This Mocha Chocolate Cake is my favorite cake to bake when birthdays roll around!
I feel like I am constantly asking time to slow down. Or speed up, depending on whether or not my toddler is throwing a tantrum…In this case, my oldest daughter recently turned 12. She informed me that in one year, she will be a teenager. How did I get to the point in my life where I almost have a teenager?
Maybe I don’t feel old enough to have a teenager because I still have a tiny, demanding little human living in the house. Man we have a long way to go with that one…Although when I think about it, we really don’t have that long before our youngest is almost a teenager as well. Time is flying.
Some days I love and embrace the fact that my daughter is growing up. Watching her become a young lady with her own ideas about life and the world…Honestly it makes me so happy to witness the beautiful, intelligent, and thoughtful person she is becoming.
Other times I have privately shed a few tears. My first baby is growing up. In six years she will head off to college and step out into the world on her own. Without me, without her dad, and without her siblings (who are already at 2 and 9 fighting over who gets her bedroom when she moves out). I can’t even begin to imagine what that is going to feel like. However, I know it is coming faster than I want it to.
While she is still living under my roof, I want to make as many memories and hold onto as many family traditions with her as I can. One of those, simple as it may be, is letting each child choose their own birthday treat. In the past my oldest has typically chosen my Grandma’s Ice Cream Cake, but this year she decided to go with my personal favorite, Mocha Chocolate Cake.
My mom made this recipe for special occasions when I was growing up, and it has been my favorite birthday cake flavor for years (thank you to my hubby for making it for MY birthday every year). So of course I was super excited when my daughter chose it as well. Instead of indulging in my Mocha Chocolate Cake only once a year, now I get to indulge twice!
Tips and Tricks
Cakes have always been a little tricky for me to make, but I think I finally have this one down! Throughout the years I have learned a few tricks to turn out the perfect mocha chocolate cake!
Parchment paper will be your best friend with this cake. I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure this one out. Actually, it was my husband who tried it first. Initially despite spraying and adding a dusting of cocoa powder to the pans, we could not get the layers out without them sticking and breaking.
Enter parchment paper. Now when I make the mocha cake I place the two round nine inch pans on parchment paper and trace around the bottoms. After cutting out the two circles I spray the bottom insides of the pan with canola oil and place the parchment paper circles on top. Next, I spray the pans again and dust each pan with cocoa powder.
The cake layers come out perfect every time. No more breaking or wrestling the layers out!
My second tip is to not over bake the cake! Watch it very carefully during the last few minutes. Ideally you want this cake to be very moi_ _ or in other words, “not dry” (I can’t say the “m” word – it is my least favorite word EVER!).
Mocha Chocolate Cake Recipe
Don’t let the fact that this Mocha Chocolate Cake is made from scratch scare you off! While it takes a little longer than a box cake, the results are sooo worth it!
Once my cake pans are prepped I use my KitchenAid Stand Mixer to cream the butter and sugar together. I usually leave my butter out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes prior to using. Next I add the eggs, vanilla, hot water and instant coffee and mix until combined.
The instant espresso I use is Medaglia D’oro Espresso Instant Coffee, which I have been able to find at most of my local grocery stores.
My remaining dry ingredients I always mix in a separate bowl and then slowly add to the wet ingredients. Mix at low speed until just combined and then beat on high for four minutes.
Finally I evenly pour my Mocha Chocolate Cake batter into my two prepped cake pans. I pop both pans on the same middle rack in my preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
Removing Mocha Chocolate Cake Layers From Pans
Okay now the (possibly) tricky part! If you used the parchment paper trick like I mentioned above, your layers should slide out of the pan pretty easily. Occasionally I have to run a butter knife around the edge of the pans. If you were daring and tried the recipe without the parchment paper, you may also have to slightly tap the bottom of the cake pan with the non-cutting end of the knife.
Take your time. That is my very best advice.
One time before I started using the parchment paper, I ended up taking a giant chunk out of one of the layers when I was trying to wrestle it out of the pan. Good news is that you can cover up any mistakes with frosting and no one will ever know! In my experience this cake ALWAYS tastes good, no matter how it looks!
Mocha Buttercream Frosting
Once the cake layers have completely cooled on wire racks it is time to frost the cake! I don’t know about your kids, but mine always seem to be conveniently buzzing around me when I am making frosting. It never fails that at some point during the process a child sized finger ends up sticking itself into the bowl. They just don’t have the patience to wait until I am finished!
I love my mocha buttercream frosting extra chocolatey. Can never have enough chocolate in this house! If the frosting isn’t sweet enough for you, you may need to add a little extra powdered sugar, which is why the recipe has a range of 3 1/2 to 4 cups. If your frosting is too thick, you can add one tablespoon of water at a time until you get it to your desired consistency.
