Some ten years ago I met a man on a hot Summer day in a whirlwind of music festival dust. He wore worn out Chuck Taylor All Stars and a crooked smile, and lured with the promise of cold beers and good laughs. We went to a concert together later that night, and to this day I still can’t stop smiling whenever a song from that concert is played on the radio. To me, that’s the sound of young love.
It’s the very same man I made this cake for. Mikkel recently turned 30 and what he lacks in obsessing about his birthdays, I make up for – big time. The truth is, I start counting the days right after Christmas, even though Mikkel’s birthday is in February and mine isn’t until August.
In my book, a 30th birthday – or any birthday, really – isn’t something that should go by unnoticed.
And I wanted to make a cake for him. Four layers of love. Four layers to celebrate it all. Being the proud but busy parents of a toddler, we easily forget just the two of us and our young love. So I decided to make the cake of his dreams with all the aromas and flavours he likes; coffee, smoke, and whiskey.
First, I made the layers; fluffy and moist with flavours of strong coffee and dark chocolate. While they were baking I melted butter and let a Lapsang Souchong tea (a black tea with a smoky aroma and flavour) steep for 20 minutes to create the smoky butter I would use for the chocolate cream to go between each layer. To finish the cake I made a caramel sauce with a splash of whiskey which had just the right consistency to run down the side of the cake (check out this little video I made).
Coffee, Smoke & Whiskey Layer Cake
Coffee Chocolate Cake
420 grams cane sugar
250 grams All-Purpose flour
50 grams cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
250 ml strong coffee, cooled to room temperature
150 grams unsalted butter, melted + extra for the pans
250 ml buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 175 C/350 F.
- Butter up four 16 cm/6 inch spring form pans.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar in a big bowl until white and frothy.
- Place the AP flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda in another bowl. Mix and sieve it through a fine mesh sieve into the egg mixture.
- Add coffee, butter, and buttermilk and gently whisk until the batter is just homogeneous (the baking soda reacts with the liquids, and if you mix too long, you’ll beat all the air bobbles and the cake will turn out flat).
- Pour the batter evenly into the four pans and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean.
Smoky Chocolate Crème
200 grams butter
1 teaspoon loose Lapsang Souchong tea leaves
200 grams powdered sugar
120 grams dark chocolate, 70 %
25 grams cocoa powder
55 grams cream, 38 %
- Melt the butter over a water bath and add the tea leaves. Cover the bowl with cling film and let it sit for 20 minutes. Pass the butter through a fine mesh sieve into a new bowl. Place in the fridge to cool until just set.
- Beat the cooled smoky butter and powdered sugar until soft and combined. Add cocoa powder and mix until combined.
- Melt the chocolate over a water bath and pour it into the butter mixture and whisk until combined.
- Add the cream and whisk until just combined. Place the crème to cool in the fridge if it’s too runny to spread on the cake layers.
225 grams cane sugar
100 grams unsalted butter
120 grams cream, 38 %
1 tablespoon bourbon whiskey
A pinch of sea salt
- Place the sugar in a sauce pan over medium-low heat until completely melted. Do not stir, unless the sugar gets too hot and starts to smoke!
- Divide the butter into 4 chunks and add one chunk at the time into the melted sugar, stirring between each addition. Be careful, it will bobble.
- Pour the cream into the caramel little by little while stirring. Be careful, this will also cause the caramel to bobble.
- Let the caramel cook for another 3 minutes before you pour it into a bowl.
- Let the caramel cool for 10 minutes before you add the whiskey. Whisk until combined, and let the caramel cool to room temperature before use.
Shaved dark chocolate, 70 %
Assembling the monster
- Place one layer onto a plate/pedestal and spread 2 tablespoons of Smoky Chocolate Crème onto the cake in an even layer. Place another layer on top and repeat.
- Finish by placing the last layer on top.
- Cover the top and sides with a thin layer of Smoky Chocolate Crème.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Pour the Whiskey Caramel over the cake and let it run down the sides just a bit.
- Garnish with shaved dark chocolate.
- Serve at room temperature.