipped into oblivion – 12 minutes in a stand mixer on high speed with the whisk attachment! I chose to start with 2 full cups to get a little more frosting. After whipping it with my mixer for 12 minutes, stopping every few minutes to scrape down the sides of the bowl and ease my paranoia of starting an electric fire in my walls (who knows how old the electrical sockets in my apartment are!), I had a very moist and fluffy bowl of shortening.
I added a few tablespoons of the cold brew coffee that Bronson and I have been making – which I will post on *next week* – and a splash of vanilla extract. I was afraid that the liquid might melt the whipped shortening, so I turned the mixer on high for another 2-3 minutes. I used liquid coffee to make the texture smooth; when I’ve used coffee grounds/powder before, the frosting comes out a little grainy.
The original recipe says to sift the powdered sugar before you add it to the frosting – I was stunned. How in the actual hell had I not thought to do that before? I talk all the time about sifting dry ingredients to make the end product fluffier and lighter, but here I’ve been for years, neglecting to do the same to powdered sugar before adding it to frostings. *Facepalm*
I whisked the powdered sugar in a bowl before adding it to the whipped shortening. The frosting was moist and fluffy before, but once I added the powdered sugar, it firmed and bulked up. I threw in the last few ingredients – unsweetened cocoa powder (regular, not black cocoa) and a pinch of salt. I whipped that for another few minutes, frequently stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl. If I had decided not to add the cocoa powder, it would have been delicious on its own as a coffee frosting.
When the frosting was ready to go, I scooped it out of the bowl and into a giant Ziplock bag. I rolled down the top of the bag to keep it open, and plopped frosting into one of the bottom corners of the bag. When I had all of the frosting in the bag, I unrolled the top of the bag and slapped it against the counter a few times to pop out any air bubbles. Then, I pushed as much air from the bag as I could and sealed it, and used my fingers to squeeze the bag, pushing the frosting down toward the one corner. I twisted the top of the bag to build some pressure in my impromptu pastry bag and snipped off the bottom corner.
I placed one of the cakes on a plate and dotted big bulbs of the mocha frosting on top of it. I started in the center and worked my way out, adding a fat bulb wherever it would fit – like one of those never-ending flowers that we all drew in elementary school. I made large dots so that there would be a thick layer of frosting in the center. After the first round of mocha bulbs, I gently laid the second cake layer on top of it and repeated the never-ending flowers of mocha frosting.
I was so damn proud of this cake! I think it’s one of the prettiest cakes I’ve ever made. I babied it the entire drive to Momsie and Pater’s house – I wrapped the cake in tin foil secured with tape, and set it on the floor of the passenger seat in my car with the A/C blaring directly on it. I would have been pissed if all of my hard work melted – it was 92 degrees on Father’s Day!
When Pater saw the cake, he almost lost his shit. He couldn’t believe that I frosted it with a Ziplock bag! I was so happy that he loved his Pater’s Day treat. He raved on about it after dessert, “The cake is almost like a brownie, it’s so rich…. Your grandma could make some mocha frosting, but yours is better!”. No offense, Grammy.
*Brushes shoulders off* I think that it’s safe to say that I outdid myself. Pater hit it right on the nose, saying that the cake turned out more like a brownie than a cake. It was dense, rich and moist. I’m guessing that came from using brown rice flour and not whipping the batter in the stand mixer for 2 minutes before pouring it into the cake pans. Either way, it turned out amazing, and I regret nothing!
The frosting was a wonderful contrast to the brownie-like cake because of its fluffiness! Those bulbs of frosting might as well have been clouds made of mocha with cherubs sitting upon them. The mocha was a great accent to the chocolate cake, the two didn’t compete with each other at all. When the two were eaten together in one bite, the dark chocolate cake brought out more of the coffee flavor in the frosting.
I could keep going on about how well this mocha layer cake is, but I’ll spare you the ranting. This cake is damn delicious. Make it.
Recipe for Black Cocoa Cake:
- 2 cups sugar
- 1-3/4 cups brown rice flour
- 3/4 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1/2 cup melted margarine
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients together in a large bowl – or bowl for a standing mixer. Use a whisk to sift dry ingredients. Add eggs, vanilla and almond milk, melted margarine and stir. Add cup of boiling water and stir. If using a standing mixer or if you’re very strong, whip for 2 minutes at a high speed for a taller, fluffier cake.
Divide batter between two greased, round cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow cakes to rest in pans for 20 minutes before running a paring knife along the edges and smacking the bottom of the pan to separate cake from pan. Invert each cake onto a cooling rack.
Recipe for Mocha Frosting:
- 2 cups butter flavored shortening
- 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 7 Tbsp. brewed coffee
- 10 Tbsp. Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder (regular)
- Pinch of salt
Whip shortening in a standing mixer for 12 minutes on high speed, stopping every few minutes to scrap the side of the bowl. When the shortening is whipped and looks moist, add the coffee and vanilla extract. Whip for 2-3 minutes. Sift powdered sugar before adding to shortening mixture. Add powdered sugar and whip for 2-3 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl. Add cocoa powder and salt and whip for 2-3 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl.
To assemble Mocha Layer Cake:
Bake cakes to directions above. Prepare mocha frosting to directions above.
Place one of the cakes on a large serving plate. Roll down the top seal of a large Ziplock bag and scoop frosting into the Ziplock bag into one of the bottom corners.
When all of the frosting is in the bag, unroll the top and drop the bag onto the counter a few times to release any air bubbles. Push as much air from the bag as possible and seal it. Using your fingers, push any frosting around the edges of the inside of the bag inward toward the one bottom corner.
Twist the top of the Ziplock bag and cut off the one bottom corner. Use the Ziplock bag to squeeze large dots of frosting on top of the cake. When the first layer of cake is covered in frosting, gently lay the other cake layer on top and repeat the frosting process.