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THE Mocha Crunch Cake

Although I have made this recipe my own, I must give credit where it is due.  Early in my cake-making days, I purchased Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible and used recipes out of it to make the first stages of this cake.  I’ve continually changed and evolved the recipe since then, and while I always ultimately preferred to use a Betty Crocker devil’s food cake mix rather than bake the cake from scratch, I have now found THE chocolate cake recipe that I actually prefer over the mix, and I have Mel of My Kitchen Cafe to thank for that.

Let’s talk about the current stage of this cake.  The cake itself is light, moist, deeply chocolatey.  An excellent crumb.  Really, the best texture I’ve ever gotten from a chocolate cake recipe, except for this one.  It’s perfect.  The cake is enveloped in a  buttercream that is deceptively light and almost mousse-like with a great balance of sweet coffee and chocolate flavor.  The flavor combined with the velvety smooth texture makes it so good that I have been known to scoop the leftover frosting into a bowl and eat it straight.  I chose to press chopped toffee into the sides of the cake because, to me, the flavor of toffee has always been a perfect compliment to chocolate and coffee, and it adds a nice contrast of texture to the bite.  Finally, I eventually began smothering the whole finished cake in ganache to make it more visually appealing and to intensify the chocolate flavor.  It is an immensely pleasurable treat that can be dangerous because it doesn’t feel fattening when it’s in your mouth and it’s easy to overindulge because it is so light.  Do not be decieved!  My thighs are a testament to the immense caloric level of each bite.

This cake is time consuming to prepare, but very much worth the effort, especially if you are making it for a birthday.  And fear not that the little ones won’t enjoy it.  My nephew has been devouring it since he was old enough to be allowed chocolate.  And one of the ladies present at a birthday party where it was served told me that her daughter hates chocolate and she ate an enormous piece all by herself.  I had to laugh, because that little girl is not the only one who has enjoyed the cake despite their aversions to aspects of it.

My Dad is a dessert hater.  Honestly, I don’t know how he could have spawned me, the Dessert Queen, but it doesn’t change the fact that he doesn’t have a sweet tooth.  But he loves this cake.  My youngest sister is a frosting hater.  She scrapes it off the cake.  When I make this one she gets excited if I put extra frosting in the middle.  And she licks the plate clean, frosting and all.  My middle sister is a cake hater, and really just a hater of all things not raw and rich in antioxidants.  But she scarfs this cake every time I make it and it is the only cake she will let me make for her birthday.  My husband?  A coffee hater.  An intense coffee hater.  And yet he perks up on the rare occasion I make a morning cup of Joe, hoping the smell means I’m making this cake.  My Mom likes everything I make, but this is her favorite cake and also the one she prefers on her birthday.  And not to toot my own horn or anything, but Michael Jackson left instructions in his will to be buried with three of these cakes.  Or at least, I think he would have if he’d ever tried one. :)

A friend recently told me that this cake would be one of the only things she thought she would miss in heaven.  Of course she said it to be funny since I doubt we’ll miss anything in heaven, but if were possible to miss something…I think I would miss it too.

THE Mocha Crunch Cake

Printable recipe

Printable recipe with picture

Cake
1 ¼ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 ½ cups sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons salt

2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 ¼ cups warm water
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Mocha Buttercream

¼ cup Kahlua
1 tablespoon instant coffee crystals
10 oz semisweet chocolate
6 large egg yolks
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup corn syrup

1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter

Ganache
4 oz semisweet chocolate
½ cup heavy cream

Additional

1-1  ½ cups toffee bits
2 toffee candy bars (such as Heath)

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, making sure the baking rack is in the middle of the oven. Prepare two 9” round cake pans by cutting out a piece of parchment or wax paper to line the bottom of them. Grease the pans, place the parchment or wax paper in the bottoms and lightly grease again. Dust the pans with flour (or cocoa powder if you don’t want the white dusting on the finished cakes). Set the pans aside.

Sift together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add the eggs, yolk, warm water, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Mix on low speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake the cakes for about 32-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean or with moist crumbs. Do not overbake! Remove the pans from the oven and set the pans on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Gently run a thin knife around the edges of the pans and unmold the cakes, removing the parchment paper liners from the bottom of the cakes. Let them cool completely, top sides ups, on a wire rack.  Trim the tops of the cake layers with a long serrated knife to make them level.

