This Chocolate Mocha Cake is the ultimate indulgence. A rich dark chocolate cake with a silky mocha Swiss meringue buttercream.
This cake right here? It’s amazing. I mean, it knocked the Momofuku Birthday Cake right out of the #1 spot, and that was a damn good cake.
This Chocolate Mocha Cake is seriously. SO. GOOD.
Rich dark chocolate cake and a silky Mocha Swiss Meringue buttercream, topped with a dreamy chocolate ganache. Does it get any better? I don’t think so.
If you’ve been following Liv for Cake for a while, you know this is one of my oldest (and one of my favorite) recipes. If you haven’t tried it, you NEED to. You will not regret it.
The frosting is my favorite thing ever — you’ll be eating that with a spoon and thanking me later.
How to make this Mocha Cake
For the cake layers, I used my very favorite Chocolate Cake recipe modified slightly for the 6″ pans and I used hot coffee instead of hot water in the cake batter. You can’t really taste the coffee, maybe only slightly, but it does help the chocolate flavor stand out.
I like to use Dutch-process cocoa powder as it’s richer in flavor, but any regular cocoa powder will work just fine.
THIS, people, is honestly the best thing you’ll ever eat. Silky Swiss meringue buttercream with espresso and chocolate. It is pure heaven!
The recipe calls for instant espresso powder (not granules). This is a very fine powder and should dissolve perfectly into the buttercream.
Some people were having the issue of flecks of espresso powder in their buttercream because it didn’t dissolve fully. This may be due to the brand of espresso powder used. This is the brand I use and it works really well. However, I’ve updated the recipe to include dissolving the espresso powder first in 1 tsp of hot water. It’s optional though.
Can I use Regular Espresso Or regular Coffee?
No, you must use instant coffee that dissolves completely in water.
You could use regular instant coffee vs instant espresso powder, but you’d want to make it quite strong to match the flavor. I haven’t experimented with this myself, but it would really be totally fine. You can add more or less to your liking.
How to do a Drip Cake
I kept the cake decorating simple, as I wanted to do the drippy ganache technique. It’s surprisingly easy (I swear!), the key thing is to get your ganache to the right consistency which may require some trial and error.
Step #1 is to frost the cake evenly and smooth the sides and top. This is probably the most time intensive part if you want to get it perfect (which, obviously, I do).
I used a small offset spatula to roughly frost the cake and then a bench scraper to smooth everything out. This is the part that took the most time.
I had to patch some areas here and there, so it took a while to get it perfect. It really helps if you have a turntable to do this on, so that you can spin it while holding the bench scraper at an angle.
You don’t have to shell out a lot of money on a turntable, but I do not recommend getting a plastic one. They’re not super stable and don’t spin smoothly.
To get those smooth sides, you need a smooth spin! I use a lazy susan from Ikea that works great.
Once I got the top and sides mostly perfect, I popped the whole thing in the fridge and made the ganache.
Once the ganache cooled and thickened slightly, I took out the cold cake and used a teaspoon to drop dollops of ganache along the edges and let it drop down the sides.
I added more/less on certain areas to vary the drips a bit. You can also just pour a bunch of ganache on the top and use your offset spatula to nudge it over the sides, but I wanted a bit more control over the drips, and my research said that the spoon technique was a good approach.
I was worried that the ganache would harden quickly on the cold cake, but I had plenty of time to work with it. Once the drips were good, I poured a bit of ganache on the top to fill that in, and smoothed it with a small offset spatula.
This Swiss meringue buttercream gets very firm in the fridge (like butter does), so you’ll want to leave the cake out for a couple hours before serving so that it can soften up.
When I took photos and cut the cake, it was still hard, so you can see that it’s not totally silky smooth between the layers.
This Chocolate Mocha Cake is insanely good. Like, ridiculous. It is my all-time favorite cake!
I mean, just LOOK at that piece! The cake is dense, moist, and ultra chocolatey. The buttercream is silky, smooth, and has the BEST mocha flavor ever.
You will not be disappointed with this cake. I promise!
More Coffee Flavored Cake recipes
- White Chocolate Mocha Cake
- Kahlua Cake With Mocha Buttercream
- Vanilla Latte Cake
- Gingerbread Latte Cake
- Eggnog Latte Cake
- Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake
Notes & tips for this Chocolate Mocha Cake
- The recipe as-is will also work in two 8″ pans. For three 8″ pans, 1.5x the recipe.
- To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time — start checking at 15mins or so.
- You can use regular cocoa powder if you don’t have Dutch-process.
- For the frosting, the coffee you use must be instant. See post for more details.
- For the ganache, I let mine set overnight (with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface). It will be too thick at this point, so I microwave it for 10 secs and stir it until it’s the right consistency.
