Star Tribune photo by Tom Wallace.

Now this is a cake that has "celebration" leaping out of every wicked-good bite.

When Taste celebrated its 40th birthday in October, we turned to baker Laurie Pyle, co-owner of Cocoa & Fig in Shakopee, to formulate a one-of-a-kind cake, one that readers could bake at home when they had an occasion as festive and momentous as our 40th anniversary. 

She did not disappoint, crafting a beauty that sings with two highly complementary flavors: chocolate, and coffee. The cake is a vegan formula -- no eggs, no dairy -- but it's surprisingly moist and deeply flavorful (it helps to use super-intense Valrhona cocoa powder, available locally at Kitchen Window in Uptown Minneapolis). The icing isn't vegan (yes, that's a pound of butter in the recipe), but, let's face facts: Anything this insanely creamy and rich isn't. 

If you haven't baked it, give it a shot. And if you have, share your thoughts in the comments section. 


Serves 10 to 12.

Note: From Laurie Pyle of Cocoa & Fig in Shakopee. This unusually moist egg- and butter-free cake is a modification of a Depression-era recipe called Crazy Cake that Pyle often baked with her grandmother. 

Butter or cooking spray for pans

4 c. flour, plus extra for pans

2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

2/3 c. granulated sugar

2 c. packed brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp. salt

2 3/4 tsp. baking soda

1 c. canola oil

2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. white distilled vinegar

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

2 2/3 c. strong brewed coffee, cooled


To prepare cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter or spray 3 (9-inch) round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper. Dust pans with flour, tapping out excess. In a large bowl of an electric mixer on low speed, combine flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt and baking soda. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, vanilla extract and cooled coffee. On low speed, add coffee mixture to flour mixture in three parts, stopping after each addition to scrape down bowl and mixing until batter is blended. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes. Invert cakes from pans to a wire rack and cool completely. Cake may be frosted at this point, or wrap cake layers tightly in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for up to 2 days. Ice with American-style Mocha Buttercream Icing (see recipe).

To assemble cake: Using a serrated knife, trim rounded cake tops to flat layers. Place one cooled cake layer, top-side down, on cake plate. Spread about 1 cup of buttercream icing (see recipe below) onto base layer. Using an offset spatula, spread buttercream onto cake in an even layer. Repeat with remaining cake layers. Frost sides with remaining buttercream icing and decorate as desired.


Enough for one 3-layer cake.

3 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 c. heavy cream

3 tbsp. instant espresso powder

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 c. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 1/2 c. powdered sugar


In a double boiler over gently simmering water, combine chocolate, cream, instant espresso powder and vanilla extract, stirring constantly until chocolate is melted and instant espresso powder is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until soft and creamy. Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until thoroughly blended. Slowly add melted chocolate mixture and beat until icing is smooth.