Salted caramel? It’s amazing. But if you add espresso and chocolate, it can only get better. So much going on, and yet still so elemental. Salty, sweet, bitter, rich….like the best celebutantes.
This was clearly the thinking behind Starbucks’ fall drink, the salted caramel mocha, and I firmly believe that if a flavor combo could possibly be turned into a cake, it ought to be. And if said cake can be gluten-free and still raved about by wheat-eating people, it definitely ought to be.
I made this cake for pizza night last week and it was quickly devoured. My brother-in-law, who typically hates chocolate cake (with wheat!), loved this moist and flavorful version (without wheat!). The cake is labor-intensive because there’s two frostings – an espresso Swiss meringue buttercream and a salted caramel cream cheese frosting – but if you’re in need of a sophisticated, lick-the-spoon dessert for a special occasion, this cake cannot be beat.
Gluten-Free Salted Caramel Mocha Cake
For the brown butter fudge cake:
-4 cups gluten-free flour blend with xanthan gum (I used Gluten-Free On a Shoestring’s Cup4Cup knockoff recipe)
-2 cups brown sugar, packed
-2 cups white sugar
-1 lb. butter
-1 cup cocoa powder
-1/2 cup sour cream
-1/2 cup milk
-2 teaspoons baking soda
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-2 cups boiling water
For the espresso Swiss meringue buttercream:
Make one batch of Sweetapolita’s Swiss meringue buttercream and add 2 ounces of cold espresso (I took some from the cafe I work at, but you could just buy some at a coffee shop).
For the salted caramel cream cheese frosting:
Make one batch of Barefeet in the Kitchen’s salted caramel frosting.
To make the cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease two 8″ round cake pans and line them with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, brown sugar, and white sugar together in a large bowl and set aside.
2. Whisk the sour cream, milk, vanilla, eggs, and baking soda together in a liquid measuring cup. Set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until the foaming has subsided and the butter is golden brown and smells nutty. Whisk in the cocoa powder and boiling water.
4. Stir the butter mixture into the flour mixture, then add the sour cream mixture and stir until thoroughly combined, thick, and shiny. Fill the prepared pans 2/3 full of batter (you will have enough leftover batter for about 12 cupcakes). Bake the cakes for about an hour, or until set in the center and pulling away from the edges (cupcakes bake for about 20 minutes). Let cakes cool completely.
5. Remove the cake from their pans by flipping them onto a cutting board. Cut each cake in half lengthwise. Wrap the four layers in plastic wrap and freeze on a cookie sheet until ready to use.
To assemble the cake:
1. Remove the cake layers from the freezer and allow to thaw until somewhat firm to the touch. Have your frostings ready at room temperature. Place one cake layer, top down, on a cake stand or cake board. You’re ready to decorate!
2. Fill each layer of the cake with a thin layer of caramel frosting and then a thicker layer of espresso buttercream. Crumb coat the cake with the espresso buttercream, and then frost it with the caramel. Use the remaining espresso buttercream to decorate with a pastry bag and tip, if desired. I sprinkled ground coffee and salt very lightly on the top of my cake.
3. Store the cake in the refrigerator but allow to come to room temperature before serving. Enjoy with coffee or espresso!