High Country Baking: Mocha toffee layer cake

A little chopped toffee goes a long way in this recipe.
Vera Dawson/Cortesy photo

High elevations make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.

Know anyone who doesn’t like toffee? Me neither. Sprinkle a little chopped toffee on anything and it’s guaranteed to taste better. If it adds flavor and crunch to a whipped cream frosting on a mocha layer cake, like it does in this recipe, you’ve got yourself a winner. Variations of this cake have been around for a while and all of them get high ratings.

What makes it good? Use a high-quality cocoa powder with a strong chocolate taste to assure that the mocha flavor shines. As soon as a toothpick inserted in the cakes’ centers comes out clean, remove them from the oven or their texture will be dry. Feel free to vary the amount of espresso in both the cake and the frosting. The amount given in the recipe creates a distinct, but not strong, flavor, so alter it to your liking. Keep in mind that the flavors deepen the day after baking.

Mocha toffee layer cake

Adjusted for elevations of 8,000 feet and above

Make in two 8-inch shiny metal round cake pans

Cake Layers

  • 1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick), room temperature
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar, minus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk


  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon boiling water
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 3 ounces crushed chocolate-covered toffee bars

1. Make the cake layers: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Grease your pans with a baking spray that contains flour, line the bottoms with a circle of parchment paper and grease the parchment. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a bowl, whisk to blend, and set aside. Dissolve the espresso powder in the boiling water and set it aside to cool.

2. Cut the butter into 16 pieces and, using an electric mixer, beat it with the sugar until creamed. Add the egg and vanilla and beat at medium-low speed to blend. It may look curdled but will smooth out. In three additions, stir in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, stopping as soon as each is absorbed in the batter. Stir in the espresso.

3. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, level and smooth the tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, start checking at 15 minutes. Remove the pans to a rack and cool them completely. Carefully invert each pan and let the cakes fall out onto a cardboard cake circle or plate. Remove the parchment liners and loosely cover the cakes.

4. Make the frosting: Place the beaters of your electric mixer and a large mixing bowl in the freezer. Cold beaters and a cold bowl help the cream whip quickly. In a small bowl, dissolve the espresso powder and brown sugar in the hot water and put the bowl in the ‘fridge or freezer until the mixture cools. When the espresso/sugar mixture is cool, remove the large bowl and beaters from the freezer, add the cold whipping cream to the bowl and beat with the cold beaters until peaks start to form Add the cooled espresso/brown sugar mixture and beat again until the peaks are stiff but not dry.

5. Spread half of the topping on one of the cake layers and sprinkle it with half of the crushed toffee. Carefully place the second cake layer on top and cover it with the rest of the frosting and crushed candy. Store the cake in the fridge for up to 2 days.

This recipe is a variation of one published in Taste of Home.

Vera Dawson

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.