Monday, September 15, 2014

Moka Mocha

Coffee and chocolate—the inventor of mocha should be sainted. - Cherise Sinclair, Hour of the Lion

 Moka Mocha a confusion worth clearing up, I dare say. As both a coffee drinker and a lover of, well, mocha, that divine and near-perfect combination of chocolate and coffee that I hold close to my heart, even I had to find out what it all meant. I imagined they were one and the same, just a different spelling. But no.

 Moka, un grand café, as the French would say, a coffee with a definitely savage bent. Steamed hot and rich, reminiscent of the mysteries of the port city in Yemen after which it was named. Steamed in a tiny metal pot, a moka, stained with seasons, with years of coffee; leave it for just a second too long and that moka sizzles and froths up and over. Splattering moka across the stovetop. Moka blackened with years of sitting atop that flame.

 Mocha, oh mocha, that heavenly, sinful blend of coffee and chocolate! Hot chocolate, thick and creamy, a shot of bitter café serré, strong espresso, quite possibly a moka, a froth of foam and a pile, a swirl of whipped cream. Be still, my heart, is it love or is it sugar and caffeine? Nectar of the gods.

 A birthday cake. Or shall I say The Birthday Cake? Every single year. Mocha. A deep, dark, dense chocolate cake, any liquid required replaced by strong coffee. A creamy frosting, a buttercream rich with cocoa whipped into cream, butter, mascarpone whatever the mood preaches. And sugar, of course. Then add the coffee, moka in powdered form, and beat until the chocolate, the sugar, the espresso create an ambrosial concoction, impossible to resist.

 Aromatic, like the best little café of dark wood paneling, scratched mahogany tabletops, wobbly chairs, the air redolent of coffee, doled out in a continuous stream from the steaming machine behind the bar, coffees sipped one after the other all morning long accompanied by mountain of pains au chocolat.

 I make my own birthday cake every single year and I invariably choose a mocha cake with mocha buttercream. My party, my choice and who agrees can share.

 Tiny little moka pot, innocent, inanimate objet yet somehow terrifying, the bane of my existence. For many years of my life, coffee was instant, granules measured into a mug, drenched with boiling water, stirred until dissolved. What could be easier? Or prepared in great quantities for synagogue buffets or evening cake and coffee in those giant silver urns with the intriguing little spigots; press down on the black plastic pad and coffee comes out, have the cup ready! Wonderful and heady that pervading aroma of coffee! Always in the responsible, capable hands of the ladies in the kitchen.

 Or filtered. Place a white paper filter into the plastic cone, three scoops coffee and boiling water. Pour slowly. Fill the filter twice and the pot is full. Preferred even to an electric coffee machine!

 But a moka, the tiny, virtuous, rudimentary little coffee pot, scares me. There is something too mysterious and uncontrollable about it. Pour the water into the bottom chamber; press the coffee into the center compartment and screw on the top. Invisible, the process is invisible and the pot stands uncertainly, precariously atop the flame. How does one tell? How does the water push itself up, push its way through the grounds and into the top? How does one simply keep from getting burned in the process? I once made a boyfriend quite angry when I let the coffee boil up and over. He gave me the delicate task, the overwhelming responsibility of removing the moka from the flame when the coffee was ready but, I protested, I have never seen one of these contraptions! How will I know? How does one keep it from boiling over and out all over the stovetop? But he left the room, left me to my own devices and, staring hard at that moka, willing it to speak to me, begging, praying for a sign that would let me know when the espresso was ready, not to soon, not too late. But it was.

 La cuillère à moka, the tiny, delicate little moka spoon for stirring tiny little espressos in tiny little demitasses. Or eating ice cream, maybe. Coffee ice cream. Or mocha with a hint of chocolate.

The combination of coffee and chocolate is like a perfect marriage, the flavours complement each other but they still stand out on their own and this cake is the epitome of that! I have to confess that the icing doesn't look perfect but it is so good on this cake that I never really worked on making it visually beautiful;  let's put it this way, it isn't the best looking fruit and vegetables that tastes the best and that goes for this icing as well!


180 g/ 6.3 oz soft butter
170 g/ 6 oz light cane sugar
3 eggs
2 tbs prepared very strong coffee
180g/ 6.3 oz pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cocoa powder

100 g/ 3.5 oz dark quality chocolate
20 g/ 0.7 oz butter
3 tbs milk
125 g/ 4.4 oz icing sugar

   Cream butter and sugar in a bowl until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well blended and then add the coffee and mix well. Sift the flour, baking soda, and cocoa powder into the bowl; stir into the creamed mixture.

  Put the batter in a greased and lightly floured cake tin (approx. 21 cm/ 8.25 in) and bake in a pre-heated oven (175°C/350°F) for 30 minutes. When ready, transfer the cake to a wire rack and let it cool.

When the cake has cooled down, make the icing: melt the chocolate, butter and milk in a water bath (or be daring (lazy?) and do like I do and do it in a small pan over a very low flame). Remove from the heat and sift the icing sugar into the mixture and when it has cooled down a little, spread it out over the cake.

  Share on Tumblr


  1. A fabulous combination of flavors indeed. That cake looks and sounds wonderful. I wish I could have a slice of it right now!

    Marvelous writing and photography.



  2. Oh, I absolutely love mocha. And moka. Don't think I can live without my tiny metal pot!
    And yes, there is something mysterious and uncontrollable about it. But you'll learn to know when it is done. And you know what, it does speak to you! You only have to listen to it ;-)
    It's somewhat like melting butter in a pan before sauteing fish or steak. Apart from looking at the butter melting, you're also listening and smelling at the same time, to decide when the butter is perfect. You're tasting too, of course, when cooking, but I'm pretty sure you'll use your ears and nose as well. When making moka your ears and nose are tiptoeing ;-)

    As young child I loved making coffee for my parents, the filtered way, and also loved everything with mocha, long before i was stuck in my must-have-coffee-everyday-mood. Oh my, what a dull world it would be without mocha!!!

  3. I'd have a birthday every week if I could have that one. It sounds dreamy and looks definitely forkworthy.