Mocha Cake with Kahlua Coffee Buttercream

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This homemade Mocha cake is a dense and moist coffee flavored cake with a decadent Kahlua Coffee Frosting. This mocha cake is for true coffee lovers with an intense coffee flavor.

A side view of a slice of moist mocha cake on a white cake plate with a gold fork.

If you saw the teaser I posted on Instagram this weekend, then you already know how much I love this cake.

This was actually a reader recommendation. After making my Moist Vanilla Cake, Abbie asked me what I would do to make this cake mocha flavored.

After exchanging a few emails back and forth I started to get kind of excited by the idea and decided to try it for myself.

A dense mocha sponge cake with a Kahlua and coffe frosting topped with chocolate sprinkles. The slice of cake is on a white cake plate drizzled with chocolate.

This Mocha cake is a dense and moist coffee flavored cake with a decadent Kahlua Coffee Frosting.

Once I had tasted the cake batter, I knew this was going to be good.  It reminded me of melted coffee ice cream. Once I pulled it out of the oven, it was hard to even wait 5 minutes for this thing to cool before I went in with my fork…..a few times.

I wanted to be sure this cake had a distinct coffee flavor because of you’re going to have a mocha cake it needs to taste that way.

A slice of mocha cake on a white plate covered with a Kahlua coffee frosting and chocolate sprinkles. This slice of cake has a few bites taken out of it.

I adapted my vanilla cake recipe and instead of milk, I used coffee. Then, I added a tablespoon of espresso powder. This combination worked out to be exactly what I wanted.

For the coffee, I happened to have iced coffee in my fridge because that’s what I drink regularly. If you need to make coffee, I suggest something strongly brewed.

Additionally, I know espresso powder isn’t always a common household ingredient. You can also use a finely ground coffee.

A fork sinking into a slice of mocha cake on a white plate drizzled with chocolate and crushed espresso beans.

I debated back and forth over the type of frosting I should put on this cake. At first, I thought chocolate would be good, then I thought a coffee flavored frosting would be good to. It’s true, both would be delicious.

I decided on a Kahlua Frosting with a touch of espresso powder. WOW. This one is good. I actually thought it was better the next morning than it was straight out of the mixer. This allows the espresso and Kahlua flavors to absorb into the whole frosting.

I definitely had more than a few bites of this cake, but it was SO worth it. Coffee, Kahlua and cake. What’s not to love?

Mocha Cake with Kahlua Coffee Frosting

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A dense mocha sponge cake with a Kahlua and coffe frosting topped with chocolate sprinkles. The slice of cake is on a white cake plate drizzled with chocolate.

Mocha Cake with Kahlua Coffee Buttercream

  • Author: Beyond Frosting


This homemade Mocha cake is a dense and moist coffee flavored cake with a decadent Kahlua Coffee Frosting. This mocha cake is for true coffee lovers with an intense coffee flavor.


For the cake:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup light sour cream
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder (or finely ground coffee)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups strong brewed coffee, cooled

For the frosting:

  • 1 cups (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 3 tablespoons Kahlua
  • 1 ½ tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt


  1. For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed until the eggs and oil are well incorporated and the batter is lighter in color, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
  3. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  4. Add half the flour followed by the espresso powder, baking powder and salt, and beat on low speed while pouring in half of the coffee and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate.
  5. Finally add the remaining flour, mixing on low speed while pouring in the remaining coffee and beating until all of the ingredients are well combined.
  6. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  7. Pour the batter in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and bake at 350°F for 28-32 minutes, keeping a careful eye on the baking during the last few minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  8. Test the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, you cake is done.
  9. For the frosting: Cut the butter into pieces. Using the paddle attachment, whip butter for 3-5 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until the butter looks light in color.
  10. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and espresso powder and mix on low speed until incorporated into butter.
  11. Next, add the Kahlua and vanilla extract and beat until well combined.
  12. Finally, add the last two cups of powdered sugar and the heavy cream. Beat on low speed until the sugar is incorporated then increase speed to medium-high and beat for 3 minutes to whip the frosting. Spread over cooled cake.

