This is one of my late mother-in-law Margaret’s most-treasured recipes. I’ve made a few tweaks of my own. First, Margaret kept a kosher kitchen and baked with margarine, but this updated version has my beloved butter. Also, I’ve substituted full-flavored espresso powder for the generic instant coffee in the original. And Margaret never used a tube pan. Nonetheless, when I make this cake, I think of her and smile. A simple coffee glaze tops it all off.
To give this espresso cake its proper deep beige color and coffee flavor, you must use both hot brewed coffee and instant espresso or coffee powder. Instant espresso yields the richest flavor.–Sarabeth Levine and Rick Rodgers
LC Naming Conventions Note
Although we don’t know Margaret, we, too, now think of her with appreciation when we make this cake. We think you’ll feel the same.
And if you’re one of those types who needs a shot of espresso in the a.m. before you even consider being grateful, you may wish to consider oomphing the caffeination of this cake by adding an extra 1/2 teaspoon or so of instant powder to ensure you get a proper fix. Conversely, if serving this as dessert, you may care to either rely on decaf expresso or warn guests accordingly of its stimulating potential.
Espresso Cake Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 15 M
- 1 H, 15 M
- Makes 12 servings
- For the cake
- 1 cup hot brewed coffee
- 3 tablespoons instant espresso or coffee powder (preferably instant espresso)
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus more for the pan
- 2 cups superfine sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
- For the coffee glaze
- 2 tablespoons hot brewed coffee
- 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder (preferably instant espresso)
- 1 tablespoon whole milk
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- Make the cake
- 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C) and position a rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour a 10- to 12-cup fluted tube pan and tap out the excess flour.
- 2. Combine the brewed coffee and espresso powder in a glass measuring cup and let cool.
- 3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Beat the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually beat in the sugar, then add the vanilla and beat, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the mixture is very light in color and texture, about 4 minutes. Beat in the yolks, 1 at a time.
- 4. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the cooled coffee in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until smooth after each addition.
- 5. Beat the egg whites in a bowl with a handheld electric mixer on high speed or a balloon whisk until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, stir about 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with the spatula.
- 6. Bake until the top of the cake springs back when gently pressed with your finger and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.
- 7. Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert and unmold the cake onto the wire rack set over a baking sheet. Cool completely.
- Make the glaze
- 8. Mix the brewed coffee and espresso powder in a small saucepan until the espresso powder is dissolved. Stir in the milk. Add the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until smooth. Place over low heat and heat, whisking constantly, until the glaze is warm to the touch and thins slightly.
- Embellish the cake
- 9. Transfer the glaze to a glass measuring cup. Slowly pour the warm glaze over the cake, letting it flow over the indentations in the cake down the center of the cake. You will have plenty of glaze. Cool completely before slicing. (The cake can be stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.)
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:
- Flourless Chocolate Cake with Espresso Whipped Cream from Erin Cooks
- Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes from Alpineberry
- Sour Cream Mocha Cake from Leite's Culinaria
- Cappuccino Cheesecake from Leite's Culinaria
Testers ChoiceTesters Choice
Dec 28, 2010
The first time I made this recipe, I followed it to a T. It certainly is a cake for coffee lovers—and so very good! For my taste, however, the coffee glaze was overly sweet and overpowered the cake. I also found 55 to 60 minutes in the oven to be a bit too long—I should’ve taken the cake out approximately 7 minutes earlier. The second time I made this, I treated the recipe as an “Espresso Bread,” so instead of using a fluted tube pan, I used three loaf pans. I didn’t bother with the glaze, and it came out absolutely amazing, after just 40 minutes of baking.
Dec 28, 2010
This recipe turned out quite good. The espresso flavor in the cake is certainly evident, though it still could be amped up a few notches, perhaps with more espresso powder mixed into the coffee mixture. I had a wee bit of trouble getting the cake out of the pan, even though it was thoroughly buttered, floured and cooled, but once the cake was glazed, the small uneven spots were masked. I was expecting the cake’s crumb to be a little more moist—it isn’t dry by any means, but maybe adding a few more tablespoons of the coffee mixture would moisten it up. I did have to look in more than one store for superfine sugar and instant espresso powder, so these ingredients may be more difficult to locate in some part of the country or in rural areas.
Dec 28, 2010
In her introduction to this recipe, Sarabeth notes, “This is one of my late mother-in-law Margaret’s most treasured recipes.” This could easily become one of mine, too. In the interest of full disclosure, I had the pleasure of assisting Sarabeth for a demo class she presented while on tour for her cookbook. The consistent deliciousness of the recipes Sarabeth presented plus her charming way of introducing each with history and anecdotes made me eager to test this cake. My more than half-dozen tasters all agreed: this cake is simple, elegant, gently flavorful, and a crowd-pleaser. This lovely, rich, deep coffee-flavored (and colored!) cake is excellent as a breakfast pastry, at tea time, or equally appropriate as dessert.
The recipe is well-organized, with the steps clearly and fully explained. Nearly each and every detail seems important to the success of the cake. Sarabeth notes the importance of both the HOT brewed coffee and the combination of the two instant coffees to give the cake its distinctive “proper” beige color. I trusted that these details were integral to success, and I was rewarded with a delicious cake.
I did bake the cake for the full 60 minutes because at 55 minutes it was not quite fully baked. After letting it cool (nearly) completely, we made the first cut into the cake, and it had a beautiful, even crumb and a lovely, almost fluffy, texture. Sarabeth notes the cake makes 12 servings and could be stored, plastic-wrapped, for up to two days. Whether this would ever serve 12 or hang around long enough for two days of storage is unlikely! About Margaret, Sarabeth says, “when I make this cake, I think of her and smile.” When I made this cake, I thought of Sarabeth and smiled, as I will do each time I make this cake.
Dec 28, 2010
This is a coffee lover’s dream cake. It has a very rich, deep, coffee flavor that’s balanced by sweetness. The espresso glaze enhances the moist cake—but it was incredibly sweet. Next time, I’ll reduce the sugar to 1 cup, which would also help cut down on the extra glaze that I found to be too much for the cake. If you’re not a coffee drinker (and I’m not), be prepared for the caffeine in this cake, as it packs a wallop. It actually kept me awake! I made this gluten-free, and I was quite happy with the texture of the final product: light, moist and smooth.
Espresso Cake Recipe © 2010 Sarabeth Levine and Rick Rodgers. Photo © 2010 Quentin Bacon. All rights reserved.