Ask Peter: Coffee in chocolate cake
I want to make a chocolate cake which has 1 cup of strong brewed coffee in the ingredients. It is so annoying because it doesn’t say whether it should be hot or cold. The coffee is added to the creamed butter, eggs and sour cream along with melted chocolate before the dry ingredients are incorporated. If the coffeeis too hot, will it undo my good work creaming the butter which could then simply melt?
I also love a good coffee cake and especially one with chopped toasted walnuts sprinkled on top of the icing. As I don’t know what recipe you’re using, or even if it’s a sponge cake, a brownie type cake or a heavier pound cake, it’s impossible for me to answer your question.
At a guess though — and don’t blame me if I’m wrong — if the coffee is added at the same temperature as the other ingredients, i.e. room temperature, then you should be fine. If you were to pour in a cup of hot coffee the butter would melt. If the coffee were cold, then it runs the risk of making the butter which you’ve creamed nicely, set solid.
Room temperature butter and coffee should work together well and hopefully not split, however, from memory, when I’ve made cakes with lots of liquid added, especially when the base is made from creamed fats, even though it looks like it splits, when it’s baked it all, magically, comes together and produces a lovely moist and tasty cake.
Once you’ve figured out what temperature you should use, you might want to play around with a few variations. Make (or buy from your favourite cafe) a cafe latte or flat white and use this, once cooled, instead of just dissolving coffee granules in water. The extra fat from the milk will add a richness to the cake.
With regards to the coffee itself you can of course use instant coffee or freshly ground beans. And of course you can make it very strong or very weak. If you’re using fresh grinds and want to just use coffee without milk, you can simply use leftover coffee from a cafetiere or run a few espressos through your machine and top up with extra water or milk or almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, rice milk …the list goes on. You could also make or buy a mocha— with coffee and chocolate — and add this. Milo or Ovaltine can also work well.
So, the coffee cake you’re looking at could have dozens of variations. And that’sbefore you’ve even iced it!
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes here.