Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day Special: Vanilla-Coffee-Chocolate Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This post is dedicated to those who I love dearly - my hubby, my family, my friends and my beloved pet dog Polo (who passed away a few days ago). I have been blessed to have all of you in my life. 

Recently I was super-inspired by an spectacular looking cake I saw in a blog that I follow regularly. When I say inspired, I mean the kind of inspiration that burrows deep into your brain and doesn't let you rest until you make something of it. The cake was a 7-layered rainbow cake from the blog Look Whose Cooking Too. I have always wanted to make a layered cake (coz they look so fancy-schmancy and all) but have been too chicken to give it a go. Truth be told, for all the baking that I do, I have never even frosted a cake before! Looking back, I always seem to set my baking targets low and uncomplicated 😛 When I informed my husband of my designs to make a layered cake, he mused aloud (with a glint in his eye) as to what it would be like if each layer tasted different from the other. I  gave it some thought and knew immediately that I was not going to make a 7-layered cake with each layer of different flavor (I don't have that much of patience and nor do I even know of 7 completely different flavors that complement each other!). 

The cake recipe that I was to follow indicated the batter would yield either 7 six-inch cakes or 3 eight-inch cakes. So I thought this Valentine's day, why not start simple by attempting 3 layers first. One of my hubby's favorite flavor is chocolate and mine is coffee so it didn't take much intellect to figure out my 3 layers - vanilla, coffee and chocolate. Coffee and chocolate marry well together and well, vanilla goes with everything right? Not to mention, the trio create a natural color gradient so I figured it could work. Thus, with great trepidation I decided to bake my very first layered cake. I adapted the recipe of the 7-layered cake to make 3 layers and flavored the cakes as I saw fit.

It was the last day of the Chinese New Year hols, just two days away from Valentine's day and I happened to be at home with no plans just savoring the nice long break from work. I started with my cake preparations in the morning at a sloth-like pace, taking leisurely breaks in between for brunch, attending to my household chores and yapping on the phone with mum. I finished frosting the cake by late afternoon so my crawling pace made the whole process relatively stress-free. In fact, I think I even managed to have fun! The husband remarked a few times that he wanted to frost the cake but after all that hard work, I wasn't going to let him run away with the all important end credits! After managing to shoo him away, I frosted a cake for the first time in my life. I don't have a turntable or a cake stand and I discovered that my spatula (not an offset spatula) was less than ideal for frosting so the finish of the cake was shoddy I guess but in the end, everything was worth it when I cut into the cake and saw my 3 beautiful layers intact! The cake tasted great and I was delighted with the final outcome. 

So without much further is the recipe. I have indicated the recipe level as easy because I think if a novice like me could pull it off sans the proper tools then pretty much anyone could!

Vanilla-Coffee-Chocolate Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Preparation time: 20 min; Baking time: 30 min per batch; Cooling time: at least 20 min; Frosting time: 1 hr
Total time: ~2hr
Serves: 8-10 people
Shelf life: Up to 5 days (with refrigeration)
Recipe Category: Dessert/ Western
Recipe Level: Moderate
Recipe Source: Inspired & adapted from here

For cake batter (Three 8-inch cakes)


1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 medium eggs, at room temperature
3 cups self-raising flour. 
You can make your own by mixing 11/4 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt for every one cup of plain flour. Calculate the proportions accordingly. 
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp brewed coffee/coffee decoction
1 tbsp good quality cocoa powder
1 tsp powdered sugar

Materials needed: 

An eight-inch cake pan (I used three disposable aluminum pans), 3 medium bowls (any material will do), a stand or hand mixer, a cake stand, an off-set spatula and a sharp knife. 

For the cream cheese-whipped cream frosting


250gm Mascarpone cheese or Cream cheese (I had both but settled for cream cheese)
2 cups double cream/whipping cream, chilled 
3-4 tbsp powdered sugar (increase or reduce as preferred)
1 tsp vanilla extract


For the cakes:

1. Cream the butter till fluffy, using a stand or hand mixer.

2. Add sugar and continue to cream for about 5 minutes, till the mix is light and fluffy.

3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Add in the flour and milk in installments alternatively starting and ending with flour. Beat on low till the mix is well combined and no traces of flour is obvious.

5. Finally, add the vanilla extract and give one final mix

6. Get 3 bowls ready. Weigh the batter and transfer them into the bowls. (should be approximately of same weight). 

7. Preheat the oven to 175 deg C.

8. To the first bowl add nothing. This is the vanilla cake batter so leave it as it is. To the second bowl, add the brewed coffee and mix well until the batter is a uniform color. To the third bowl, sieve in the cocoa powder and add in 1 tsp powdered sugar and mix well until the batter is uniform. The color of batter in the 3 bowls should be of distinctly different shades. 

