Coffee and walnut cakes made without butter, filled with cream cheese frosting and topped with chocolate.
A few weeks ago, I had big plans. Big cake plans.
Long story short, on the first Sunday of May, my parents, my brother, his family and I had organized a Mother’s Day morning tea. My plan was to make a layer cake, and reveal and slice it once everyone had arrived.
For me this constituted ‘big plans’. Mostly because I woke up before 6am to make sure I’d have enough time to bake the cakes, let them cool, make the filling and assemble the whole thing. Also, I’m a total worry-wart and wanted to give myself plenty of time in case I ruined the cakes, the oven exploded and/or the kitchen burned down.
As it turned out, I didn’t ruin the cakes, the oven remained in one piece and the kitchen was free of fires. However, my brother (and co) didn’t appear until 12pm, despite his assurances that they’d arrive by 10.30. And by that time the rest of us had given up waiting and starting eating the cake.
So that didn’t exactly go to plan. Also, I totally forgot that my sister-in-law is allergic to nuts. Uh, whoops!
Even if the morning tea didn’t quite work out as I’d envisioned, I’m happy to say that the cake received good reviews. Even though it’s more of a dessert or snack than breakfast, I felt that it needed to be shared on this blog. After all, it wouldn’t be my first dessert recipe.
Plus, the cake contains coffee, and no breakfast is complete without coffee, right?
This isn’t one of those cakes that’s supposed to be served with coffee, but contains no caffeine itself. Not at all. This is a cake made with actual coffee and a little Tia Maria (coffee liqueur). There’s Tia Maria in the cake and the filling, by the way. So maybe this is more of a dessert than something you should eat in the morning. Maybe.
The idea for this cake came from my grandmother. Apparently – although I don’t remember it – she used to make a coffee cake fairly frequently. She’d bake one cake, slice it in half, and fill it with buttercream frosting. Then the cake would be decorated with a sugar icing and walnuts.
And yes, it was a cake that had actual coffee in it, not just a cake that you serve with coffee. Knowing Grandma, she would’ve served it with tea.
Being me, I couldn’t resist making quite a few changes. For starters, I baked two short cakes because the idea of slicing a cake in half filled me with terror. Unlike my grandmother’s version, the cakes – and filling – don’t contain butter. The moisture comes from yogurt, ricotta cheese and a small amount of canola oil (or another flavorless oil).
Instead of buttercream, I made a brown sugar and cream cheese frosting. To make sure the butter-free cream cheese frosting wasn’t too dense, I used a mixture of cream cheese and ricotta cheese. I opted for low-fat cream cheese, but the regular kind will be fine (just make sure you let it soften first).
Rather than decorating the cake with a thin sugar icing, I poured over plenty of chocolate. The topping’s very easy to make – all you need is some dark chocolate, a little milk and a microwave. While I’m sure my grandmother’s sugar icing was delicious, I simply couldn’t resist adding some chocolate to this cake.
Oh, and unlike my version, Grandma’s cake certainly didn’t contain booze.
If you’re still following the forever-ongoing US election, then you’ll know that today the state of Washington is holding its Republican primary. The Evergreen State is the home of many large companies, including the coffee behemoth that many people seems to have a love/hate relationship with: Starbucks.
That – in my world – means that it’s the perfect day to buy (or make) a Frappucino, eat some Salted Caramel Overnight Oats, and/or have a slice of coffee cake.
- 3 cups (385g) all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons (15g) cornstarch (cornflour)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (45g) almond meal
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup (190g) brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup (250g) Greek-style yogurt
- ½ cup (120g) ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup (60mL) canola oil
- ¼ cup (60mL) Tia Maria coffee liqueur
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- 1 ½ cups (360mL) room-temperature coffee
- 1 cup (100g) chopped walnuts
- ½ cup (50g) brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) maple syrup
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) milk
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) Tia Maria coffee liqueur
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 8 oz (225g) cream cheese, softened
- ¼ cup (60g) ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) milk
- ½ cup (70g) chopped dark chocolate
- Walnut halves (optional)
- Cakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease two 9-inch (22.5cm) round baking pans with cooking oil spray.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and baking soda. Add the salt and almond meal, and stir to combine.
- In another very large bowl, whisk the eggs with a fork. Whisk in the brown sugar, yogurt, ricotta cheese, canola oil, Tia Maria and vanilla bean paste. Add the coffee, and whisk until well combined.
- Pour the dry ingredients (the flour mixture) into the wet ingredients (the coffee mixture). Mix until just combined. Gently fold in the chopped walnuts.
- Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Each pan will not look very full, but the batter will rise.
- Bake for 27 – 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean (or with a few crumbs). Let the cakes cool in the pan for 5 – 10 minutes before transferring to a cooking rack. Allow the cakes to cool completely before assembling the layer cake.
- Filling: Place the brown sugar, maple syrup and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, cook the mixture for 2 minutes while stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and immediately stir in the milk, Tia Maria and vanilla bean paste.
- Transfer to a large bowl. If the sugar mixture solidifies, reheat it in the microwave and whisk vigorously until it is liquid again.
- Add the cream cheese and ricotta cheese to the bowl. Use electric beaters to beat the mixture until smooth and creamy. Either use immediately, or store in the fridge until needed.
- Topping: Pour the milk into a microwave-safe bowl, and heat in the microwave for 30 – 40 seconds, or until hot. Add the chopped chocolate and stir vigorously until the chocolate has melted.
- If the chocolate has not completely melted, microwave the bowl for 10 – 20 seconds on a low wattage, and stir well. Let cool slightly before using.
- Assembling the cake: Place one of the cooled cakes on a serving plate or cake stand. Spread the filling over the top (there may be leftover filling). Top with the other cake. Pour over the chocolate topping, allowing chocolate to fall down the sides of the cake. If desired, decorate the top of the cake with walnut halves.
- Store the layer cake in the fridge.
Low fat or full-fat cream cheese and ricotta cheese are fine.
Authentic Greek yogurt isn't needed for this recipe - just use any thick and creamy yogurt.
Ideally, use room temperature eggs.
Freezing slices of cake
You can cut the cake, and then freeze the individual slices! Before serving, let them defrost at room temperature or in the fridge. Store in the fridge once defrosted.