You might also like:

Mocha Oreo Cake

a slice of mocha Oreo poke cake

Mudslide Poke Cake

This Mudslide Poke Cake is loaded with Bailey’s and Kahlua and plenty of chocolate. It’s a dark chocolate cake soaked in a spiked chocolate ganache, Kahlua Chocolate Pudding and a spiked chocolate mousse on top.

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64 Responses
  1. Philip

    Hi! Can I use buttermilk instead of sour cream for the cake? I dont have acces of sour cream here where I live. Thank you in advance

  2. Michelle

    Excellent recipe. I made 2 layers and put the buttercream in the middle and made a chocolate ganache for the top. Turned out amazing!

  3. Kara

    Will this recipe work in two 9″ rounds? Or should I be doubling the recipe for a layer cake? (I guess if worse comes to worse, after doubling it, I can just make a triple layer cake in 8″ rounds, no?)

    1. Beyond Frosting

      This recipe will work for 2 9inch round. No need to double the cake recipe, but you may need to double the frosting. You can also make a 3 layer 8-inch cake without adjusting the cake recipe. Each layer will be 3/4″-1″ thick

  4. mhc

    bailey’s irish cream works as a great substitute for kahlúa :•)

    this recipe was easy to follow, and a hit! not only is it pretty to look at, the cake was moist and not overly sweet. i think it’ll be great as cupcakes too, for easier sharing. i recommend using cold brew or nice drip coffee because i don’t think my instant coffee (the only thing i had on hand) brought out as much flavor. a great recipe though!

    i will for sure be using this recipe again!

  5. Colleen

    I made this exactly as directed for my daughter’s birthday. She works at Starbucks and everyone loved it (even the non-coffee drinkers)!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Leigh, all I can recommend is replacing the liquid (usually water) with brewed coffee, add the espresso powder and 1/2 cup of sour cream. Then use the eggs and oil as indicated on the box. This is a total guess, as I have never made it that way, but I almost always add sour cream to cake mix, and I usually swap out the water for milk or something else like that.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      I have not tested this specific recipe in a 9-inch pan but similar recipes I have. The baking time is around 30 minutes. Baking times will vary due to how full the pans are, type of pans used and true oven temperature.

  6. Laura

    I made this cake for a friendly family bake-off, and it was amazing. I added mini chocolate chips for an extra bit of chocolate, and they made it even better!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Laura! A family bake off sounds just amazing! Thanks for including my recipe, I am so glad you all enjoyed it.

  7. vandy

    Hey , love this recipe and can’t wait to make it. i had just one question tho. We don’t drink coffee so can i use instant coffee granules. if yes, how many teaspoons of instant coffee and water for the amount of brewed coffee should i substitute
    thank you

    1. Beyond Frosting

      You should follow the instructions on the package for the instant coffee to brew 1 1/4 cups of coffee for the cake. For the frosting just replace the instant espresso powder with your instant coffee.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Depends on the type of frosting you want. If you just want coffee buttercream you could add additional brewed coffee (you’ll want it to be cold). Or you could just add more heavy whipping cream. Otherwise you could just try a whole different frosting like chocolate or vanilla

  8. K Rascoe

    I made the cake and it came out a little flat. I just got a new mixer, followed the ingredients to a T and it the 2 nine inch pans yielded flatter cakes. Looking forward to seeing what happens with this third layer.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi there- for a layer cake, it’s better than you don’t have a huge rise because you’re doing need to cut off the dome anyway for layering.

  9. Diane

    I cheated, I used a vanilla cake mix. But I followed everything else in your recipe, and my coworkers loved it! Thank you so much! Mocha coffee (no chocolate) cake recipe is hard to find! So good!

  10. Amanda

    Tons of complements on this cake! Thanks for the recipe! I thought it was delicious as-is but, being greedy, I added 2 teaspoons of espresso and an extra tablespoon of kahlua to the frosting with no ill effects. I wonder if the recipe could be adapted to a fancier-looking layer cake?

      1. Amanda

        Ohmagod! That recipe looks crazy good too! Assuming I can ever fit into my jeans again, I’ll have to make it.

  11. Lindsay

    Does the frosting need to be refrigerated after being whipped up? Or is it ok to put on the cake tonight (after cooked) and leave out, covered, for a party tomorrow? Just wondering since it’s got heavy whipping cream in it.
    Instructions were awesome thank you first time baking a mocha cake!
    ( It is for a patient who is turning 90 tomorrow and said it was her favorite cake, thought it’d be a nice surprise at her appointment!)

