My experiments with layer cakes (see earl grey, funfetti, tiramisu) continues!

For a potluck I hosted earlier this spring, I made Michelle’s (from Hummingbird High) Vietnamese coffee cake with condensed milk frosting. Although I wasn’t that impressed with the frosting (it didn’t taste like anything special), the coffee cake was just perfect: moist and delicate, with a slight bitterness from the coffee.

I wanted to play around with color and texture for this cake, and I am really pleased with the results. A light coffee cake sandwiches a dense dark chocolate brownie and bright, tangy cream cheese. For a little crunch, I sprinkled the top with chocolate chunks.

I am too cheap to buy enough butter/cream cheese to cover the entire cake. Luckily naked cakes are in… but in the future, I’m going to suck it up and practice fully decorating.

Coffee Brownie Cake
Makes a three-layer 8-inch cake

Coffee Cake
adapted from Hummingbird High

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp instant coffee powder/
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 3/4 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 c greek yogurt
1/2 c oil
3/4 c strong coffee, at room temperature

Brownie
adapted from delishably

1/2 c oil
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 c flour
1/2 c cocoa
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from allrecipes

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 c butter, softened
1 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp instant coffee (optional)
1 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)

Make the cake

    1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare two 8-inch round cake pans by spraying generously with cooking spray and lining the bottoms of each with a parchment paper circle; spray the paper as well.
    2. In a medium bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Whisk to combine and set aside
    3. In a new bowl, combine 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 large eggs, and 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to its slowest setting and add 1 cup sour cream, beating until incorporated. With the mixer still on its slowest setting, slowly pour in 1/2 cup oil and continue beating until incorporated. Once the oil is incorporated, slowly pour in 3/4 cup coffee and continue beating until combined.
    4. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Turn on the mixer back to its slowest setting and add the dry ingredients (from the 2nd step) a few big spoonfuls at a time, beating on low speed until the dry ingredients have just disappeared into the batter.
    5. Divide the cake batter between the two prepped pans and transfer to the preheated oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top of the cakes are golden and bounce back when gently poked.

Make the brownie

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare one 8-inch round cake pan by spraying generously with cooking spray and lining the bottom with a parchment paper circle; spray the paper as well.
  2. Mix the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract well.
  3. In a new bowl, whisk together the remaining dry ingredients.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just combined.

Make the frosting

  1. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Add a little more sugar or milk depending on how spreadable the frosting is.
  2. Optional: add instant coffee and cocoa after the frosting is mixed. I separated my frosting into two bowls so I had half white vanilla frosting and half mocha frosting.

Assembly

  1. Do not begin to assemble until the brownie and cakes are all room temperature. Make sure that the frosting is very spreadable and at room temperature.
  2. Using a serrated knife, level your cakes. This is the ideal snacking step.
  3. Place the uglier coffee cake down on the plate/cake stand you will be using. This is going to be your base. Spread 1/3 of the frosting evenly on top. Add the brownie layer, spread on the next 1/3 of the frosting. Add the second coffee cake layer, spread the final 1/3 of frosting on top.
  4. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top and enjoy!
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