Mocha cake is irresistibly delicious, with rich chocolate and coffee flavors. Make this frosted cake recipe for a special holiday dessert!
If you’re looking for a simple holiday dessert, this recipe does the trick. Chocolate desserts are a favorite any time of the year, and a bit of espresso gives it a special touch.
The cake has a rich flavor without being heavy, and the ratio of espresso to chocolate is spot on. Fluffy chocolate buttercream frosting and chocolate shavings add an elegant finish to the top.
If you want a lower calorie option, the recipe is simple to adapt. For example, you could eliminate the frosting. Instead, add dark chocolate ganache over the top. Or, add fresh berries and low calorie whipped topping to the top of your mocha cake.
If you’re a chocolate dessert lover but you don’t enjoy baking cakes, check out my easy fudge recipe. Or, make some east chocolate mousse or some Christmas cookies! I love these chewy chocolate peanut butter cookies, and everyone goes nuts for my Texas sheet cake cookies.
Irresistible Mocha cake
This recipe makes a single layer mocha cake that yields about 8 servings. If you’ve got a larger crowd to serve, feel free to make two single cakes, and a double batch of mocha buttercream. Then, just add a layer of frosting between the mocha cake layers and slice the cake into smaller slices.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
This mocha cake recipe starts with basic chocolate cake ingredients; flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, baking powder and two types of chocolate.
For the mocha flavor, I use espresso powder, which can be found in the coffee aisle of most grocery stores. If you don’t see it there, look near the baking ingredients.
- All-Purpose flour
I use all-purpose flour, but if you’d like to lighten the consistency of the cake, feel free to swap out half of the all-purpose flour for cake flour, which has less gluten proteins than all-purpose flour.
IMPORTANT: Don’t swap out the entire amount of all-purpose flour, as the cake will not be sturdy enough to support the frosting.
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
There is a difference between regular unsweetened cocoa and Dutch process, but because this mocha cake recipe calls for baking powder and not baking soda, you can use whichever type of cocoa powder you prefer. I use Dutch process, which gives the cake a smoother flavor and darker color.
- Espresso powder
Espresso powder is made from finely ground, very dark roasted coffee beans. The beans are brewed, then the grounds are dried again before being ground once more. Espresso powder is much more concentrated than instant coffee, which is why you only need a small amount to add a lot of coffee flavor.
☕ Did you know?
There is no such thing as an espresso bean; espresso can be made with any type of coffee beans, by forcing water through the grounds at very high pressure.
Substitutions for espresso powder in mocha cake
If you can’t find espresso powder, you do have options for substitutions
- Brewed espresso – Use a 1 ounce shot of brewed espresso, then reduce the water called for in this cake recipe from 8 ounces to 7 ounces.
- Strong brewed coffee – Substitute 8 ounces of brewed dark roast coffee for the 8 ounces of water called for in this recipe.
- Instant coffee granules – Instant coffee is much weaker than espresso powder, but it will work in a pinch. I suggest substituting 3 tablespoons of instant coffee for 2 tablespoons of espresso powder.
Although I’ve gained a lot of baking knowledge over the years and I do enjoy baking, I don’t have professional baking skills. From time to time, I’ll bake a fancy French pastry like cheese puffs (gougeres), but mostly, I make simple desserts like this mocha cake.
It’s a fact that baking is a science and more than anything else, baking requires precision. Making even one simple substitution to the ingredients can affect the results.
So, I like to use cake baking tips from trustworthy, professional sources if I can. This being said, I do have a few tips to ensure that you serve a deliciously moist mocha cake.
Cake baking tips
- Use room temperature ingredients.
The temperature of ingredients is important to developing proper structure in any baked goods, but especially cakes, cookies and laminated pastries like croissants and puff pastry.
For example, using room temperature butter and eggs is important to creating a silky mocha cake batter.
- Measure the ingredients properly.
When you measure the flour, add it to the measuring cup by the spoonful. Don’t scoop the flour out of the container with your measuring cup. Seriously, scooping packs the flour down, so you end up with way more than the recipe calls for.
When the measuring cup is full of flour, use the dull side of a knife to gently scrape the top of the measuring cup. This will remove any excess flour. Simple, right?
- Temper hot liquids into colder ones.
Trust me, nobody appreciates having sweetened scrambled eggs in their mocha cake. 😉 To prevent this from happening, you’ll need to temper the eggs with the hot chocolate mixture. It’s really simple and so important to do.
Add a couple of tablespoons of hot melted chocolate and whisk it slowly into the egg yolks. Keep adding the chocolate in small increments, until the egg yolks are no longer cold. Once about half of the chocolate mixture is combined with the yolks, you can combine the rest without any issues.
Okay, I think the important things are covered. Now, it’s up to you to bake a gorgeous, decadent and delicious chocolate mocha cake. I hope you enjoy it!
This post, originally published on Kevin is Cooking July 2, 2013, was last updated with new content on Dec 17, 2021.
Irresistible Mocha Cake
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tbsp espresso powder
- 4 oz chocolate chips
- 3 egg yolks room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder Dutch process or regular
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 5 egg whites room temperature
- 1/2 cup butter softened
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder Dutch process or regular
- 1 tbsp milk any variety
- shaved chocolate (as pictured)
- 1 1/2 cups fresh mixed berries
- whipped cream (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350˚F.
- Spray bottom and up sides of 9-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together sugar, water, and espresso coffee crystals and bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat and whisk in the chocolate chips until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
- To a small bowl, add egg yolks and vanilla extract and whisk to combine. Temper the eggs (See Note 1) by whisking the yolks into the chocolate mixture in small increments until thoroughly blended. Set aside.
- To a medium bowl, add flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon and baking powder and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the egg yolk and chocolate mixture until smooth.
- To large mixing bowl or bowl of stand mixer, add egg whites. Use electric hand mixer or stand mixer on high to beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. With a spatula, gently fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites, folding over to incorporate until all are combined and the mixture is light. Do not over mix!
- Spread cake batter into prepared 9-inch springform pan.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the top springs back to the touch. Leave cake in pan and place onto wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
- While cake is cooling, beat together the softened butter, powdered sugar, cocoa and milk in mixing bowl to form a thick, smooth frosting. Alternatively, use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.If the frosting is too thick for your liking, incorporate 1 tsp. of milk at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
- When the cake has cooled, remove from springform pan, transfer to a cake plate and spread frosting evenly over the top of the cake, making sure not to drag crumbs. Top with berries or shaved chocolate if desired (as pictured).
- To prevent the eggs from cooking, temper them with the chocolate mixture. Add a couple of tablespoons of the hot melted chocolate and whisk it slowly into the egg yolks. Keep adding in small increments, until the egg yolks are no longer cold. Once about half of the chocolate mixture is combined with the yolks, you can combine them without any issues.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.