Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Coffee, Almond & Chocolate Dessert Cakes

So I turned a year older!  One of the things I look forward to is the cake I bake for myself. Its more fun as I don’t have to organize for a birthday party as I do for the kids.  And I can get away without cooking anything for the day if I chose to! A good time to get experimental as I can survive a not-quite-there cake as it is my birthday cake and just for the immediate family.

A chocolate genoise I baked did not quite rise to the occasion –  was I grouchy! My mother thought I was crazy to be spending half a day baking myself a birthday cake and even crazier to be baking another after one failed! But that’s me and it makes me happy! At times like this, old cakes in your repertoire are saviors. You know you are sure to turn out something decent.

This cake is one from my earliest baking days a recipe I have used innumerable times. Always tasted good and (sheepish!) was the only recipe I knew! An oil based one, makes a good tea-cake, works well as a base for a cream filled cake when moistened with the right amount of syrup.  It is not in the same league as a fatless sponge in terms of texture, but the chocolaty-ness of the cake makes up for it. But the cake surely takes fairly well to a decent amount of syrup and retains its texture when moistened and chilled.

The cake came together quickly and baked quickly as I wanted a thinnish layer of cake and not too many cakes in numbers.  Lots of coffee, ground almonds and agar agar powder just enough to help the cream hold its shape once out of the supporting mousse strips.  Layers of chocolate cake and coffee almond cream – not a bad dessert for the birthday girl to eat on her birthday…and the next day too!!

Chocolate Cake – A Nita Mehta recipe ( Sorry, don't remember the name of the book)


All purpose Flour – 65 grams / 1/2 cup
Cocoa powder – 4 tablespoons /20 grams approx
Baking powder - 3/4 teaspoon
Powdered sugar - 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons
Oil – 6 tablespoons
Eggs – 2, large / 96 grams
Pure vanilla extract - 1/2 teaspoon


  • Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F. Grease, flour and line the bottom of an 8’’ square tin with baking parchment.  Shake off the excess flour. Keep aside. 
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder together thrice. Keep aside. 
  • In a medium sized bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla for about 2-3 minutes (speed 3 on your hand mixer) or till double in volume.  On low speed beat  in the oil till incorporated, then the sugar. Beat just enough to incorporate well 
  • Fold in the flour mixture gently. This makes a batter of dropping consistency, neither too thick nor thin.
  • Spread the batter in the cake tin and bake for about  16-18 minutes or till a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not over bake or it will be dry. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then invert on a cooling rack, cool completely 
  • Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into 2 layers (about 5mm thick each worked best). Cut into circles with a sharp round cookie cutter. Keep covered in an airtight box till you make the cream.
Before you make the cream, have your mousse strips (10-12), cake circles and syrup ready.  You can at this point soak a circle in syrup (read below) and refrigerate covered for an hour or more to see how much of syrup you will like in the cake and soak the rest accordingly.

For the syrup

Hot water –1/2 cup
Instant coffee - 1 teaspoon
Powdered sugar - 2 tablespoons (or 3 for a sweeter cake)
Vanilla - 1/4 teaspoon

Mix everything together, taste. I like the syrup to be just about sweet.  Cover and keep aside. This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. If using coffee in the syrup you will need more sugar to temper the bitterness.

For the coffee-almond cream

Sweetened whipping cream, chilled – 2 cups
Instant coffee powder –4-5 teaspoons ( I used 5)
Powdered Sugar – 2 tablespoons (Read note)
Agar agar powder (not flakes) –1/2 teaspoon
Ground raw almonds (ground till powdery but with a bit of texture) - 1/2 cup

