Birthday cakes are my favourite. A little bit more lavish, a little bit prettier than I normally bother to make my rustic baking and always more special. I especially like that you have to sit and think about what they really like, what they they would choose. My mum always goes for coffee cake. Hands down, I know Mum’s favourite foods will always be coffee cake, rum and raisin ice cream, oak-smoked salmon and a glass of really decent red wine, probably accompanied by something weird to balance it out like a banana.
I saw this recipe by Eat-Love-Eat and have wanted to try it forever (albeit terrified of having to do something pretty with icing!) and thought it was 100% my Mum. Sweetened mascarpone icing blended in an ombre of vanilla, coffee and mocha sections, mirrored by soft sponge layers of the same flavours, all sandwiched together by even more vanilla speckled mascarpone.
I would recommend more mixture than in the original recipe, either that or smaller cake tins (I think this is key) to create more rise to the layers, making the ombre more obvious, similar to EatLoveEat’s images. I needed far less icing for this reason and kept the centre layer double the size to ensure that rise. It’s a bit of an operation making this cake but it’s fabulous in the end.
- 250g unsalted butter or baking margarine
- 250g soft brown sugar
- 250g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 5 medium eggs
- 2 tbsp whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp coffee extract (e.g. Camp)
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
For the sweet coffee drizzle
- 1.5 tbsp instant coffee granules
- 70g soft brown sugar
- 100ml water
For the ombre mascarpone frosting
- 500g mascarpone
- 100g icing sugar
- 1 tbsp whole milk
- 1/2 vanilla pod seeds scraped
- 1 tsp camp coffee extract
- 1 heaped tsp cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/180°C/350°F. I used 8 inch tins (slight mistake, better to use 4x 6 inch tins, or 2x 8inch with fewer layers, or double the ingredients!). Grease the tins very well and make sure to line them if they are not loose-bottomed.
Make the base vanilla cake mixture first, to be adapted for the different flavours later. As you would a normal vanilla sponge, begin by creaming the butter and sugar very well, until very pale and creamy. Next beat in the eggs one at a time, with the milk and vanilla and then folding in the flour and raising agents, alternating an egg with a tablespoon of flour to prevent splitting/curdling, then add in the remaining flour. Try not to over-mix to keep the rise!
Next you need to separate the batter into 3 portions – one half and two quarters. You can do this exactly by weighing or by eye. Into the largest portion (half the total batter) carefully fold in the coffee extract. Into one of the smaller, quarter portions, fold in the sifted cocoa powder. Leave the remaining smaller portion as it is for a nice vanilla flavour.
If having 4 layers, split the coffee mixture between two tins, level the tops and place in the oven for 20-22 minutes or until a skewer or sharp knife comes out clean. Leave to cool for for a bit then take out of the tins and transfer to a cooling rack. Repeat for the vanilla and chocolate cakes! (If making 2 layers, or even three, just halve or third the original mixture and flavour as you wish!)
For the coffee syrup
Mix the coffee granules, sugar and water into a microwave proof bowl. Microwave on full for about 90 seconds then cool, before spooning over the cooled sponges!
For the mascarpone frosting
In a large mixing bowl, combine the mascarpone, icing sugar, 1 tbsp milk and the vanilla seeds til you have a smooth, even mixture. Separate the mascarpone as you did the cake mixture – into roughly half and two quarters.
Stir the cocoa powder into one of the smaller portions of mascarpone and the coffee extract into the other smaller portion. Leave the biggest portion.
To assemble (the hard bit!)
Spread a small amount of the vanilla frosting on top of each sponge but be careful as the coffee syrup will have made the very top part of the sponge quite delicate!
Layer the cake layers, darkest to lightest, letting the vanilla frosting stick each layer together. Next, roughly spread the remaining (or as much as you like) vanilla mascarpone over the top half of the cake sides. Place in the fridge to settle in and harden for about 10-15 minutes.
Once chilled, begin the ombre frosting!!! YAY. Starting with the chocolate frosting, very roughly apply to the bottom quarter of the cake. Next, roughly apply the coffee frosting to the next quarter of the cake. Let the layers mingle and overlap for that proper ombre effect. I had extra coffee frosting so kept that going up and over into the top of the cake.
I went for a rustic look but you can make it beautiful and smooth like in the original recipe.
Assemble on your chosen cake stand then dust the top of the cake liberally with cocoa powder for proper tiramisu looks!