It’s been a long while since the last time I made it home to Romania for Christmas. And the funny thing – I was really impressed with how things improved; the city was lively and joyous during the holiday season dotted with bright lights, ornate Christmas trees and open markets where vendors were eager to entertain and sell their goodies to the hungry and curious crowds. Without a doubt, there was a delicious excess of options – everything from hot mulled wine, traditional offal concoctions and deep fried flatbreads slathered with fat dollops of sour cream, cheese and garlic, to a wide assortment of cookies, candies, homemade fudge and other Christmas breads and cakes we simply can’t live without. Overabundance is an understatement and I welcomed it with open arms because we, Romanians, never shy away from a big feast whether at home or on the city streets!
The same can be said about the bonanza of extravagant options on my grandmother’s dessert Christmas table. But among the usual suspects of cookies and homemade pretzels, buttercream-covered cakes stood front and center. And one of them was this grand Coffee Cake with Coffee Buttercream Frosting.
This is not your regular coffee cake to be enjoyed with a nice cup of coffee or tea. This cake is the coffee. It’s so intense and loaded with coffee that paired with coffee would feel redundant and overdone. This Coffee Cake with Coffee Buttercream Frosting will overshadow all the coffee cakes you’ve ever made; because this is a cake of layers of coffee upon layers of more coffee, upon layers of cocoa and more chocolate. I can easily say this coffee cake is in a league of its own and a single bite will give you that invigorating boost of espresso that you didn’t know you wanted but so desperately needed.
The cake is refined, moist, laced with coffee and spiked with rum. The frosting is firstly cooked into submission until it becomes pleasantly thick and velvety with a cafe au lait hue and deep coffee aroma; then it’s gently whipped with my favorite ingredient – butter – and speckled with toasted walnuts that only add a charming texture to the already assertive flavor. And you can never have too much chocolate because the rich chocolate ganache drizzled on top completes this spectacle of a cake. Enjoy!
Romanian Coffee Cake with Coffee Buttercream Frosting
By Simply Romanesco inspired by my Grandma Vicki
Makes: 24 squares
Ingredients for the batter:
· 8 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
· 240 grams sugar
· 120 grams all-purpose flour
· 2 teaspoons baking powder
· ¼ teaspoon salt
· 25 grams ground coffee
· 25 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
Ingredients for the Rum Syrup:
· ½ cup sugar
· ½ cup water
· ¼ cup rum
Ingredients for the coffee buttercream frosting:
· 4 large eggs, at room temperature
· 240 grams sugar
· 14 grams instant coffee crystals
· 300 grams butter, at room temperature
· 50 grams roasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
Ingredients for the chocolate ganache:
· 170 grams (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
· 2/3 cups heavy cream
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions for the batter:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat the bottom and sides of a 14 x10 x 2-inch baking pan with butter and flour.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, coffee grounds and cocoa powder. Set aside.
Separate the egg yolks and egg whites.
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar using an electric hand mixer. Gradually, add the flour mixture.
In a large bowl, beat the egg white until medium-firm peaks form. In batches, gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Continue to fold and gently stir until the batter thins out.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.
Instructions for the Rum Syrup:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Off heat, add the rum, whisk well and set aside to cool completely. Once the cake has cooled, pierce the surface with a fork. Using a spoon, drizzle the syrup all over the top of the cake. You will use more than half of the syrup. However, you want the cake to be moist but not overly damp. Just discard the remaining of the syrup. Allow the cake to sit and absorb the syrup, about 1 hour.
Instructions for the coffee buttercream frosting:
In a medium heat-proof bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar for 2-3 minutes. Put the bowl on top of a pan of simmering water, making sure that the base of the bowl doesn’t come in contact with the water. Gently beat the eggs and sugar mixture with a whisk until it thickens and looks like a thick cream, about 25-30 minutes. Add the instant coffee crystals, mix well and cook the cream for 2-3 minutes longer. Set aside to cool completely, stirring occasionally.
In a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Slowly and in batches, add the coffee cream and beat on medium-low speed, scrapping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Don’t whip! Gently fold in the walnut pieces.
With a knife or offset spatula, evenly spread the frosting over the cake.
Instructions for the Chocolate Ganache:
Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine the heavy cream and vanilla extract in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until small bubbles appear on the outside edge of the cream. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate chips. Using a fork or a spoon, gently stir until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Drizzle the chocolate ganache all over the cake. Allow the ganache to harden. Cut the cake into squares and serve.
Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)