Wicked Espresso Cake

A gorgeous, Fair Trade coffee-infused dessert that will have guests coming back for seconds.

Coffee lovers, this one's for you! This decadent, show-stopping confection from Sprinkle Bakes blogger Heather Baird is built with six espresso-infused cake layers filled with coffee crème légère ("light cream") and frosted with chocolate-espresso French buttercream. Perfect for dazzling guests at your next holiday party. The best part? It's made with Fair Trade Certified™ coffee, so you know that each slice helps coffee farming communities build brighter futures. Looks good, tastes good, does good. 

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Ingredients

For the cake layers

For the coffee crème légère

  • 2 Tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 2 Tbsp hot water
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 cup whole milk, cold
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 6 Tbsp + 1/4 cup Fair Trade Certified organic cane sugar, separated
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

For the espresso French buttercream frosting

Special equipment

  • Candy thermometer
  • Large piping bag with 1/2-inch tip
  • Kitchen mixer with whip and paddle attachments

For decorative elements (optional)

 

Preparation Instructions

Make the cake layers

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat six 6-inch round cake pans (or four 9-inch pans) with flour-based cooking spray.
  2. In a small bowl, stir coffee in hot water until dissolved. Set aside.
  3. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt into a separate bowl. In an additional bowl, combine the cane sugar with the brown sugar and set aside. 
  4. Mix 1/2 cup sugar mixture, butter, and 2 tsp vanilla in an electric mixing bowl on low speed until well combined. Increase speed to medium and add remaining sugar mixture about 1/4 cup at a time, beating for at least 15 seconds after each addition. Scrape down sides of the bowl and beat five more minutes. Add the 6 eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. Add dissolved coffee, then add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. 
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake 30-40 minutes or until a pick inserted into the center of the cake layers comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on wire racks, then turn the layers out on the racks to cool completely. Level the cakes using a cake leveler or a large serrated knife. 

Make the coffee crème légère

  1. Dissolve espresso powder in 2 Tbsp hot water in a small bowl and set aside. 
  2. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in 1/2 cup of the cold milk. Beat the egg, then the yolks one at a time into the cornstarch mixture. 
  3. In a saucepan, combine the remaining milk and the sugar. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. 
  4. Slowly pour 1/3 of the hot milk and sugar mixture into the egg mixture. Whisk constantly to temper the eggs. 
  5. Return the remaining milk in the saucepan to medium-low heat and pour the tempered egg mixture into the saucepan in a thin stream, whisking to avoid scrambling the eggs. Increase the heat to medium-high and whisk constantly until the mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and whisk in butter, vanilla, and espresso. Strain through a sieve into a bowl to remove any lumps.  Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry crème so it doesn't form a skin. Refrigerate until firm, about two hours. 
  6. When the pastry crème is set, whip 1 cup heavy whipping cream and 1/4 cup sugar in an electric mixer on high speed until thick and fluffy. Fold the whipped cream into the cooled pastry crème until light and fluffy. 

Make the espresso French buttercream frosting

  1. Beat egg yolks in the mixer at medium-high speed with the whip attachment until thick and light yellow, about 7-10 minutes. While the yolks are whipping, combine 2/3 cup water and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat the sugar without stirring over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 238 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer. Keep the stand mixer running on medium speed and carefully pour the hot sugar syrup into the egg yolks in a thin, steady stream.
  2. Increase the mixer speed to high and, with the timer set, whisk for 7 minutes. The mixing bowl should be lukewarm to the touch. If it is hot, keep mixing until the bowl cools to lukewarm. Remove whip attachment and replace with the paddle attachment. Add soften butter 1-2 tbsp at a time, mixing for about 15-20 seconds after each addition. The mixture may appear to deflate at first but will begin to thicken as more butter is added. 
  3. Add melted chocolate, salt, and dissolved espresso. Mix again for a few minutes until a uniform, fluffy frosting forms. Place 2/3 of the frosting in an extra-large piping bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch tip. 

Assemble

  1. Place one cake layer on a serving platter or cake stand. Pipe a line of buttercream on the top edge of the cake. Fill with coffee crème légère. Gently press a second cake layer on top. Repeat until all layers are used, ending with an unfrosted cake layer on top. Cover entire cake with a crumb-coat of buttercream frosting. Chill until firm, about 20 minutes.
  2. Apply a second thicker coat of buttercream to the cake, smoothing with an offset spatula or bench scraper. If desired, use leftover frosting to create buttercream orbs with a half-sphere mold.

Add decorative elements (optional)

  1. Microwave chocolate in a bowl at 30 second intervals until melted and smooth. Add the corn syrup and stir until well combined. Pour the chocolate over the bottom third of a large (16-inch or greater) impression mat with coffee bean motif. Chill in refrigerator until firm. Flip over the mat and peel away to reveal the coffee bean texture. Use X-ACTO knife to trim around some of the coffee bean impressions so that the chocolate piece dips and rises. Use small round cookie cutter to form 4-6 rounds from the leftover chocolate. 
  2. Transfer remaining frosting to a piping bag fitted with a grass tip or other multi-strand piping tip. Pipe frosting on top of cake, swirling the strands in wavy patterns. Top the cake with chocolate pieces, coffee beans and buttercream orbs. 
  3. Place the chocolate collar around the bottom edge of the cake and press to adhere. Store the cake in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.