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Is mocha cake made of coffee?

Mocha cake is a chocolate cake that contains coffee as one of its main ingredients. The name “mocha” comes from the flavor combination of chocolate and coffee, which is popular in coffee drinks and desserts. So yes, mocha cake does contain coffee, but it also contains chocolate and often other ingredients as well.

What is mocha cake?

Mocha cake is a type of chocolate cake that gets its signature flavor from coffee. The coffee adds a rich, robust flavor that complements the chocolate. A mocha cake typically contains cocoa powder and/or melted chocolate in addition to brewed coffee.

In some recipes, a small amount of instant coffee granules are used to reinforce the mocha flavor. The coffee is usually brewed into the cake batter, but it can also be used to make a mocha buttercream frosting or filling. Mocha cakes may contain chocolate chips or chunks in the batter too.

In addition to coffee and chocolate, mocha cakes also contain traditional cake ingredients like flour, butter, eggs, sugar, baking powder and/or soda, and milk. Vanilla and almond extracts are common additions that enhance the cake’s flavor.

Signature features of mocha cake

Here are some of the signature features of mocha cake:

  • Deep chocolate flavor from cocoa powder and/or melted chocolate
  • Robust coffee flavor from freshly brewed coffee
  • May contain chocolate chips or chunks
  • Rich, chocolate buttercream frosting
  • Moist, dense, and tender crumb

The combination of chocolate and coffee gives mocha cakes a deep, bittersweet flavor that is both indulgent and sophisticated. The coffee cuts through and complements the richness of the chocolate.

Common additions to mocha cake

While the core ingredients of mocha cake are chocolate and coffee, there are a few other common additions that enhance the flavor:

  • Vanilla – Vanilla extract is commonly added to bring out the chocolate and coffee flavors. The vanilla provides a sweet, aromatic background note.
  • Almond – Almond extracts can accentuate the nuttiness of the coffee. Ground almonds may also be added to the cake batter.
  • Chocolate chips – Mixing mini chocolate chips into the batter gives you bites of chocolate in every slice.
  • Cinnamon – A dash of cinnamon can complement the chocolate and coffee, adding warmth.
  • Raspberry or cherry – These fruits pair well with chocolate and can provide a nice fruity contrast.

Types of mocha cake

Mocha cake comes in several popular forms:

  • Sheet cake – Simple frosted layers make this cake easy to serve a crowd.
  • Bundt cake – The fluted shape makes a beautiful presentation.
  • Layer cake – Multiple layers with frosting in between look elegant.
  • Cupcakes – Fun, bite-sized versions topped with buttercream.
  • Torte – Thin layers with whipped cream or ganache make a decadent treat.
  • Ice cream cake – Coffee ice cream sandwiches chocolate cake layers.

Mocha cake also comes in a few flavor variations like white mocha, mint mocha chip, and mocha hazelnut. The coffee and chocolate pairing works well in any form!

Mocha cake ingredients

Here is an overview of the major ingredients found in most mocha cake recipes:

Wet ingredients

  • Brewed coffee
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Oil or melted butter
  • Vanilla extract
  • Chocolate syrup or melted chocolate

Dry ingredients

  • All-purpose flour
  • Cocoa powder
  • Sugar
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Chocolate chips or chunks (optional)

Icing & Filling

  • Butter
  • Powdered sugar
  • Cream cheese
  • Chocolate ganache or melted chocolate
  • Whipped cream
  • Chocolate shavings for garnish

Recipes vary, but these tend to be the core components that get combined to produce the characteristic mocha cake flavor and texture.

Steps to make mocha cake

Here is an overview of the basic steps for making a mocha cake:

  1. Brew fresh coffee to use in the cake batter. Let it cool.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients like flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In another bowl, beat sugar with butter until light and fluffy.
  4. Add in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Stir in the coffee, chocolate, vanilla, and milk until blended.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 2-3 batches, mixing just until incorporated.
  7. Pour the batter into prepared pans and bake at 325°F – 350°F for 30-40 minutes.
  8. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.
  9. Make buttercream, ganache, or whipped cream filling/frosting.
  10. Assemble the cake by frosting between layers and coating the outside with frosting.
  11. Garnish with chocolate shavings if desired.

The steps can vary slightly depending on if you are making a layer cake, cupcakes, a torte, etc. But in general, mocha cakes come together much like other chocolate cakes!

Does mocha cake actually contain coffee?

Yes, mocha cake contains real coffee as one of its ingredients. The coffee is what gives mocha cakes their signature flavor profile and sets them apart from regular chocolate cakes. While the chocolate is prominent, the coffee adds a complementary roasted, slightly bitter note.

Without the addition of brewed coffee, it would just be a chocolate cake. Mocha cakes may call for between 1-3 tablespoons of coffee in the batter. The coffee intensifies the chocolate flavor and gives the cake more complex depth.

In addition to coffee in the cake itself, mocha cakes and frostings often use espresso powder or Coffee Extract for extra coffee punch without thinning out the batter with more liquid brewed coffee.

Amount of coffee

The amount of coffee used can range quite a bit from recipe to recipe. Here are some general guidelines for how much coffee is added to mocha cakes:

  • Cake batter: 1-3 tablespoons brewed coffee
  • Buttercream frosting: 1-2 teaspoons instant espresso powder or coffee extract
  • Ganache: 2-3 tablespoons brewed coffee

For the cake batter, most recipes call for between 1-3 tablespoons of brewed coffee per 1 cup (250ml) of cake batter. The coffee liquid replaces some of the milk or water used to thin out the batter.

