Wake up and smell the coffee chocolate cake

I like chocolate. I like coffee. I like cake. And more than anything I like chocolate cake. It seems all the best things come in ‘C’s’…

This chocolate cake was created for Bake Face, a monthly baking club I run. The theme for January’s meet-up was ‘Smash Your Resolutions’, so I included as many things people give up in January in one cake.

Getting chocolate, coffee, sugar and alcohol into a cake isn’t hard, but as many people do Veganuary, I had to think of where the meat element was going to come in.

But I’m no amateur. And I’m also no stranger to putting meat in cakes – specifically bacon – check out my whisky, maple, bacon cupcake recipe here.) So low and behold this monster of a chocolate cake, with candied bacon, espresso, coffee liqueur and salted caramel, was born.

Wake up and smell the coffee chocolate cake

Serves 10 – prep 30 mins cake, 30 min everything else – bake 50 mins

I’ve used coffee liqueur in the caramel and buttercream, but feel free to substitute with Camp coffee or espresso. Though you can get rid of the alcohol and veggies can leave off the bacon, this will never, ever be a chocolate cake for kids. It’s dense and the coffee means it’s not too sweet.

The cake will keep for four days in an airtight container.


For the chocolate cake
  • 200g 70% dark chocolate, smashed into small pieces
  • 250ml brewed espresso – strong
  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 150ml sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 250g self raising flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 100g dark chocolate chunks
For the chocolate coffee buttercream
percol instant espresso powder in jar
  • 125g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 5g instant espresso powder (very fine texture needed, crush through a sieve if needed) – I use Percol as it’s the right texture
  • Splash of coffee liqueur
For the coffee salted caramel
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 110ml double cream
  • 15ml coffee liqueur
For the coffee candied bacon
  • 2 tsp soft brown sugar
  • 1tsp instant espresso powder – very fine texture, or you’ll have bitty bacon – I use Percol
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 8 rashers of smoked, streaky bacon – thick cut if poss
To make the cake
  1. Preheat your oven to 170c. Grease and line a 23cm, loose bottomed, round cake tin.
  2. Melt the chocolate over a Bain Marie or in the microwave, be careful not to burn it if you’re using the microwave. Put to the side to cool.
  3. Brew the coffee and put aside to cool. While it’s cooling, start to make your cake.
  4. Cream your butter and sugar together with a hand whisk or in a stand mixer, until lightish. The cake texture will be fudgy, so you don’t need it to be super white, just lighter.
  5. Beat the eggs in a small bowl, add in the vanilla and sour cream and mix together. Then stir this in small amounts into the cooled chocolate. Start with a spoonful at a time or your chocolate will seize.
  6. Add a third of the chocolate mix to the creamed butter/sugar and beat in. Then add the next third, beat, the next, and then beat again.
  7. Sift over the flour and cocoa and fold in, split into two lots to make folding easier. Once all the flour has been folded in, add the chocolate chunks and fold in till they’re just combined – don’t overwork your flour. (Reason why, here).
  8. Fold the cold coffee into the cake mixture to take it just past dropping consistency. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and place in the centre of the oven.
  9. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted just comes out clean. Check at 45 mins and cover with foil/drop to 160c if the edges are beginning to catch. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, and then cool completely on a rack.
To make the coffee chocolate buttercream
  1. Put the butter in a bowl, adding the sifted icing sugar, espresso powder and cocoa in stages (so it doesn’t blow up as a cloud in your face), creaming together with a hand whisk or wooden spoon.
  2. Add the liqueur and salt and process again until you have a smooth buttercream.
To make the coffee salted caramel

This recipe makes way more than you need to top the cake, but its’ DELICIOUS poured over ice cream. The caramel will keep in the fridge for a week.

  1. Put the sugar into a heavy bottom sauce pan and place onto a medium high heat. Heat until the sugar starts to melt at the edges. DO NOT stir. And definitely DO NOT put your finger in it – taste everything else, but not melting sugar!
  2. As the sugar melts at the edges, draw the outer/melted sugar into the centre, helping the rest of the sugar to melt evenly.
  3. Once the sugar has gone a light to medium brown, take off the heat and add half the cream – it will bubble madly, so be careful.
  4. As it calms down, add the butter, rest of the cream, salt and liqueur. Stir and put to one side.
To make the coffee candied bacon

This bacon will keep in an airtight container for two days. The mix will coat up to 12 rashers, so make more and keep as a naughty snack once all the cake is eaten.

streaky bacon with coffee sugar maple syrup rub being brushed on
  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. In a small bowl mix together all the ingredients, bar the bacon. Put to one side.
  2. Place some baking parchment onto a baking tray (believe me, you’ll need this!) and lay each bacon rasher down flat. Use two trays if you can’t get all your bacon in one flat row.
  3. Brush the top side of each rasher with the coffee/sugar mix and place on the top shelf of the oven.
  4. After ten minutes take the bacon out, turn over and brush the now bare side with the mixture and place back in the oven for another ten minutes. (Check after five minutes and pull out early if burning, you do want it to brown a little though).
  5. Dry on a rack (over a plate/tray to catch sticky drips) for about half an hour.
To assemble the Wake Up and Smell the Coffee chocolate cake
  1. Put the chocolate cake onto whatever you’re serving it on. You may need to trim the top of the cake if it’s a little too domed. It’s natural for it to be a little cracked. Feel free to put some coffee liqueur into the top of cake if you do trim it, or into the cracks…
  2. Ice the top with the coffee chocolate buttercream. You want a generous amount, this is an indulgent cake after all. Dip your spatula or knife into hot water to make this easier if the buttercream is hard, however, with the liqueur, it should be quite malleable.
  3. Pour the coffee salted caramel around the edges of the cake, so it drizzles down the sides and pools a little at the bottom. Place some of the caramel in a jug to serve on the side of each slice. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to each plate too, for extra indulgence.
  4. Arrange the bacon, serve and enjoy.
chocolate cake with coffee candied bacon and coffee caramel next to a cup of coffee, moomins and grapefruit
To get ahead

You can make the caramel up to a week ahead and keep, covered, in the fridge.

The bacon can be made up to two days ahead and kept at room temperature in an air-tight Tupperware.

You can make the buttercream the day before, but don’t add the liqueur when you make it. Keep covered in the fridge, and then beat in the liqueur when you want to use it, as the buttercream will have stiffened up in the fridge and be hard to spread.