Chocolate Kahlua Cake

This weekend, my friends and I threw a surprise party for our friend, Jaclyn.  I, of course, was in charge of cake, one of my very favorite things to make.  Because Jaclyn gifted me a bottle of homemade kahlua for Christmas, I just had to make a kahlua flavored cake.  Nobody is ever disappointed with chocolate, so you know.  Chocolate kahlua.  No brainer!

Chocolate Kahlua Cake | cooking ala mel
This cake is rather large, with a whopping four layers.  This is great because it can easily serve a crowd – the thinnest slice is still going to be a decent serving of cake.  It can also easily get way too large and then you’ll have trouble finishing your slice.  The key to this cake is thin slices since they’re so tall.  You can also easily divide the recipe in half and just make a two-layer cake!  No matter what, your guests will thank you.
Chocolate Kahlua Cake | cooking ala mel
Because I was serving this up at the party, I didn’t get any pictures of the inside of the cake (I’m not one to make everyone wait to take a photo before serving it up).  So I’ll just explain the inside filling to you now:  in between each layer is a plain kahlua coffee buttercream.  The outside, a chocolate kahlua buttercream, seemed like a bit too much to fill it with too.  I think the two balanced out perfectly so it wasn’t crazy crazy chocolate and overpowering.
Chocolate Kahlua Cake | cooking ala mel
This is definitely a cake I’ll make over and over again – I’m already looking for another reason to make another cake!  February is my birthday month, so I’ll have a good reason soon enough!
Chocolate Kahlua Cake | cooking ala mel
In the meantime, I pulled out some chocolate buttercream I had stashed away in the freezer (a little left over from a previous cake), and I’ve been dipping animal crackers into it as dessert this week.  SO good.  If you have any left over, I definitely recommend it!  Pretzels would also be fantastic – YUM.
What is your favorite kind of cake?

Chocolate Kahlua Cake

yields one 8-inch, 4-layer cake

Chocolate Kahlua Cake

    For the cake layers:
  • 2 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour*
  • 1 1/4 cups cocoa powder (dutch process preferred)
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups unrefined sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp liquid stevia (or 1 1/2 cups more sugar)
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup kahlua
  • 3/4 cup coffee, freshly brewed
  • For the kahlua buttercream filling:
  • 3 egg whites (90 g)
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp unrefined sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 Tbsp kahlua
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/8 t salt
  • For the chocolate kahlua buttercream frosting:
  • 4 egg whites (120 g)
  • 3/4 cup unrefined sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups (2 sticks + 5 Tbsp) butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 10 oz. dark chocolate, melted
  • 2 Tbsp kahlua
  • 1/4 tsp salt
For the cake layers:

Line the bottom of four 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper, and grease with butter. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, liquid stevia, butter, eggs, and vanilla, mixing until smooth. Add the buttermilk, kahlua, and coffee, mixing until combined. Add the flour mixture, and mix until fully incorporated.

Divide the batter between the four prepared cake pans, and bake at 350ºF for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs. Cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool (I find it’s easiest to invert the cake pan onto a plate covered in plastic wrap, then inverting the plate onto the wire rack so that you don’t end up breaking the cake into pieces since it’ll still be warm at this point). Once completely cool, wrap tightly and place in the freezer for up to 2 days (or into the fridge for about 2 hours).

*You can use half unbleached all purpose flour and half whole wheat flour.

For the kahlua buttercream filling:

Bring a saucepan filled with 2 inches of water to a simmer. Place the egg whites and sugar into a heat proof mixer bowl, and place above the water. Whisk the sugar and egg whites until warm to the touch and the sugar is dissolved.

Place the bowl back on the mixer stand, and whisk on medium-high speed until you have stiff, glossy peaks, and the mixture is cool, about 10 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium-low, and add the butter, one piece at a time, mixing until fully incorporated between each piece. If it appears curdled at this point, keep mixing until it becomes smooth again. Add the kahlua, vanilla, instant espresso, and salt, and mix until well combined.

Switch to the paddle attachment and beat for about 2 minutes to remove air bubbles.

For the chocolate kahlua buttercream frosting:

Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl in the microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Set aside to cool.

Bring a saucepan filled with 2 inches of water to a simmer. Place the egg whites and sugar into a heat proof mixer bowl, and place above the water. Whisk the sugar and egg whites until warm to the touch and the sugar is dissolved.

Place the bowl back on the mixer stand, and whisk on medium-high speed until you have stiff, glossy peaks, and the mixture is cool, about 10 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium-low, and add the butter, one piece at a time, mixing until fully incorporated between each piece. If it appears curdled at this point, keep mixing until it becomes smooth again. Add the kahlua, melted chocolate, and salt, and mix until well combined.

Switch to the paddle attachment and beat for about 2 minutes to remove air bubbles.

If you’re a visual person, there’s a great step-by-step swiss meringue buttercream post at Sweetapolita.

To assemble:

Take the chilled cake layers and place one layer on a 8-inch cake board, glued into place by a pea sized amount of frosting. Place a heaping 1/2 cup of the plain kahlua buttercream filling in the center of the layer (one third of the filling), and spread with a small offset spatula to about 1/2 inch away from the edge of the cake. Place the second cake layer on top, repeat with another third of the filling, place the third layer of cake on top, repeat with the final third of the filling, and place the fourth (and final) layer on top.

Place a generous dollop of the chocolate kahlua buttercream frosting on top of the cake, spread evenly with an offset spatula, working down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting around the entire cake (this is the crumb coat). Chill until set, about 30 minutes.

Once set, remove from fridge and add another large dollop of the chocolate kahlua buttercream on top of the cake and spread the same way, adding another coat of frosting. Scrape off the excess frosting with a straight blade spatula and smooth out.

To get the swirl design as mine was frosted, take a straight spatula and hold at about a 45 degree angle at the bottom of the cake. Turn the cake with light pressure on the spatula against the cake, until you make the swirl all the way around (I recommend a turntable for this – you can find them at Target/Walmart – spice turntables work great!). Repeat going up the cake. Do the same swirling pattern on top, starting from the outside and working your way in.

Chill in the fridge until about a half hour before ready to serve. Allow to come to room temperature before serving. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge, covered, for up to 5 days (or at room temperature, covered, for up to 2 days).

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