Calling all chocolate and coffee lovers! This mocha chocolate chip cake is a wonderfully flavorful, tender cake recipe that is sure to become an instant favorite.
This delicious recipe consists of moist mocha cake layers speckled with mini chocolate chips, brushed with espresso and frosted in a silky espresso cream cheese frosting.
How to Make Mocha Chocolate Chip Cake
*You can find the full, printable recipe for Mocha Chocolate Chip Cake further down in this post, but here is a quick rundown of our steps!
- Heat the oven to 325 degrees, grease and flour three 8×2 inch round pans.I also like to line my pans with parchment circles
- In ¼ cup very hot water, dissolve the instant espresso powder, followed by the unsweetened cocoa powder. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl add the all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to blend and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, add the buttermilk, oil, vanilla and the hot water/espresso/cocoa mixture. Set aside
- In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, add the unsalted butter and mix at medium speed until smooth Gradually add the sugar and continue to mix on medium speed until light and fluffy (3-5. minutes).
- Add the room temperature eggs one by one, mixing until the yellow of the yolk disappears.
- Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients (we do three additions of dry ingredients and two additions of liquid ingredients).
- Be careful not to over-mix!
- Next, fold the mini chocolate chips into the cake batter. I like to use mini chips rather than regular because they are lightweight and therefore less likely to sink!
- Bake at 325 degrees for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted into the center and comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Let cool in pans 5 to 10 minutes on a wire rack before turning out.
Espresso Cream Cheese Frosting
We wanted to use a coffee frosting to balance the chocolate in the recipe. This espresso cream cheese frosting is one of our favorites! It is very easy to make and is SO delicious.
You can whip this recipe up in no time as it consists of softened cream cheese, slightly softened butter, powdered sugar, espresso, and vanilla.
Cream cheese frostings are softer than most buttercream frosting recipes. If your frosting becomes a little too soft to work with, just pop it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes or so to return it to a thicker consistency.
Assembling the Mocha Chocolate Chip Cake
Place the first cake layer on your cake plate or pedestal. Brush with the espresso mixture. This simple mixture of espresso, hot water and confectioners’ sugar gives a nice boost of coffee flavor to the cake recipe.
Next, slather it with an even layer of luscious espresso cream cheese frosting.
Repeat these steps for the next two layers. Then, frost the cake!
Tips for Frosting the Cake
Crumb Coating, Chilling, & Smoothing
I like to crumb coat the outside of the cake with a thin layer of frosting and then chill in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes to firm things up before frosting the final coat of frosting.
I think that it is much easier to frost the cake when it has been chilled, especially when working with softer frostings.
After applying the second coat of espresso cream cheese frosting, I smoothed around the sides of the cake with a bench scraper to make it nice and smooth. You can warm up your metal bench scraper with very hot water to make it even smoother if you’d like!
Decorating the Cake
I made a spiral design on top of my cake using a small offset spatula. Starting at the top center of the cake, I applied slight pressure to the frosting with my spatula as I rotated it on a turntable.
With each rotation, you’ll expand a bit further out until the spiral design is complete. I often create spirals on top of cakes because it is such an easy technique and so pretty too!
Next, I added a border using a piping tip 21. I piped a combination of simple rosettes, stars, and shells.
We have more Coffee Flavored Cakes to Share!
Love coffee flavored cakes? So do we! We’ve made several favorites over the years. Make sure to add these delicious cakes to your list!
- Chocolate Tiramisu Cake
- Mocha Toffee Crunch Cake
- Tiramisu Layer Cake
- Caramel Vanilla Latte Cake
- Gingerbread Latte Cake
- Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake
- Espresso Layer Cake
My Cake School Cake Tutorials and Recipes
Thanks so much for stopping by! We hope that you enjoy the recipe. If you try our Mocha Chocolate Chip Cake, we would love for you to leave a comment below!
Make sure to check out our full collection of favorite cake and frosting recipes in our Recipes Section!
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For the Mocha Chocolate Chip Layers
- 1 ½ sticks (170g) unsalted butter, slightly softened ( holds it shape but dents pressed)
- 2 cups (400g) sugar
- 4 eggs (if eggs are cold, place in bowl with hot water (not boiling) for 5 minutes)
- 3 cups (342g) all purpose flour (spooned into measuring cup and leveled off)
- 2 teaspoons (8g) baking powder
- ½ teaspoon (3g) baking soda
- ½ teaspoon (2g) salt
- ¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon (26g) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
- ¼ cup (61g) hot water - for dissolving espresso & cocoa powder
- 1 ¼ cup (296g) buttermilk — if you do not have buttermilk, see substitution below
- ¼ cup (54g) vegetable oil (we use canola oil)
- 1 Tablespoon (3g) instant espresso powder
- 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract
- 1 cup (170g) mini chocolate chips (we used Ghirardelli chips)
For the Espresso Mixture (for brushing onto cake layers)
- 1 rounded teaspoon instant espresso coffee dissolved in ½ cup (121g) hot water (you could also use strong coffee -instant or brewed)
- 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
For the Espresso Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 Sticks (226g) unsalted butter, slightly softened
- 2 (8oz) (226g) packages cream cheese (full fat), soften only slightly - Do not use reduced fat or the spreadable cream cheese. It will be too soft.
- 1 Tablespoon (6g) espresso granules dissolved in 2 teaspoons (8g) vanilla extract
- 6 to 6 ½ cups (690g to 747g) more if needed, powdered sugar
For the Mocha Chocolate Chip Cake Layers
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, grease and flour three 8x2 inch round pans. This could also be baked in two 9 inch rounds or a 9x13 pan.
- In ¼ cup very hot water, dissolve the espresso powder, followed by the cocoa powder. Set aside
- In a medium bowl add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to blend and set aside.
- In another bowl, add the buttermilk, oil, vanilla and the hot water/espresso/cocoa mixture. Stir to blend.
- In the bowl of your mixer, add the butter and mix at medium speed until smooth Gradually add the sugar and continue to mix on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes or until lightened in color, increased volume and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time mixing until the yellow of the yolk disappears.
- Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients (3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 additions of liquid ingredients).
- Do not mix above medium speed or over mix the cake batter.
- Fold in the mini chocolate chips.
- Bake at 325 degrees for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Let cool in pans 5 to 10 minutes then turn out.
For the Espresso Mixture
- Mix coffee and powdered sugar and set aside to cool.
For the Espresso Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cut the butter into slices and add to the bowl of your mixer. Beat on low to medium speed until the butter is softened.
- Cut the cream cheese into pieces and add to the butter, beating at low to medium speed until blended. If using a hand mixer, you may need to soften the cream cheese a bit more.
- Add the espresso that has been mixed with the vanilla
- Gradually add the powdered sugar beating on low to medium speed until blended. Do not over mix or it will become too soft. If it does become too soft, just refrigerate for a few minutes, then continue.
- This frosting will pipe best if used while somewhat chilled. You can make this in advance, refrigerate and when ready to use, let soften to spreading consistency (do not microwave) and stir or remix with mixer.
Assembling the Cake
Place the first cake layer on your cake plate or pedestal. Brush the top of the cake layer with the espresso mixture.
Then, spread with espresso cream cheese frosting. Repeat for the second layer and then the third. Frost the cake. I used a star tip 21 to create the border of rosettes and stars.
This recipe makes 7 ½ cups of batter.
No Buttermilk? Here is a substitution: To a measuring cup, add 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar. Add milk to the 1 ¼ mark, stir. Wait 5 minutes and it is ready to use. The milk will take on a thickened appearance.