Note: The non-dairy cream is sweetened, but I have used a bit more as there is enough coffee (to give good coffee flavor) to temper the sweetness. Without the extra sugar and so much of coffee the cream may taste a bit bland.
  • Keep the beaters and a large bowl chilled. 
  •  Take about 6 tablespoons of the cream (from the 2 cups), agar agar and coffee in a small saucepan. On low heat, heat till bubbles form around the edge and towards the center. About 30 seconds to a minute. Be careful not to burn. Stir to mix with a spatula. Strain using a fine mesh strainer.  Allow to cool to room temperature.  Do not leave for too long as the agar will begin to set and you may need to re-heat and cool again. 
  • Fill a larger bowl with ice cubes.  Sit the smaller bowl in the ice.
  • While the hot cream cools, whip the remaining cream and sugar over ice. Once the beater marks start to show, add the coffee cream and continue to beat till soft drooping peaks form when the beaters are raised. Fold in the ground almonds. At this stage, the cream will be of spooning consistency (will set more firm on refrigeration, so do not keep it in the fridge at this point). The cream can’t be made ahead as it will set in the fridge. Take about 1 ½ cups of cream and fill in a pastry bag fitted with a 1M tip. 
  • Remove the adhesive tape from the strips, stick together to close and fit the cake circle snugly. Test one and remove, you can fit them in after spooning the syrup. 
  • Keep the closed mousse strips on a platter (this will be the platter which will sit in your fridge once assembled. I kept my platter in my cake caddy). 
  • Spoon syrup over the cake circles one by one. The cake should be thoroughly moist, but not soggy or dripping syrup. If needed turn the circles over and spoon the syrup on both sides. Immediately, carefully fit within the strips (one at the bottom of each). 
  • Now spoon the cream on the cake to come a little under the rim of the strip. You will fit another soaked circle on top. 
  • Moisten more circles and place on top of the cream. Pipe some cream on top, cover airtight. Refrigerate at least 8-10 hours before serving. 
  • Remove the strips carefully and place on the serving platter.  Just before serving, dust some coffee on top. Place a coffee bean on each. Making simple chocolate decorations like the one above is fun, try it if you haven't!
Please note:  Prolonged refrigeration made the cream with agar agar it go a tad dry-ish, so you may not want to keep these around for more than 2 days once assembled.

If not using agar agar, whip the cream to soft peaks (which hold their shape when the beater is raised) and use immediately. In this case, the cream will not hold its shape firmly.  Bake 1 ½ recipe of cake above in an 8’’ round spring-form, increase baking time accordingly. Make 3 layers and layer with cream (you will need more of this too). Chill, release and decorate with a chocolate lace collar.

A note on agar agar: I am experimenting with agar agar powder, used it to give texture to just hold its shape and this looks like it worked! The cream took on a slightly mousse-y texture and held its shape while it was still creamy, but obviously not the same mouth feel as softly whipped cream. How do you use agar agar?


Hamaree Rasoi said...

Cake looks simply awesome! Delicious dessert.

anusha praveen said...

that s a swell dessert

Malvecka said...

These individual cakes look sooo tempting....I too have a box of agar-agar sitting in my kitchen larder with no clue of its measurements!!...will try your coffee almond cream with it. Can I replace whipped cream with Amul fresh cream?? we don't get any kind of whipping cream here...:(

Shivani Jain said...

wow delicious cakes...iam planing to buy an oven can u please guide me which ones the best..

M D said...

Firstly Suma, belated wishes on your birthday and wish you many more years of happiness, good health and luck to come. So much agree on you when you say your mom thinks its crazy to bake a cake on your bday. I was through the same craze recently and my mom condemned that thought. My cake flopped too, but I didnt go back baking more. Pinched me that I used good amount of ingredients and all that went to the bin. Anyways, the joy of experimenting is so divine, especially if you end up with successful dessert like your coffee almond and chocolate dessert cake.

Priya Suresh said...

Love these beauties, super cute individual cakes,very irresistible.

divya said...

Absolutely delicious. Looks amazing!

Amrita Vishal said...

My my such beauties. A super way to treat yourself. Learnt something new about these mousse strips..any alternative?

Rengitha said...

Dear Suma,
Am also a huge fan of u and ur recipes. I tried ur bundt cake twice (2nd time i halved the recipe , still) and it really came out well. Today i went GA,i would like to know, what's the purpose of the lid for loaf pans? For proper raising or during baking also we should use that. i havnt seen that in any of the blog images. thanking you

tadkapasta said...

Happy Birthday, Suma! And what beautiful cakes! Love this tradition of indulging yourself, way to go!

Malar Gandhi said...

Belated Birthday wishes to you.

Awesome work...perfect way to celebrate.

Noodlehead said...

Happy birthday!! looks like you had a good one :) As for using agar agar powder, I use it just like gelatine. Soak in cold water then heat till it dissolves and add to a hot medium before mixing with the cold substance. This is the method i follow for making mousse. I use the fine grain powder, not the flakes or the sheets. I have never tried adding it as is to cream so can't be sure.