Make the buttercream: Put Kahlua in a microwave safe dish and heat until boiling.  Remove and add instant coffee.  Mixture will immediately boil up high and once it goes back down, gently stir it until the coffee is dissolved.  Set aside to come to room temperature.  Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe dish and heat for 30 seconds and stir.  Continue heating in 15-second intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate is almost melted.  Stir and allow the residual heat to melt it completely.  Set aside and allow to come to room temperature.

Beat the egg yolks until light and mixer blades make tracks in them.  Spray a 1-cup glass measure with cooking spray and set beside the stove.  Combine sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a full rolling boil.  Immediately remove from heat and pour into the prepared measuring cup to stop the cooking.  While mixer is running, pour the syrup in a steady stream into the egg yolks, careful not to pour it onto the beaters.  Continue beating until mixture is room temperature.  Beat the butter in a small bowl until fluffy, then begin adding it to the egg mixture a tablespoon or two at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition.  Once the chocolate is cooled, turn the mixer back on and add the chocolate to the buttercream, beating until smooth.  Add the cooled Kahlua mixture and beat until uniform & smooth.

Make the ganache: Place the chocolate and cream in a microwave safe dish and heat for a minute; stir.  Continue heating in 15-30 second intervals until the chocolate emulsifies and the mixture is shiny, dark, uniform, and smooth.  Allow to come to room temperature.

Assemble: Place one cake layer on plate and spread about 1 cup of mocha buttercream over the top.  Put second cake layer on top and frost the top and sides with the remaining buttercream.  Take handfuls of toffee bits and press them into the sides of the cake.  Chop the candy bars into four pieces each and place with a pointed side up around the edge of the cake.  Slowly pour the cooled ganache over the top of the cake and use a spatula to spread to the edges so that it will ooze out between the candy bars and down the sides a little.  Sprinkle some toffee bits in the middle of the cake.  Serve at room temperature.

Veronica’s notes: As many people have had trouble with the cake batter overflowing the pans during baking, I recommend you do what I did and only fill your pans 1/2-2/3 full and use the extra batter for cupcakes.

Recipe by Veronica Miller, with help from this recipe, and The Cake Bible.

And now, a photographic timeline to show the evolution of the Mocha Crunch Cake.

1st stage: three layers of (from scratch) devil’s food cake with mocha frosting and chocolate curls.

http://a4.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/95/f9cd0f2d1d22fe34c95e7de7b9c8609b/l.jpg

Stage 2: same as stage 1, except with toffee on the sides.

http://a1.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/38/ac907196cb9ff40fb9a696bab3be4fca/l.jpg

Stage 3: using a cake mix and with much shorter layers to make the frosting to cake ratio more equal, as my sister likes it.  Mom wasn’t complaining! (On a side note, this is before I learned how to pipe roses and I was holding the tip upside down so the petals are backwards, which makes them look too fluffy–LOL!)

http://a1.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/42/7494dfe1bcacea15227f7e59dd603eb1/l.jpg

http://a3.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/8/32c4e9c0f2c65d00f1bc4cc169013511/l.jpg

http://a3.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/54/3394fe553e4f8a1b0c76b7d1c1efaec8/l.jpg

Stage 4: toffee removed and baked in a sheet pan to turn into a baby shower cake.

http://a1.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/112/aa921b50709e40e7a982e13f6bf80c84/l.jpg

Stage 5: a ganache drizzle is added.

http://a2.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/10/96fffba6177c4c18b674f57653b3be75/l.jpg

Stage 6: no more pussyfooting around.  I slathered on a whole cup of ganache and embellished with candy bars!

And everyone rejoiced.  The end.

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About Veronica

I have a kitchen addiction and love to collect & share recipes. My passion is baking but I love to cook as well. The only thing I don't like to do in the kitchen is wash dishes, but my husband generally does them for me in exchange for his dinner.

58 responses »

  1. That really IS your specialty cake! I can’t believe how many times you’ve made this. This latest version is absolutely stunning!

