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Jul 8, 2017

Espresso Chiffon Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

This Espresso Chiffon Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is both light from the chiffon layers, and rich from the fudge buttercream.

This Espresso Chiffon Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is both light from the chiffon layers, and rich from the fudge buttercream.

I don't make cakes very often, mostly because I'm pretty bad at frosting them (and stacking the layers so they don't look like the leaning tower of Pisa).

There are so many amazing cake bakers out there too. I still swoon when I see Movita Beaucoup's (one of my favorite bloggers) gorgeous cakes like this one? In contrast, my cakes can be kindly described as "rustic." To hide my lack of frosting skills, I tend to make tiny cakes, loaf pan cakessingle layer, or bundt style cakes that don't require frosting. For a woman who owns way too many cake stands.... the irony, right?

I really waffled back and forth on this one, but in the end, I was inspired by my friend Sally's hilarious stories about tackling this Ferrero Rocher cake, and this Carioca cake (this one is a two parter, and a Dalmatian cake thief was involved).

In addition, it was my birthday week, and my house was (still is) all torn apart because we had just gotten new plumbing (happy birthday to me). Every time I looked at the walls, I felt a little tightening in my chest. I needed a project to take my mind off of the chaos.

This Espresso Chiffon Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is both light from the chiffon layers, and rich from the fudge buttercream.

This one is not half bad looking. I'm even kind of proud. Yes, there is that ridge in the middle, but if you saw how jaggedy the layers were, you'd be high fiving me right about now.

With chiffon cake, if you even slightly beat the egg whites beyond the "soft peak" stage before folding in the rest of the ingredients, the cake can shrink a little (or a lot) and pull away from the sides of the pan. One of my layers was perfect, but two of them did shrink a bit.

You can kind of see it in this slice of cake.

This Espresso Chiffon Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is both light from the chiffon layers, and rich from the fudge buttercream.

In the past, I would have tried spackling it with a spatula, failing miserably (with frosting dropping everywhere), or, when all else failed, cutting the cake into a square after stacking the layers, hiding the evidence in the trash.

**This time I actually loaded the frosting into a piping bag with a #12 tip and piped the frosting into the gaps and crevices, and then smoothed it with an offset spatula. What a revelation! I then spread on a crumb coat (a thin coat of frosting), and refrigerated the cake for about 30 minutes before finishing frosting the cake. It worked pretty nicely!

I also tried out the technique of spreading the frosting horizontally after seeing this photo on the cover of this book.

Vintage. Sounds better than rustic, doesn't it? 

The cake was really good, sophisticated, fudgy, and pretty easy to make in just a few hours, including the time it takes for the layers to cool completely, and the time it took to chill the crumb coat. 

You'll want to chill the frosting just a little before using it, especially if your kitchen is warm, but do not chill it for too long, or it will harden too much to be spreadable. 

Bottom line? There is something magical about layer cakes, even if they aren't perfect. Go ahead, and make this cake! Or any layer cake, just for fun! Not for company. Just for you. It will make you happy!

P.S. If you love chiffon cakes, be sure to try my lighter-than-air olive oil chiffon cake. It's made in an angel food cake pan that you hang upside down after baking.  

Espresso Chiffon Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Espresso Chiffon Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Recipe


For the cake layers:

  • 1/4 cup neutral oil such as vegetable, canola, or grapeseed
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 170 grams (1 1/3 cups) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 300 grams (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

For the espresso/rum syrup:

  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup dark rum

For the frosting:

  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons half and half
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla


To make the cake layers:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line the bottoms of 3 eight inch cake pans with parchment paper. Do not grease the pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, egg yolks, water, and the vanilla.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the cake flour, espresso powder, one cup of the sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium low until just frothy. Raise the speed to medium high and slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Continue to beat until soft (droopy) peaks form. Do not over beat.
  5. Add the egg yolk mixture to the flour mixture and fold together until just combined. Add about a forth of the egg whites to this mixture and fold until just combined. Add in the rest of the egg whites and fold until there are no more streaks. Divide the batter evenly among the three cake pans. Bake the pans for about 18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the pans from the oven and cool the layers completely in the pans. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake layers onto wire racks. Remove the paper liners.

To make the espresso/rum syrup:

  1. In a bowl, combine the boiling water, espresso powder, sugar, and dark rum, until the sugar has dissolved. Let cool.

To make the frosting:

  1. Place all of the frosting ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until all of the ingredients are incorporated.
  2. Process the frosting for a minute or two until it is smooth and there are no streaks of butter.

To assemble the cake:

  1. Place one layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Brush the layer with a third of the espresso/rum syrup. Spread about a cup of the frosting over the layer. Repeat with the next two layers. 
  2. Frost the sides of the cake with the rest of the frosting. Note: be sure to read the notes above about filling in any gaps between the layers with frosting, as well as using a crumb coat. 
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen. For Avid Bakers Challenge

This Espresso Chiffon Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is both light from the chiffon layers, and rich from the fudge buttercream.

Would you like to comment?

  1. Wow keren espresso and rum! sounds very delicious. I must try this cake my mouth is watering

  2. I've been coveting this cake since I saw it on Facebook! I love a vintage-inspired cake - they beg to be sliced. Happy belated and congrats on the new pipes!

    1. Thank you. Yes, it's what I've been dreaming of =/

  3. Happy belated Birthday Karen! May all your wishes come true:):):) New plumbing must be really frustrating, we totally get it. We hope you still got to celebrate your birthday with your loved ones amidst the chaos.
    The cake looks fantastic, wish we could put a fork in the photos and take a bite:) Excellent work.
    Sending you our warmest wishes, from the bottom of our hearts!

    1. Thanks so much!!! Yes, I still got to celebrate =)

  4. Oh, it's your birthday but "I" get the special gift of such a wonderful mention in your blog, and with this masterpiece of a cake as the reason! Who could imagine that to be possible????

    thanks ao much...

    well, I am in awe of the layers of your cake - professional, my friend. Mine never ever turn out like that, I must do something wrong (well, no one could be surprised by that, it's cake + Sally)

    wonderful post, stunning cake!

    (hope by now all the plumbing issues are a thing of the past)

    1. Thanks so much Sally. I don't have to contend with four legged cake thieves!

      We still have to patch the walls... paint... move the furniture back.... put all the stuff back into the pieces of furniture that we had to move....

    2. you have my sympathies... we are away on a 2-week trip, and of course the watering sprinkler system had to break before our departure. Dealing with it all before leaving was not easy, and we hope they are fixing it while we are away, or all will be dead... don't you love home maintenance stuff?

  5. That is such a beautiful cake. I wonder if I can give it such a beautiful touch!!

    1. You can! I'm not that good at cakes at all!

  6. My coworkers would love this cake! Thanks for sharing at our Cupcake & cake party for Celebrate365 Blog Party!


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