Chocolate Mocha Cake with Irish Whiskey

Chocolate Mocha Cake with Irish Whiskey

A delicious cake, which needs little more than a perfectly made vanilla ice cream with fresh Madagascan vanilla beans.–Tamasin Day-Lewis

LC Proper Provenance Note

So maybe the provenance of this recipe isn’t Irish per se. But a splash of Irish whiskey makes almost anything quite Irish in spirit, don’t you agree?

Chocolate Mocha Cake with Irish Whiskey

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 H
  • Makes one 8-inch cake
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  • For the cake
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
  • 4 tablespoons strongly brewed coffee, preferably a mocha or mocha java
  • 2 tablespoons Irish whiskey
  • 7 tablespoons raw sugar, preferably vanilla flavored
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
  • 3 eggs, preferably organic, separated
  • 1/2 cup freshly ground blanched almonds (about 21/2 ounces)
  • A few drops natural bitter almond extract
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for the pan
  • For the frosting
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons Irish whiskey
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened


  • Make the cake
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour an 8-inch cake pan.
  • 2. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler with the coffee and whiskey. Remove the top pan and allow them to cool.
  • 3. Cream together all but a tablespoon of the sugar with the butter until it is pale and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
  • 4. Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt to soft peak stage, then add the last tablespoon of sugar and beat to firm peaks.
  • 5. Blend the chocolate mixture into the creamed butter and sugar with a rubber spatula, then stir in the ground almonds and bitter almond extract. Fold in a spoonful of the egg whites, followed by a spoonful of flour, and continue until it’s all blended in.
  • 6. Scrape the mixture into the cake pan and bake it in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes. A skewer should come out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife round the edge of the pan and turn the cake out on to a rack.
  • Make the frosting
  • 7. Melt the chocolate and whiskey in the top of the double boiler until satiny smooth.
  • 8. Remove from the heat and beat in the butter, a tablespoon at a time. Stand the bowl over iced water and continue to beat until combined but not as light and fluffy as buttercream. (If the butter and chocolate separate, add a little cream and whisk until the mixture comes together.) Spread the icing over the cake, allowing it to dribble down the sides.


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Recipe Testers Reviews

This cake went down a storm with everyone who tried it. It’s very rich and chocolatey, with a lovely texture from the almonds and just the right amount of booziness. The coffee flavor is more of a boost to the chocolate than a strong flavor in its own right, though of course this will vary depending on the quality and strength of coffee you use. The cake rose in the oven but sank again when I took it out, so it was dense and fudgy in the middle. This may not have been the recipe’s intention–it does seem that whisking the egg whites should give a lighter, taller cake–but nobody complained. The icing thickens to the consistency of melted chocolate when you whisk it over the bowl of ice water, and, when poured over the cake, softly sets over time, though it is never fully dry. Personally, I’d go with a boozy ganache next time, for a quicker and simpler icing. Use a sharp knife to slice, and wipe between each slice for a clean finish.

I didn’t have high hopes for this cake until I tasted it. It was so good. The texture was dense but light, with a slight crunch due to the ground almonds. The flavor of the chocolate, coffee, and whiskey was wonderful, both in the cake and icing; it was not overly sweet but had nice depth. The chocolate was the forefront flavor, followed by mocha, with a nice finish of whiskey. I found that as I began to prepare this cake, some of the processes took a bit of faith. My first challenge was incorporating raw sugar with butter. Raw sugar does not blend as well as refined sugar. I did the best I could (it was still a bit grainy) and moved to the next instruction without incident. Then I began to fold the egg whites in by spoonfuls, alternating with the flour. This took about 10 minutes or so and seemed a bit redundant. I might do more egg whites to flour next time. I set to work to make the frosting. Following the instructions exactly, I didn’t have any separation issues with the frosting. However, once I began beating the frosting over the bowl of ice water, my frosting became a buttercream icing. (I beat the frosting for about one and a half minutes over the ice.) There would be no pouring of frosting or dripping down the sides of the cake. This icing was for spreading only. While I would not serve this for a birthday, as it is too small, this would be great for an upcoming Irish holiday.

This recipe makes a really nice “adult” cake, one that’s not too sweet. The whiskey is not obvious, but rather lends a subtle background note. It won’t be for everyone, but I much prefer this to the overly rich, overly sweet cakes so common today. It’s also an old-school cake with no chemical leaveners. To me, that’s a good thing. I believe it has a purity of flavor that can’t be matched by a cake with chemical leaveners in it. That’s why I bother to make recipes like this one. It does, however, mean you will need to pay attention to the technique. The only air going into this recipe is what you beat into it. Thus, creaming the butter and whipping the egg whites are important here. If you have a stand mixer with only one bowl, I would suggest whipping the egg whites first, as they must be done in an absolutely clean bowl. Then transfer them to another bowl and cream the butter and sugar in the mixer bowl.

That said, I think the trickiest part of this recipe for most cooks will be the frosting. The thing to keep in mind here is that you are walking a fine line between having something that is thin and melted enough to be pourable–or at least spreadable–and something that separates. The butter needs to be soft enough that you can beat it into the warm (not hot) chocolate without making lumps. If the butter is too soft, or the chocolate too warm, the frosting will separate. If you get this perfect, you won’t need the ice bath, but you need to have it ready just in case. Remember, if the mixture gets too thick, you can always mix in a bit more whiskey, a teaspoonful at a time. Despite that one bit of finickiness, this recipe is really worth making. And it will really make you appreciate 18th-century cooks and the skill and energy they put into a simple cake, given that they had no stand mixers.

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