chocolate butterbeer cake


after the sixth harry potter movie came out, there was some dispute over whether the movie promoted underage drinking: neville serves drinks to his comrades, harry splits a bottle of mulled mead with his professor, hermione is tipsy after a few sips of butterbeer.

WELL, the BOOKS never disclosed whether or not butterbeer contains alcohol. they never even described its flavor! according to the harry potter wiki, it’s a “popular wizarding beverage with a taste a little bit like less-sickly butterscotch.” i’ve always imagined it like a thick cream soda.

i’m not super fond of vanilla cake, so i combined dark chocolate cake with as many butterscotchy things that i could come up with. the cake is brushed with a mixture of cream soda and heavy cream. it gets spread with a layer of cream cheese frosting and some butterscotch ganache. i added milk crumbs for texture (a crunchy combo of milk powder and flour, baked and rolled in white chocolate) and topped the whole thing off with some spiky candy glass. it’s a lot of work, so feel free to omit the milk crumbs and candy glass, and/or use prepared caramel sauce instead of the ganache.

you’ll need a 6-inch cake ring and a 6×20 strip of acetate



  • 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


  • 1/4 cup cream soda
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp butterscotch ganache


  • 2 cups butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream


  • 1/4 cup milk powder
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp milk powder
  • 1 1/2 oz white chocolate, melted

candy glass

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tbsp corn syrup

for the cake, preheat oven to 300º. grease a quarter sheet pan 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. spread batter evenly in the pan and bake for about 20 minutes. 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 soak, stir together the two ingredients in a ramekin. refrigerate until ready to use.

for the ganache, put the butterscotch chips in a heatproof bowl. heat the cream in a small saucepan or the microwave until almost boiling. pour it over the chips, let it sit for five minutes, then stir until smooth. refrigerate until thickened.

for the milk crumbs, preheat the oven to 250º and line a baking sheet with parchment. combine the powder, flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. toss to mix. add the melted butter and toss until clusters form. bake the clusters for 20 minutes on the sheet. let cool, then toss in the additional milk powder. pour the white chocolate over the crumbs and toss until evenly coated.

for the candy glass, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. combine the sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. stir until the sugar dissolves, then stop stirring until the mixture has boiled for a bit and turned amber (don’t let it burn! watch it!). pour onto the baking sheet and let harden. break up into jagged pieces with a hammer.

to assemble, use the cake ring to punch two circles and two half circles out of the cake. reserve scraps for snacking. wipe off the cake ring, then place it on a sheet pan. lay a 6-inch circle of cardboard (or cake board) in the bottom. line the ring with the strip of acetate. place enough cake scraps in the bottom to fill it in. brush with a good amount of the soak. use the back of a spoon to spread on a quarter of the frosting. top with a third of the ganache. sprinkle on some crumbs (use the bigger clumps if you can; discard or eat the tiny crumbs). repeat with the second layer, using the half circles. repeat with a full circle. nestle the final layer on top. cover the top of the cake with the rest of the frosting and garnish with the candy glass. transfer the sheet pan to the freezer, and freeze for at least 12 hours (or up to 2 weeks). keep refrigerated; bring to room temperature before serving.


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