- The drip technique works best on a chilled cake so that the drips set quickly.
- Be sure to check my Swiss Meringue Buttercream post for tips and troubleshooting.
- Learn how to keep your cakes moist using Simple Syrup.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, check out my How to Bake Flat Cake Layers post!
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder sifted
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee hot
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter room temperature, cubed
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 Tbsp instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 tsp hot water, cooled
- 3 oz dark chocolate chopped, melted, and cooled
- 3 oz dark chocolate
- 3 oz heavy whipping cream
- Preheat oven to 350F, grease three 6″ round baking pans and dust with cocoa powder. Line bottoms with parchment.
- Place all dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Stir to combine.
- In a medium bowl whisk all wet ingredients (pour coffee in slowly as not to cook the eggs if very hot).
- Add wet ingredients to dry and mix on medium for 2-3 mins. Batter will be very thin.
- Pour evenly into prepared pans. I used a kitchen scale to ensure the batter is evenly distributed.
- Bake until a cake tester comes out mostly clean. A total of 30-35mins.
- Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined.*
- Place bowl over a pot with 1-2" of simmering water and stir constantly with a whisk until the mixture is hot and no longer grainy to the touch or reads 160F on a candy thermometer (about 3mins).
- Place bowl on your stand mixer and whisk on med-high until the meringue is stiff and cooled (the bowl is no longer warm to the touch (approx. 5-10mins))
- Switch to paddle attachment (optional). Slowly add cubed butter and mix until smooth.
- Add vanilla, melted chocolate, and espresso powder. Whip until smooth.**
- Finely chop chocolate and place into a bowl. Bring cream just barely to a simmer and pour over chopped chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 2 mins. Stir gently with a spatula until combined and smooth. Allow to cool and thicken slightly before using on cake.***
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with approximately 2/3 cup of frosting and spread evenly. Repeat with remaining layers and apply a thin coat of frosting all over the cake. Chill for 20mins.
- Frost and smooth the sides. Chill for 20mins.
- Using a small spoon, place dollops of ganache around the top edges of the cooled cake, allowing some to drip down. Fill in the top of the cake with more ganache and spread evenly with an offset spatula.
** The buttercream may look like it’s curdled at some point. Keep mixing until it is completely smooth.
*** You can make the ganache in advance and let it set overnight (with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface). It will be too thick at this point, so I microwave it for 5-10 secs and stir it until it’s the right consistency.
Originally published Aug 23, 2015
10/10. Incredible recipe!!!!!
Thank you Danielle! I’m so happy you loved it 🙂
I made these into cupcakes, and they were amazing! My husband ate about four of them the evening that I made them!
Hi Joey! This is my all time fave recipe. I’m so happy you both loved it!
Hello, I’m planning on making this cake soon. I was thinking about filling the middle with chocolate mousse filling and then doing the outside in this frosting. Would this work well or do you think that there would be too much going on?
Hi Maria! I think that would be perfectly delicious. Be sure to do a dam with the buttercream to hold in the mousse.
This cake was fabulous! Thank you for the recipe. I made it for my daughter’s birthday and everyone loved it. I will absolutely be making it again.
Thanks so much, Julie! I’m glad you loved it 🙂
Love this recipe and the cake is delicious! I will say that the coffee (I think particularly in the buttercream) does come through quite strongly, which I love. But it may not have been suitable for my 5 and 7 year olds right before bed, especially if you are a “lick the spoon” type of household.🤪 Just a caution for those with littles. I made it for my birthday and they were excited to have some. Made DIY cake strips too and had my first ever, even-topped cakes!
Hi Megan! So glad you loved it. Sorry it kept the kids up! Haha Yay to the cake strips! I hope you try more of my recipes 🙂
Can I use espresso powder for baking in place of the strong brewed coffee and the instant espresso? If so, how much would you use?
Hi Jessica! Yes but it must be instant or you’ll get the granules. I would add about 1 Tbsp of instant espresso powder to 3/4 cup hot water and dissolve. Alternatively, you can make a shot of espresso and water to that to make 3/4 cup.
Rich McGuire says
Made this for my wife’s birthday. Wow! The chocolate cake is rich and very moist. My first attempt at Swiss meringue buttercream and it turned out perfectly smooth and silky. The cake recipe alone will definitely become a staple in my baking. As a side note-I used the same chocolate and cocoa. I can’t recommend this recipe enough! Worth the effort.
Hi Rich! Thank you for the wonderful feedback! I am so happy you loved it 🙂
Hi, I am thinking of making this for a friends small 60th birthday. I would like to make a 3 x 8″ pans. Should I double the recipe or just click the arrows for the servings to adjust the ingredients? Thank you!
