Ménage à Trois for Dessert

Coffee & Cognac Chocolate Cake

with Chocolate Meringue Buttercream Frosting

Who doesn’t love a good chocolate cake? I suppose “good”, being the operative word here, depends on many factors. How sweet, how rich, how moist or dry, how much frosting in proportion to cake, and the list goes on. Let me rephrase the question — Who doesn’t love a great chocolate cake? As I was formulating this recipe, for what I consider to be the best chocolate cake, I wanted to combine all those characteristics of cakes I’ve eaten throughout my life and put them into one single recipe. Coffee is an ingredient I’ve always been fond of. And it makes perfect sense; a coffee bean and a cocoa bean roasted to perfection and melded together into a rich harmony of depth. Then I got to thinking, what else pairs well with coffee – cognac! Chocolate, coffee, and cognac, the ménage à trois of food porn. It was a perfect match.

cake4My next consideration was the overall texture of the ideal cake. For me, all cake should consist of a well-defined crumb, and by crumb I don’t mean dry and crumbly but a soft moist feel that breaks up effortlessly. When you look at the interior of a cake, you should see a matrix of tiny little air bubbles about all the same size. This is what happens when you mix eggs, buttermilk and baking powder together. You get a celestial reaction of near perfect symmetry.

cake6And finally, that last variant of any chocolate cake is that smooth sweet frosting. Some tend to be too sweet, others too dense, too wet, or too oily. One of my favorite frostings growing up was a simple white boiled frosting. It was sweet, but not too sweet, and airy. I’ve made it a few times as an adult, but it just wasn’t the same. However, I still wanted that fluffy texture, yet somehow combined with that buttery taste of buttercream. And while I’m at it, why not just keep this chocolate fixation close at hand? I figured I’ll go all out for the most decadent, richest, darkest, and chocolate-ty chocolate cake I could engender. And after all that, I give you my coffee and cognac chocolate cake with chocolate meringue buttercream frosting.

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Coffee and Cognac Chocolate Cake

  • Servings: Makes 1 Large Cake
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print

  • 500g cake or all-purpose flour
  • 350g dark brown sugar
  • 150g white sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1½ cups oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • ¼ cup cognac or brandy
  • 2 tbsp instant coffee
  • 1 cup baking cocoa powder
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • 2½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 11×13 inch pan or 2 round 9″ cake pans with parchment paper.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa and salt. Set aside.

3. Mix the oil and sugars (white and brown) on med-high speed for about a minute. Be sure all the lumps are out.

4. Add one egg at a time and continue beating for 2 minutes.

5. In a small bowl, combine the water, buttermilk and cognac. Add to the egg mixture in batches, while also adding the dry ingredients.

6. Pour batter into the cake pan and bake for 50-55 minutes on the lowest rack. Until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Let cool completely before turning out the cake a cooling rack.

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Chocolate Meringue Buttercream Frosting

  • Servings: Makes enough for 1 cake
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print

  • 1¼ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup golden syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp lemon juice
  • 220g soft unsalted butter
  • 200g semisweet quality baking chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 tbsp high quality cocoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, syrup, and water. Bring temperature up to 120°C.

2. As the sugar heats, prepare the meringue by adding the whites and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl. Whip with a hand or stand mixer until the whites form medium soft peaks. Don’t over whip, but be careful not to under whip.

3. When the sugar reaches 120°C, slowly drizzle, in a stream, into the egg whites while continuously whipping. After all the sugar is added, continue whipping for another 3 minutes to allow the heat to escape. Let cool completely to room temperature.

4. Chop the baking chocolate and melt in a double boiler or a bowl placed over a pot of simmering water. Let cool slightly. Add the butter, a little at a time to fully mix into the meringue. Be sure all the butter is evenly incorporated and smooth.

5. Next, add the cool melted chocolate and whip into the meringue. Then add the cocoa and vanilla and whip into the frosting. Now it’s ready to apply to the cool cake.

Note: If the frosting seems too warm after adding the melted chocolate, cool in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes before frosting the cake.

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