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    • I had even more pics than this! We’re kinda obsessed with it around here. :)

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      • Ok I am officially obesessed as well! I made this cake with the addition of a New York Style Cheesecake in the center…OMG….I took it to a party and it was gone within minutes of cutting it! Everyone lost their minds…lol….The frosting was absolutely DIVINE. I had people who hate desserts eating their whole slice and looking for more! Thanks so much for an awesome post!!! I wish i could show you a picture…!!!

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      • Looks like an awesome recipe! Have you tried anything instead of Kahlua, something non- alcoholic?

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        • I have not, but if you look through the comments you’ll see Hira used a combination of coffee and brown sugar. You basically need a strong and sweet coffee flavor to replace it.

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  2. All i can say is OMGOSH !

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  3. Holy cow, this MUST be good if you’ve made it that many times! This last one truly is a work of art!

    So can you TASTE the kahlua and coffee much? I’m wondering if my kids would like that. I KNOW I would but I’m not sure about them if it tastes a bit like coffee. If they didn’t like it, I would have to eat it all myself! Hey, that wouldn’t be so bad would it? :-)

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    • Yes, it is a pronounced coffee flavor. The Kahlua just emphasizes it more but it isn’t overpowering. But I’m telling you, the kids love it and my coffee hating hubs does too.

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      • HI!

        I would love to attempt this frosting…however I dont consume alcohol in any capacity…so what can i use besides the Kahlua? How would I alter the recipe? Thanks!!!

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        • Also, this is very similar to a French buttercream. Does this recipe require the sugar syrup to come to 240 degrees?

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          • Yes but in this method some of the sugar and all of the water is replaced by corn syrup. The corn syrup provides just the right amount of water so that, when brought to a full boil, the temperature of the syrup is exactly 238F. There is no need to use a thermometer. The corn syrup also prevents crystallization. Pretty neat, huh?

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            • Wow that’s a cool trick! Definitely takes some of the pressure off getting the process right! :)

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              • I made a plain french buttercream, just to see how the texture is and stuff…it was beautifully smooth and fluffy and just…very decadent. It did have a very pronounced butter flavor…i suppose that will be covered up by the chocolate and coffee additions right? It was my first time making a french buttercream and it was perfect! :)

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        • Kahlua is a sweet coffee-flavored liqueur but it would be difficult to get the recipe to taste right without it. I mean you could try using water instead of the Kahlua and adding more instant coffee and some sugar, but I don’t know how much. You might look for another mocha frosting recipe (I’m sure there are tons) since this one takes a while to make and if it doesn’t turn out good, it would be such a waste of effort and ingredients. Or you could just make a mixture you think would work, then just add it a bit at a time until it tastes mocha-licious to you. I’d love to hear the results if you decide to experiment!

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          • Ok I am gonna go with regular coffee and water with a little sugar thrown in…along with the chocolate, I hope it will be fine! Ill let you know! :)

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            • Very cool! I’d make your coffee very strong (and make sure it’s at room temp when you add it so it doesn’t melt or curdle the frosting) because if it’s regular strength, it won’t add enough flavor before the frosting gets too thin from the liquid.

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              • What if i add the coffee to the chocolate before adding the chocolate to the frosting? Also, do you use the whip attachment or paddle attachment when you beat in the butter? :)

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  4. This looks absolutely out of this world….

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  6. Wow! What a gorgeous cake! I want to eat it off my computer screen. Thanks for sharing your signature dessert.

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  7. Now after seeing this i have to make it.. i just have to.. after Thanksgiving. I want to lick the screen over and over.

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  8. Not only does it sound out of this world..it looks outta this world..Thx for sharing V!

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  9. WOW! That is one beautiful and delicious looking cake!

    Bookmarked!

    Mary xo
    Delightful Bitefuls

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  10. YUMMMMM amen

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  11. Veronica,
    This looks like a fantastic cake… you did such a beautiful job!

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  12. And you think Grape Nuts are the devil’s food? This is straight from his lair! :-)

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  13. just found your blog – this cake looks amazing! no wonder you’ve made it repeatedly:-)

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  14. Wow, that cake has come a long way. It is certainly an eye catcher. It looks like a cake you would purchase in a professional bakery. I have been searching for that perfect chocolate cake recipe too, I will have to give this one a try.

