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Chocolate Irish Whiskey Cake

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Serves 10 to 12

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 120

This recipe reimagines the classic whiskey-spiked Irish coffee as a decadent mocha layer cake filled with coffee-whiskey whipped cream and topped with white and dark chocolate shavings.

For the cake layers
  • Unsalted butter for the pans
  • 10-1/8 oz. (2-1/4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2-5/8 oz. (3/4 cup) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot coffee
For the coffee-whiskey whipped cream
  • 1 Tbs. instant espresso granules
  • 1/4 cup Irish whiskey, such as Jameson
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 3 Tbs. packed dark brown sugar
To finish the cake
  • 1 4-oz. block semisweet chocolate (about 1-inch thick), at room temperature
  • 1 4-oz. block white chocolate (about 1-inch thick), at room temperature
Make the cake

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter three 9x2-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment. Butter the parchment.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl, using an electric hand-held mixer), briefly blend the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low speed. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and mix at low speed, scraping the bowl as necessary, until the mixture is thick and creamy, like chocolate frosting, about 5 minutes. With the mixer running, gradually add the hot coffee, mixing at low speed just until combined. The batter will be quite thin. Divide the batter equally among the pans.

Bake, switching positions and rotating the pans halfway through, until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs clinging to it and the center feels firm to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cakes cool completely in the pans on racks.

Make the coffee-whiskey whipped cream

Clean and chill the mixing bowl and whisk attachment. In a measuring cup, stir the instant espresso into the whiskey until completely dissolved. In the chilled bowl, whip the cream, brown sugar, and whiskey mixture on medium-high speed until medium peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.

Finish the cake

Run a thin knife around the inside edge of the cake pans and turn the cakes out onto a large cutting board; peel off the parchment.

Transfer one layer to a cake plate and spread a third of the whipped cream on top, leaving a 1/2-inch border; repeat with the second layer. Put the top layer in place and spread the remaining whipped cream out to the edge.

To make the chocolate shavings, put a piece of waxed paper or foil on a baking sheet. Microwave each block of chocolate on medium power for 20 to 30 seconds to soften slightly, then draw a vegetable peeler along the chocolate bar’s edge, letting the curls fall onto the waxed paper. Make enough curls of both colors to top the cake generously, 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 oz. each. Refrigerate the shavings to make them easier to handle.

Arrange the shavings on top of the cake and serve.

Make Ahead Tips

The baked cake layers can be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature for 1 day.

The assembled cake will hold for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 610; Fat (g): fat g 37; Fat Calories (kcal): 330; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 17; Protein (g): protein g 7; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 14; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 66; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 4; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 450; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 120; Fiber (g): fiber g 3;

Photo: Scott Phillips

This is my go to, drop dead gorgeous and absolutely delicious cake. And what makes it extra special is that is is not a heavy dense cake, it is light and so easy to make.

Presentation is amazing for this one and really belies how easy this one is. I made just the cake a day ahead of time and refrigerated it prior to assembling. Assembly was done within a couple of hours of taking it to a party and refrigerated until time to leave. It transported just fine.

I give this cake a 5 for so many reasons! After making this cake a few times, I have gotten better each time. First off, the taste of this cake is absolutely wonderful! Now the difficult part was transportation, but my best suggestion is to make sure you make the cake either the night before or hours before assembly. This cake needs to be 100% cool! Also, making sure to follow the step of freezing the bowl and whisk attachment before making the icing is key! What I believed helped also, was that I whipped the icing for a little longer than the 2-3 minutes. I like my whipped cream a little more on the stiff side (just be careful not to over do it) But keeping the icing at a dense whipped consistency will help the layers from sliding later. Lastly, I put the cake in the refrigerator about an hour before leaving for our dinner party. I usually don't like to do this, but it helped a lot when it came to transportation time! Another great tip I would agree with is simply assembling the cake when you arrive! Its a very quick assemble and probably worth not having to stress about the cake in the car.

tastes fantastic..a very good recipe indeed!

Wonderful light cake that has become a family favorite. Mine looked as pretty as the photo. Perfect for a St. Patrick's birthday party.

