Story by Katie Sullivan, Pretty Domesticated
Photography by Micah J. Zimmerman16

I don’t know about you, but when the holiday’s roll around, I survive on two things to get me through decking the halls, wrapping gifts and hosting my family; it’s coffee and sugar. But, I’m a mom and that means I’m all about efficiency. Enter my holiday cake, where I’ve combined my two great loves (other than my family, of course). This cake is sure to impress your guests. One: everyone makes holiday cookies, but does everyone make a holiday cake? I think not. Two: it sounds fancy. Throw in words like mascarpone, espresso and naked cake, and people might even think you went to culinary school, when really, you’re whipping up a pretty basic chocolate cake. You may even impress your mother-in-law, but let’s not get carried away. I’m not a miracle worker, I just know a good cake when I taste one.

Chocolate Coffee Cake

3 c. all-purpose flour

3 c. granulated sugar

1 ½ c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tbs. baking soda

1 ¾ tsp. baking powder

1 ½ tsp. kosher salt

4 large eggs

1 ½ c. buttermilk

½ c. canola oil

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 ½ c. hot coffee

Whipped Mascarpone Frosting

2 c. heavy cream, cold

2 c. confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of kosher salt

16 oz. mascarpone cheese, chilled (two 8 oz. containers)

Sugared Cranberries

½ c. water

¾ c. granulated sugar, divided

1 c. cranberries

(save room for one missing pic – side table full of ingredients)


To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 °. Grease and line the bottom of three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt on a low speed until well combined. Add eggs, buttermilk, canola oil, vanilla and hot coffee, and beat on a medium speed until smooth.

Divide batter evenly among the three pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 15 minutes, and then turn cakes onto a cooling rack.

To make the frosting: In a large bowl, combine heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until the cream holds a soft peak. Add the mascarpone cheese and whip until blended.

To make the cranberries: In a small pot, whisk water and ½ c. of sugar to combine. Bring to a simmer and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in cranberries until they are well coated. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cranberries to a baking sheet and let dry for at least 1 hour. Roll cranberries in remaining sugar until well coated. Let dry for a least 1 hour.

To assemble: Once cakes are fully cooled, level them and stack with a generous amount of frosting between each layer. Lightly frost the entire cake. Decorate with cranberries as desired.

This cake and hot cocoa are a match made in holiday heaven. I like to dress up store bought cocoa with a drop of peppermint oil and some homemade whip cream. To make whip cream, use an electric mixer to beat 1 c. heavy cream, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract and 2 tbs. granulated sugar until fluffy. 

environmental pics to use: #2, 7, 9, 17,  18(#1 – photo caption of family)
Katie Sullivan resides in West Fargo, N.D., with her husband Daren and their two children, Eva and Kristian.


Florals – Love Always Floral

Holiday & select kitchen decor – Eco Chic Home

Art – The Atelier Collection


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