Mocha Cake

4.75 from 4 votes

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Rich chocolate cake flavored with coffee and topped with a creamy coffee buttercream. 

slice of mocha cake with coffee buttercream on a cream colored plate

If you are a coffee lover, today’s cake was absolutely made for you. Because as a self-proclaimed coffee enthusiast, this cake, which came to us right at the beginning of quarantine life, became entirely housed in OUR home as I was unable to take it to a social gathering it was made for.

So. Needless to say… Probably 75% of this cake wound up in my personal belly. And I have no regrets.

mocha cake with coffee buttercream on a plate

Since this post is a part of #SpringSweetsWeek, I can’t go on without saying a gigantic THANK YOU to Door County Coffee for providing me with coffee for this incredible cake.

They sent us LOADS of coffee, which we have been slowly working our way through everyday. They have a line of “classic” flavors (like black & tan) and some more interesting ones (like brownie batter).

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We’ve loved everything we’ve tried so far, and we MEGA thank them for fueling our quarantine coffee consumption over the last 2 weeks!

coffee grounds poured out of a tipped over bag of coffee beans and a french press in the background

Before I go on about exactly what this cake entails, I will tell you that you’ve seen this cake before a couple times. If you’re a regular around here, you know I am the world’s biggest fan of using a recipe in many different forms.

That said, we originally used this chocolate cake recipe back in my dark chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. We used it again in my chocolate bundt cake from this past winter. It’s a solidly perfect chocolate cake recipe, so mess with it we will not!

My original chocolate cake recipe calls for coffee, but for today’s mocha cake recipe, we’re taking that coffee and we’re compressing it down down down into a more concentrated form of the same coffee.

aerial photo of mocha cake with coffee buttercream decorated with chunks of chocolate and coffee beans

Much like we’ve done with a champagne reduction in my champagne layer cake and a Guinness reduction in my Guinness cupcakes, we’re going to start with a lot of coffee (keep reading) and bring it down to 1 and 1/4 cup total.

Depending on how much coffee flavor you’d like going on in your cake will determine how much coffee you’re starting with, so let’s work backwards.

mocha cake with coffee buttercream on a plate with a slice taken out of it

I wanted a decent coffee flavor but I also knew I would be getting a good amount of coffee flavor from the coffee buttercream, so I brewed 32oz of coffee and went from there.

a hand pressing down the plunger on a french press coffee maker

Wondering how we prefer to make coffee? A French press has been our coffee love language for a long time now. No other way! And this particular press makes up to 34oz!

I took my 32oz of coffee, poured it into a saucepan, and boiled it down to 1 and ¼ cup. Actually, back track, I boiled it down a little too far down to a smidge more than 1 cup, so I just added a little water back in to bring the total amount of liquid to 1 and ¼ cup.

This concentrated coffee gives the chocolate cake its mocha essence and turns it into a coffee flavored cake quite easily. The flavor is not overpowering, but it’s definitely there. Subtle yet deep. It’s lovely!

The mocha cake frosting, though, is where the real love is, my friends. This stuff was so good, we couldn’t stop sampling it, and I almost ran out of what I needed to actually decorate the cake. Oops!

aerial photo of mocha cake with coffee buttercream on a plate with a slice taken out of it


Y’all. You need this on everything from here on out. Maybe even your morning cup (ok, maybe that’s too far).

It’s super simple– it’s based on my classic vanilla buttercream recipe, but instead of using milk/cream for the liquid, we’re using straight up coffee. I just went with straight brewed coffee, but if you’re feeling saucy, go ahead and make more concentrated coffee for this step. Totally your preference!

You’ll just want to make sure you use cooled coffee, otherwise your precious coffee buttercream will curdle. And we definitely don’t want that!

The combo of the chocolate mocha cake + the smooth coffee buttercream frosting is very truly a coffee lover’s dream. This mocha cake was one of those cakes we kept taking bites of and saying “oh my gosh, it’s SO GOOD.” We just couldn’t stop.

And with a cup of coffee on the side? I mean, there’s no better combo.

slice of mocha cake with coffee buttercream on a cream colored plate with a fork and a full cake and french press of coffee in the background

I am such a fan of layer cakes, because they’re so pretty. And they’re SO fun to customize on the outside, even if you just want to keep it super simple.

You may choose to leave this cake plain or even “naked,” but as you can see, I chose some chopped chocolate as my decor along with some simple coffee buttercream poofs on top.

bag of door county coffee leaning up against a french press with a slice of mocha cake in the foreground

Garnish like I did with finely chopped chocolate, chocolate shavings, chocolate covered espresso beans, chocolate (or otherwise brown) sprinkles, or whatever sort of garnish that tickles your fancy and screams “mocha.”

You can really do no wrong on the outside when the inside is full of so much chocolate + coffee flavor. This is a dessert for the coffee dessert books.

slice of mocha cake with coffee buttercream on a cream colored plate with a fork and a full cake and french press of coffee in the background

Coffee lovers… UNITE! I can’t wait for you fellow lovers to try it!

More recipes for the coffee lovers! Coffee rolls, coffee jello parfaits, coffee brownies, and how to make cold brew.