I made this cake for a family birthday celebration. It was a huge hit. I thought I would have lots left over - not a chance! They ate the whole thing! Everyone loved it and all wanted the recipe. It was easy to make and looked very impressive. My chocolate curls were small but they still looked good and added a nice texture to the cream. A great recipe - except for kids maybe. My 9 year old thought it was terrible!

I love this cake -- delicious and great presentation! The cake itself is one of my favorite chocolate cakes, and the cream is out of this world! It's a great balance of flavors. I made it for Christmas and again this week for a friend's birthday - everyone loved it on both occasions. I also had too much cream so cut the recipe by 1/3 for the birthday cake. I sell my cakes and often commute with them to deliver to my customers at work. I insert a couple of thin lollipop sticks in the center of my cakes, and I usually don't have a problem with slippage. Did the same with this cake - and it worked commuting on the bus into Manhattan and a 1/2 mi. walk to the office!

Made this cake several times and it is always a hit. When transporting, I place three size 1 or size 2, 10 inch wood doubled pointed knitting needles to keep the cake from sliding. They work well, are washable or lickable if you are so inclined. Also, for the chocolate curls I melt good chocolate and pour it into a small square plastic dish to get the correct width. However, I agree with others that the white choclate does not curl as well and the dark.

Absolutely amazing cake! I was nervous about tackling it as I'm not much of a baker but wanted to do something other than the rum cake this year. Never made a cake from scratch (always used Duncan Hines, but never again!!!). It was so easy! The cake was super moist and not too sweet. The cream was amazing. Again, not too sweet. Only thing....I had way too much cream. Made the recipe as noted but had so much left over. Will half the recipe the next time. It was a HUGE hit at our family party and looked simply amazing. Thanks Fine Cooking!

This turned out nicely and reading the reviews beforehand helped in the assembly. It got rave reviews from those eating it. I baked the cake layers the day before and assembled it using almost all the frosting. The frosting wasn't as sweet as expected and I would use more brown sugar next time making sure there are no lumps. The white chocolate curls came out fine but I used a block of Callebaut bittersweet 60.3% cocoa for the dark curls and even heated it was too stiff and made small, tight curls. I would use a block of semisweet chocolate instead for those. The left-over cake stayed well in the refrigerator for several days.

Delicious. The cake itself is remarkably moist and flavorful, and the frosting is as good as it sounds. Two points to throw in: 1) we had a lot of leftover frosting after following the specs., which was not a problem because we just used it as the whipped cream for the Irish Coffee recipe on the adjoining page; 2) as someone else noted, the layers don't stick together all that well, so I'd recommend a long, sharp knife. (Maybe heating the knife a bit would help?)

The cake recipe was great - a really sweet and moist chocolate cake. The whip cream was awesome too, though I had quite a bit left over. My cake definitely did not look as pretty as the picture and the layers kept slipping on the whipped cream but I received rave reviews from my friends. The chocolate curls are very important and although I was unable to find a big enough block and my curls were tiny in comparison, they added a nice bit of texture and taste to the cake. Edit: This cake held up a lot longer than 2 hours in the fridge. The whip cream can pick up some odors from the fridge (if there are any) and taste a little different but my left over cake was still standing the next day in good condition.

This cake is really easy to make and looks like you've spent hours making it. I agree, that if you let the cake layers completely cool, they won't slide as much. I also had a lot of whip cream left over.

Delicious. For transporting a short distance, perhaps 2-3 toothpicks between layers would work. You won't see them until the cake is sliced.

In response to the previous two reviewers, here are a few more tips from the test kitchen on preventing the layers from sliding or leaning: make sure the cake layers are absolutely, completely cooled before stacking them with the filling; if they're even slightly warm (often imperceptible to touch), they'll tend to slide when layered with the whipped cream. Also, if your cake layers bake up with a domed top (variations in oven heat may cause this), the assembled cake will be more stable if you level off those domed tops before stacking. That said, the cake is not the best traveler--probably a better way to bring it to a potluck is to assemble on site since assembly is pretty easy. Hope that helps!

Such a tasty (!!) cake but I also had difficulty with keeping my cake tower from leaning. It was not a good choice for transporting to a dinner party, so if anyone has any tips about keeping things together I would love to have some input.

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