Chocolate & Liqueur Cake Layers:
Note - this is a scaled (x1.5) and slightly-simplified layer cake recipe from ChelSweets.com - I highly recommend checking out her site if you haven't before; it's amazing!!
4 7/8 c. all purpose flour
4 1/2 c. granulated sugar
3 3/4 t. baking powder
1 ½ t. salt
1 ½ cup unsalted butter (or 3 sticks) room temperature
3 t. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
½ c espresso (I don’t have an espresso maker, so I used my favorite instant espresso)
½ c crème de cacao or chocolate liqueur (I actually had both and used ¼ c of each)
¼ c Bourbon (I used Eagle Rare)
Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined. Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
Pour in eggs and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk, espresso, crème de cacao, and bourbon in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part – I ended up with about 690g in my large pans and about 450 in my smaller ones). This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.
Bake for 35-37 minutes, (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.
Once the layers have fully cooled, the caramelized bits can be trimmed from the sides / top of the cake using a serrated knife if desired. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart.
While you’re waiting…make your frosting!
Wake n Shake Frosting:
12 oz (one and a half packages) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
10 c powdered sugar
3 T bourbon
3-4 T whipping/heavy cream
Add later – ¾ c cocoa powder + 1-2 T chocolate liqueur
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with bourbon and whipping cream until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt and beat until well combined.
Reserve 1 c of frosting and beat in cocoa powder and chocolate liqueur to obtain a spreadable consistency – this will be your cake filling!
- 1 8- or 9-inch cardboard cake circle, and 2 6-inch cardboard cake circles – one option is to buy a set like this one that contains a variety of cake circle sizes and trimmable dowels
-9-10 coffee beans
- 15-20 chocolate-covered coffee beans
- small knife and cutting board
- small piping bag & tip (for frosting)
- additional small piping bag or drip bottle (for decorating with chocolate ganache)
- martini glass – these cake layers bake dense enough to hold a real one, but feel free to use a plastic martini glass if you’d rather
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, offset spatula, and bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful!
- I also used a Wilton icing comb on the sides of this cake – optional, but I really liked the decorative effect that it added!
Optional but recommended:
- Tablespoon or jigger (I used a 45/30mL jigger from my new Nau mixology set)
- additional 2 T each vanilla extract and bourbon
- additional ¼ c espresso, crème de cacao, and chocolate liqueur (or ½ c of either chocolate-flavored liqueur)
Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired; these cakes usually bake fairly flat so I didn’t trim much from the tops). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler. Place a smear of frosting on your large cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your large first cake layer in the center of the circle.
I wanted a bit more of a liqueur kick to the cake layers, so I used a jigger to infuse each one with a mix of vanilla, bourbon, espresso, crème de cacao, and chocolate liqueur. Optional but recommended! Spread the layer with frosting).
Pipe a small border of frosting around the outer edge of the layer, and spread a layer of chocolate filling in the middle. Add your next cake layer on top. Repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.
Next, repeat the same process with your smaller cardboard circle and cake layers. Of note – if your circles aren’t pre-center-punched, be sure to grab a dowel or straw and make your own hole in the exact center of the circle! This will allow you to center the tier on the base tier later on.
Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like – spreading a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer!
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. For my larger tier, I was able to smooth the frosting fairly well free-handed, but I struggled getting the sides smooth on my smaller one. Setting a second small cake circle on top and using it as a guide for smoothing my icing worked much more easily for me!
Once your base tier is covered, place the icing comb on the cake circle against your cake and run the comb around the cake to texture the frosting (if desired). Place both tiers into the freezer for about 20 minutes to set the frosting and get the cake cold enough to set the white chocolate ganache decoration.
(This is a great time to make your ganache for the drip, but I’ll include instructions for stacking your tiers first. Ganache recipe is below!)
Okaaaay. The stacking process!
Basically, doweling a tiered cake is done to ensure that the top tier doesn’t crush the lower tier, as well as keeping it centered. I used four shorter cut-to-height plastic straws for my base tier dowels, and one taller one cut at an angle in the center to hold my top tier in place.
Grab your ruler for this next part! Since I was centering a 6-inch cake on top of an 8-inch cake, I pushed the straws down into the base tier just over one inch from the cake edge, placing them evenly at quarter intervals around the cake. Place your last, tallest straw or dowel into the exact center of the cake, making sure to keep it straight up as you press down. Now you’re ready – center the hole in the bottom of your top tier cake circle over the tallest dowel and let the top tier gently down onto the base tier. The dowel will poke into the center of the top tier to hold it in place.
Pat yourself on the back; you did it! I found that my cardboard cake circle showed more than I was happy with, so I piped some extra frosting onto the base of the top tier to hide it.
Chocolate ganache: I used a pretty straightforward chocolate ganache recipe for this drip, and just mixed in a bit of instant espresso powder!
2 c (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips or bars
1 ½ c whipping cream
2 T instant espresso powder
Place heavy cream and white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on 50% power in 30-second intervals until smooth, stirring in between. Add instant espresso powder and stir until smooth.
I used a small drip bottle to pipe this drip, but I’ve used small piping bags or even a spoon for similar drips before!
When your ganache has cooled to a moderate temperature – it should feel slightly warm and still be fairly liquid – transfer it to your piping bag or squeeze bottle. Slowly drizzle ganache around the edge of the cake, pausing about every ¾ to 1 inch to let ganache flow down the side of the cake to create a drip. Pour a few tablespoons over the top of the cake and spread gently with an offset spatula, and then (if desired) pour a few tablespoons into the martini glass and turn it slowly to coat the inside of the glass. Place the glass briefly in the fridge or freezer to set the ganache, and once the ganache is at least semi-set, turn your martini glass over and center it on top of the cake.
Repeat the drip around the edge of the base tier.
Add a few coffee beans around the base edge of the top tier, and a few chocolate-covered coffee beans around the bottom of the base tier!
Step back and admire your amaaazing cake! Enjoy!
Make this recipe? Let me know how it went - or find me on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo!