This white chocolate mocha cake pairs tender white chocolate espresso cake layers with a whipped white chocolate ganache and silky espresso buttercream.
There will be a consistent theme with the holiday cakes coming your way this year — you will likely either love them or hate them. I hope it’s the former because I’m already so excited to bake them all!
I’m not sure that a White Chocolate Mocha is considered a holiday drink, but I’m using it anyway to kick off my holiday baking. To me, most things white chocolate just seem wintery.
What is a White Chocolate Mocha?
It’s basically a mocha (chocolate & espresso), but made with white chocolate instead of the dark or milk chocolate used in a regular mocha. I’m pretty sure you can get them all year round at Starbucks. Calling it a White Chocolate Mocha Cake is a bit redundant since mocha contains chocolate, but White Mocha Cake didn’t seem descriptive enough.
How to make this White Chocolate Mocha Cake
In order to make the espresso and white chocolate both stand out, I used them in different ways in each component of this cake. The cake consists of:
- cake layers infused with white chocolate and espresso
- whipped white chocolate ganache filling
- espresso Swiss meringue buttercream
- white chocolate ganache drip
White Mocha Cake Layers
For the cake layers themselves, I used both white chocolate and espresso in them. I basically took my White Chocolate Cake and added espresso powder to it. The cake has the perfect texture — tender, moist, and just the right density.
The white chocolate flavor does not come through crazy strong because of the espresso powder, but I love the subtle flavor and the texture the white chocolate gives the cake. If you prefer, you can leave the espresso powder out.
Whipped White Chocolate Ganache
To make the white chocolate ganache, I used a 3:1 ratio (by weight) of chocolate:cream, and let it cool and thicken. I actually let it sit overnight (with plastic wrap placed directly on top), but you really only need to let it sit until it thickens (about 3 hours or so). I used a portion of the unwhipped ganache for the white chocolate drip.
The filling complements the cake layers and frosting so well, and the flavor of the white chocolate really stands out.
Espresso Swiss Meringue Buttercream
This is one of my all-time favorite buttercreams. I love coffee flavored desserts, and this buttercream is so good you’ll be eating it with a spoon!
I used half a recipe of my Swiss meringue buttercream and added some espresso powder to it. I just add it right in, since my espresso powder is so fine that I find it blends in smoothly. If your instant espresso is not a super fine powder, I recommend dissolving it first in 1-2 tsp of hot water and cooling before adding to the frosting.
White Chocolate Ganache Drip
I used a portion of the 3:1 ganache I made for the filling for the drip. Since it had thickened a bit too much, I warmed it slightly in the microwave (very small increments – 3 seconds) until it was the right drip consistency. It helps to do a test drip on the “back” of the cake if you’re unsure, and always do drips on a very well chilled cake. It helps the ganache set quicker, and won’t drip all the way down to the bottom.
I finished the whole cake off with a rope border of espresso buttercream, some small and large white nonpareils, and some chocolate crispearls.
If you love coffee desserts as much as I do, be sure to also check out my Vanilla Latte Cake, Mocha Cake (my all time fave), and my Coffee & Baileys Cake.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I convert this recipe?
- The recipe as-is will also work in two 8″ pans as long as they are 3″ tall, or two 9″ pans. Baking time may need to be adjusted.
- For a three layer 6″ cake, change the Servings to 12 and use those amounts. Or, if your pans are 3″ tall you can leave the recipe as is. The layers will be thicker so baking time will need to be adjusted.
- To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time — start checking at 15mins or so. The recipe will make at least 24 cupcakes depending on size.
- For other conversions go here.
Can I make it in advance?
- The cooled cake layers can be baked ahead of time, double wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 3 months. Take out 2-3 hours before assembly.
- The mascarpone cream will not keep. It should be made right before putting the cake together.
- The cooled cookie crumble can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months.
- The finished cake (whole or sliced, stored airtight) can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Tips for making this White Mocha Cake recipe:
- If your instant espresso is not a super fine powder, I recommend dissolving it first in 1-2 tsp of hot water and cooling before adding to the frosting.
- 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 Flat Top Cakes post!
White Chocolate Mocha Cake
White Chocolate Mocha Cake:
- 140 g white chocolate chopped (or white chocolate chips)
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 Tbsp espresso powder
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
Espresso Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 1/2 Tbsp instant espresso powder more or less to taste
White Chocolate Ganache:
- 450 g white chocolate finely chopped
- 150 g heavy cream
- bright white color gel
- coffee beans
- white nonpareils
- dark chocolate crispearls
White Chocolate Mocha Cake:
- Heat milk and chocolate until melted and combined.* Add espresso powder and stir until dissolved. Cool to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour three 6" cake rounds and line with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on med-high until pale and fluffy (approx 3mins). Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.
- Alternate adding flour mixture and milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour (4 additions of flour and 3 of milk). Fully incorporating after each addition.
- Bake for about 40mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
- Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack and cool completely.
Espresso Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
- Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined.**
- Place bowl over a double boiler on the stove and whisk constantly until the mixture is hot and no longer grainy to the touch (approx. 3mins). Or registers 160F on a candy thermometer.
- 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. Slowly add cubed butter and mix until smooth.***
- Add espresso powder and whip until smooth.****
White Chocolate Ganache:
- Place chopped chocolate and cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 5-10 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth and combined. Set aside to cool completely and thicken.
- Remove 2/3 cup of the thickened white chocolate ganache, set aside. Whip remaining ganache until light and fluffy.
