Chocolate Coffee Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

When I was recently asked to make a cake for my friend’s birthday, I immediately thought of this chocolate and coffee cake. Many of the times she has hosted us, we are welcomed with a fresh pot of French press coffee and dark chocolate. This rich chocolate cake with coffee buttercream and a dark ganache topping seemed like the perfect birthday homage.

While this cake is not a European recipe, I made a few substitutions for more traditional ingredients. I also liked the use of ermine frosting, or boiled milk frosting. While it may seem unusual to make frosting with what is essentially a roux, the result is creamy, smooth and fluffy and not too heavy with butter like American buttercream. It also brings me back to one of the first prep tasks assigned to me when I started at Two Fat Cats Bakery: preparing the milk and flour mixture for the creamy vanilla frosting in a giant rondeau pot. Make sure to cook the milk in a nonreactive pan or else it will get an off color.

Chocolate Coffee Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Adapted from Baked Explorations

Yields one 8-inch, 3-layer cake

Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

3/4 cup (65g) Dutch-processed, unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup (150g) crème fraîche
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) boiling water

2 2/3 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups (285g) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
1 cup (215g) brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven and prepare the pans:

Preheat the oven to 165°C (375°F). Grease three 8-inch round cake pans with butter, line them with parchment, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment lined pans with flour or cocoa powder and tap out the excess.

Bloom the cocoa:

In a medium bowl, whisk the boiling water into the cocoa powder. Blooming the cocoa powder releases the flavor compounds and intensifies the chocolate flavor. Whisk in the crème fraîche and set aside to cool while preparing the other ingredients.

Mix the dry ingredients:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Cream the butter, sugar and eggs:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. To get the right consistency, this will take some time, about 5 minutes. Add the granulated and brown sugar and continue to beat the mixture on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again until the mixture is consistent.

Make the batter:

Add the dry ingredients and the bloomed cocoa mixture to the mixer bowl, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Fill the pans and bake:

Divide the batter among the greased pans. To ensure even layers, weigh the batter and divide by three, approximately 570g per pan. 

Bake the cakes for 35 – 40 minutes, until the edges start pulling from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Cool the cakes:

Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for about 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack and leave them to cool while preparing the frosting.

Coffee Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (60g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (355ml) whole milk
1/3 cup (80ml) heavy cream

1 1/2 cups (340g) unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons coffee extract

Make the roux:

In a medium, non-reactive saucepan whisk together the sugar and flour. Pour in the milk and cream and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally to prevent scorching. 

Once the mixture has come to a boil and thickened, transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until the mixture cools to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

Cream the butter:

Reduce the speed to low and add the butter bit by bit. Then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting comes together and becomes light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla and coffee extracts and mix to combine.

Assemble the Cake

Place one layer of cake on a serving platter bottom side up and spread with some of the buttercream frosting. Use an offset spatula to spread it evenly over the layer. Repeat with the next layer and then top with the remaining layer.

Frost the cake and leave in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to set.

If the frosting is too stiff, set the bowl over a pot of boiling water for a moment, then beat until it is the proper consistency. If it is too soft, set in the refrigerator to chill, then beat again.

Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:

8 ounces (255g) dark chocolate, 60-72% cacao
3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened

Melt the chocolate and butter in a Bain Marie

Place a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Be careful not to spill any water in the bowl or the chocolate will split. Break or chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in the bowl along with the butter. Stir the mixture with a rubber spatula until it has melted and combined, then remove from the heat.

Glaze the Cake

Pour the chocolate ganache over the top of the cake and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly and control the drips down the sides of the cake. Leave in the refrigerator to set the ganache before serving for at least 15 minutes

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Beurre Noisette, Cinnamon and Rosemary

These are cookies to enjoy while sitting by the wood-stove at the time of year when the sun sets as you sip your afternoon coffee or tea. While brown butter, rosemary, cinnamon, and chocolate may sound like overkill, the combination is like Speculaas and Christmas trees. They bring a bit of green and warmth to the darkest months.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Beurre Noisette, Cinnamon and Rosemary

Brown butter chocolate chip cookies with a toasty and herbaceous winter twist.

Yields 16 large cookies

Ingredients:

140g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp rosemary, finely minced

120g all-purpose flour
85g whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
110g granulated sugar
140g brown sugar

1 large egg, beaten

200g bittersweet chocolate chunks, 60% cacao

Fleur de sel, for sprinkling

Make the beurre noisette:

Melt the butter in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. A light-colored saucepan will help you track the color of the butter as it browns. Once the butter melts, swirl the pan occasionally to cook evenly. As soon as the milk solids at the bottom turn a toasted hazelnut brown and the butter emanates an enticing, nutty aroma, transfer the butter to a heat-proof container to cool. If left in the hot saucepan, the butter will continue to brown and could burn. You can leave the milk solids behind, or use them. They will impart a slightly burnt taste. Let cool slightly and add the vanilla and rosemary. Leave the butter to cool while preparing the dry ingredients.

Mix the dry ingredients:

In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole wheat flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, granulated and brown sugars. 

Make the cookie dough:

Pour the beurre noisette into the flour mixture and gently stir to combine. The mixture will look sandy. Add the beaten egg and stir until just combined. Finally, add the chocolate chunks and stir to distribute throughout the dough.

Roll the dough into balls:

Using a cookie scoop or a couple of spoons, scoop out 16 balls of dough on to a parchment-lined tray or plate. Cover and refrigerate the balls of cookie dough for at least one hour, and preferably several hours. Leaving the dough to rest in the refrigerator improves the flavor and texture, and prevents the cookies from spreading too thin in the oven.

Bake the cookies:

Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F (180 C / 350F Fan). Line a baking tray with parchment paper and space the cookies about 3-inches apart. Sprinkle each cookie with a bit of fleur de sel.

Bake for 8 – 12 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned and the centers are still soft.

Cool the cookies:

Let the cookies cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes so that they will be firm enough to transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Store:

The baked cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature up to a week, refrigerated for two weeks, or frozen for three months.

Notes:

To freeze the cookie dough balls, arrange them on a tray in a single layer and set in the freezer. After an hour, transfer the dough balls to an airtight container. By freezing them in a single layer first, they are less likely to stick together in the container. To bake from frozen, increase the bake time to 11 – 15 minutes.

You could also substitute the same amount of thyme for the rosemary.

If you are in a rush you may skip resting the dough in the refrigerator. The cookies will spread out more, the flavor and texture will be affected, but the cookies will still be delicious.