On Thursday evening, I went to the Granada Theater in downtown Santa Barbara to see Ina Garten (a.k.a. The Barefoot Contessa), who was in town to promote her new cookbook Make It Ahead. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see her. She has been one of my culinary idols for the longest time. I’ve watched her show since it first came on when I was in middle school. I love her approach to cooking and entertaining, and I’ve found she’s personally inspired me in my culinary career.
During the lecture, Ina discussed her previous career in politics and her transition into the food world, something I can relate to. I find the fact that she bravely gave up a reputable position at the White House in favor of pursuing something she loved very admirable. She went on to talk about the famous East Hampton store she had owned and what happened after she had sold it some 15 years ago. After the sale, she didn’t have a job and she didn’t know what she was going to do, but she told us (the audience) that she simply knew 4 things:
- Whatever she was going to do, she had to be able to work with friends.
- Her work had to be fun.
- She had to (obviously) make money.
- And she had to be able to pack up her things and go to Paris on a moment’s notice.
We all laughed with her, because for many of us, it seems like an impossible job requirement list. Ina herself said she used to laugh with her friend Barbara, as they chatted over the phone, about their job requirements because it seemed so outrageous. But then Ina became a cookbook author and TV show personality, and her friend Barbara became a freelance artist – both very successful and able to fulfill exactly those 4 requirements in their jobs. Ina’s written 9 cookbooks, including her latest Make It Ahead, which is all about foods that can be made ahead and are even more delicious with time.
One of those foods in the book happens to be this chocolate cake with mocha frosting. You want scrumptious chocolate cake with some coffee flavor? This cake is IT! This cake will even convert non-chocolate lovers (if those people exist…) because it’s that good. The cake itself is rich and moist, and the frosting (my favorite part) is light and airy. I think this mocha frosting will be my new go-to frosting for cakes and cupcakes; it’s simply divine! I adapted the recipe so as to make one small, round cake (the original size is too dangerous to be lying around my kitchen!), but I’ve written the original, full recipe in the Notes section below.
for the cake
- 12 tbsp softened unsalted butter
- 2 c sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 2/3 c hot water
- 2/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp instant espresso powder
- 2/3 c half and half
for mocha frosting
- 12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 3 tbsp softened unsalted butter
- 2 tsp instant espresso powder
- 1 1/4 c heavy cream
- 1 tbsp Kahlua
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Create the cake by first creaming butter and sugar together. Once light and fluffy, add the vanilla and egg. Mix until batter is smooth.
- In a separate bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a measuring cup, combine the hot water, instant espresso powder and baking cocoa. Whisk until smooth.
- In alternating batches, add the flour mixture and cocoa mixture until everything is combined and smooth. Add in the half and half to loosen it all up and mix until blended in well.
- Pour the cake batter in a prepared 9 inch by 13 inch pan that's been greased and lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350°F for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Meanwhile, create your frosting by combining the chopped chocolate, instant espresso powder, and unsalted butter in a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan (or the microwave) until simmering before adding it to your bowl of chocolate. Stir everything until it's all melted and smooth.
- Add in the vanilla and Kahlua and stir. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, until the frosting is no longer warm, but not too long so that it gets cold. Then remove plastic wrap and beat frosting with a handheld mixer for 15 to 30 seconds, or until soft peaks form. Apply frosting to cooled cake.