Coffee Cup Cake

… Not a coffee-flavoured cupcake, but a ma-hoosive cake shaped as a coffee cup!

Yep, I branched out from my normal cupcake-making, and decided to do something a bit more special for J’s birthday.  I couldn’t post this before, as it was a surprise.  When I told him that there would be a cake,and asked if he had any particular preference on flavours etc, all he said was “you make good cakes, be inventive”.  So… I was, or at least tried to be!

It did take a fair amount of work, I’m not going to lie.  It’s the first proper decorated cake that I’ve ever made really… I normally either make cupcakes for people’s birthdays, or a normal-looking large cake, nicely iced.  This cake was neither of these.

My initial idea was to be safe and do something similar to a normal cake, but to decorate it like a present.  But them I thought some more, and came up with… a cup of coffee (it may have helped that that I was drinking one at the time that the idea came to me).

J likes his coffee a lot, so it was appropriate, and he likes the coffee buttercream that I have previously used on chocolate cupcakes, so that’s how I decided on the flavour of the cake.  I would make my chocolate fudge cake recipe, but in 1.5 times the amount the recipe specifies, so that I could make three layers of cake (rather than the normal two layers), which I would then arrange on top of one another, and sandwich with coffee buttercream.

The recipe for both the buttercream and the chocolate fudge cake are really easy, and the cake is one of my all-time favourites. It’s more moist than a lot of chocolate cakes, because of the golden syrup that is added, and it is a lot lighter in texture too, which would balance out nicely in a large cake.  Thankfully, despite the cake texture feeling light, it’s solid enough sponge to cut and to stack on top of eachother without any problems at all.

Once the cakes had baked, I let them cool on a wire rack until they were cold (less likely to break when handling and cutting).

In the meantime however, I made the cup handle by using sugar floral paste (which you can buy from all good cake / kitchen shops, or online here), which is pliable and easy to mould, and once hardened won’t become soft over time like normal icing can sometimes do.  I rolled a small amount of the sugar paste out, and moulded it into a handle shape, making sure that each end of the handle had a flat area which I would use to stick it to the cake.  I set this aside then for about three hours.

coffee cup handle

I then returned to my cake, and used the natural dome of one of the layer to my advantage, turning that layer upside down and using it as the bottom of the cup, as the dome created a nice natural curve up from the plate.  I then needed to get rid of the dome on the remaining two layers, so carefully sliced off the tops of the cakes to make them level and therefore fitting together more easily when stacked.  Once stacked on top of eachother, I carefully cut a circle out of the top layer ( so that the top layer was shaped like a ring) and then carefully unstacked the layers in order to add the buttercream.

When covering with the frosting, I first used it to sandwich the layers together, and then to ‘crumb coat’ the outside of the cake.  This technique – that I’ve only recently discovered – is used a lot in cake-making to ensure that icing or fondant covering the cake is less lumpy and that the holes in the cake are filled and smoothed out by the frosting first.  It also seals in any loose crumbs in the cake (you can have a look at this video here for a tutorial!).  It looks a bit messy, but it’s supposed to be thin enough for cake to still show through.

Once I did that, I put the cake aside to set for an hour before applying the icing.  I didn’t want the crumb-coat to completely harden, and I wanted something for the icing to stick to slightly.  I used plain white ready-to-roll icing for the covering, as that was the least time-consuming way to ice the cake.  I rolled it out enough to cover the entire cake, laid it carefully over the cake, and then smoothed down the edges of the circle, slowly cutting away excess icing, and folding in areas and wetting the fold with water and rubbing gently so that the line was disguised.

As you remember, I had cut a hold in the top of the cake, so to cover that with icing, I simply cut an ‘X’ mark in the middle of the icing covering the hole, and gently folded the icing to cover the sides of the circular hole.  I then rolled a separate smaller circle of icing, which I placed at the bottom of the hole (I knew this wouldn’t show once I filled in the hole with the ‘coffee’).  I then wrote on the icing using icing pens, added the now hardened fondant cup handle (which I did using a dab of water as glue, and propping up the handle with some cardboard until it had set), and set the cake aside – yet again – and waited an hour for the icing to set.

icing in place...

In the meantime I made more coffee buttercream, this time adding two dessert spoonfuls of milk to the mix (to make it slightly runnier).  This meant that once I poured the frosting into the hole in the cake / cup, it would set without any unsightly frosting knife marks etc.  Once the icing had set, I poured the frosting in, and then carefully topped it with a swirl of plain buttercream frosting (I took a spoonful out before adding the coffee), and dusted it with chocolate powder, to imitate the look of a coffee in a coffee shop.  Once the icing had set, I was able to lift the entire cake onto a clean white plate, which acted as the ‘saucer’ for the cup!

J was amazed, and I even added birthday candles round the edge of the cup (not the full amount though – only five!) and sang him happy birthday.  The cake went down really well, and has stayed incredibly fresh after three days, so I’m really pleased with it (we’ve still got another 5-6 days at least before we finish it, and that’s only if we each have a piece every day!)

... prrrretty!...

So, what do you guys think?  I’m wondering what other cake ideas / shapes I should make next… nothing too crazy yet though (I’ll have to plan an extraordinary amount if I want to make a giraffe cake!).  Have any of you tried making and decorating cakes in the shape of objects?



Chocolate Fudge Cake (I used 1.5 times this quantity for this extra-large cake, but this makes a normal sized cake!)
175g self-raising flour

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

150g castor sugar

2 eggs (beaten)

150ml (1/4 pint) sunflower oil

150ml (1/4 pint) milk

2 tbsp golden syrup

  1. Preheat oven to 180’C, and grease cake tin.
  2. Sieve flour, cocoa powder and bicarb into bowl, add sugar and mix.
  3. Make a well in the centre and add eggs, milk, oil and syrup.  Beat with whisk until smooth (this does make a considerably runnier cake batter than normal.  Do not panic!)
  4. Spoon into cake tins and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until risen and firm to touch.  Remove from oven and let cool before turning out onto baking rack.
Coffee Buttercream filling
200g butter (I use Stork – vegetable margerine)
400g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp instant coffee powder
1 tbsp hot water
1 tbsp milk
  1. Add the coffee powder to the hot water and stir until dissolved.  Let cool until room temperature.
  2. Mix butter and icing sugar and vanilla essence until blended and changed in colour to a light yellow, then add the coffee mixture and blend.

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