chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

This cake was frosted while standing on one foot. With the other foot held in the air. Lest you think I am an acrobatic baker, let me get right to the point: I had to hold the other foot off the ground because I couldn’t put any weight on it due to two stress fractures. But I didn’t know it at the time. I was just in a lot of pain, but there was an unfrosted cake staring me in the face and a birthday party an hour away. What’s a girl to do?

chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frostingchocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

Let me make no apologies here – this is a post a year in the making. Somehow, this cake, this lovely offering of espresso, chocolate and mascarpone, got left behind and I found the pictures while organizing the digital mess on my laptop. What’s even more embarrassing, is that this cake was made for my friend Bill’s birthday last year, and guess what is rolling around in a few days? Funny how birthday return every year on the exact same day. And guess who is making Bill this year’s birthday cake? That’s right – this lady over here! I promise not to take a full year to get around to it. In fact, I already started writing about it, so there’s more cake coming your way. Thrilling stuff, I know.

chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

You might be wondering how I came to be frosting a cake with a broken foot. Well, the day of Bill’s birthday party, I ran a race. Not a huge race, mind you, but a race nonetheless – a 10k. I had baked the cake the night before, froze the layers for easier frosting and set up my frosting mise en place for the following morning, knowing that I will have to rush home after my 10k, shower, change, grab the cake and dash to make the birthday brunch. Except, I managed to injure myself in the process (did not anticipate that happening!) What I knew was this: somewhere around the third mile, my foot began to throb every time I applied any kind of pressure on it, which, if you’re running, you’re doing quite a bit. If any of you out there reading this are runners, you also know that runners possess the “must-finish-the-race-at-all-costs” mentality and also brush of whatever possible injuries might be occurring as a simple “muscle spasm”. “It’s no big deal,” I told myself, “stop being a wimp and just finish the race already!” I hobbled the rest of the race, but I finished.

chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

By the time I met up with the rest of my team, I couldn’t walk. And since no one suspected this could be a stress fracture (and I had never sustained one before) I thought this was a sprain that would dissipate in a couple of days. I decided that if I ice my foot as much as possible, and stay off it – it’s as good as problem solved. So I hobbled home, showered and changed, frosted and boxed the cake and hobbled to brunch, cake in tow. The cake was met with wild enthusiasm and I went home after to ice my foot and rest.

chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frostingchocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting
chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frostingchocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

The next day, in horrible pain, I took myself to the ER where they cold me I had not one but two (!) stress fractures from overuse (I guess running those three half marathons in a month and a half was a bit much). I was told to stay off my feet as much as possible, given crutches and sent home. Being on crutches put a damper in my cooking routine, and then shortly after the injury, I moved to Brooklyn and then promptly got distracted with cooking things like ice cream and pies and meatballs and cupcakes. You know how I am by now: show me shiny and I am all distracted!

chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

Better late than never, though, right? If you like mascarpone, coffee and chocolate – a cakier version of tiramisu, so to speak, then this cake is for you. I was slightly confused by the picture that the magazine (and online link) showed. Dark, glossy frosting is not what I wound up with, and it makes sense too. When you add mascrapone to your dark chocolate, the resulting color is not dark chocolate (comments in the link reflect the same dilemma!) – but something lighter, milk-chocolate-like. So if you do make the cake and find your frosting lighter than the picture – do not despair, as you are not alone in this. But should you really want to challenge yourself, you may want to frost this cake, standing on one foot, trying to keep your balance. You can lick the spatula at the end as your reward.

chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting
Adapted from Bon Appetit

I highly suggest reading my instructions over those via link. I’ve made a few helpful suggestions, including such as dissolving your sugar before adding in cold cream. I hope these hints are helpful in a more bump-free process to making this cake!


2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 3/4 cup hot water

1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 8-ounce containers chilled mascarpone cheese*
Bittersweet chocolate curls (optional)


For cake:

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F. Generously butter two 9-inch cake pans with 2-inch-high sides; dust with sugar or cocoa powder, tapping out any excess. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper.

Sift 2 cups cake flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add brown sugar and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, scraping down sides after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions, which you should drizzle in, beating just until blended after each addition. Gradually drizzle hot espresso-water mixture, beating just until smooth.

Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on rack 15 minutes. Run small knife around sides of pans to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto racks; lift pans off cakes and remove parchment. Place wire rack atop each cake; invert again so top side is up. Cool completely. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap each cake in plastic and store at room temperature.

For frosting:

Sift cocoa powder into large bowl – this will ultimately the bowl where you add mascarpone, so use the mixer bowl or another large bowl, to limit number of dirty dishes; add espresso powder. Bring 1 cup cream to boil in small saucepan. Slowly pour cream over cocoa mixture, whisking until cocoa is completely dissolved, about 1 minute. Add sugar (add the sugar in 3 parts) and then when it dissolved, add in 1/2 cup cream. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; keep chilled.

Add mascarpone to chilled cocoa mixture. Using electric mixer, beat on low speed until blended and smooth. Increase speed to medium-high; beat until mixture is thick and medium-firm peaks form when beaters are lifted, about 2 minutes (do not overbeat or mixture will curdle).

