Palo Alto Chocolate Cake gets its name from its source — one of my favorite cookbooks, A Private Collection by the Junior League of Palo Alto. I’ve shared the recipe more than once and have made it with various frostings. Here is is with the original coffee flavored frosting, but it’s just as good with chocolate.
This cake requires more steps than some other chocolate cakes. The first step has you make kind of pudding mixture with melted chocolate, buttermilk, egg and sugar. Next, you cream the butter with brown sugar an egg yolks, before stirring in the flour and cooled pudding mixture. Lastly, you fold in egg whites. So yes, there are lots of steps but they are pretty simple and if you are in the mood to bake it’s a fun project.
The coffee frosting is open to improvisation. The original recipe calls for 2-3 tablespoons of instant coffee which I’ve always taken to mean something like Folgers Crystals. If you are using instant espresso powder, you will probably only need 1 tablespoon. This all depends on how strong you like your coffee flavor. I’ll add more notes as I experiment with coffee amounts.
Here’s a little more information about the cookbook if you are a collector and are interested in tracking it down. The Palo Alto Chocolate Cake is just one of many great recipes.
Palo Alto Chocolate Cake with Coffee Frosting
- 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate chopped
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg separated - white reserved
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup light brown sugar packed
- 2 eggs separated -- whites reserved
- 2 cups sifted cake flour spoon lightly into your cup, don't pack or weigh out 7 ounces/200 grams
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons instant coffee dissolved in about 1/4 cup boiling water
- 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened 230 grams
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans.
- In a saucepan, melt chocolate over low heat and add 1/2 cup of buttermilk. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Slowly add 1 cup of sugar and 1 egg yolk. Whisk constantly for 3 minutes or until the custard is thick and smooth. Let it cool.
- Cream butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer. Add the 2 egg yolks, one at a time. Resift cake flour with baking soda and salt. In 3 parts, add flour mixture and 3/4 cup buttermilk, alternating between the two. Finally, stir the cooled custard and vanilla into the batter.
- Beat 3 egg whites until they are stiff but not dry. Fold into batter. Make sure they are well incorporated, or you will get white streaks in the baked cake. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cake just begins to leave the sides of pans. When cool, spread with frosting.
- Dissolve the coffee in water and let cool. In a large mixing bowl, beat softened butter and salt until creamy. Gradually beat in confectioners sugar, alternating with cooled coffee mixture. Beat and scrape until creamy and smooth.