This moerkoffie cake is really a chocolate marbled cake inspired by the plumes and clouds made when condensed milk is poured into strong, black moerkoffie (bitter coffee). It’s covered in a chocolate coffee French buttercream and finished with a condensed milk drip glaze.
It was while sitting at Kobus van der Merwe’s famous Wolfgat restaurant in Paternoster along the West Coast that I got an idea for this moerkoffie cake. The meal was faultless and an honest, innovative ode to the ingredients and culture of the area; the entire meal made from local seaweed and herbs foraged from the sand dunes along the coast. A true tribute to the area and the perfect end to the meal was a cup of strong, bitter moerkoffie sweetened with condensed milk. Inspiration struck!
If you don’t know what moerkoffie is, it’s a quintessentially South African style of making coffee that’s as unglamorous as it comes. Made in an enamel tea pot, traditionally over a fire, the ground coffee is boiled until the life has literally left it – all day, to be exact. A short rest so the coffee grinds sink to the bottom and the bitter, hair-on-your-chest brew is then poured into cups (enamel, preferably) before getting the finishing touch. A very generous swirl of condensed milk – straight out the tin, please!
It may not be as refined or well known as Vietnamese coffee, or the Spanish cafe bombon, but the combination of strong, bitter coffee and condensed milk is utterly delicious. How it hasn’t yet been turned into a dessert is beyond me!
The cake itself is a mocha vanilla swirl reminiscent of the clouds that form when you pour condensed milk into the coffee and it’s soaked in a moerkoffie syrup then topped with a mocha French buttercream. To finish, a sticky condensed milk drip that only uses 1/4 of a tin of condensed milk. I don’t need to tell you what to do with the rest, do I?
- MARBLED CAKE
- 250g salted butter, softened
- 10ml (2 tsp) vanilla extract
- 550g castor sugar
- 6 large eggs
- 300g (2 cups) cake flour
- 150g (1 cup) self-raising flour
- 3,5g (½ tsp) bicarbonate of soda
- 245ml full-cream milk
- 50g cocoa powder
- 5g (2 tsp) instant coffee powder
- MOERKOFFIE BUTTERCREAM ICING
- 300g white sugar
- 150ml moerkoffie , plus extra 125ml (½ cup), to brush
- 6 large egg yolks
- 720g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
- 7g (1 tbsp) cocoa powder, sifted
- 15ml (1 tbsp) brandy mixed with 2g (1 tsp) instant coffee powder
- CONDENSED MILK DRIP
- 4g (1 tsp) powdered gelatine
- 30ml (2 tbsp) water
- 150g white sugar
- 100g sweetened condensed milk
- 175g good-quality white chocolate, finely chopped
- 5ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 170˚C. Grease and line 3 cake tins (each with a diameter of 20cm) with baking paper. Set aside until needed.
- For the marbled cake, use a free-standing mixer or an electric hand-held beater to whisk the salted butter, 10ml (2 tsp) vanilla extract, castor sugar, eggs, cake flour, self-raising flour, bicarbonate of soda and full-cream milk together until pale and fluffy. Divide the mixture between two bowls. Fold the 50g cocoa powder and 5g (2 tsp) instant coffee powder into one half until thoroughly incorporated.
- Using a small measuring cup as a scoop, drop a dollop of the vanilla batter into the centre of each prepared cake tin. Next, drop a cupful of the coffee batter into the centre of each blob of vanilla batter. Repeat with the remaining batter, alternating between the vanilla and coffee flavours as you go. When finished, tap the cake tins on a flat surface to spread the batter evenly.
- Bake the cakes in the preheated oven until a skewer inserted into the centres of the cakes comes out clean, about 20 – 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool in the tins. Once cool enough to touch, remove the cakes from the tins and transfer to a wire cooling rack. Use a serrated bread knife to cut the top off each cake to create a flat surface.
- For the moerkoffie buttercream icing, place the 300g white sugar and 150ml moerkoffie in a medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil until it reaches soft ball stage. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Use a free-standing mixer or an electric hand-held beater to whisk the egg yolks until pale and fluffy. Gradually pour the hot sugar syrup down the inside of the bowl, while whisking continuously. Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens and becomes cool to the touch. Slowly add the unsalted butter (one cube at a time) until the mixture turns creamy. Whisk in the 7g (1 tbsp) sifted cocoa powder and fold in the brandy mixture. Set aside until needed.
- To assemble, stack the cakes on top of one another on a cake stand, spreading a thick layer of the moerkoffie buttercream icing between each layer. Brush the cakes with the moerkoffie as you go. Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of icing to form a crumb coat. Place in the fridge until the icing has set. Remove from fridge and add a second coat of frosting. Return to the fridge until set.
- While the cake is refrigerating, make the condensed milk drip. Place the powdered gelatine in a small, microwave-safe bowl (about the size of a teacup) and add enough cold water to just cover the gelatine. Set aside to soak for 1 minute. Once soaked, microwave in 10-second bursts until the gelatine has dissolved. Set aside until needed.
- Place the water, 150g white sugar and condensed milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, remove from heat and add the gelatine. Stir until well incorporated then add the chopped white chocolate and 5ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract.
- Place the saucepan over an ice bath and whisk gently until the chocolate has melted and the mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Carefully pour the mixture over the edge of the cake, allowing it to slowly drip down the sides.