Using pastry brush, brush off crumbs from cakes. Place 1 cake layer, top side up, on platter. Spoon 13/4 cups frosting in dollops over top of cake. Using offset spatula, spread frosting to edges. Top with second cake layer, top side up, pressing to adhere. Spread thin layer of frosting over top and sides of cake. Chill 10 minutes. Using offset spatula, spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake, swirling decoratively. Top with chocolate curls, if desired.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; chill. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes before serving.


  • baahar

    Oh my ! Even though it has lots of sugar in it I have try out this recipe :) Maybe as soon as tomorrow, because I’m going to have guests. I was thinking of making a Sachertorte, but that can wait for now :)

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Radish

    Baahar – you can scale the sugar back in the cake. I’ve never had problems scaling that back.

  • Gabi

    Hi Sassy Radish,

    I actually just made this frosting from the same recipe for Mother’s Day and considered it a total fail. Despite it’s clear deliciousness, I just could get it to whip into the right consistency. I think it needed some more refrigeration before I tried to frost the cake. We ended putting the extra in the fridge and eating it with berries for dessert another night. I thought that it made an even better dessert on its own!

  • Radish

    Gabi – interesting. I didn’t have that issue – I wonder if it has something to do with the temperature of the mascarpone / other ingredients? Maybe waiting til it hits room temperature? I know that’s what I did with mine.

  • Adrienne

    I made this cake for a friend’s birthday last year, too, and the frosting is just not as dark as the one in the photograph. The comments on the BA website were all people getting mad that their cakes weren’t dark dark dark, but I thought it tasted mighty fine. I recently bought some “black” cocoa from King Arthur, I’ll have to give this stuff a try and see if I can get a better color with it.

  • LisaA

    Ohhh….this one sounds delicious! What’s not to like about a tiramisu cake???!?! However, I know that one change I will make is to use the Starbucks VIA instant coffee, instead of the brand you’ve pictured….imo, the flavor of the VIA instant coffee is infinitely better.

    Thanks for another great recipe!!!!

  • Sandra

    Yum!! I’m not the biggest fan of chocolate cake with chocolate icing, but this I can get behind. I think it is the espresso and marscapone that are calling me.

    Will have to try this recipe.


  • Nathalie

    I am not a fan of anything but coffee tasting of coffee IYSWIM but this could change my mind. It looks amazing, and mascarpone frosting… SOLD!

  • Winnie

    Glad you posted this cake late rather than never…it looks amazing! I imagine your stress fractures(!) have healed by now, or I’d tell you to feel better and rest, for gosh darned sake:)

  • Gabi

    Hmmm… my mother (a former professional cake decorater herself) said that she thought I didn’t let everything *chill* enough! I am wondering if it is because I didn’t use a mixer, but usually I make all sorts of whipped items by hand without issue.

    The devil’s food cake was so good though, that I think I will give the frosting another go (using your instructions this time). Hopefully with better results!

    (The other cake was absolutely incredible by the way. Here is the recipe on Bon Appetit if you are ever looking for a killer devil’s food cake:

  • Radish

    Gabi – let me know how that works. Thank you for the recipe – will make it for friends at some point, as I’m not one for peppermint frosting myself :) I’m so difficult, I know!!

  • kamran siddiqi

    I am so late on commenting on this, but late or not- I am absolutely swooning over how amazing this cake must taste! Will be bookmarking the recipe to make soon. Great post, as always! :)

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  • Jenny

    This looks like the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life! I can’t wait to attempt it. My best friend’s birthday is coming up and she just loves anything coffee related, so this will probably be the best cake ever. Can’t wait, YUM! I may garnish with a few coffee beans for cuteness.
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  • Leah

    I have made this four times now and it’s so wonderful every time – it’s becoming a family staple!


  • Irina

    Beautiful. This is going to be my boyfriend’s birthday cake this year. I am nervous about leaving him all alone with the leftovers :)
    But since there’s a good chance I’ll eat the frosting right out of the bowl, I can rest easy that his cake is the “lite” version of the original recipe.
    Obviously, we will eat nothing but lettuce until 2011. Totally worth it, though.
    Thank you!!

  • Irina

    Update: made this, and it went off without a hitch. I found two tubs of marscapone to be too pricey, so I did 8oz marscapone and 8oz cream cheese. It probably tasted different- but it was still very delicious, and the consistency was perfect for frosting the cake.
    Thank you for your notes in this recipe, they were extremely helpful!!

  • Sharon E. Russell

    I made just the frosting to go with my Devil’s Food Cake. I had it just the right consistency and thought to beat it a little longer to get a little more fluffy in it. I forgot I was working with whipping cream instead of butter and it separated. I had a watery part and a curdled part. I missed that part in your directions. Nevertheless, it was delicious and wonderfully smooth before I over beat it.

  • Radish

    Sharon – so sorry that happened! Bummer. I sometimes skip an instruction or two and get frustrated. Let me know if you attempt again – should work!

  • HannahRoberts

    Just wanted to say hat I’ve been making this cake for eight years and its a show stopper every time

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