november + a chocolate espresso cake




i think i have mild synesthesia. synesthesia is a condition where the brain joins letters, names, and shapes with a sensory perception like color, smell, or flavor. for me, it typically surfaces in the form of color – for example, ‘monday’ is light blue and the name ‘mary’ is red. sometimes it’s influenced by personality, etc., and sometimes it’s completely random.

‘november’ is a compilation of brown and gold hues. think topaz, autumn leaves, chai lattes, and collies. i also strongly associate an espresso flavor with november (no, not pumpkin spice or apple cinnamon). anyway, this is my ultimate november cake. rich layers of chocolate cake are enriched by a coffee-cream soak, then swathed in a silky sheathing of mocha buttercream. its beige tint and lustrous star embellishment perfectly parallel the month’s.. ambience? aura? take a bite and see what associations the color/flavor combo unearth for you.


  • 1 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

frosting (adapted from brown eyed baker)

  • 2 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 11/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream
  • edible gold stars (optional)


  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp strong coffee

for the cake, preheat oven to 300º. grease two six-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper. mix the chocolate with the hot coffee and set aside (don’t stir). whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and powder, and salt. in a stand mixer, beat eggs until thick and lemon colored. add the oils, buttermilk, and vanilla. stir the chocolate-coffee mixture and add it to the wet ingredients. add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat for twenty seconds. divide evenly between the pans and bake for about 25 minutes – just keep an eye out and check it with toothpicks until they come out with a few moist crumbs attached. let cool for five minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack and let cool for at least an hour (or stick it in the freezer for 15 minutes).

for the frosting, mix the espresso powder into the vanilla extract until dissolved; set aside. using the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, whip the butter on high speed for 5 minutes. reduce speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. sift in the cocoa powder. whip for an additional 2 minutes. add the espresso mixture and whip until fluffy.

stir together the soak ingredients and set aside.

to assemble, cut both cooled cake layers in half horizontally. brush the cut side of one layer lightly with the soak, then spread frosting over it. sandwich with the layer’s other half, and repeat the process. continue, stopping at either 3 or 4 layers (i only did three). lightly crumb coat the cake and freeze or refrigerate for up to half an hour. remove, frost fully, pipe a border around the top (i used a french tip), and sprinkle with stars.

6 thoughts on “november + a chocolate espresso cake

  1. Hi Lena,

    I tried sending this regular email but it bumped back to me – guess I didn’t read your writing correctly…anyway…

    I received the most adorable cookies from you today! They are delicious and I love the icing! You decorated them so cute too – I hated to bite into one!

    From looking at your website I hope you have someone to share all that goodness with! What yummy stuff you have! I guessed you might still be in high school by your handwriting! I think I was right – good luck with your blog and more importantly getting a restaurant! I bet you can do it! I live so close to you if you open a restaurant I’ll be one of your first patrons! Let me know when you do it!

    Happy Holidays!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s