I first told my friend Sophia about the idea of this recipe. It came about when I accidentally dropped dark chocolate ganache into a bowl of coffee French buttercream. I was practising the ‘Opera’ for my final exams. After the cake was put together, I decided what’s done is done. So I tipped in the rest of the ganache into the buttercream, gave it a good swirl and ‘boom!’ – Mocha buttercream was born!
But it took a while to find a cake to go with such a rich icing. In fact, so much time and trials that many other things have happened in between. I am working on a range of cookies, macarons and cakes to sell and sourcing for packaging so that everything will be ready when our home baking business is good for an official launch. We have also found a flat (hurrah!) with a lovely kitchen, great potential dining area, and are in the midst of packing.
Then there was a very fun Easter Seasonal Gingerbread House Challenge, hosted with a twist. Instead of the usual blog round-up and link after the event, I shared the photos on my Facebook page so that our friends who were not bloggers were also able to join in the fun. However if you’ve missed the photos here are direct links to each lovely creation and its proud owner:
Oh! And our giveaway winners have reported back that The Cake & Bake Show was nothing short of amazing! I can’t wait for the show in London. It will be held at Earl’s Court, from 13thto 15th September 2013, so make sure you block those dates!
So we’ve come full circle and back to this recipe. I really am so thrilled it is finally ready to be shared! It has seen many changes along the way and some great disasters. The most embarrassing one was when I made a version of this cake as a gift to a friend, and the cake was dry as a bone. I could not understand why until I got home and saw the cup of whipping cream and milk still sat there on the counter, unused. It is funny in hindsight, but I was mortified!
I love experimenting with recipes but have had the toughest time formulating the perfect chocolate cake to go with the buttercream. But as the cake got richer, the buttercream needed to be lighter. So in the end I swapped French crème au beurre for Italian meringue. The absence of egg yolks lightens the buttercream and makes it a better match for this fudgy cake.
At the end of yesterday’s bake, I was exhausted and still annoyed at my piping. But I have had a cupcake now and with all that sugar, chocolate and coffee pumping in my blood, I am blissfully wrapped up in the love for baking.
150 g unsalted butter, soft
200 g dark muscovado
150 g eggs (3 medium)
150 g self-raising flour
25 g cocoa powder
50 ml milk
50 ml whipping cream
25 g cocoa powder
3 tsp instant coffee granules
1 tbsp hot water
Cupcake cases vary in sizes and height so it really depends which ones you are using. This batter makes 16 cupcakes for the cases shown in the photos.
Baking the cupcakes
Sieve all the self-raising flour and 25 g cocoa powder once. Set it aside for now.
Bring the whipping cream and milk until just coming up to boil. Take it off the heat and whisk in the other 25 g cocoa powder to make a smooth paste. Set aside, whisking occasionally so that the paste does not form a skin on the surface.
Combine the coffee granules and hot water. Let it cool.
In a mixer, cream the butter and muscovado until light and fluffy. Add the cooled coffee and reduce the speed of the mixer so that you can now incorporate the eggs.
Add an egg yolk and portion of egg white, beating well before adding another one. With the last egg, I find it helps to add just the yolk first, let the mixer beat it into the batter. Finish with just the remaining egg whites; in my experience of doing so the batter has a lesser likelihood of splitting if the eggs were slightly colder than the butter. Another tip is to crank up the speed once you have added an egg to quickly beat it in, and then lower the speed to add another one. Keep repeating this until all the eggs are in.
Fold in 1/3 of the flour and cocoa powder, then half of the cocoa powder paste. Repeat this process. Finish with the remaining 1/3 of dry ingredients, making sure that there are no clumps of flour or streaks of cocoa paste.
Spoon the batter into your cupcake moulds or cases of choice, filling only up to 2/3 of the mould or case (see notes below on levelling the cupcakes).
Bake at 160˚C - 165˚C for 15 minutes.
Leave to cool in their cases.
Mocha Italian Meringue Buttercream
100 g dark chocolate
50 ml whipping cream
3 tsp instant coffee granules
1 tbsp hot water
150 g unsalted butter, soft and cubed (for the buttercream)
75 g egg white
150 g caster sugar
75 ml water
*keep a cup of water on the side with a pastry brush
Dark chocolate ganache
Combine the coffee granules and hot water. Set aside.
