The Cake (chocolate cake with raspberry filling and espresso buttercream, whew!)

by ck

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Last weekend I made a cake. It turned out to be the best cake I’ve ever made. Around here (at least for me), the cake to beat is the Mocha Cake from Rosie’s Bakery. I’ve only ever had two cakes on my birthday– one is the Chestnut Cake (we just call it ‘the wine cake’) from The Silver Palate, smothered in a sweet chocolate-hazelnut buttercream. The other, a relic from the days where my mom worked 50 hours a week at Mt. Auburn hospital, leaving no time for baking, is the Rosie’s Mocha Cake. As much as I enjoy that cake on the day of, it’s even better frozen.  I wrap the remainder tightly in plastic and place it at the back of the freezer, strategically arranging less desirable frozen items– soup from a couple of months ago, corn (should that even be in here?)– around it like camouflage.  There is nothing more satisfying than sneaking into the kitchen long past dinner to carefully trim a sliver of cake, feeling the cold crumbs under my fingers and the silky-sweet buttercream on my tongue.

This is a recipe for a chocolate cake with raspberry filling and espresso buttercream.

Here’s your shopping list.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetSmitten Kitchen‘s CAKE:

3 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1.5 c hot brewed coffee
3 c. granulated sugar
2.5 c. AP flour
1.5 c. cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 c. vegetable oil
1.5 c. buttermilk
3/4 tsp. vanilla


2 oz unsweetened chocolate, 1 tbsp espresso, 2 sticks unsalted butter (softened), 3 c. confectioner’s sugar.


6 oz. frozen raspberries.

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For the CAKE:

For the batter, I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for chocolate cake (ingredients above.) I’d used it in the past and remembered that it produced a deeply flavored, incredibly chocolatey dessert. I did not change her recipe one bit, besides using ‘homemade’ buttermilk (1.5 tbsp lemon juice to 1.5 c 2% milk.) A couple of tips– if you’re using a springform pan, be sure to put a cookie sheet underneath it as it bakes. The batter is not very thick and has a tendency to drip through.  Also, listen to Deb and line the bottoms of your pans with a circle of wax paper. The cake is very moist and can be difficult to remove (I remembered this from last time I made it and still didn’t heed her advice.  It took a few tries and a fair amount of finagling to get the cakes out in one piece.)

Let the cakes cool for a few hours. Start reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s new book.

Once they seemed cool enough, make the frosting. I remembered that Deb’s cake called for coffee in the batter, and this cake was for a coffee lover, so why not doubly caffeinate everyone at her party? Espresso buttercream would do the trick.

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Melt 2 oz unsweetened chocolate (basic Baker’s chocolate) in the microwave, zapping it at 20 second intervals and stirring in between to avoid any burning. Once it melts, mix in a heaping tablespoon of regular espresso. (A lot of people call for instant espresso powder, but I found the real thing worked just fine.) Heat it up quickly again (maybe 7 seconds?) to really get the espresso flavor going. Add the chocolate/espresso mixture to a mixing bowl and cut in the butter. Mix thoroughly, then add sugar, one cup at a time. I happen to like a high ratio of sugar to butter in my buttercream, but taste as you go and stop whenever you’d like.

Make sure the cakes completely cool, then place the first layer on a flat surface. Cover the top and sides with buttercream (my buttercream was about 1/4 inch thick.)


Toss 6 oz frozen raspberries in a blender and pulse until they’ve broken into pieces. I didn’t want a smooth texture, but if you do, add a little water to puree and then strain them through a fine-mesh strainer (as Deb suggests) to get rid of the seeds. Spread the raspberries over the bottom layer, leaving a border of a 1/2 inch (this is important if you want to keep your frosting job pristine, without any raspberry drips.)

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(I was a little overzealous with my raspberry filling.)

Place the other half of the cake on top and smooth the frosting over until it’s uniform.  Put the finished cake in the fridge to chill, but be sure to remove it 45 minutes or an hour before you want to cut into it so it will be at room temperature.

There are a lot of cake recipes out there, but I can honestly say that I’ve never had so many happy friends as when I served up thin slices (it’s so rich!) with ice cream.  You better believe I stole home with a piece for the freezer.