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Cappuccino Layer Cake

Rich chocolatey ganache with a hint of espresso pours over a sweet and buttery almond icing. All of it surrounds a moist and just-dense-enough coffee layer cake. This cappuccino cake will have your friends and family, even the little ones, clamouring for another piece!

I made this cake once for my sister’s birthday. It was so delicious, I brought it to my friend’s house the following weekend for her birthday. You would think I would have grown sick of the same cake (as I often do) and would have turned to something new. Not with this one! I am still thinking about making it a third time it was so wonderful. The flavour pairings are both classic yet different. Comforting, yet intriguing.

The best part? You cake make and assemble the cake on two different days! When I made the cake the second time, I put them in plastic zip-lock bags once they were completely cooled and left them in the fridge for 24hrs. When I was ready to ice them, I brought them out a couple minutes in advance to warm up a bit. The flavour was that much richer, and the coffee aroma seemed to have been locked inside.

But whatever you do, don’t. skip. the. ganache. You will thank me after your first bite!

I decorated the cake in the photos with macaron shells because I happened to have some (doesn’t that sound like I’m a superior human-being? Don’t be fooled!), but you can decorate them any way you like. I’ve also sprinkled on some chocolate covered popped quinoa or even some chocolate covered coffee beans while the ganache is still warm so they stay put (both can be purchased at almost all bulk food stores); but don’t feel you have to, as it’s just as beautiful with the glossy ganache as the shining star at the top.


Cappuccino Layer Cake
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    Sponge Cake (adapted from Nigella)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tsp (or up to 2 tbsp if you're a caffeine addict) instant espresso powder (this can be reduced to 2 tsp if serving children)
  • 1 and 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • Almond Buttercream Icing
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  • 2-3 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tbsp milk (or to reach desired consistency)
  • Espresso Ganache
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 2 oz high quality dark chocolate (aim for 60-70%)
  • 1 tbsp strongly brewed espresso (if you like it weaker, or if you will be serving this to children, this can be opted out or simply replaced with weak coffee)
  • macaron shells to decorate (optional)


    Sponge cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, and line two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and grease the edges. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar until light in colour and fluffy, then incorporate the eggs one at a time. Mix in the espresso powder. Note: at this stage, your batter may appear like it has separated. Do not fret! Once the flour mixture is added (next step), it'll all come together.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt) and fold into the wet ingredients just until combined. Stir in the milk at the end.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into the two prepared pans, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool for about 10 minutes before inverting them out onto a cooling rack.
  5. Optional: once fully cooled, put the cakes individually in ziplock bags (or wrap in plastic wrap) and store in the fridge for 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before frosting them.
  6. Almond Buttercream Icing
  7. Using a hand mixer, whip the butter until it becomes light and fluffy; incorporate about 1/2 cup of icing sugar at a time, alternating with 1-2 tsp milk. Once all incorporated and the desired consistency has been achieved, fold in the salt and almond extract.
  8. Espresso Ganache
  9. In a double boiler, heat the cream and chocolate together over medium heat. Remove from the heat source when the cream starts to steam slightly, and allow it to rest for five minutes for the chocolate to melt. Stir in the espresso at the end.
  10. Assembly
  11. Ice the cake as desired and pour the ganache over the top. Decorate the edges with macaron shells if desired, or another decorative touch if you like.
  12. Keep the cake in the fridge if you made it a day or a couple hours ahead of time. Allow it to return to room temperature before slicing and serving. Best enjoyed with a scoop of mocha ice cream!

Photos by Milo Smith