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Sweet Treat Showstopper: Gluten-Free Mocha Chocolate Chip Cake

Second-place winner of our Sweet Treat Showstopper was Lissa Munger who made a gluten-free mocha chocolate chip cake. And yes, you read that correctly, gluten-free! Lissa was inspired by (but changed significantly from) a not-gluten-free recipe from the New York Times. She says the two nice advantages to gluten-free baking: you need less butter, and you don't need to worry as much about over-mixing. 


Prep is in Three Parts: Coffee Syrup - Cake - Buttercream

Coffee Syrup

  • 1/2 C water
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp instant espresso (or instant coffee)

Heat together in microwave or stovetop until sugar is completely dissolved.

Optional: add 1/4 C Kahlua after cooling


  • 10 Tbsp Smith Brothers Farms salted butter, softened
  • 375 grams (3 1/3 cups, but use weight if at all possible) gluten-free flour blend with xanthan gum (Lissa uses Bob's One to One) (add 1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum if it's not included in the blend)
  • 300 grams (1 1/2 C) granulated sugar
  • 100 grams (1/2 C) brown sugar
  • 3 large Smith Brothers Farms eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4  tsp (1 T+ 1 t) baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup Smith Brothers Farms milk
  • 1 C mini chocolate chips tossed with an additional Tbsp of flour
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 8-inch cake pans and line bottoms parchment paper.
  2. Mix butter and sugars just until blended. Add eggs and vanilla and whip until smooth.
  3. Blend dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add half the dry ingredients and half the milk, blend well, then add the remaining dry ingredients and milk. Mix in chocolate chips.
  4. Distribute batter as evenly as possible among the 3 pans and bake for 28-30 minutes.  Test with a toothpick; it should come out clean.
  5. Wait 10 minutes before turning layers carefully onto cooling racks.  Set the racks onto a tray to catch drips. Remove parchment and brush bottom and sides of each layer liberally with coffee syrup while cake is still quite hot. Cool completely before icing.

Cocoa Mocha Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, which you can find here.)

  • 7 egg whites (1 C + 2 Tbsp)
  • 1 3/4 C granulated sugar
  • 6 sticks Smith Brothers Farms salted butter, softened, each cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp hot water
  • 1 Tbsp instant espresso or coffee
  • 1/3 C high-quality cocoa powder (or more if desired)
  1. Mix water and instant espresso to dissolve; set aside.
  2. Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a big metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar granules have dissolved and the mixture is hot to the touch.
  3. Transfer to stand mixture and whip until peaks form and the mixture is just lukewarm. 
  4. Add the salted butter one stick at a time, blending completely before adding more.  Scrape down the sides to be sure no butter escapes. Keep whipping and don't worry if it looks curdled.  All will be well at the end.
  5. Finally, add cocoa powder, vanilla and coffee/water mixture and whip well.
  6. Assemble cake with icing between layers, on top and sides.  Store in refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before serving if possible


Be sure to check out the recipes for first place (stuffed pistachio pizzelles) and third place (lemon and blackcurrant stripe cake) too!

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