For the month of March, the Cake Slice Bakers baked an Espresso Cake with Hot Kahlua Syrup. To me, this recipe had 3 challenging ingredients: Grand Marnier, Kahlua, and espresso powder. Challenging, because a) I didn't already have those ingredients and b) I didn't want to spend an inordinate amount of money on those ingredients.
So, I decided to try and become creative...
For the Grand Marnier, I figured out I could use Triple Sec, which my roommate just happened to already have in our liquor cabinet. (Yes!).
For the Kahlua, I thought I just might break down and buy a bottle. I ended up not going grocery shopping until this past Sunday - the day I was also planning on baking the cake. It was going to be my only opportunity to bake the cake before the 20th (the day we blog about our cakes). Since I rarely purchase hard liquor, I was surprised to find that not only did my local HEB not carry Kahlua, but apparently you can't purchase hard liquor in Texas on a Sunday. Hmph. I even tried looking for Kahlua flavored coffee creamer or coffee syrup, but alas, HEB did not seem to carry a single Kahlua related anything. I posted my predicament on Facebook and asked if any local friends had Kahlua I could borrow. My uncle replied that he did, but he lives over 30 minutes away and I did not feel like driving an hour for a little Kahlua. The best alternative (according to my Googling) seemed to be espresso powder with a bit of cocoa powder.
And finally, for the espresso powder. I strongly considered using some instant coffee I already had in the pantry even though the recipe explicitly says not to use instant coffee because I didn't want to spend extra money and I had heard espresso powder was difficult to find. But it turned out my HEB had 2 different kinds of espresso powder - both reasonably priced. I was so happy to find it that I ended up splurging on the more expensive one. Hopefully I'll use it in future baking.
Once I had had figured out solutions to those 3 tricky ingredients, the rest was a (time consuming) breeze! It's basically a chocolate and espresso bundt cake with a chocolate ganache icing. There are a few things that I think made this cake unique...
1. Lemon zest: I had never added lemon to a chocolate or coffee flavored dessert. It seemed odd to me, but I think it really did compliment the cake. The recipe called for a 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, but I just zested about 3/4 of a small lemon...I have no idea how much zest that actually was, but I could taste in the cake (not in an overwhelming way).
2. Hot syrup: I had also never poured hot liquid all over a baked cake! It seemed like it was possibly going to end in disaster. But it didn't at all! In fact, I think this made the cake extra moist and delicious. My syrup never thickened, but the cake still seemed to drink it all up. Previous cakes from this cookbook have seemed dry to me, so maybe they all need hot syrup.
3. Liqueur: I don't bake with liquor much - mostly because I don't think I like the taste. Although that could be misguided. I tasted rum cake once, as a child, and hated it. I wish I could have used the Kahlua in this cake - I would be interested to know what it tasted like. I could taste the Triple Sec in the ganache, but that might have just been in my head. Ganache is a wonderful, wonderful creation and so easy. It really made this cake for me. Before the ganache dried, I sprinkled mini semisweet chocolate chips all over the top of the cake - just for aesthetic purposes.
All in all, this cake was pretty fun to make and I was extremely happy with the results. It both looked pretty and tasted amazing! This is my favorite cake that we've made so far from the Great Cakes cookbook. I served it to both my church small group and some of the college students I work with and everyone liked it a lot. I would definitely make this again!