White Chocolate Drip:
- If needed, microwave the the 2/3 cup ganache you set aside at very small increments (3 seconds) to thin out. Add a few drops of bright white color gel if desired.
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with half of the whipped ganache, spread evenly. Repeat with remaining layers and crumb coat the cake with any remaining ganache. Chill for 20mins until ganache is set.
- Frost and smooth the sides with the espresso buttercream, reserving some for the rope border on top. Chill for 30mins until frosting is cold and firm.
- Using a small spoon, place dollops of white chocolate ganache around the top edges of the chilled cake, allowing some to drip down. Fill in the top of the cake with more ganache and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Chill to set ganache (5 mins).
- Pipe a rope border on top using a Wilton 1M tip. Sprinkle small and large white nonpareils on top as well as some chocolate crispearls if desired. Roughly toss some small nonpareils onto the sides of the cake if desired. Place coffee beans along the bottom.
HI! Would the recipe work switching the espresso powder for a coffee licqueur?
Hi Barb! Since the liqueur is a liquid, you’d need to reduce the amount of milk by the amount of liqueur you plan to add. I’m not sure if it would give a strong enough flavour vs the powder. For best results I always say to make the recipe as written, but you can definitely give it a try!
What if I wanted to do cupcakes instead of cake? Would I fill the tin halfway and bake for same amount of time?
Hi Amy! I don’t bake cupcakes often but I usually fill the liners about 2/3 full. Baking time would be shorter. Start checking around 15mins or so.
Hi! Making this for a birthday this weekend – going to attempt to use 1:1 gluten free flour (we’ll see how that goes!!). Question — if I wanted to make this a 4 layer cake, what should I set the servings to? Thanks so much! Excited to try it out!
Hi Alison! The 1:1 flour should work just fine. You’d need to increase the recipe by 1/3 to get another layer. Change the Servings to 16 and try those amounts.
If you are an experienced baker, this is a no fail recipe! My cake came out amazing ! Thank you !
Thanks so much, Lizette! I’m so happy you loved it 🙂
which brand of espresso powder do you use? Your link doesn’t work. Thanks!
Hi Amy! Sorry about that. I use Nescafe Gold Instant Espresso Powder: https://amzn.to/3Uhfe4d
I made the white chocolate mocha cake and was pleasantly surprised how light it came out. I only did two 6inch pans and a dozen cupcakes. This was a trial run for a birthday coming up. I want to make the cake to serve at least 20 people. This cake is really delicious!
Hi Rita! So glad you loved it! Thanks for the feedback 🙂
I would like to make the bottom tier of a wedding cake with this cake.
My question is my bottom tier will be 3 – 12×2 layers so would I have to double or triple this recipient to fit in my 12×3 pans?
Hi Krista! Converting pan sizes is always tricky. Here are some sites I use as a guideline:
The cake was glorious- dense and very flavorful.
I think I screwed up on the Swiss Meringue, but it tasted fine. It was my first time but I really want to try it again to see if I can get it smooth, like it is in your pictures.
It definitely was a bit more buttery tasting than the usual buttercreams I’ve always made. But so good! Not nearly as sweet either- which was a nice change of pace.
I feel like this cake was more adult, if that makes sense. Great recipe! Thank you for sharing it.
Hi Jenny! I’m so happy you liked it 🙂 I have a detailed tutorial on SMBC here that can help with any tips or troubleshooting: https://livforcake.com/swiss-meringue-buttercream-recipe/ Let me know if you try it again!
Hi Olivia, I would love to try this recipe, but I have no much time for trials. My fear is that the SMB won’t work or come out as expected. Therefore, I’ve scrolled though the other buttercream types and Inwant to give the German Buttercrem or the Ermine Buttercream a try instead.
We prefer something less sweet and honestly I prefer something easier to prepare this time.
So my question ist if this cake goes well with the German or the Ermine Buttercream as it goes with the SMB.
Can as chill the cake once frosted? I would like to prepare one or two days in advance, and only do the piping and put the little decoration on on the day of the party.
Please tell me if that goes well and if my plan would work as well. Thank you and congratulations for your fine work.
Hi Ana! The cake would be equally delicious with any kind of frosting. You can make it in advance and refrigerate for 2-3 days, after that it will start to dry out. I would do the piping at the time of decorating. Otherwise you’ll have to refrigerate the leftover frosting, then bring it to room temp again and rewhip to do that. Let me know how it turns out!
Made this for my daughters sweet sixteenth birthday. I halved the recipe and it still was a lot of cake. It tasted amazing and was a big hit. Thank you for sharing the recipe and the great instructions.
Hi Michelle! So happy you liked it and found the recipe easy to follow 🙂
Antoinette Tiu says
Hi Olivia, i tried making your cake but its quite dense, how can you make it light and fluffy i also tried using oil instead of butter but the texture is the same , also baking it in a loaf pan
( 81/2 x 4 1/2 x 3 )
Hi Antoinette! This cake is more on the dense side due to the white chocolate in the cake batter. It is essentially a mud cake. You could try using cake flour to lighten it up a bit but it will still be a denser cake than most of my recipes.
Hi! Id like to use an 8in round cake pan, do you know what the differences in oven time and baking time would be? Thank you!
Hi Alex! Are you planning to only use one 8″ pan? It would need to be about 4″ tall so the batter doesn’t overflow. Oven temperature would stay the same but baking time will be much longer. I generally don’t recommend baking such tall cakes as the cake won’t bake evenly.