mocha mascarpone cake with dark chocolate ganache

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after last week’s down days, and the subsequent ups and cold windy days that followed, i was feeling like some comfort cooking. i mean, we had 3 days of snowing (no accumulation, bizarrely) with 30mph winds… not my idea of lovely weather. there are few things in life i enjoy quite as much as coffee or chocolate, or heck while we’re at it, baking. so i dug out my faithful nigella’s how to be a domestic goddess and decided to make her sour cream chocolate cake. i encountered 2 problems.

1. there’s no coffee in this cake.
2. i didn’t have enough sour cream.

looking at my options in the fridge – green juice, orange juice, spiral sliced ham, and mascarpone cheese, i’m imagining you figured which one i chose. mascarpone. not quite the same acidity of sour cream, helping with tenderness, but i decided it would do in a pinch. because there’s no way i wasn’t going to make a cake today. it’s 38 outside, overcast and blustery – i thought it was spring? meh. whatever.

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with frightened rabbit on repeat, i began. i threw in 1T (heaping) of instant espresso powder with my dry ingredients, and did 1/4c of sour cream and 1/4c mascarpone.
IMG_8105 copydid i divide my batter evenly? of course not. that would make too much sense. not having any heavy cream meant i was consulting the internets for appropriate substitutions in the ganache- i was planning on using half + half, but second guessing myself always leads to googling and internet bunny trails. vindicated in my choice, i realized that the dark chocolate bar (scharffen berger extra dark – like 82% cacao i think) was not enough to make a decent amount of ganache. luckily for all those concerned, i was a chocolate hoarder and kept all the single origin chocolates my little brother brought my back from france. this is not intended to sound like gwynneth paltrow and her insane recommendations – instead, learn from this – put your favorite dark chocolates in the ganache. if you love hershey’s special dark, wave your flag proud. ain’t no thing.
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so, with all of it assembled and ready, i also made a last minute change of filling. i wanted cherries in there somewhere, so my jar of bonne maman cherry preserves got smeared over the first layer, and then the top of the cake proudly bore the weight of ganache. IMG_8121 copyand then i made another pot of coffee and loved my sliver of cake. because wow. rich, dense, chocolatey and just the right amount of sweet. as my daughter likes to say after we sit down to eat every meal – bon appetit!IMG_8133 copy

mocha mascarpone cake

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  • 1 1/3C all purpose flour
  • 3/4C sugar
  • 3/4t baking powder
  • 1/4t baking soda
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1T instant espresso powder
  • 3/4C + 2T softened butter
  • 3T cocoa
  • 1/4C mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4C + 2T sour cream
  • (can use all sour cream if necessary. use 1/2C + 2T)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2t vanilla extract


  • preheat the oven to 350F. spray down two 8 or 9 inch cake pans with some baker’s joy, or butter and flour.
  • combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder. with a hand or stand mixer, beat in butter.
  • in a separate smaller bowl, mix cocoa, mascarpone (if using), sour cream, eggs and vanilla until smooth and well mixed.
  • using hand or stand mixer, slowly add wet ingredients to dry, and beat until well blended. my batter was fairly thick, so do not be alarmed if this is the case.
  • evenly divide between cake pans, and bake for 30-35 minutes. make sure you check at 30 minutes, as it may be ready.
  • when ready, the cakes will be shrinking back from the edges, and feel barely firm on the top.
  • cool in pan on wire racks for 10 minutes, then remove from pans to fully cool.
  • spread approximately 1/3C favorite all fruit preserves (cherry is so good here) over first layer. top with second layer and frost top with ganache.

dark chocolate ganache


  • 6oz favorite dark chocolate, broken into pieces.
  • half and half as necessary


  • melt dark chocolate in a double boiler (or a pyrex bowl ontop of a pan of simmering water)
  • when chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat and whisk in half and half, about a tablespoon or two at a time.
  • whisk until smooth and shiny, let cool slightly and frost top of cake.

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