Mocha ombre cake

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Every year in October I face the same challenge – coming up with a new idea for a birthday cake for my dad.

He’s very certain in what he likes, which is coffee cake and fruit cake, which makes trying to get creative with different flavours and styles slightly pointless.

I don’t like fruitcake, which means that every year it comes down to how I can make a coffee cake in a different way.

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In the past I’ve done straight up coffee cake, coffee roulade, individual coffee cakes and a coffee cake with mocha filling.

This year I thought I’d try something that (I hoped) would be visually impressive and decided on a mocha ombre cake.

The cake features three layers of sponge – vanilla, coffee and coffee-chocolate – with icing that also graduates in colour with an ombre finish.

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Most importantly it tasted good, but it did also look pretty good if I may say so myself, especially given that the icing was done in a five-minute rush before heading out for dinner.

All the elements of this cake are pretty basic, but they come together for an impressive finish and a cake that’s perfect for the coffee-lover in your life.

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Mocha ombre cake

  • 225g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1-3 tbsp milk

For the icing:

  • 250g butter
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 2-4 tbsp cocoa powder

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Sieve and fold in the self raising flour, then add a tablespoon or two of milk if needed to make the mixture a thick consistency that will drop off a spoon.

Pour a third of the mixture into a greased and lined 6″ round tin. My top tip is to weigh your mixing bowl before starting, then you can figure out exactly how much cake batter you have and how much needs to go into each pan.

Mix the instant coffee with a tablespoon of hot water, then add this to the cake mixture and stir in well. Divide the remaining mixture in half and fill a second 6″ cake pan with the coffee cake mix.

Finally, sieve the cocoa powder into the final third of the mixture with a tablespoon of milk and pour this into a third 6″ tin. Bake all of the cakes at 180 degrees or 160 fan for approximately 20-25 minutes, until risen and springy to the touch.

Set the cakes aside to cool while you make the icing. Beat the butter to soften then add the icing sugar, half at a time, and beat until really well combined. Mix the instant coffee with a two tablespoons of water and add about half of this to the buttercream. Beat well and test to see if it has enough coffee flavour. Add more if you want it stronger, then add just enough milk to make the buttercream a light, spreadable consistency.

Split the buttercream in half, and set half aside. Add the cocoa powder a tablespoon at a time, until the colour is a few shades darker than your coffee butter cream. Split the chocolate mixture in half, and then add more cocoa powder to half of it again, to be an even darker shade of brown. You should end up with half plain coffee buttercream, a quarter light coffee chocolate buttercream and a quarter dark chocolate buttercream.

To assemble the cake, level off the tops of each sponge with a sharp knife, then place the chocolate layer on a plate. Spread a small amount of the coffee buttercream over the top, then add the coffee sponge on top. Spread with another layer of coffee buttercream, then place the final vanilla sponge on top.

Use the coffee buttercream to add a thin layer of crumb coat all over the cake and chill for 10 minutes. To complete the icing, either use piping bags or apply carefully with a palette knife so the dark chocolate buttercream goes around the bottom third of the sides of the cake, the light chocolate goes around the middle and the coffee buttercream goes around the top and on top. Use a palette knife to smooth the sides of the cake and subtly blend the three buttercreams together, then cut into slices and serve.

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