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
I made this cake for the first time for a dinner party tomorrow evening. How should I store the cake for the next 24 hours? Can it stay on counter or should I refrigerate? Thanks for the great recipe. I couldn’t make it look as beautiful as yours but it’s pretty anyway!
Hi Susan! If just 24 hours you can leave it at room temperature. I tend to refrigerate my cakes though and take them out 2-3 hours before serving.
Hi Olivia. I’ve made this cake several times and without fail it comes out absolutely perfect! I was thinking of using this recipe and turning it into a “chocolate kahlua” cake. Is this possible and if so, what would the measurements be? Thank you.
Hi Pamela! So happy you love this one 🙂 There are a few ways you could add Kahlua — I would reduce the coffee too 1/2 cup and add 1/4 cup kahlua (warm it with the coffee). You could also do a Kahlua simple syrup on the layers – https://livforcake.com/simple-syrup-recipe/. Finally you can add a bit to the frosting — 2-3 Tbsp and add 1 Tbsp at a time. I would probably do all three things to make sure the flavour comes through 🙂
Wow! Thanks Olivia. I’m definitely going to do all three of your suggested tips. I’ll let you know how it comes out. ☺️
Margie C. says
hi, maybe this has already been answered, but can I freeze the cake for a few days if I make it today(Monday)for Saturday?
Hi Margie! You can definitely freeze the whole, frosted cake. I would do the drip after though as the freezer can make it crack. Let me know how it turns out!
Phenomenal recipe. Easy to follow, great ingredient recommendations/choices.
I made this for the first time for work and it was easily my best cake so far. Moist, chocolatey sponge with a stupendous coffee meringue buttercream. I even felt the ganache gave the whole thing an amazing kick too!
I made this using two 8inch sponges and they came out perfect thickness.
Thanks so much! I will be making this many times for sure.
Hi Mohammed! Thanks for the wonderful feedback! So happy you loved it 🙂
Made the mocha frosting for my walnut cake. I’ve been making French buttercream. Your Swiss Meringue is so simple, quick and delicious it will now be my go to recipe!
I’m a new fan.
Hi Kathy! The mocha frosting is my all time favorite. So happy you find my SMBC easy to make! 🙂
I’ve made this cake before! But quick question for an event – is it best to make the cake the day of the event or the night before?
Hi Andrea! You can totally make it in advance. The whole cake or components. Here are my tips:
For the Cake: Cool the layers, double wrap in plastic wrap, freeze for up to 3 months. Take out 2-3 hours before assembly.
For the Buttercream: Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for 1 week for freeze for 3 months. Bring to room temperature and rewhip before using.
For the Ganache: Cool completely and place in an airtight container with plastic wrap directly on top. Do not refrigerate or it will get too firm. Will be fine at room temp for a day or two.
Finished Cake: The whole frosted cake (without drip) can be frozen as long as it is stored in something airtight.
For shorter storage, the cake will be fine in the fridge for 2-3 days but after that it will start to dry out.
Sara Rochelle Garrison says
Holy cow. This cake was insane. So rich, and so delicious! There have been a lot of comments on how to adapt this to different size pans, and I made this in tall 10 and 12-inch pans. With the 10-inch, I tripled the recipe and was able to get 3 layers. The 12-inch was doubled for each pan. It definitely wasn’t as fluffy as the 6-inch that I did for my test run. I pumped up the coffee flavor but using a squirt bottle filled with water and coffee to soak each layer. Seriously Olivia, this cake was incredible and I’ve had 3 people request me to make it again for them. Thank you!
Hi Sara! I am so happy you love this one. It’s my all-time favorite cake 🙂 Thanks so much for all your tips!!
I made the mocha cake as cupcakes, and not only was it the best cupcake I have ever made, but that’s just a damn good cake recipe. I’ve made a lot of cakes and cupcakes, and nothing compares to this. Once I made a raspberry lemonade cupcake filled with lemon curd and raspberry goo, which sounded like it almost couldn’t go wrong, but it was really let down by the buttercream. No more American buttercream ever again. I’m going to take your lemon cake and make lemon/raspberry swiss meringue butter cream and give it another try for my birthday next summer.
Hi Tina! Thanks for the wonderful compliment. I’m so happy you love this cake as it’s my all-time favorite. I hope you love the lemon cake as well!
Hi Olivia! I’m trying to decide between this cake and the homemade chocolate cake recipe. I see the differences are in the measurements and am wondering how the end results differ? I’d like to make a three layer 6” round chocolate cake with white buttercream (I plan to color it for an ombré effect) for a birthday and am trying to decide which of these recipes would work best. Can you help?
Hi Alexandra! The different measurements are to account for the pan size difference. While typically three 6″ make two 8″ I find they are a bit thin in the 8″ pans so I’ve increased the recipe. The cakes are mostly the same, but this one may be a tad more dense. If you’re going for three 6″ definitely use this one. It’s my favourite anyhow 🙂
Have used this recipe multiple times – it is DIVINE. We always use the cake recipe for 2x 9-inch pans. We have to double the frosting recipe to get it anywhere near as thick as the OG baker has in her images. DELISH. 5/5 stars.
