A couple weeks ago I joined my sister and her fiancé at their cottage to celebrate my sister’s birthday. I was delighted when I was asked to supply the cake. I jump at any opportunity to make a cake because more than any other dessert, a cake screams “We are celebrating something special!” Plus it gives me a chance to work on my decorating skills, where there is definite room for improvement.
My sister has a mild chocolate addiction so I knew a chocolate cake was an absolute must. I turned to a tried-and-true recipe that makes a moist, rich, super chocolaty cake. This recipe makes enough batter for a three-layer 8” cake. I love the combination of chocolate and coffee (who doesn’t?), so I decided to use an espresso-flavoured whipped cream frosting. I left the frosting a bit uneven for a rustic, cottage-inspired look. Just kidding. I’m just not very good at frosting a cake smoothly. I also wanted to play into our beautiful, natural surroundings with the cake decorations. I found a great idea on Pinterest for some piped chocolate trees which turned out to be just perfect! I made these ahead of time, packed them between layers of parchment paper to survive the 2-hour car ride, and put them on the cake once we had arrived at the cottage.
This cake turned out to be a real winner. And I can tell you from experience, it’s even better with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. Go on…try it.
Mocha ‘Forest’ Cake
Chocolate cake with espresso whipped cream frosting and chocolate trees
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup cocoa powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs (at room temperature)
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water
Espresso Whipped Cream Frosting
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream
- ¼ – ½ cup icing sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1½ tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
- 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1. Make the cake
Preheat the oven to 350°F and position the oven racks in the lower and upper thirds. Lightly grease three 8-inch round baking pans and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.
Whisk together the sugars, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed of a mixer for 2 minutes. In a small bowl, pour the boiling water over the cocoa powder and mix gently until the cocoa is dissolved. Add the cocoa mixture to the batter and stir until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Lightly tap the sides of each pan to remove any air bubbles.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Cool for at least 10 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
2. Make the frosting
Place the cream, icing sugar, and vanilla in a chilled bowl. Whip on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the espresso. Continue to whip on medium speed until stiff peaks form.
3. Assemble the cake
Once the cakes have cooled completely at room temperature, pop them in the fridge for 15-30 minutes. Chilling the cake makes it easier to level and frost. Level the cakes and turn one over onto a serving plate. Remove the parchment paper. Top with about ½ cup frosting and spread all the way to the edges. Repeat with the second layer. Turn the third cake over onto the frosting, cut side down. Peel off the parchment paper. Use the remaining frosting on the top and sides of the cake.
4. Make the chocolate trees
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place the chocolate chips in the top section of a double boiler (or a bowl over a pot) and set aside. Pour an inch or two of water in the lower portion of the double boiler and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Turn off the heat and set the chocolate over the steaming water. Let the chocolate melt for 3 minutes, then stir gently until all the chocolate has melted and is smooth. Remove the chocolate from the heat and allow to cool until it is firm enough that it can be piped through a narrow tip.
Spoon the chocolate into a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip. Pipe the melted chocolate into the tree shape on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill the trees in the refrigerator until they are hard. Once they are hard, carefully peel them off the parchment paper, pipe some chocolate onto the back of the trees, and place them on the cake. Use any excess chocolate to drizzle on the top of the cake. If you don’t plan to use the trees immediately, store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container, layered between sheets of parchment paper.