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Mocha Layer Cake slice on a square white plate

Mocha Layer Cake

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I brought this Mocha Layer Cake for our family to enjoy as we celebrated the life of my cherished mother in law. We gathered for her funeral earlier this month.

I adored her and she was a huge influence in my life as a friend as well as a second mother. She adored cooking and since all the family loves chocolate, this Mocha Cake was devoured.

Mocha Layer Cake slice on a white plate

Mocha Layer Cake

It’s no surprise Bill is a chocoholic. His brothers and parents had a love of all things chocolate, too. I had to keep the mocha twist to this cake rather subtle. Though I am a fan of the coffee-chocolate combo, the hubby can only take mini doses of anything coffee related.

So a bit of coffee went into the cake and the mousse was spiked with a slosh of Kahlua, a coffee liqueur. The exquisite Swiss Meringue buttercream was pure chocolate and the triumphant winner of the 3 layers! Truly exquisite.

Overhead view of a Mocha Layer Cake on a white plate

How to Make Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I make a vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream for my White Chocolate Cupcakes, so I was undaunted when I read the directions for this chocolate version. Egg whites and sugar were heated over a double boiler till the sugar dissolved. Constant stirring was needed so the eggs were gently heated, not cooked.

Then they were whipped until glossy peaks formed, then loads of butter followed by chocolate were added. I sampled myself silly, by sneaking swipes of excess frosting from the mixing bowl. It was a heavenly addition to this mocha layer cake.

Mocha Layer Cake slice on a square white plate

Celebrating Coffee

National Coffee Day is September 29, so here are some wonderful coffee and mocha recipes.

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Mocha Layer Cake

Mocha Layer Cake

An exquisite layered mocha cake adapted from Tom Douglas

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Yield 12 servings



  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1-3 teaspoons instant coffee
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Milk Chocolate Mousse:

  • 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (I use Knox brand)
  • 1/2 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup cold heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 ounces milk chocolate, melted and cooled

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

  • 1 cup sugar, processed in food processor until powdery
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons butter (9 ounces), cut into tablespoons, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with Baker's Joy or any flour/oil spray. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and spray those as well.
  2. Whisk together the flour and cocoa powder with ½ cup of the granulated sugar, and the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In your stand mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the eggs with the brown sugar and the remaining ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar at medium-high speed until thick, about 5 minutes. At medium speed, gradually add ½ cup of the oil and beat for 3 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate, then slowly add the rest of the oil, until thoroughly blended, scraping the side and bottom of the bowl. Whisk the instant coffee (use 1 teaspoon for a subtle coffee boost and 1 tablespoon for a more obvious mocha flavor) into the buttermilk. At low speed, beat in the buttermilk and vanilla. Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently mix in the dry ingredients by hand.
  4. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the cakes comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Cool the cakes in the pans for 20 minutes, then remove from pans to a rack to finish cooling. Peel off the parchment paper.
  5. To make the mousse, pour the water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the surface. Let stand until softened.
  6. Next, in a medium bowl, beat the cream until soft peaks are formed. Refrigerate to chill, about 10 minutes.
  7. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, heat the coffee liqueur until hot, about 30 seconds.
  8. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar and salt at high speed until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. While beating the yolks, mix in coffee-gelatin liquid; scrape the side and bottom of the bowl. Beat in the melted chocolate. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the whipped cream in 2 additions. Transfer the mousse to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 4 hours or more.
  9. When mousse is almost done chilling, make the frosting.
  10. Put the sugar in a medium heatproof bowl ( I used my metal stand mixer bowl) and whisk in the egg whites and salt. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is completely dissolved, 5 minutes.
  11. Transfer the egg-white mixture to the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk. Add the vanilla and beat at medium-high speed until stiff and glossy, about 8 minutes. Beat in the butter a few pieces at a time, making sure it is fully incorporated before adding more. If the mixture ever appears runny, place in the refrigerator to thicken up, then continue.
  12. Beat in the melted chocolate until fully incorporated, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  13. Set one cake layer on a platter. Spread the mousse filling on top and cover with the second layer. Frost the cake with the buttercream. Refrigerate the cake until the frosting is firm.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 578 Total Fat: 35g Saturated Fat: 11g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 22g Cholesterol: 81mg Sodium: 312mg Carbohydrates: 58g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 38g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 8g
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25 comments on “Mocha Layer Cake”

  1. Your mother-in-law was lucky to have you as a daughter, Liz. ( I adored David’s mom, too.). You’ve also blessed your readers with this luscious keeper recipe =)

  2. Creamy, rich and chocolatey…this is a pure joy!

  3. This looks like a labor of love! A beautiful cake indeed:@)

  4. Chocolate! Yummy! Sounds perfect! 🙂

  5. Such a beautiful cake – I love the flavors. I’m sorry for your loss – it sounds like this was the perfect chocolaty cake to bring.

  6. That buttercream is giving me all of the heart eyes!

  7. I am so sorry about your mother-in-law, but what sweet memories you have to cherish with her!
    And this cake–OH YUM!!

  8. I’m sorry for the loss of your mother-in-law. The cake looks amazing though. Your slices always look so perfect! How in heaven’s name do you do that?! I wish I had a slice now!

  9. How nice you made this to honor your mother in law. I’m sure she would have loved it. It sounds amazing, especially with the mousse. I can never get Swiss buttercream to work though. I always make Italian buttercream.

  10. Oh, Liz, what a blessing a good mother-in-law is. I’m so sorry for your loss but I am glad that you had that good relationship in your life for so long.

    Your mocha layer cake is gorgeous!

  11. This looks so rich and delicious1

  12. The whole shebang sounds like a world of flavour!

  13. Oh Liz, my condolences to you and your family for the loss of your Mother in Law. i know that is a tough one. This cake looks amazing. Anything with coffee and chocolate is the best!

  14. I NEED to make swiss meringue buttercream. This mocha cake looks to die for. What a nice tribue to a lovely lady.

  15. Oh my, the texture looks so smooth & soft, dear! Love to have some too! xoxo

  16. What a stunning slice of cake! You are blessed to have had a wonderful MIL. I am sure she felt the same way about you.

  17. What a perfect cake to celebrate chocolate and coffee 🙂 It looks so heavenly and delicious!

  18. Oh MY. Anything with mocha and kahlua combos is a winner in this household–if nothing else, because I’m the one that will eat all of the coffee-flavored stuff around here! This looks absolutely amazing, Liz!

  19. Hi Liz, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your mother-in-law. It sounds like she was a blessing in your life.
    I love the chocolate cake! Yummy!

  20. Be still my heart, Liz! This is a beauty!

  21. Your mother in law would have been proud of this beautiful cake, it looks delicious. This type of frosting is a dream to work with. It’s also hard to resist those tastings from the side of the bowl!

  22. How tasty It looks like <3 <3 <3 <3
    I can almost imagine happiness enjoying it. You know, when chocolate and coffee blend together <3 <3 <3. It's just indefectible !!!!!

  23. It’s a good food. It is delicious and idle food for growing. I wish to made it in my home and test to eat.

  24. This made my mouth water just looking at it! I will be adding it into a weekly meal plan SOON! Thank you for sharing.

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