I am not the kind who wakes up to the smell of coffee. I am basically a tea person. My beverage of choice is usually a good hot cuppa good leaf tea, with a great aroma and colour. But when it comes to cakes and desserts, coffee somehow becomes a weakness. A good Tiramisu makes me weak at the knees as does the combination of coffee and chocolate. Somehow, every time I have tried to bake a cake with coffee, the flavour of coffee gets diluted; something akin to the water a coffee cup has been washed in. It tastes weak and the acidic overtones seem to dominate. The flavour of the coffee predominately came from the frosting rather than the cake. To me this was just not right. The cake itself had to be exploding with the flavour of the bean, with the filling and frosting being optional.
I did try adding a little more coffee powder. Then I substituted all of the liquid with coffee. The cake I baked was all out of wack and then I realised I needed to adjust the rising agents as well. So the next step was doing that. I also wanted a cake that was lighter than air but sturdy enough to torte and fill. So a little cornstarch went into the flour mix. Then someone suggested to me that I use espresso powder. For all those who think espresso powder is the same as instant coffee, banish that thought. It is far more intense and flavourful than any instant coffee that you might have. (and it is not ground coffee beans!) It is a little difficult to get hold of, especially if you live in India. I got a little bottle from one of my little angels–Thank you! The result was a fantastically coffee flavoured cake like I have never tasted before.
Before I knew it was my daughter’s birthday. “Just make me that coffee cake” she said “that is all I want for my birthday.” Of course I could not make her just the cake (though it is delicious as is) so what I did was to caramelize some white chocolate and added some coffee infused cream to make a delicious ganache which I used to fill the cake. To me it was like dulce de leche and coffee all blended together adding just the right touch of celebration to the cake.
If you do not like coffee step away from this recipe. There is no getting around the unabashed coffee kick to it. You can make it into cupcakes or bake it as a cake to be filled and frosted. Either way, it is a fantastic way of getting your quota of caffeine. This is how I prefer my coffee. If you cannot get hold of espresso powder, then go ahead and use instant. You might need to increase the amount to get the same intensity. As for the liquid coffee, as a self-respecting South Indian, I used filter coffee. Strong, delicious and with an aroma nothing can beat.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream (or plain, non-fat yogurt) I used yogurt.
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups flour plus 1/3 cup cornstarch sieved together
2 teaspoons espresso powder (if you are using instant coffee you can use even 4 tsp)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (240 ml) cold or lukewarm espresso (or very strong coffee)
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.
- Sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.
- Gradually add in the flour mixture and espresso powder. Mix in the liquid espresso, stirring until batter is uniform and smooth.
- Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and flour a couple of 9 inch pans or line some cupcake pans depending and what you wish to bake.
- Divide batter between cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes (or about 20 minutes if they are cupcakes), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool to room temperature before frosting.
- A light dusting of cocoa or a sprinkle of espresso powder is perfect in the place of frosting.
Make sure that the coffee you use is really strong for a lovely pronounced coffee flavour. If you do like nuts, walnuts are perfect to add a little crunch to the cake. I suggest that you just have these little cuppies in lieu of your evening cup.