For frostings, a little instant espresso powder goes a long way. Usually 1-2 teaspoons is plenty to reinforce the mocha flavor without making it bitter.

Brewing the coffee

Any type of coffee can be used to make mocha cakes. Most recipes recommend using a medium or dark roast coffee. Dark roasts like espresso, French, or Italian work well since they have robust, bittersweet flavors that won’t get lost among all the chocolate.

The coffee should be freshly brewed then allowed to cool before using. This helps intensify the flavor rather than adding hot watered-down coffee to cake batter. The coffee should have a consistency similar to the other liquids in the recipe.

Cold leftover coffee can work too, but it may have lost some of its aromatic flavor compounds after sitting. The general rule is to use freshly brewed coffee within the first 1-2 days for the best mocha cake flavor.

Why is coffee used in mocha cake?

There are a few reasons why coffee is an important ingredient in mocha cakes:

  • Enhances chocolate flavor – Coffee brings out the natural flavors of chocolate and adds depth.
  • Provides richer color – Coffee deepens the dark brown color of the cake.
  • Adds complementary flavor – Coffee’s slight bitterness balances sweet chocolate.
  • Contributes moisture – The liquid from brewed coffee keeps the cake moist.
  • Boosts aroma – Freshly brewed coffee gives it a wonderful scent.

The chocolate and coffee work together to create a cake with layers of flavor and aroma. The coffee takes the chocolate to the next level, making an intensely flavorful, moist cake perfect for chocolate lovers.

Common questions about mocha cake

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about mocha cake:

Is mocha cake the same as chocolate cake?

No, mocha and chocolate cakes are different. While chocolate cake contains cocoa powder or chocolate, mocha cake also includes brewed coffee as an ingredient.

Does mocha cake have chocolate frosting?

Yes, mocha cake is typically frosted with some type of chocolate frosting. Popular options include chocolate buttercream, chocolate ganache, or whipped cream with shaved chocolate.

What is the difference between mocha and tiramisu cake?

Tiramisu is made by soaking ladyfingers in espresso and coffee liqueur. Mocha cake contains coffee directly in the cake batter itself. Tiramisu also includes mascarpone cheese.

Can you make mocha cake without coffee?

You can, but it would no longer be a true mocha cake. Leaving out the coffee would simply make it a chocolate cake. The coffee is essential to creating the signature mocha flavor.

Does mocha cake have caffeine in it?

Yes, mocha cake contains a small amount of caffeine from the coffee used in the cake and frosting. A 1-ounce serving would have around 5-15mg of caffeine on average.

How to make vegan mocha cake

Here is an overview of ingredients and tips for making vegan mocha cake without dairy or eggs:

Vegan Ingredients

  • All-purpose flour
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Brewed coffee
  • Sugar
  • Oil – canola, vegetable, coconut
  • Non-dairy milk – almond, oat, soy
  • Applesauce or banana
  • Vegan chocolate chips
  • Baking soda & powder
  • Vanilla extract


  • Replace eggs with applesauce, banana, flax eggs, or commercial egg replacer
  • Use non-dairy milk like soy or almond instead of regular milk
  • Replace butter with non-hydrogenated vegan margarine or coconut oil
  • Whip coconut cream as a dairy-free filling/frosting
  • Agar can be used as a vegan gelatin substitute
  • Add a splash of vinegar and non-dairy milk to make vegan buttermilk

With simple ingredient swaps, you can make a delicious vegan-friendly mocha cake. The coffee and chocolate flavors still shine through!

Incorporating mocha flavor into other desserts

Mocha cake is a classic, but the mocha flavor pairing also works great in other desserts. Here are some ideas for incorporating mocha flavor:

Mocha cookies

Add a tablespoon of coffee to chocolate cookie dough or brownie batter along with chocolate chips. Frosted with mocha buttercream, these cookies offer bite-sized mocha flavor.

Mocha pudding

Stir a teaspoon of instant coffee or espresso powder into chocolate pudding for an easy mocha dessert.

Mocha pot de crème

For an elegant dessert, swirl coffee liqueur into creamy chocolate pots de crème.

Mocha ice cream

Mix coffee extract or grounds into chocolate ice cream base before churning or freezing.

Mocha cheesecake

Incorporate instant espresso into the crust and chocolate ganache topping for a mocha twist.

There are so many ways to enjoy the irresistible mocha flavor! It can transform and elevate all kinds of chocolate desserts beyond basic chocolate.


Mocha cake definitely contains coffee as a key ingredient along with chocolate. The coffee is intentionally added to cake batters, frostings, fillings and more to create the signature mocha flavor pairing. Just a bit of freshly brewed coffee transforms a basic chocolate cake into a deep, aromatic mocha cake.

The coffee enhances chocolate’s natural caramel notes, provides a rich color, adds a touch of bitterness to balance sweetness, and boosts moisture for a tender crumb. Mocha cake would not be the same beloved confection without real coffee complementing and intensifying the chocolate.

From decadent tortes to fun cupcakes, mocha cake in its many forms highlights the very best of chocolate and coffee together. The popularity of mocha in desserts proves this is a flavor combination that is meant to be.