Sour Cream Mocha Cake

Sour Cream Mocha Cake Recipe

I’ve had this recipe in my files for quite some time. I got it from a friend, Joseph Moran, who’s fanatical about perfecting a recipe. I’m not exactly sure where he got the inspiration for this incredibly intense and moist cake, but I do remember him spending months fiddling with the precise proportions of butter, cream, eggs, and flour. And lemme say, he nailed it. The cake requires unsweetened chocolate, chocolate extract, and instant espresso, so it’s a very “adult” dessert. Some friends have complained they get a caffeine buzz if they eat it before going to bed. So? You can make it with decaffeinated espresso; the flavor isn’t affected.–David Leite

LC An Adult Dessert Note

With its dark, dark chocolate and its indulgent amount of espresso, this incredibly moist mocha creation ought to have a minimum age requirement. It’s definitely an adult dessert if ever there was one.

Sour Cream Mocha Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 1 H
  • Serves 8 to 10


  • For the mocha cake
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, grated
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 teaspoons instant espresso granules, dissolved in 1 cup of hot water
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pans
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon chocolate extract (or omit and up the amount of vanilla to 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
  • For the espresso frosting
  • 1/4 cup instant espresso granules, dissolved in 5 tablespoons of cold water
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream


  • Make the cake
  • 1. Slide a rack in the middle of the oven and crank the heat to 350°F (175°C). [Editor’s Note: Make that 325°F (160°C) if you’re using dark non-stick pans.] Butter two 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter and flour the paper, tapping out any excess flour.
  • 2. Melt the chocolate, either iin a microwave on medium or in a pot set over another pot filled with an inch of simmering water. (Make sure no water splashes into the chocolate or it’ll seize and become grainy.) Set aside to cool until just warm.
  • 3. Meanwhile, dump the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  • 4. Whisk together the hot expresso, sour cream, canola oil, butter, and vanilla and chocolate extracts in a medium bowl. Pour this coffee-sour cream brew into the dry ingredients in the stand mixer and mix on low until just blended, about 30 seconds. Slowly drizzle in the beaten eggs and mix on medium until smooth. Plop the melted chocolate into the bowl and beat until the batter is uniform in color, about 15 seconds. The batter will be thin, but that’s how it should be.
  • 5. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each cake and invert each cake onto another rack to cool completely.
  • Make the espresso frosting
  • 6. Dissolve the espresso granules in the water. Pour the espresso mixture into a food processor and add the butter, sugar, and heavy cream. Process the mixture until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. The frosting will look hopelessly curdled and destroyed at first, but then just when you’re about to lose all faith, it will come together beautifully. (Honest.)
  • Assemble the cake
  • 7. Frost the cake as usual. Devour immediately, also as usual.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

  1. Carol Hargis says:

    …making it tonight (yet again) for my daughter Brigit’s 15th Birthday Party this Friday. I will wrap and freeze the (3) layers for maximum moistness before I make that oh-so-silky mocha frosting Friday morning! (et Bien Sur, Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon c’est l’entree’). Thanks for making me remember this keeper by making it so, well, memorable, David. <3<3

  2. aj says:

    a cake for true coffee lovers. we had leftovers for breakfast, and my husband now calls it the “eat your coffee for breakfast” cake. it comes together very easily. i confess that i didn’t grate the chocolate before melting it in the microwave!:-) the cake didn’t seem to suffer (it didn’t last past the next day’s breakfast, either).

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      well, there’s more than one way to get your coffee fix, it seems. love what your husband dubbed the cake. love that it didn’t last–the truest sign of a keeper recipe. thanks for letting us know, aj.

  3. Jo Koster says:

    The cake was an absolute keeper, but the frosting was a loser. Had to make it three times before I could get it to come together, and even then it didn’t set up nicely for frosting. So the cake looked a lot shabbier than I had wanted it to. I’m a very experienced baker and this rarely happens; I actually suspected there might be a typo in the recipe. Will use my own mocha buttercream recipe in the future.

    • David Leite says:

      Hi Jo, sorry you had a problem. I’ve made the frosting a gazillion times (I’ve even made it for catering events). Where some bakers derail is by not using a food processor. This simply can’t be made in any other kind of mixer. Also, the texture isn’t like a classic buttercream. It leans more toward a whipped-cream frosting.

  4. marla says:

    Something about sour cream & baking…great flavor and wonderful texture or crumb. Lovely cake ~ I pinned! Thanks for the link love, too :)

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      We couldn’t agree more, Maria. Sour cream just adds that extra oomph of creaminess or moistness, yes? I’m a sucker for old-fashioned doughnuts made with sour cream. Anyways, thanks for your kind words, and you’re very welcome for the link love.

  5. Beth says:

    Oh. Holy. God.

  6. mc says:

    Lies! It’s all lies about needing a food processor! If you really, really soften the butter (enough that you can whip it by hand with a whisk) you can slowly add in the rest of the icing ingredients.I mixed together the cream/coffee granules/water/icing sugar, let the icing sugar dissolve into the liquid and then added that mixture a couple tablespoons at a time to the super soft butter and hand whisked until it was smooth before adding more. Then I put it in the mixer with the whisk attachment and beat it for a couple minutes to fluff it up. You might need to chill it for a bit to get it really fluffy. I’m sure it takes much more effort than doing it in the food processor, but if you don’t have one it does work in the end (and it’s worth it!).

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