Espresso-Chocolate Layer Cake with White Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting

Espresso Chocolate Cake with Mascarpone Frosting

I originally posted this recipe after helping my daughter Lauren make this cake for a dessert contest for employees of Neiman Marcus in Denver when she worked there in 2009. I had noticed the recipe in the April issue of Bon Appetit but knew I would have to make some revisions as it was a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and I’m not particularly fond of all chocolate anything, either in looks or taste. I modified the frosting to create a white chocolate version that I thought would be stunning with the addition of fresh fruit. For that event, Lauren made the cake and frosting herself, I simply assisted with the piping to finish it. I’ve made it myself since as cupcakes for a Chamber of Commerce event I hosted (oops, no photos!) and a fundraiser/cocktail party for Susan G. Komen when I took the photos for this post; there was a reason for so much pink! (2013 update; who could have imagined that Lauren would be diagnosed with breast cancer this year – thankfully has undergone treatment and is now considered cancer free!).

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I have to share that it was special for Lauren to ask for my assistance. she had recently graduated from college; was in the midst of discovering real independence and determined to do everything on her own so having her ask for my help was huge and hearing her say, “Oh, I am so going to win.” was a nice compliment from her. Couldn’t guarantee that, but nice to hear anyhow!

I’ve made every birthday cake my girls have ever had. I’ve done gumdrop machines and ballerinas; watermelons and music notes, homemade German Chocolate cake and more… but I loved making this cake the best with that little girl I made those for. Discovering those commonalities is such a treasure as they discover who they are as individuals.

The cake is very good; moist and flavorful but I have to tell you… the frosting? In lexicon that might be overused but sometimes is just true…To. Die. For!

There is a continuing story since that first post and I think a fun one of how much Twitter can change your life. Come on…stop chuckling and read on. Please?

I made a Peppermint Meringue cake for Christmas year before last. I had noticed in the issue of Bon Appetit magazine that the recipe was from Abby Dodge. So I did a search, found her website and sent her a message telling her how much I loved it. I never expected to hear from her but I did and she was so sweet; even giving me some tips for ways to switch it up for other than a holiday cake. We ended up finding ourselves on Twitter and turns out…guess who also wrote this recipe for Bon Appetit? If you didn’t guess Abby Dodge; shame on you!!

Since then, I’ve become friends with Abby; she is warm, funny and approachable and makes me laugh. A lot. I did this post for Nutella Brownies from her new book Desserts 4 Today and talk about full circle…in my professional role as a web developer, I just recently completed her new website at

This is a holiday worthy recipe; it’s beautiful, festive, decadently good…from Easter to Christmas, it works for me!

Espresso Chocolate Cake with Mascarpone Frosting

Espresso-Chocolate Layer Cake with White Chocolate-Mascarpone Frosting

Creative Culinary
A most decadent cake with rich chocolate cake layers surrounded by an even richer espresso mascarpone frosting.
5 average from less than 50 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 10 -12
Calories 29 kcal


For the Cake:

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup butter room temperature
  • 2 cups golden brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 3/4 cup hot water Available at my local Whole Foods; I used Medaglia D'oro

For the Frosting:

  • 1 ½ cups chilled heavy whipping cream divided
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • cup white chocolate grated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 8- ounce containers chilled mascarpone cheese

For Garnish:

  • Chocolate bar for shaving
  • Raspberries - small container Optional


Prepare the Cake Layers:

  • Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325. Generously butter two 9-inch cake pans; dust with cocoa, tapping out excess. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper.
  • Sift 2 cups cake flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into medium bowl.
  • Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add brown sugar and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes.
  • Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla.
  • Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions, beating just until blended after each addition.
  • Gradually add hot espresso-water mixture, beating just until smooth.
  • Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on rack 15 minutes. Run small knife around sides of pans to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto racks; lift pans off cakes and remove parchment. Place wire rack atop each cake, invert again so top side is up.
  • Cool completely.

To Make the Frosting:

  • Bring 1 cup cream to boil in small saucepan. Slowly pour cream over espresso, whisking until espresso is dissolved. Add grated white chocolate and stir until smooth. Add 1/2 cup of the whipping cream and sugar; stir until sugar dissolves. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours. Can be made one day ahead; cover and keep chilled.
  • Add mascarpone to chilled mixture; Using electric mixer; beat on low speed until blended and smooth. Increase speed to medium-high; beat until mixture is thick and medium-firm peaks form when beaters are lifted, about 2 minutes (do not overbeat or mixture will curdle).

To Assemble the Cake:

  • Brush crumbs from cakes. Place one cake layer, top side up, on platter. Spoon 1 3/4 cups frosting on top of cake. Using offset spatula, spread frosting to edges. Top with second layer, top side up. Spread thin layer of frosting over top and sides of cake. Chill 10 minutes. Spread another layer of frosting over top and sides of cake. Pipe frosting with star tip around base and outer edge of cake.
  • If desired, mound fresh fruit in center of cake.


Protect any part of cake plate that you do not want chocolate shavings on (I use masking tape). Sprinkle chocolate around outer edge; letting some adhere to sides and fall to plate; sprinkle over cake top and fruit.[br][br]Cake can be made ahead. Wrap each layer in plastic and store at room temperature for completing the next day or freeze if using within a week.


Nutrition Facts
Espresso-Chocolate Layer Cake with White Chocolate-Mascarpone Frosting
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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  1. I love this recipe but am concerned the coffee flavor could be too strong for non coffee lovers. I am thinking about reducing the espresso somewhat. Opinions needed from anyone who has made this cake. Thank you in advance.

    1. The cake doesn’t really taste like coffee at all, the espresso just serves to enhance the chocolate flavor but if you’re worried about it just omit it. Loop

  2. What a pretty cake! It looks like it would just melt in your mouth, and the raspberries on top just make it look that much more decadent.

