Chocolate Mocha Cake

My dad’s FAVORITE cake is Chocolate Mocha Cake (from Susan’s Catering) but I knew that I could at least attempt to make a cake to equal it, and that dad would appreciate a home-made cake over a store-bought cake any day, even if it did not turn out perfectly. For my dad’s retirement party (yay, so proud of you dad – the guy that taught me it’s ok to experiment in the kitchen and who loves to cook but does not enjoy reading & doesn’t even read my blog. But its ok – mom does, hi mom!) I knew that making this cake for him was the only option!

A few years ago my Aunt Pat gave me Death by Chocolate Cakes – and wow is there good stuff in there (great cookbook for all you chocolate addicts – get it, seriously), so I knew thats where I had to go to find this cake (which I had sticky-noted immediately after receiving the book). The recipes in the book are not quick or easy, but they are totally worth the time that they take!

This cake took me two days to make (although I could have made it one really long day) – so be prepared for a minor time investment, but trust me that the results are worth it. Dad actually retired a few months ago, but after devoting so much time to creating the cake, it took me a little bit to take the time to get ready to type this recipe in. My Aunt Sandy has not stopped talking about this cake since I made it and has been bragging about it & begging me to finally post it – so here we go, get ready for a lot of reading and once you read it: you might not be able to resist the urge to make it!

“Excessively Expressive Espresso Ecstasy”

recipe taken directly from Death by Chocolate Cake by Marcel Desaulniers!


  • 5 oz unsalted butter (cut into 1/2 ounce pieces plus 1 T melted)
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 6 oz semisweet baking chocolate (coarsely chopped)
  • 3 oz unsweetened baking chocolate (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup instant expresso powder (or instant coffee)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 T pure vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350 and lightly coat four 9 inch nonstick cake pan with the melted butter & the place a round of parchment (or wax) paper & then lightly coat that with more melted butter

Combine (& sift) flour, baking powder, & salt. In another container melt the chocolates and the rest of the butter either in the microwave OR in a double boiler. (to melt in the microwave: use 1/2 power and microwave for just 30 seconds at a time).

Place the sugar, eggs & expresso powder in your electric mixer. Beat on medium heat for 2 minutes until thick. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides. Add the melted chocolate mixture and mix on medium to combine (about 30 seconds). Keep mixer on low while adding your (sifted) dry ingredients, about 30 seconds. Add the sour cream & vanilla for about 20 seconds. Remove from the mixer and finish combining with a spatula.

Immediately divide the batter into the prepared pans (about 1 1/2 cup into each) and spread evenly. Bake in the top/center of the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes clean, about 22 minutes (warning: mine was done at this point & was slightly dry – so check at 20 minutes). For more even baking: rotate 1/2-way through baking time. Let cakes cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then invert the cakes to finish cooling. Peel paper from the bottom of the cakes. Place layers in the fridge to cool until ready to use.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 12 oz semisweet baking chocolate (chopped coarsely)
  • 4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate (chopped coarsely)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 T granulated sugar

Place your chocolates into a large bowl. Heat the heavy cream & sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once hot stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil (continue stirring lightly to avoid burning). Pour boiling cream over chocolate and set aside for 5 minutes then stir with a whisk until smooth.

Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the ganache to a baking sheet with sides and spread evenly. Set aside the baking sheet and the bowl at room temperature to use when needed

Expresso Mousse

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup instant expresso powder (or instant coffee)
  • 4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate (chopped & melted: bowl at half power in the microwave, stopping to stir at 30 second intervals)

Put heavy cream, sugar, and expresso powder in the bowl of your electric mixer with a balloon whisk. Run on medium-high heat for 2 minutes until firm (but not still) peaks for. Take 1 1/2 cups of the whipped cream and add it to the melted chocolate. Use rubber spatula to fold together until combined. Add the combined cream/chocolate with the remaining whipped cream and fold together until combined.

Assembling the cake

Remove the cake layers from the fridge. Use a cake spatula to spread about 1 1/2 cups of the mousse evenly/smoothly over the top  of 2 of the layers. Transfer the ganache from the baking sheet to the top of a 3rd cake layer and use cake spatula to spread evenly over top (refrigerate the rest of the mousse until the end of cake assembly process).

Place one of your Mousse Layers on your cake plate. Place the ganache layer on top of the first mousse layer. Top with the second mousse-coated layer. Place the final (plain) cake layer on top of the stack. Press down on the layers gently so you have an even, beautiful, cake! Refrigerate for an hour until the layers have firmed

Once cake has set take out the cake and spread the ganache over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate for another 30 minutes. If you didn’t transfer the cake to a serving platter, you can do so at this point.

Now it is time to decorate! Use a mixture of expresso beans (food processed to make chunky beans) and sliced (crumbled by hand) almonds around the outside of the cake (just lightly pressing around the outside). Then fill a pastry bag with a large star tip  with mousse and pipe evenly spaced stars around the cake. Top the cake with a few chocolate-covered espresso beans. Place in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. To get the best slices: heat the blade of your serrated slicer and heat/wipe clean between slices.

And I leave you with the question of the day… What have you spent hours doing for a loved one just because you knew they would love it?


11 Responses to “Chocolate Mocha Cake”

  1. The nuts add onto the grandeur! Thanks for the share.

  2. I’ve had all of his books for years and they’re always my go-to for anything chocolate. Sometimes I just pull them out of the shelf, flip the pages and scheme. This is one of my favorites from it too, and yours looks just like the pictures in the book, perfect!

    • I really tried to make it look like his, glad my effort paid off 🙂 I love this book and probably have about 1/2 of it sticky-noted with “must-try” recipes! Thanks 🙂

  3. In my opinion this could not look annnyyy more perfect, your dad must have been truly over the moon 🙂 This is bakery-shop perfect, seriously i think its gorgeous. And by the sounds of it tastes just as good too! Lovely recipe indeed

  4. Oh, I have made a chocolate mousse cake before, and the process is truly time consuming but so worth it. It if weren’t for the sour cream (blech!) in the cake, I would totally make this. I could just stick to my go-to chocolate cake and use that mousse and ganache recipe you used. YUM! Great photos, and congrats to your dad! I wish I could retire :(.

  5. It seems to me the name of the cake is totally fitting! You’ve done a wonderful job with the presentation, it looks absolutely scrumptious 🙂 Well done and congrats to your dad!

  6. Insert my drool here.

  7. And it tasted even better than it looks! It is wonderful having someone who bakes / cooks better than do AND who is willing to share her talent with us !!!!


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