Coffee Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans + Sour Cream frosting

I'm constantly waffling—wait, pause, mmmmm....waffles— between the person I am and the person I want to be. You know, the classic battle of the shoulds and ought-tos against the want-tos and gonnas?

Like how I should order a salad with grilled chicken, but the burger is screaming my name. Or how I ought to go to yoga to help with my anxiety/posture/flexibility, but Hulu just put up all the seasons of Beverly Hills 90210. Truth be told, I'm rarely in the mood for salad and I hate yoga. I can appreciate why some people like yoga and what it brings them—and I appreciate its spiritual roots. But for me the room smells like sweat and rubber and, well, it's just not for me.

But you know what is for me? Leaving work on a rough day, driving about six miles on a backcountry road, and ending up at the flower farm between my town and the next. And coffee. And chocolate. (But we'll get to that in a minute.) The flower farm is several acres of annuals and perennials and each month between April and October brings new color and new growth. It's by far my favorite place in the area—but, shhhhhhhhhh—don't tell anyone about it.

I like to spend an hour or two wandering up and down the rows of blooms, listening to the bees, not listening to the Journey and Bon Jovi (no offense, guys) that incessantly plays at work, and snip flowers until my bucket doth runeth over. 

Then I come home, shew my cat away a hundred times from eating all the flowers, and put together as many arrangements as I can. We have to get our kicks where we can, right?

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Two of life's other joys? Coffee and chocolate. My parents drank coffee everyday while I was growing up—they still do. So, I was used to the house being filled with the scent of a fresh brew each morning. I still get warm and fuzzy feelings when I smell coffee. Every day. And a raging headache when I don't get my fix. I often feel un-human until I've had my first sip. 

And chocolate? My mom isn't a chocolate person (and I really want to say something snarky about how "those" people should be shipped off to an island somewhere to live a meaningless, chocolateless existence together, but she reads this thing). But my dad? Chocolate is his kryptonite. Want to bring this man to his knees? Give him a piece of really good dark chocolate—or even better, a piece of really good dark chocolate cake, baked by his daughter. 

I baked this cake for a friend's birthday and it was a big hit. It's my go-to chocolate cake recipe, which happens to be vegan and is then made extremely un-vegan with big swoops of tangy chocolate sour cream frosting. In between the layers are chopped chocolate covered espresso beans. Chopping them is kind of a pain in the ass, so only make this cake for someone you really like. 

Let's get our chocolate on.

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TO MAKE THIS CAKE YOU WILL NEED:

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 ¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup safflower oil
3/4 cup strong coffee
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 cup chocolate covered espresso beans, chopped

FOR THE FROSTING:

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Get prepped. I made a six-inch three-layer cake, but you can make a two-lay 9-inch cake if you'd like. This recipe has enough batter for either. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line cake pans with parchment and grease lightly with oil. 

Dries and wets; wets and dries. In a medium mixing bowl add all dry ingredients and whisk until well combined. In a large mixing bowl add wet ingredients and whisk until combined. In several additions, add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, making sure not to over mix.

Bake, bake, bake. Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto cooling rack.

Make your frosting. In a small sauce pan over low heat, slowly melt the chocolate and butter, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. Blend in sour cream, vanilla, and salt until smooth and well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add in powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Gradually increase speed to medium and blend until smooth. Reward yourself by licking the beaters. You worked hard!

Assembly time. Build your cake with a thin layer of frosting on each layer of cake. Then top with the chopped espresso beans. Cover the whole cake in more frosting.

Earl Grey Chocolate Cake with Bittersweet Ganache

I spent 23 years of my life hating cake. 23 YEARS! 

I was always the kid who had birthday cookies. Or birthday pie. Or birthday "something other than cake". Then, around my 23rd birthday, I made a red velvet cake for a friend and the world as I knew it had changed. The cake was the perfect combination of not-too-sweet, tangy (from the cream cheese frosting), and substantial—unlike the grocery store cakes I had tasted all my life.

I didn't grow up with a baking mom. But don't cry for me. My mom kicks ass at about a million other things. All it means it that I've had a lot of making up to do for the last nine years. A lot.

So much making up to do, in fact, that I even had a small cupcake business when we lived in Kentucky. Pretty big step for a kid who hated cake all her life. I just knew that I had to share this new-found love of cake with the world—or at least my town.

Recently I got to share my love of cake with some friends of ours who got engaged. My husband and I knew about the proposal before the question was popped and it was like knowing the best secret in the worldunless you hate love; in which case, forget you.

I was nervous all night, knowing what was about to happen. Then around 8:15 on February 13—when I felt like I was going to pee in my pants and couldn't take it any longer—he got down on one knee, in front of all their friends, and asked her. And she said, "Well, of course!" 

And then it was time for cake.

I guess the cake could've come in handy if she said no, too. Nothing like a whole chocolate cake to help you eat your feelings.

This cake may sound posh— as they say across the pond—but the flavors are simple and delicate. I had never had Early Grey and chocolate together, but this cake was so delicious that it might be my new go-to chocolate cake.

Earl Grey is black tea with the addition of bergamot oil. Yum. I topped the cake with a thick ganache made with more tea steeped in cream and bittersweet chocolate. Yum again.

And without further ado. Let's make a cake.

TO MAKE THIS RECIPE YOU WILL NEED:

6 Earl Grey tea bags or 2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea
1 cup water boiling water
1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
3 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream

FOR THE GANACHE:
1 tablespoon loose Earl Grey tea or 2 tea bags
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips
1 cup heavy cream

Prepare your pan: I normally wouldn't explain this so much, but my first attempt yielded a cake that wouldn't budge from the pan. Lucky husband. An extra cake! The second time I buttered the crap out of the bundt pan and then sprinkled cocoa powder over it until every nook and cranny and was covered. Do this. Trust me. It came out with ease.

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Make the tea: Steep tea in water for 3-5 minutes.

Dries: In a medium bowl, whisk flour, soda, powder, and salt until well combined.

Wets: In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Add in the eggs one and at a time and continue beating until well combined, another couple minutes. Stir in melted chocolate. Add dries to wets and mix until just combined. Mix in tea and sour cream.

Bake a cake: Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for about 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto cooling rack.

Make the ganache: In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to a simmer. Remove from heat and let the tea steep in the hot cream for a couple minutes. Place chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the hot cream over top. Let stand for 10 minutes without stirring. Stir gently until chocolate is melted and combined with cream. It'll thicken as it cools. Wait until the cake has cooled and the ganache is of pouring consistency, but thickened, and pour it over top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides.

Let's eat. 

recipe adapted from Real Simple.