9. Transfer the batter into cake pans (greased and lined if not using aluminum foil containers) and gently tap them on the counter a couple of times to pop the air bubbles.

If your oven can't take more than two at a time, that's no problem. Just keep the other pan ready and you can bake them in two batches.

10. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or till a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. The cake should slightly spring back when touched.

11. Transfer to a cooling rack for about 10 minutes. You will see the cake start to loosen from the sides of the pan automatically as it cools. Gently remove from container and leave aside on a sheet of cling film/plastic wrap to cool completely. If the cakes have a dome top, slice off the dome using a sharp serrated knife. 

12. Now you can wrap the cakes in clingfilm and store in the refrigerator for a day or two till ready to frost.

Note: Placing the warm cakes on a wooden surface was a stupid idea! The residual heat started to make the bottom of the cake stick to the board and I spent a considerable amount of time prying them loose! Moral of the story: use cling wrap or parchment paper!

For the Cream cheese-whipped cream frosting:

1. Beat the mascarpone/cream cheese till smooth and fluffy, for about a minute.

2. Add the vanilla extract and sugar and continue mixing for another minute.

3. Using the whisk attachment and start whipping, while gradually adding the double cream.

4. Keep whipping till you get stiff peaks and is of pipable consistency. Do this on high speed but keep a close watch as you don't want to over whip and cause the cream to separate.

5. Add more cream if you think it is too loose. 


1. Place the chocolate layer on a serving plate and spread about 3-4 tbsp of frosting evenly over it using an offset spatula.

2. Top with the coffee cake and repeat the process with the frosting.

3. Now place the vanilla cake upside down on top of the frosting (top facing down). That way you have a smooth top to finish off.

4. Do a crumb coat by covering the cake with a thin coat of frosting, just to seal in all the crumbs. Put the cake and remaining frosting back in the refrigerator for 30 min to an hour and after that do a second more generous coat of frosting and smoothen it out as much as possible.

5. Refrigerate till ready to use, and about 15 to 20 minutes before serving bring it to room temperature.

  • I found that the cake tasted even better the day after I made it. I think the overnight refrigeration helped.
  • You can use instant coffee powder dissolved in hot water if you don't have brewed coffee. I just find the South Indian brewed (filter) coffee very aromatic and I had some leftover from that morning. 
  • Make sure that the cakes have cooled down completely before you start frosting them. 
  • The frosting should be of spreadable consistency and not hard otherwise it will rip your cake when you try frosting it. 
  • The whipped cream frosting does not hold well when its warm. It starts melting, so keep in the refrigerator till ready to use. I turned on the aircon to a chilly blast when I was frosting the cake because I was paranoid about the Singapore humidity! 
  • That also means, the cake holds good only for about 5 days to a week max. Store in the refrigerator at any cost
  • If the frosting starts to crack, whip up some more double cream and fill the cracks.



  1. Hi Megha! It's so nice to 'meet' you like this, over a piece of that absolutely amazing cake. I saw it on RecipeNewz and had to run right over. It's gorgeous. I would never in a million years guess that it was your first layer cake AND first frosting job. both are perfect. I think the flavors you chose are superb and I can't wait to make this myself. Thanks for sharing your work of art!

  2. Thank you so much. I really appreciate ur kind words :)

  3. I'm sorry about Polo. May Polo rest in peace in doggy heaven. :) And on another note, I love your cake! The trifecta of flavours that does wonders for me! Great recipe. Thank youuu! And I hope you have a great Valentines day with your family and loved ones.

  4. Beautiful cake! I love the different layers of colors and flavors. Very appetizing!

  5. This cake is beautiful. Love it! Might try it for an extended family birthday celebration!

  6. Thanks everyone! I hope you do try it out :)

  7. Megha,

    Where do I get the bowls?
    Are the Aluminium or something else?

  8. Hi Nitin, I used disposable aluminum circular trays. You can get them at any grocery/convenience store or a store that sells party items. You can also use oven-safe circular glass, ceramic or a metallic baking dishe. Just make sure they are greased & lined with parchment paper so the cakes come out easily. If you have only one, you have to do 3 separate batches that is why I prefer using the multiple, disposable variety.

  9. looks gorgeous :) :) love the creativity, uniqueness and dedication in each blog entry cover photo (red polka dot table cloth, background mat, wine)


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