Gently melt half the chocolate over a bain-marie of simmering water. Take it off the bain-marie and stir in the clumps of un-melted chocolate, letting the residual heat to the work.
Always warm any cream you are adding to melted chocolate when making a ganache. The shock of cold liquids added to any chocolate will cause it to seize and the ganache will split.
Add half the cream, stirring continuously until the chocolate becomes glossy. Repeat to add remaining cream. Then repeat the technique again when adding the coffee syrup.
Stir in a small cube of butter whilst the ganache is still warm (you can use a cube from the 150 g in the recipe). Leave to cool completely.
Basic Italian meringue
Run a slice of lemon all over your mixing bowl and whisk. Whip clean with a kitchen towel. Into the bowl, add the egg whites. Do not whisk them yet.
Add water to a heavy based milk pan. Tip in the caster sugar and stir gently so that the sugars do not stick to the bottom of the pan. Keep a pastry brush close by, in a cup of water.
Have the heat on medium high, and as the liquid boils brush down any signs of sugar crystals that appear on the sides of the pan.
Once the liquid begins to boil vigorously, test it with a digital or sugar thermometer. Italian meringue is made by adding to frothy egg whites, sugar that has been boiled to a ‘soft ball’ sugar stage. The temperature of a ‘soft ball’ range between 116˚C (softer ‘soft ball’) to 122˚C (stronger ‘soft ball’). Bear in mind that the sugar will continue to cook even when you take it off the stove.
When the thermometer registers between 110˚C and 112˚C, start whisking your egg whites on high until it is frothy with tighter air bubbles. Reduce the speed down to the lowest setting; never turn off the mixer as the egg whites will begin to deflate.
Take the sugar syrup off the heat at 118˚C or 119˚C, and immediately pour it down the side of the bowl in a slow but steady stream. Look for the point just before where the frothy egg whites touch the bowl, and aim to pour the sugar down that spot. Where the sugar hits the bowl it will stick and set, and if it hits the whisk you will end up with spun sugar all around the sides of your mixing bowl.
Once you have added all of the sugar syrup, turn the mixer on high and continue to whisk until the base of the bowl has cooled down to room temperature when you touch it. Stop the mixer, and lift the whisk to check the texture of your meringue is a firm peak.
Mocha meringue buttercream
Now you are ready to add butter to the meringue.
At this point you may choose to swap to a paddle attachment. I have found that both whisks and paddle attachments work. The key to remember is that whisks are used to incorporate air into a mixture. With buttercream, too much air in the mixture can mean that you end up with a cream that leaves pockets of holes as you ice the cake.
Add the butter cube by cube and letting each blend into the meringue before adding the next.
Once you have added all the butter, pour in the cooled chocolate ganache in a steady stream. If it is warm it will melt the butter and turn your buttercream soupy. Next increase the mixer to high speed and whip the buttercream for another minute until all the ganache is incorporated and the buttercream is smooth and glossy.
Icing the cupcake
In the photos shown here, I have used the Wilton 1M to pipe a Mr. Whippy ice-cream styled frosting on each cupcake. I love the dramatic effect, but personally to eat I prefer just a modest dollop of icing or a rosette at most. This buttercream recipe is enough to frost all 16 cupcakes in Mr. Whippy fashion.
The texture of this cupcake is almost like a chocolate fudge cake, with tighter crumbs and more moisture. Therefore I would avoid using superfine flours or sieving the dry ingredients too much. Incorporating too much air in this batter will cause the cupcakes to rise too much during baking ending up with a very high domed finish, making it slightly more difficult to frost.
Having always made this as a single layered cake, I couldn’t decide whether to try baking them as cupcakes. But thanks to lovely friends who answered my dilemma on Facebook and Twitter, I decided to go with cupcakes. The first batch came out too domed. They had all but exploded when I baked them at the usual 175˚C I use when baking it in a cake tin. But batch number two came out perfectly.
If you would like to bake one whole cake, I would recommend using two 8 inch sandwich tins (greased and lined). Bake at 170˚C - 175˚C for 20 – 25 minutes. Cool in the tins.