  3. What a wonderful cake you made for Lora. She is having a rough time, but I ‘m sure that amazing cake brings a smile to her face.

  4. I know Lora is going through some tough time and you are such a wonderful friend do this for her. And how wonderful is Abby? Sometimes the world feels like a better place just reading a post like this. Love the cake and specially heart the frosting.

    1. I’m just to know that as of today, she’s home and resting and the worst is behind her. If my cake helped her in any way, it’s a small effort; only wish I were closer and could do more.

    1. When I get teased by friends about Twitter; well, they have no idea. It can be a big blank wall of nothing or whatever you choose to make of it and for me…I’ve made dear friends, locally, nationally and globally!

  5. Barb, this is great. Helping Lora, discovering Abby, & your daughter! She’s beautiful!!
    Really sweet, Barb….

  6. so many things to enjoy from this post! Helping out Lora, your daughter asking for a hand (what a shock!) and yet another confirmation of the wonderful nature of Abby!

  7. It looks beautiful and I can only imagine the wonderful combination of flavors. I can definitely do all chocolate, but I love the variations, and mocha, chocolate, white chocolate, mascarpone works like a charm for my family.
    Your daughter is a beauty:) I can relate to your feelings – I LOVE when my oldest asks for my help:)

  8. I love how Twitter is making my world so much bigger yet smaller at the same time. So very nice of you to do this post for Lora and you couldn’t have picked a prettier cake. I love this post and your story of you and Abby Dodge! I’m not surprised that your cake made Bon Appetit’s web site. Congratulations Barb!
    P.S. Your *baby* is beautiful!

  9. Nobody believes me, either, when I say I don’t like all-chocolate anything. But I do have a bad mascarpone habit. And this would feed it nicely. Very nicely. I am so stealing this. 🙂

  10. Wow this cake looks incredible! the presentation is just lovely, and I am also thrilled that you can make them into cupcakes and they look equally good! Defintely going to try this out for my next party. 🙂

    1. It is all that and more. My only fair warning; careful with that frosting…if you start snacking you might just grab a spoon and the cake will never get frosted!

      Let me know how it turns out for you!

  11. good luck on your win!!!! 
    I don't think I beat the mascropone long enough.  I was afraid it would break down.  First time using it.  I'll experiment with it so that the next time it's perfect! 

  12. You are a genuis!  This cake is out of this world – delicious!  I finally found the espresso powder, and might I add, glad that I did.  Not only does the cake taste great, but the icing too.  Question though – how do you keep your icing "stiff"?!  I refriegerated the cake as soon as I was done piping it, but I noticed that my "stars" were losing their shape somewhat.  Any suggestions there would be appreciated. 
    I can not wait to make this for my husbands birthday, which is next month!  He will love it…. cake I made was for a womens only holiday party! 
    Thanks again for an out of this world experience!!! 
    Rony  🙂

    1. Rony…so very glad you liked it too and thanks for getting back to me. I think it is quite simply the best cake I’ve ever made! I’m glad you found the espresso powder as it does lend a depth of flavor that regular instant coffee crystals would not, I’m sure.

      Regarding your issue with icing; I’ve never had that problem. I do use extra heavy whipping cream and quite honestly, after I’ve whipped the cream and added the mascarpone it’s probably the thickest firmest topping of that sort I’ve ever made. Two things I can think of. I usually make the mixture the night before so that it gets thoroughly chilled and if not that, maybe it’s just a question of beating the cream and mascarpone a bit longer?

      I recently entered the cake in a Bon Appetit Holiday Bakeoff. Can you imagine my surprise when I noticed today that the picture is on the website home page at as the image for the Holiday Bakeoff section. I’ve already won in my book!

  13. What a drop dead goergeous cake Barbara. I've missed so much here. You've done a FAB job on this…WOW! Great flavours. No espresso here…=( …

  14. Wow! This is totally impressive. You rock the complicated desserts. My little cheesecakes will be no problem for you! I love the idea of mixing espresso and mascarpone. Sounds delicious.

  15. Thank you!  One other question, where do I find espresso?  I am a coffee drinker, however, grind my own beans as I like my coffee strong!  Will "regular" coffee work?  I'm throwing a party and want everything to be perfect.  🙂
    BTW – how do you get the chocolate on the side of the cake??

    1. I use instant espresso; the only place I can find it is at Whole Foods; it’s an Italian brand – see third product on this page: If you can’t find it; I would substitute but would use instant coffee and increase the amount a bit to get a stronger strength.

      For the chocolate, I used a cheese grater and grated some German’s Sweet chocolate; letting it fall close to the edge where it adhered to the sides as well as fell on the plate; wasn’t trying to be too precise! The only area I wanted to keep clean was the edges of the cake plate so I put masking tape along those edges and removed it after grating the chocolate onto the icing.

  16. This recipe sounds great.  I have a couple questions.
    1.  Can I use All-Purpose Flour instead of Cake Flour?
    2.  Can I use instant coffee?
    3.  Is "golden" brown sugar the same as "light" brown sugar. 
    Thanks.  Rony

    1. You can substitute All Purpose Flour for Cake Flour; it does contain more gluten so will make for a cake with more of a chewier crumb. I doubt significant enough to worry about it although in a pinch I have used a cake flour substitution too:

      To make Cake flour: combine 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons corn starch

      Regular instant coffee won’t have the same depth of flavor as espresso; you might try adding a bit more of the crystals to each part of the recipe to make the resulting coffee a bit stronger.

      I believe those terms for sugar are the same and I would substitute one for the other. The only one I consider different from either of them is dark brown sugar.

      Hope that helps…this is an unbelievably good cake; let me know how it turns out for you if you make it.

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