A little over the top, huh? Even for me! When I saw this cake, though, I knew it was just the special kind of cake for my friend/co-worker/birthday buddy, Juan. He is a fellow foodie and a cake-maker extraordinaire. Juan is trained in sensory evaluation, so he is also my #1 taste tester. (Sorry, Roger—you’re a close second, but Juan is a professional!). Juan was born on Halloween whereas I’m a pretender having been born two days (and a lot of years!) before. In any case, with our birthdays and Halloween, it’s a special time.
Whenever someone is having a birthday in our group, Juan is known to make some pretty out-of-the-ordinary birthday cakes. One year, we were joshing Mary, his supervisor, about a purse she had seen on the internet. Juan made an excellent duplication of the purse for her birthday.
Juan always takes Halloween off, so I made plans to make his cake a few days before. Now, this cake is the kind of cake where you would spend all day making it—not on a work night! But I came home from work last Wednesday and started rattling pots and pans to make this coffee and donuts cake. It’s made up of an extremely fudgy and decadent chocolate cake, slathered with a delicious coffee Swiss buttercream frosting, and garnished with 36 mini chocolate-glazed donuts. I had only two mini donut pans (available on Amazon), so I had to bake the first 24 donuts, cool them enough to get them out of the pan, wash one of the pans, and make the last 12 donuts. I, of course, was multitasking—eating supper standing up, making the chocolate glaze for the donuts, and starting the cake. This basically took all evening; and, finally, around 11:30, when I realized the glaze on the donuts was still too tacky to adhere to the frosting (which I hadn’t made yet), I threw in the towel and set my alarm for 5:30 am to finish the cake.
In the morning (yawn….), I made the frosting, frosted the cake, and decorated the cake with the mini donuts. As I was placing them around the cake, I kept my fingers crossed that (a) they would indeed stick to the cake (they did) and that (b) I wouldn’t end up with a half space when I needed a whole space for the last donut (I did). So, I had to remove a whole bunch and scrunch them closer together. Thankfully, they came “unglued” easily and were easy to stick back on the cake. Don’t even think about substituting a confectioners’ sugar icing because the donuts will most likely fall off—if they even stick on the cake in the first place. Considering how quickly I frosted and assembled the cake when I was so sleep deprived, it’s amazing that it came out as reasonably well as it did. If I had had the time, I would have had my ruler out!
We all had a lot of fun celebrating Juan’s birthday even though a bit in advance. Not to be outdone, of course, Juan went to town on a cake for my birthday the very next day.
So, that is the tale of two cakes, and it was a birthday cake extravaganza indeed. Happy Halloween Birthday, Juan!!
Coffee and Donuts Cake
Ingredients for Cake
- 3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Ghirardelli
- 1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk (I used Saco buttermilk powder, reconstituted)
- 3/4 tsp. vanilla
Directions for Cake
Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease pans with shortening. Line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper and grease paper.
Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide batter between among three 9” round cake pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 50 minutes to 1 hour.
Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.
Ingredients for Coffee Swiss Buttercream Frosting
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 large eggs
- 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
- 3 tbl. instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
Directions for Coffee Swiss Buttercream Frosting
In a small heavy saucepan set over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue to cook until it registers 240°F on a candy thermometer.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs until they are frothy. While mixer is running, add the sugar syrup in a thin stream, carefully tempering the syrup into the eggs without cooking them (otherwise, they will curdle). Beat until it is cool. Change to the paddle attachment and add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add the espresso mixture, and beat until it is light and fluffy.
Ingredients for Mini Cake Donuts
(batter will make 3 dozen)
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 cup melted butter
Directions for Mini Cake Donuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat milk , egg and vanilla together. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and beat on low speed to combine. Stop mixer and pour melted butter over dough. Mix again until just incorporated. Transfer batter to a piping bag and pipe into the cavities of a donut baking pan.
Bake for 10 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool 5 to 10 minutes, then run a knife around the donuts to loosen and remove.
Chocolate Glaze for Donuts
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
- 1 tbl. light corn syrup
- Nonpareils or sanding sugar, optional
Place cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until very hot but not boiling. Place chocolate and corn syrup in a small bowl then pour hot cream over mixture and stir until smooth.
Quickly dip cooled donut tops into glaze and allow the excess to drizzle back into the bowl. Sprinkle with sugar or nonpareils if using. Allow glazed donuts to dry, about 40 minutes to 1 hour. Chocolate glaze will darken in color as it cools.
Espresso powder for sprinkling
Decorative large crystal sugar for sprinkling (I didn’t use)
Frost and stack cake layers. Press unglazed side of donut gently into the side of the cake. Repeat with entire batch of 3 dozen donuts (see Fran’s notes below). Sprinkle top of cake with espresso powder and decorative sugar, if using. Extra donuts can be used to garnish the top of the cake.
I used 32 of the donuts to encircle the cake in two rows of 16. I used 3 of the 4 remaining donuts to decorate the top of the cake. I, of course, ate the last one!
Source: A recipe from the Sprinklebakes blog