When our friends Joe and Sarah got married a few years ago, one of the highlights of the celebration was their amazing wedding cake. I wanted to shove a few illicit pieces in a napkin and bring them home, but good manners got the better of me, so I decided to try to recreate it at home while it was fresh in my mind. The key elements were: a light, slightly chewy white cake, a rich layer of mocha frosting inside, topped with light and tangy vanilla frosting.
This was a new form of cake construction for me as I’d never made a true white cake before, and I found it’s easier and faster than I’d expected. I love the way the plain white frosting hides the decadent mocha layer inside.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3 oz. milk chocolate (I used a Fair Trade chocolate bar)
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup cold-brewed coffee concentrate OR equivalent from instant espresso powder
1/4 cup milk, warmed (may not need all – see instructions)
8 oz. powdered sugar
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. powdered sugar
For the Cake
Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans by first buttering, then flouring, and then lining them with parchment paper. Whisk together the milk, egg whites, and vanilla in a small bowl.
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed for 20 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-low and beat in the butter, one piece at a time. Continue to beat for about a minute, or until the mixture looks like moist crumbs. Pour in the milk mixture, reserving 1/2 cup and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about a minute.
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to pull up any un-mixed flour. Add the final bit of milk and stir again briefly, about 20 seconds. Scrape the batter into the cake pans, dividing evenly and spreading the mixture in each pan. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs attached.
Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then run a thin blade around the edge of each cake and turn them out onto wire racks. Peel off the parchment paper, and allow the layers to cool completely before assembly.
In a heat-proof or microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt the butter and milk chocolate together using a double boiler, or by microwaving for short periods of time and stirring frequently. Sift in the cocoa powder and sugar and add the coffee, then begin whipping the mixture with a hand mixer or whisk. If the mixture is too stiff, slacken it a bit with some warmed milk, adding just a little at a time. Continue to whip until the filling is light and fluffy. Then refrigerate for 15-20 minutes to allow it to firm up a bit.
Whip the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla together until smooth and some air is incorporated, then add the sugar a little at a time. Continue to whip until the frosting has doubled in volume.
Make sure both of your cake layers are completely cooled before assembly. Otherwise you will, quite literally, have a “melt-down.”
Place one cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Using a flexible spatula, give the mocha filling a good stir before spooning it into the middle of the first cake layer. Gently spread the filling towards the edges, leaving a 1/2-inch margin all the way around the cake (this will prevent brown streaks in your outer frosting).
Gently place the second cake layer on top and center it. Frost the entire cake with the vanilla frosting. I find it easier to work from the top down, spreading the frosting around the top and down the sides of the cake with a thin metal spatula. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the filling and frosting to firm up before slicing. Serve with coffee.