Hi Caitlin! I’m so happy you love this one. Thanks for your pan size tips! Do you find the layers thick enough in two 9″ pans? How tall do they bake?
Made this today – super delicious, moist, dense cake. I made a couple of changes – I whipped the ganache and piped a few open stars on the top and I added a chocolate-covered espresso bean in the center of each. I also sprinkles with some cacao nibs on the outside for decoration and for some crunch. The only minor problem I would point out is that the buttercream is just enough to go between the layers, and for a not-too-thick outside layer. If you are looking to also pipe florets etc., more will be needed.
Hi JS! So glad you loved it. Thanks for your tips!
I doubled the entire recipe and made 3 9” cakes and six cupcakes. The cakes baked faster than the suggested time so watch carefully especially if your oven runs hot. The buttercream was much darker than the picture. I would use a little less espresso as the coffee flavor was quite intense, though the people that ate the cake thought it was fine. This is a rich dessert, cut the pieces very thin. It is worth the time and the buttercream is silky smooth.
Hi Joanne! So happy you loved it. Thanks for all your tips and feedback!
Zoe Brown says
I don’t understand how you be able to yield 3 layers of the cake from the recipe. I didn’t have 8″ cake pans and I used two 9″ round pans assuming it should be ok for 2 layered cake. I carefully measure the high quality ingredients and follow the recipe and, to my disappointment, batter didn’t rise well yielding quite dense and dry, barely an inch a half thick layers each with no taste. I know baking and I bake fancy cakes and cookies frequently for family birthdays and all the holiday celebrations. To be honest, it was the worst genoise I ever made….
However, the French meringue frosting turned out very well and tasty. It will be added to my favorite frosting list.
Hi Zoe! The recipe is for three 6″ pans, not 8″. In two 8″ the cake layers would already be a bit thinner and far too thin in two 9″. You’d probably want to double it for two 9″ pans. So glad you loved the frosting!
Beautiful and tasty – the buttercream is delicious. We love the local cake shop, but a cake like this is about $45 – loved being able to make one myself for my daughter’s birthday!
Hi Andrea! So happy you love this one 🙂
Hi Liv! I was wondering if you have tried to make this cake with any dairy-free alternatives like soy or almond milk? I know you can add vinegar or lemon juice to these to make a faux buttermilk, but I was wondering if you think it would work in your recipe? Any tips are appreciated!!
Hi Sandra! I haven’t tried it myself but I think it should work ok as long as you make the faux buttermilk.
Hina Nafe says
My question is for your lemon blueberry cake recipe (the comments section just won’t work)
How can I reduce the recipe so it fits 2 6inches pans
Hi Hina! Yikes, thanks for letting me know about the issue with the comments. They should be fixed now. To answer your question, I would 2/3 the recipe for two 6″ pans. Change the Servings to 8 to get the amounts. The layers might be thicker so baking time may need to be increased.
First time every commenting on a food blog! My husband is one of those INSANE people who thinks he doesn’t like cake – he loved this. When he asked for a second slice, I KNEW this cake was truly amazing. Can’t wait to try another recipe. Any favorite recommendations?!
Hi Kait! That is such high praise, thank you! I’m so happy you both loved it and that you took the time to comment :). This Mocha cake is definitely one of my most favourite but I talk about a few others here: https://livforcake.com/about/ I hope you try them all 🙂
Ah! The S’mores one was the one I had my eye on. So happy to see it in your top favs! I’m considering it for next week, but I’d have to drive it somewhere and wait a few hours to eat. New to the marshmallow frosting – will it hold up. Or should I try something else?
I’m either going to with that or one of the other coffee flavors. This frosting is 🔥.
Can’t wait to work through all the recipes! Now that I’ve FINALLY converted my husband 😂
The marshmallow frosting will soften over time as it is in contact with the cake — the fat from the cake will eventually make it a bit runny. If you toast the outside though that will keep its shape. To be safe though, you may want to make a buttercream cake that will be firm when chilled and will be easier to transport. Any of the coffee flavoured ones are so good though! Another insanely delicious one to try is this one: https://livforcake.com/raffaello-cake/
Khadija Yoosoof says
Hi made this today.
Is it meant yo be a bit bitter
Hi Khadija! Did you have the cake with the frosting or just the cake on its own? On its own the cake isn’t super sweet but shouldn’t be bitter.
Thank you so much for this recipe. I’ve made this cake several times and it is definitely a family favorite. My son has requested it for his girlfriend’s birthday but he wants a three layer 8” cake. I saw your note saying to make the recipe 1 1/2 times. How long should I bake it?
Hi Rebecca! So glad you love this one 🙂 For best results (layer height-wise) I would use this recipe for the cake layers and 1.5x it to get three 8″ layers. https://livforcake.com/chocolate-cake-recipe/ For the frosting, you can either 1.5x to 2x the mocha frosting here.
I made the Mocha buttercream and frosted it on the moistest vanilla cupcakes ever. I had never made swiss meringue butter cream but this recipe made it a walk in the park for me. Thank you so much for sharing.
Hi Keji! So glad you loved it 🙂