Next up on our list of family birthdays is my toddler, who is turning three. Or if you ask her how old she is right now, she says, “I’m turning thwee in September!” Three going on 13 is really more like it…
I’m sure she will have strong opinions on what kind of birthday treat I make for her birthday. Would love for you to share with me what your favorite cake or birthday treat is when you celebrate! Or I can always convince her that we should whip up another mocha chocolate cake for her birthday too!
Try this delicious Mocha Chocolate Cake for your next birthday or special occassion!
- 2/3 cup butter
- 1 2/3 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/3 cup hot water
- 2 tsp instant coffee
- 2/3 cup cocoa powder
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Trace the bottom of two 9" round cake pans on parchment paper and cut out circles. Spray or grease the bottom of the two pans and then line the bottoms of the cake pans with the parchment paper circles. Spray the pans again and coat the bottom and sides lightly with cocoa powder.
Mix the cocoa, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter and sugar together until well blended. Beat in eggs, vanilla, hot water, and instant coffee.
Combine the dry ingredients slowly into the wet ingredients on low speed until just mixed together. Increase the speed to high and beat for about 4 minutes.
Pour batter evenly into the two prepared 9" cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes then gently remove from the pans and cool completely before frosting.
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 1/2 - 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp instant coffee
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 1 tsp vanilla
In a bowl with a mixer attachment, cream butter. Slowly add 3 1/2 -4 cups of powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you prefer), the unsweetened cocoa, hot water, instant coffee, and vanilla.
Increase speed to high. Beat 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.
If frosting is too thick for your liking, add 1T of water at a time until reaches desired consistancy.
That looks so delicious! I can’t wait to try!
Thank you! It is so yummy! Enjoy!
I don’t think I can wait for a birthday to make this! It looks so good and decadent. We may just have to enjoy it as a midweek dessert.
Vicky, cake for a midweek dessert sounds perfect! Enjoy!
I am a horrible baker but I want to try this so bad!! I love me some mocha. Thanks for the recipe 🙂
I have found that baking just takes a lot of practice and patience. You are very welcome and good luck!
This looks amazing! I will definitely give it a try. Me and my parchment paper 🙂 Also, I love the way you are holding tightly to your traditions! I am too. My son is somehow turning 15 next month and I am beside myself. Where did all that time go? He is my one and only and I don’t feel like I could possibly be old enough to have a teenager but there he stands, eye to eye with me now! Time does fly and it is precious. Let’s make those memories and then talk about them with our teens over a big chunk of this cake and a hot cup of coffee! I can’t wait! You had me at mocha! Thanks again 🙂
Sounds like a great plan Gwen! It really is unbelievable how fast time goes by. What is the saying? The days are long but the years are short? Now that I am a mama I definitely understand what that means! Happy birthday to your son!
Melisa from Crushing Motherhood says
This looks amazing, my son’s birthday is coming up and I will definitely make this!
I hope he likes chocolate! Happy birthday to your son Melisa!
Athena Lindsey says
Looks amazing! I am going to try soon! My daughter is 8 months and I’m asking time to slow down all the time! Great post mama!
Thank you Athena! Childhood goes by way too quickly! Sounds like you will be planning for a first birthday soon – how exciting!
Love your parchment paper idea! I remember how difficult this cake was to come out of the pans, but as you say, well worth it. Frosting covers a multitude of mistakes, if it lasts long enough to get to the cake!
I think that you taught me that frosting covers mistakes! I am sure I have called a few times about how I can fix baking mess ups! 😉
This sounds SO good!! And that your mom made it for your special moments and now your making it for your daughter- the sweetest!!
Hi Lexi! I love family traditions, big and small!
Ruth Colwell Hall says
If your mama made it, I will try it! Your grandmother Ruth and your great grandmother Emma made The Best Mince Meat Tarts every Christmas!
We definitely have some great bakers in the family!
Holly @ ProductivePete says
My son’s birthday is this Sunday and he is the biggest chocolate cake lover in our house! I’m going to give this recipe a try to change it up a bit. And when I make cakes I say at least once “I’ll just cover that mistake up with icing…” lol
Happy Birthday to your son Holly! I hope the cake was a hit. Icing makes it easy to cover up mistakes! 😉
I loved all the sentiment in this post – it’s rare to read such personal stories alongside recipes these days in the blog world. I grew up with my mother’s strawberry cake topped with whipped cream and fresh strawberries (my birthday always fell during strawberry season in Florida) – can’t wait to share that with my own daughter soon! 🙂
Forgot to add that this cake looks absolutely delicious. Also, my husband just peeked over at the screen and asked if I was going to make it! 😀
Ha ha! Hope you surprised him with the cake this weekend! 😉
I am so glad you enjoyed reading this post Christina! I feel like so many of my family recipes have a story…I will definitely share more soon! That strawberry cake sounds amazing! I made something similar for my youngest daughter’s birthday last year. Hope yours enjoys it next time you make it!