best cake I ever baked: Irish Coffee Three Layer Cake

You know I'm a lululemon educator and you surely understand that this is the most fun but the craziest time of year for my work life.  The mall opens and closes early which means one day a week I work until after 11 pm and one day a week I go in at 6 am.  It all flies by every shift and every day, but boy do I need to pound some stuff out today on my day off.  My babies are home and today is Christmas Cookie Day!!!  It's also shop for your cousins day so they get something infinitely cooler than they might if your mother (me) does the shopping.  So, as much as I'd love to write about holiday preparations, parties, cookies, card selection and all the rest (so much good stuff in there, really).  I am going to give you the gift of the recipe for the best cake I have EVER baked.  It looks super impressive, but really it's not tricky.  The key is to get good ingredients.  I have no idea how the whipped cream held up so well because this beauty spent 4 days in my fridge until we finished the last delicious crumbs.  I am not asking questions or looking up the science.  Go get some espresso powder and good chocolate (the only place I found good bulk chocolate for shaving was Whole Foods) and bake this cake for your favorite people.

Okay, I do have to tell a quick Whole Foods story.  I had a short list, but some things I love were on sale:  Muir Glen tomatoes, zevia ginger ale, rock creek crisps.....and so I had two solid bags full of goodness.  "That will be $215," says the nice indie clerk.  Cue to my stunned face and my heart skipping a beat.  "How?" I ask.  It's Whole Foods and there are two big bags, but no meat, no seafood, no wine, no super expensive fish oil, no overpriced sushi.....  So I scan the receipt and one block of the french chocolate rang up at $105 instead of $5.  Phew.  The customer service guy was nice and apologetic.  I was just relieved.

If you do not own three cake pans, and truly I just bought a shiny new set of three amazing King Arthur cake pans this year after only having two for decades, you can just make this a two layer cake.  Your baking time for the cake layers will be longer (maybe an extra 5-7 minutes), so check them so you don't over bake your cake.

Irish Coffee Three Layer Cake

cake layers

2 1/4 C flour
2 C sugar
3/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder (Ghiradelli is my favorite)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 T King Arthur Flour Cake Enhancer, optional
2 large eggs
1 C whole milk (I had fat free half and half to use instead)
1/2 C canola/flavorless vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 T espresso powder
1 C hot coffee

coffee-whiskey whipped cream
1 T espresso powder/instant espresso granules
1/4 C Irish whiskey (I used Jameson's)
3 C heavy/whipping cream
3 T packed brown sugar (light or dark)

finish the cake

4 ounce block milk chocolate, about 1 inch thick
4 ounce block dark chocolate or white chocolate, about 1 inch thick

Make the cake:  heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray three 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray and dust with flour, turning and tapping to remove excess.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl if using a hand mixer), briefly blend the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cake enhancer (if you have it) on low speed to combine.  Add the eggs, milk, oil, vanilla and espresso powder and mix at low speed, scraping bowl as necessary, until mixture is thick and creamy like chocolate frosting (about 5 minutes).  With mixer running, gradually add the hot coffee at low speed until just combined.  The batter will be quite thin.  Divide the batter equally between pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until firm to the touch, cake pulling away from the sides and tester comes out with just a few crumbs; rotating pans half way through (I have big ovens, but can only fit two cake pans on one baking rack).  Let cake cool 10 minutes in pans and then invert onto cooling rack to cool completely.

Make the coffee-whiskey whipped cream:  Clean and chill the mixing bowl and the whisk attachment (or beaters if that's what you have, but don't skip the chilling).  Measure out the whiskey and stir in the espresso powder or granules until completely dissolved.  In the chilled bowl, whip the cream, whiskey mixture and brown sugar on high until medium peaks form (2-5 minutes).

Finish the cake:  Transfer one cake layer to a cake plate and spread a third of the whipped cream on top, leaving a 1/2 inch border.  Top with second layer and repeat the whipped cream layer.  Top with final layer and spread the remaining whipped cream all the way to the edge.

To make chocolate curls or shavings, line a baking sheet with waxed paper.  Soften the chocolate a bit by placing it in the microwave on medium power for 20-30 seconds.  Draw a vegetable peeler along the bar's edge and let curls fall onto the lined baking sheet.  Make enough curls to top the cake generously.  My peeler is kind of closed so my curls were either very loose of super tight.  My french chocolate was amazing, so the beauty of the curl became secondary.  You can refrigerate the curls to make them easier to place on the finished cake.  My girls would tell you to save the shavings and the ugly curls to eat later!

You can bake the cake layer and keep them wrapped at room temperature for one day to make the cake ahead.  Refrigerate the cake with the whipped cream layers until serving.  For one cup of my heavy cream I used shelf stable whipping cream in a box from Trader Joe's.  I do not know if this is what made my cream stay so nicely, but try it.

ingredients for the camera

dry ingredients

wet ingredients

batter all thick and chocolate frosting-like

now the batter is thinned from the coffee

ready to bake

baked and pulled away from the pan

cooling cake

first attempt at chocolate shavings/curls

coffee-whiskey whipped cream:  dissolving the espresso powder in the Jameson's

there is a reason for the splatter guard

note how nicely the whipped cream is staying on the whisk

all whipped to perfection

two layers

all layered up
I would have used my treasured Tiffany's Christmas platter but this
cake had to travel to a party and I can't risk it leaving my house

Happy Holidays!


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