I recently made Ina Garten’s chocolate cake with mocha icing.
Both the cake and icing feature instant espresso powder to help enhance the chocolate cake.
Garten’s chocolate cake is super moist, and I thought it tasted delicious.
I’ve been slowly teaching myself how to bake with the help of Ina Garten’s recipes.
Neither cooking nor baking has ever been my forte, but I forced myself to start learning when the world went into lockdown and I didn’t want to survive solely on takeout and frozen Trader Joe’s meals.
I grew up watching “Barefoot Contessa” reruns on the Food Network, and had always felt calmed by Garten’s presence. I knew her easy and foolproof dishes would help me feel less intimidated in the kitchen.
Fast-forward three years and I’ve made dozens of Garten’s recipes, mastering everything from breakfast to pasta. I find baking to be much tougher than cooking, but Garten’s cookbooks have slowly given me confidence.
I’ve never tried a “Barefoot Contessa” dessert I didn’t like, so I knew I wanted to make her chocolate cake with mocha icing.
Garten’s desserts always shine when chocolate is involved. I love her easy and delicious no-bake mocha chocolate icebox cake, which she once proclaimed was so good “it makes grown men weep.” I’m also a huge fan of her Beatty’s Chocolate Cake recipe, which Garten said is “the most fabulous chocolate cake that I’ve ever made.”
And Garten once said her chocolate cake with mocha icing is a “dessert everyone will remember,” so of course I had to try it.
Garten’s chocolate cake features cocoa powder, espresso powder, and “good” vanilla.
To make Garten’s chocolate cake, which serves 12, you’ll need:
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
⅔ cup half-and-half
⅔ cup hottest tap water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
You’ll also need some ingredients for the mocha frosting.
To make the frosting for a 9-inch by 13-inch cake, you’ll need:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (diced), at room temperature
1 tablespoon Kahlúa
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Before the baking began, I needed to prep my pan.
I buttered my 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan, then lined the bottom of it with parchment paper. Once that was done, I buttered and floured the entire pan.
“There’s no point in making a cake if you can’t get it out of the pan,” Garten said in the “Barefoot Contessa” episode where she demonstrated this recipe.
I also prepped my dry ingredients …
I sifted the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl.
… and my chocolate-and-coffee mixture.
I added the hot tap water, cocoa powder, and espresso powder to a liquid measuring cup and whisked them together.
Then I added the half-and-half and whisked again until the mixture was smooth.
It was time to start the batter.
First I placed the sugar and butter (remember, it has to be room temperature) into the bowl of my electric mixer, which was fitted with the paddle attachment.
Garten says to beat the butter and sugar for around four to five minutes on medium speed.
I knew the mixture was ready once it had turned light and fluffy.
Then I added the vanilla and eggs.
The eggs should be added one at a time, on medium speed, until they’re incorporated and the batter is smooth.
I turned my mixer to low and started adding my flour and chocolate mixtures.
Garten says the flour and chocolate mixtures should be added alternately in thirds, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
My cake batter was ready!
I used a rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl and make sure the batter was well mixed.
I poured my chocolate batter into the prepared pan and smoothed the top.
Now it was ready to bake.
I placed my cake in the oven, which had been preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Garten says the cake should bake for 25 to 35 minutes. When your cake tester (or knife) comes out clean from the center, you’ll know it’s ready.
Once my cake was out of the oven, I let it cool completely in the pan.
I let it sit for about 45 minutes. By the time my frosting was ready, the cake had cooled.
While my cake was cooling, I began making the frosting.
First I chopped my chocolate into ¼-inch pieces, per Garten’s instructions.
Then I placed the chocolate in a bowl with the butter and espresso powder.
Garten explained in the “Barefoot Contessa” episode that she uses the instant espresso powder to help enhance the chocolate flavor.
I also prepped the cream.
Garten says you should heat the cream to a simmer.
Once the cream was ready, I poured it over the chocolate mixture.
I continued to stir the mixture until the chocolate had melted.
If your chocolate isn’t melting, don’t stress! Garten says you can just pop it in the microwave for 15 seconds.
Then I stirred in the Kahlúa and vanilla.
I stirred everything until the mixture was smooth.
I covered my frosting and refrigerated it for 30 minutes.
Garten says you shouldn’t leave the frosting in the fridge for longer than 30 minutes. It should be cool, but not cold.
Once it had chilled, I scraped down the bowl and beat the frosting with a handheld mixer.
Garten says to mix your frosting on high speed for about 15 to 20 seconds, until the mixture forms soft peaks. Make sure not to overbeat it or the frosting will curdle.
I should note I struggled a bit to get the right consistency with this frosting. When I first took it out of the fridge, the frosting just didn’t look thick enough. I let it chill for another 10 minutes before I beat it with the mixer, but it still didn’t look as whipped as it did in the “Barefoot Contessa” episode.
In the end, though, the flavor was still delicious and it spread easily on the cake, so don’t worry too much if you’re having similar issues.
Then it was time to frost my cake.
I carefully flipped my cake onto a serving board, per Garten’s recommendation, then removed the parchment paper.
Garten says you should use a metal spatula to evenly spread the frosting over your cake.
I cut my cake into squares just as Garten had, and voila — it was ready to eat!
I loved the old-fashioned charm of the thick squares with frosting on top. While it didn’t have the centerpiece appeal of Garten’s mocha icebox cake, it still looked super delicious.
Garten’s chocolate cake with mocha icing tasted rich and decadent.
I loved the moist texture, which reminded me of Beatty’s Chocolate Cake. I’ve had many chocolate cakes that are too dense and heavy, but there’s a springiness and lightness to Garten’s recipe that really helps balance everything. And while it’s not overly sweet, the instant espresso powder really brings out that chocolate flavor in both the cake and its mocha frosting.
I will say that I didn’t love the mocha frosting as much as the buttercream in Beatty’s Chocolate Cake. The consistency of the buttercream paired better with the cake, and the flavor was more memorable. If I made this again, I might try swapping the frostings.
This is definitely a cake for chocolate lovers.
Garten’s chocolate cake with mocha icing is definitely a bit easier to make than her Beatty’s Chocolate Cake recipe, although I’d pick the latter if the two had to go up against each other.
But this chocolate cake is still a delicious dessert that is sure to impress anyone with a sweet tooth, and it’s a great option when you have a little less time (and want to do fewer dishes).
And if you’re looking for a super easy dessert to whip up on a hot summer’s day, look no further than her tiramisu or mocha icebox cake.
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