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Oh my gosh, that’s such a nice story! I am sure your patient will love it! I leave it covered in an airtight container at room temperature, but I do not live in a humid climate. If it’s humid, I’d recommend refrigerating it if you’re concerned.

      1. Lindsay

        Perfect I have a 9×13 snapnon lid pan so once the cake cools I will put on the frosting and call it a night. Considering it’s almost tomorrow my time I’m ready to hit the hay! Thankfully we aren’t humid yet!
        Thanks for the quick response 🙂

  12. Leanne Wolf

    I really want to make this cake. Sorta reminds me of a cake I used to get many, many years ago at a bakery. Sure miss that bakery!!!….and that cake!!! But what can I substitute for the Kahlua? Without going into details, I need to keep alcohol out of anything I make. Thanks so much for your help. You’re the greatest!!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      No Worries Leanne! I think flavored coffee creamers make a great substitute. You could also try just a coffee buttercream to!

      1. Leanne

        Thanks so much for the reply….coffee creamers sound like a great solution to my problem. What “flavor” would you recommend that would the closest to the flavor of Kahlua?

        For some weird reason, your reply didn’t show up until today when I posted the same question again. Sometimes “technology” likes to play games with me. Sorry for asking the same questions twice.

        Thanks again for your help…..and for all your great recipes!

        1. Beyond Frosting

          Hi Leanne, no problem! I don’t really drink coffee creamer, but I always did like Baileys coffee creamers, although it’s not exactly Kahlua they do have several flavor options.

  13. Vicky

    I am going to make this cake for Christmas. Do you think I could substitute sour cream for the 1.5 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Vicky, I’ve never substituted heavy cream for sour cream myself. I would recommend nonfat Greek Yogurt if you have it.

  14. pamela

    hi yes i wanted to know the same thing if you could make it in a sheet pan i have a 12×17 sheet pan and im going to try it and i will let you know if it turns out i think it will be good

  15. Terrie Sutton

    This looks so wonderful….I was wondering if it could be made into a sheetcake pan? If so, would I have to do a recipe and half a recipe?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Courtney, yes it can. I made a 3 layer 8-inch cake with this recipe. The batter makes about 5 cups. For the 3 layer cake it was a little more than 1.5 cups per pan. It baked for about 18-22 minutes. For a 2 layer, make sure you have a tall pan, at least 3 inches high. Please come back and let us know how it goes!

      1. Roda

        Thank you for providing the conversion! Jumping off of this comment, would the buttercream amount from your recipe itself need to be adjusted for the 3-layer cake? Also, what is the consistency of the buttercream considering it has whipping cream? I live in Florida so it’s very humid and hot down here, I usually have to adjust my buttercream recipes when frosting my cakes. I’m an amateur baker btw, so any tips and tricks is much appreciated! Thank you so much!!

        1. Beyond Frosting

          Hi Roda, yes if it’s very humid, I probably error on the side of a more stiff buttercream as opposed to something that is light and airy where the butter is whipped. You might also consider half butter half Crisco. Crisco has a higher melting temperature so I would consider it to be more stable. For reference, Wilton’s decorators buttercream uses Crisco instead of butter. Yes, this would definitely need to be adjusted for a 3 layer cake, for this recipe, you might have enough for a layer to a layer and a half, so I would expect to 3x the recipe here. When I make a 2 layer 8 inch cake, I generally use 2 cups (4 sticks) of butter.

  16. Nicky E

    Hi, Julianne! Wonderful recipe. I bet this is perfect to cap off a weekend lunch barbecue at home. Will definitely do this, thanks a lot! 🙂

  17. Carol

    I want to leave work and bake this immediately. Might be a good excuse to buy Kahlua? Could I substitute something else in the frosting. ..though why bother, right! I have some coconut rum. And a bit of cocoa powder? What do you think?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Carol! Do you have any Bailey’s? That would honestly be my second option. I am not sure coconut rum would pair well with coffee. I’d instead suggest making a chocolate frosting. In regards to leaving work to bake immediately, I feel ya. Happens to me ALL THE TIME!! LOL

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