Mocha Cake

Rich chocolate cake flavored with coffee and topped with a creamy coffee buttercream. 
Prep Time10 minutes
Bake Time30 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Recipe Author Lynn April
Servings: 12 servings



  • 3 to 4 cups (720-960mL) brewed strong coffee1 we prefer to use a French press
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (200g) packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour be sure to measure properly
  • ¾ cup (69g) Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup (120g) vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  • 1 cup (227g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
  • 4 to 5 cups (480-660g) powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup (60mL) strong coffee cooled
  • pinch of salt


  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the brewed coffee to a boil and allow to simmer until it reaches 1 and ¼ cup (4 cups will take about 20 to 25 minutes).
  • If you take it down too low, add water to bring level back up to 1 and ¼ cup. Set aside.


  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Grease and flour (or use homemade cake release) two 8-inch round cake pans. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract until completely combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, add 1 cup of the coffee, and whisk or stir the batter until everything is combined.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out mostly clean. Remove from oven and allow cakes to cool in the pans completely on a wire rack before removing and assembling.


  • In a medium size bowl with a handheld mixer or in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until smooth (about 3 minutes).
  • Decrease mixer speed to low. Add powdered sugar, and remaining ¼ cup of cooled coffee, and salt. Increase mixer speed to to high and beat until completely combined (approximately 2-3 minutes). If frosting is too thick, add more liquid to desired consistency (you can use milk, cream, water, or more coffee). If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar.


  • Trim cooled cake layers to create a flat surface. You can do this with a large serrated knife or a cake leveler. I sliced each of my layers into two, so I had 4 layers of cake. Place one layer on a plate or cake stand and cover the top with coffee buttercream. Spread evenly with an offset spatula.
  • Place next layer on top, cut surface down, continuing until you've used all of your cake layers. For a sturdier cake, refrigerate at this point for about 10 minutes.
  • When cake is slightly chilled, remove from refrigerator and spread more frosting on the top and around the sides. Decorate with chopped chocolate, if desired. Serve. Leftovers stay fresh, covered tightly, at room temperature up to 5 days and in the refrigerator up to 1 week.
  • Make ahead: prepare cakes and frosting up to 1 day in advance. Cover cakes tightly and keep at room temperature or in the refrigerator until ready to assemble. Refrigerate prepared frosting in an airtight container until ready to use. Unfrosted cake layers may be frozen, wrapped tightly, up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before assembling. Frosted cake can be frozen, wrapped tightly, up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.


  1. Coffee: the more coffee you start with, the more intense your coffee flavor will be. We preferred cake that started with 4 cups of coffee reduced down to 1 and ¼ cup. You will be using 1 cup for the cake and ¼ cup for the frosting.
Did you make this recipe?Mention @freshaprilflours on Instagram or tag #freshaprilflours!

Nutrition Disclosure

All nutritional values are approximate and provided to the reader as a courtesy. Changing ingredients and/or quantities will alter the estimated nutritional calculations.

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 617kcal | Carbohydrates: 94g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 95mg | Sodium: 342mg | Potassium: 187mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 74g | Vitamin A: 552IU | Calcium: 79mg | Iron: 2mg

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  1. No lie, my mouth literally watered when I saw photos of this cake. And just knowing it is mocha with coffee buttercream makes me want to swoon.

  2. Hey Lynn! Got a question. I’m gonna make this cake in a couple of days and I was wondering about what kind of coffee to use and the roast i.e. the type of bean and medium roast, dark roast etc. Thanks!

    1. Hey, Sam! Roast does not matter, since the strength will be complemented by the sugar and chocolate. Just use whatever you like! Enjoy!

  3. This looks amazing!! I am going to try this recipe this week! Does espresso work for the coffee or would that be too strong? Thank you for the recipe!

    1. Thank you! Also, does Hershey’s cocoa powder work for the Dutch processed? Or which cocoa did you use? Have a nice day!

  4. 5 stars
    Had this for dessert last night. I baked the cake night before, let it cool in pan, and wrapped it in wax paper then foil. Yesterday after work I made the buttercream and assembled. Husband poured heated caramel sauce on middle to sink in before I added buttercream, then added 2nd layer to which he snuck in more caramel sauce before I got the buttercream on. He decorated the top with broken pieces of candy. It was DEVINE!
    The cake recipe is SO perfect, it’s very moist with a delicious taste of chocolate and coffee. Follow the recipe – it’s perfection! The buttercream is the perfect topping (and filling).
    Son and girlfriend were here for dinner, they asked for the leftovers (not from my dinner, they wanted the cake…sigh). Now I have to bake another…!
    BTW, I brewed Trader Joe’s decaf but think that your favorite coffee is the best bec that’s what you’ll get a hint of.

  5. Hello! Making this today. Can you clarify if the 1.25 c reduced coffee is split between the cake and the frosting? How much goes into the cake itself? Or am I making sure to reduce down an additional 1/4 c for the frosting?

    1. Hi, Samantha– thanks for catching that. It is a little confusing the way I originally wrote it. I updated the instructions to hopefully be a little clearer. Let me know if you still have questions!