serves 8

1/4 cup good-quality unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1/4 cup hot water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda “
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 eggs, separated
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 egg whites (reserve yolks for custard)
3 tablespoons Kahlúa or other coffee-flavored liqueur

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 1/4 cups half-and-half
2 egg yolks (reserved from cake ingredients), lightly beaten
2 tablespoons Kahlúa or other coffee-flavored liqueur

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup good-quality unsweetened dark cocoa powder
3 tablespoons Kahlúa or other coffee-flavored liqueur
3 cups confectioners‘ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons half-and-half


Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350T. Butter and flour three 8″ round cake pans and line the pan bottoms with parchment rounds. Set aside.

In a large metal bowl, combine the cocoa powder and espresso powder. Add the hot water and stir to blend. Set aside to cool.
In a separate bowl, whisk i cup of the sugar with the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to blend.
Beat the 6 egg yolks, oil, and vanilla into the cocoa mixture, then stir in the dry ingredients.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the 8 egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
Stir about one-third of the egg whites into the prepared batter to lighten. Carefully fold the remaining whites, in two batches, into the batter until thoroughly combined. Divide the batter equally among the prepared pans.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cake layers begin to pull away from the sides of the pans and a wooden skewer inserted near the center comes out clean. Set the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes to cool. Turn the cake layers out of the pans and carefully peel away the parchment. Reinvert the cake layers onto the wire rack. While the layers are still warm, brush each with 1 tablespoon Kahlua (or coffee-flavored liqueur). Cool completely.


In a saucepan, mix the sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in the half-and-half and egg yolks. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat for 7 minutes, or until the custard thickens. Remove the custard from the heat and stir in the Kahlua (or coffee-flavored liqueur). Chill at least 20 minutes, or until cooled.


In a mixing bowl, beat the butter with the cocoa powder and Kahlua (or coffee-flavored liqueur). Gradually add the sugar, mixing until combined. Beat in the half-and-half.


With a long serrated knife, trim the rounded top off each cake layer to create a flat surface (see Toasted Crumb Garnish, page 33).
Place the first layer on a serving plate, cut side up. Spread half of the custard on top of the first layer, to within ‚/f of the edge. Place the second layer on top of the first layer, cut side down, and spread the top with the remaining custard. Top with the third layer, cut side down. Refrigerate the assembled cake at least i hour to allow the custard to become firm. Spread the frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serving suggestion: Serve with vanilla, chocolate, or coffee ice cream.