Hi Sandra! I would 1.5x the recipe for three 8″ pans. The layers will be a little thinner though. You can definitely 2x it too, but you will probably have extra batter (which you can use to make cupcakes). Be sure not to fill the pans more than half full as the batter doubles in size. To get the amounts you can change the Serving size to either 18 or 24 depending on how much you increase it by.
I made 3 – 8′ rounds and followed the 1.5 recipe. I double the buttercream and ganache recipes. Plenty left over.
This is my go-to chocolate cake recipe and I have made it many times. It’s amazing. I’ve also made it many times as cupcakes, and while they taste equally amazing, they’re always super domed. Any thoughts on how to prevent this? Should I turn down the oven temperature? I have an oven thermometer so I know it’s not the case that my oven runs hot. Thanks for any advice.
Hi Sarah! I’m so happy you love this recipe, it’s one of my faves. I am not an expert on cupcakes but I would try reducing the oven temp by 25F.
That worked like a charm! Thank you so much!
Chandra F says
Great recipe! I’m happy to report that it works great with gluten free flour (at least with Better Batter flour, which is what I use for cakes). I increased the buttermilk by about 1/4 cup since the gluten free flour can make for a drier and thicker batter and the cake is perfectly moist and delicious:
I had to whip my egg whites and sugar longer to get stiff peaks and a cool bowl (regardless that seemed to occur around the same time- but it was more like 30 minutes). This is the second time I’ve made this cake and it is just awesome!
Hi Chandra! So glad you loved it and thanks for the tip re: GF flour 🙂
This looks so lovely and planning to make today. Question, for the Swiss Meringue, can I use a handheld whisk or does it have to be all done in a stand mixer.
Thank you for wonderful recipes Xx
Hi Grayce! It will be tricky with a hand mixer. Please see this post for more details: https://livforcake.com/swiss-meringue-buttercream-recipe/
Hi. I’ve made this cake many many times and absolutely love it. It’s my go to chocolate cake.
I’ve been baking my cakes in 8″ round cake pans. I’d now like to start using 6″ pans. My question is, should I invest in purchasing 3 or 4 pans? Also, should the 6″ pans I purchase be 2″ or 3″ high? I’ve read that baking in these pans will make the cakes come out drier because they have to bake longer. Is this true and if so, how do I avoid this from happening?
Hi Pamela! I most often use three 6″ pans like I did for this recipe. Four will give you more options though if you wanted thinner/more layers. Mine are all 2″ tall but 3″ will work fine too. The cakes do not come out drier at all in 6″ pans unless they are overbaked. You may need to adjust the baking time a bit.
Thank you Olivia. Much appreciated.
I love swiss meringue frosting, but for me, the mixing bowl isn’t cool to the touch after whipping the eggs and sugar together. It does whip up nicely, but should I wait, or put in the fridge to cool the bowl? I made the swiss meringue buttercream version (minus chocolate), and had the same issue. The bowl is still hot! Even though it was soupy after adding butter, I thickened it up by adding confectionary sugar…which I really didn’t want to do, but it still tasted great!
Hi SarahiYah! I have a detailed tutorial with tips and troubleshooting here: https://livforcake.com/swiss-meringue-buttercream-recipe/ Once the meringue is stiff you can place a bag of frozen peas or similar under the bowl to help cool it.
This cake is delicious and the buttercream is especially divine! I wonder if you have any suggested adjustments for baking it at high altitude? I’ve had some problems with the cake centers falling. Still delicious, mind you, but not quite as pretty as I’d like.
Hi Mary! So happy you love this one. Baking at high altitude can be tricky and may require some experimentation depending on how high up you are. Here are some general guidelines if you’re at 3000ft:
• Increase the oven temperature by 15-25F
• Decrease baking time by 5-10mins.
• Decrease sugar by 1 Tbsp per cup
• Decrease baking powder by 1/8 tsp per cup
• Increase liquid by 1-2 Tbsp per cup
• Add 1 Tbsp of flour
If you’re higher up than 3000ft, you will need to increase/decrease the ingredients incrementally.
made this as an unexperienced baker and it was a TOTAL HIT at the office! great recipe and super yummy. (I did add a little coffee liquor to the frosting shhhhh! 🙂 thank you !
Hi Manuela! I am so happy to hear that! Love the addition of the liqueur 😉 I hope you try more of my recipes!
Hi! I’m making the frosting right now. But it’s not thick enough neh! it’s like a cake batter. What should I do?
Hi Yenuli! Sorry to hear you’re having trouble with the frosting. Please see this post for tips and troubleshooting: https://livforcake.com/swiss-meringue-buttercream-recipe/