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  15. Oh wow, do I want to make this cake! I’m going to wait for a birthday celebration though…otherwise, I’m scared I’d eat the whole thing myself in like 3 days! :)

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  16. cooolll i like it :)

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  17. I am in the process of making this cake.. something..went wrong. I have plans slightly larger than what you noted and yet the cake ran over..out of the pans and all over my oven. 1.5 cups of water seems like ALOT, the batter was very runny. This is for a dinner party tonight..and I have everything for a re-try.. thoughts?

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  18. sorry, I mean one and a quarter cups ..seemed alot…

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    • I will edit the post right now to include this information–i can’t believe I forgot to note it before! I had noticed on the comments where I found the recipe that others had problems with the batter overflowing the pans so I just filled my pans half way and then used the extra to make cupcakes. The batter is thin, that is how it should be. Thank you for bringing this to my attention so I can fix it.

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  19. My birthday is saturday! forwarding this to some buddies and said “i’d act surprised :)” lol

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  20. I made this cake for my 21st birthday. I didn’t make the ganache because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to eat all of that sweetness :P
    But the cake was soooo gooood :) Everybody who tasted it strongly agreed with me.

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  23. This cake looks gorgeous! May I know what kind of powdered chocolate you used and also the one for ganache? Thanks.

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    • I have used Hershey’s, Nestle, and a generic cocoa powder on this cake at different times and I can’t say that one is better than the other, but of course probably the better quality cocoa powder you use the better the flavor. As for the ganache, I almost always use Nestle semisweet chocolate chips and again, the better chocolate you use the better the taste but it really doesn’t matter what you use in either case IMO.

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  29. Made this cake for my birthday. I was worried that the batter was so thin, but it turned out great and did not run over the sides of my pan. The frosting also seemed on the thin side so I added 3/4 cup powdered sugar and it was perfect. LOVE this recipe!

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  30. made this cake for a family reunion and everyone loved it, and ask for the recipe. Its a great cake.

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  31. I am a baker and the cake turned out fabulous. The icing however is a total fail. It is way to runny. It will thicken when cool but once it starts warming up it just will run again. Much easier to use one stick of butter creamed and add kahlua and coffee (made up) to powdered sugar an make a real buttercream. Flavor and thickness perfect. Just too many steps in this frosting and too many wasted ingredients to get the same results from a regular buttercream flavored with the other items.

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    • Dang, that bites! I’m so sorry about that. It always turns out super velvety for me or I wouldn’t bother with it either. I totally understand using another one if this one didn’t work for you on the first try–it’s too much work to try again. However, for others reading this, I have never had any trouble with the recipe beyond it being a pain in the tush to make. LOL! My only guess is that you’re in a warm environment in which butter is liquid at room temperature maybe? Or that the syrup wasn’t cooked long enough. Oh, and this is actually what is called a buttercream. The kind with powdered sugar I’ve heard referred to as “American buttercream.” It’s not a true buttercream b/c it’s not based with eggs I guess. This is the only recipe for real buttercream I use b/c I prefer the ease of American buttercream as well, but dang, you just can’t beat the velvety creaminess of a true buttercream!

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      • I agree with the velvety-ness of this French buttercream! This is a true buttercream, along with italian and swiss meringue buttercreams. And my first try was perfect! I think its a lot about beating the sugar and eggs mixture until its truly cooled off to room temp. If you add the butter too early, the frosting will be runny. Even so, it can be saved by beating and beating and beating…. :) The corn syrup is a brilliant trick to keep the sugar from crystallizing. Awesome frosting, although a tad too butter-flavored before the chocolate and coffee additions. :)

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  32. Saoirse Expo

    Wow! That cake is BEAUTIFUL! I can’t wait to try it for my friend’s birthday coming up; she’s a Heath Bar fanatic!

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  34. Dear veronica, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for this recipe of yours! I ve tried baking cakes like twice my entire life and this time I wanted to bake one for a friend’s bday, so it had to be absolutely great. After much scouring through the net for a Kahlua cake that i could make from scratch..i came to your blog.. The cake was simply awesome! The kahlua’s taste wasnt too strong, the buttercream and ganache, sighhh.. was yummy divine! Everyone went all WOWWWW ! and and I owe it all to you!! Thank you!!

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