For this rousing espresso cake, strongly brewed coffee plus espresso powder are baked into the cake. If that weren’t enough, a coffee glaze–made with coffee, milk, and confectioners sugar–is drizzled on top.
“This espresso cake is one of my late mother-in-law Margaret’s most-treasured recipes.” Thus begins pastry chef Sarabeth Levine’s introduction to this espresso cake recipe, which was originally published in her cookbook Sarabeth’s Bakery. Although we didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Margaret, we, too, think of her with appreciation when we make this simple yet spectacular espresso cake. We think you will, too. Don’t be misled by the relatively subtle flavor of the cake. The presence of coffee is unmistakable and rousing in that way only espresso can be. Originally published December 28, 2010.–Renee Schettler Rossi
*What Kind Of Coffee To Use In This Espresso Cake
If you’re one of those types who needs a shot of espresso in the a.m. before you can even consider being grateful for this cake, consider oomphing the caffeination of this recipe by adding an extra 1/2 teaspoon (or more) instant espresso powder to ensure you get your proper fix. Conversely, if serving this as dessert after dinner some evening, you may wish to rely on decaf expresso or warn guests of its stimulating potential. You can substitute instant coffee powder for the instant espresso powder, although the espresso powder will yield a far richer flavor.)
- Quick Glance
- 15 M
- 1 H, 15 M
- Serves 12
Special Equipment: 10- to 12-cup fluted tube pan
- For the cake
- 1 cup hot strongly brewed coffee
- 3 tablespoons instant espresso powder*, or more to taste
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus more for the pan
- 2 cups superfine sugar (or just blitz granulated sugar in a blender until finely ground but not powdery)
- 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
- 1 to 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, 45 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. In a small saucepan off the stovetop, stir the brewed coffee and espresso powder until the espresso powder dissolves. 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.
- Decorate 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.)
Recipe Testers Reviews
In her introduction to this espresso cake 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 that this cake is simple, elegant, gently flavorful, and a crowd pleaser. It's a lovely, rich, deeply coffee flavored (and colored!) cake that's excellent and equally appropriate at breakfast, tea time, or 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.
The first time I made this espresso cake recipe, I followed it to a T. It certainly is a cake for coffee lovers—and it's so very good! I used the full 2 cups sugar in the coffee glaze and for my taste it was overly sweet and overpowered the cake. The second time I made this, I treated the recipe as an espresso bread and instead of using a fluted tube pan I used 3 loaf pans. I didn’t bother with the glaze and it came out absolutely amazing after just 40 minutes of baking.
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.
What a fun cake to make and eat. The ingredients came together easily and without any fuss. I used espresso powder mixed with boiling water in both my cake batter and glaze. The result was great. The finished product was a beautiful, two-toned, moist, deliciously balanced, sweet, lightly coffee-flavored Bundt cake. Once baked, the cake came right out of the pan without any problem. The glaze added an additional flavor dimension. It looks like so much more work than it actually took. To get a substantial glaze that would adhere to the surface of the cake, I used 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar.