Cafe de Olla Naked Cake

This cake is an homage to my friend, Frances. When we used to work together, our morning ritual was going to our workplace cafeteria, getting coffee and toast, and dicking around instead of doing actual work enjoying a mini breakfast together at our desks. In honor of her graduating college, I had to make a cake in dedication to that memory, so that was where this recipe came about. I wanted to do a spiced coffee of some kind, and went with cafe de olla. I have made a cafe de olla cake in the past, but this one is quite different, as I rely strictly on spices and coffee to bring out that flavor profile. For the cake, I went with a coffee chiffon cake, a spiced milk soak, a spiced caramel, an almond crunch, a coffee French buttercream, and spiced meringue sticks. I went primarily with cinnamon, clove, and a little nutmeg to bring out the earthy flavor profiles of cafe de olla, which normally attains those notes from being served in a clay pot. The idea of the crunch was because there are different interpretations of what “coffee cake” is. Some would think of crumb cakes, others might think of something along the lines of tiramisu. This cake combines both of those together, as the sponge itself tastes like a spiced tiramisu, while the crunch adds a crumb cake-like aspect texturally. As Frances herself is a self-proclaimed “coffee cake whore”, I felt like this was the perfect cake to celebrate one of her happiest accomplishments!

For the coffee chiffon cake:
4 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup coffee reduction
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp canola oil
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cups all-purpose flour

In a bowl, whip together the egg whites with sugar to stiff peaks. In another bowl, whisk together the coffee with egg yolks, canola oil, salt, vanilla, and baking powder. Sift into the egg yolk mixture the flour and fold together with the egg whites. Pour onto a lined half sheet tray and spread into an even layer. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Allow the cake to cool down before cutting out 2 6-inch rounds and cut out 2 more rounds using the scraps of the cake.

For the coffee reduction:
1/3 cup coffee grounds
1 1/2 cups warm water
a pinch of salt

Reduce the ingredients together on low heat until reduced by about half. Pour everything through a strainer and press to release as much liquid as possible. Allow the reduction to cool down before using for the chiffon cake and the buttercream.

For the spiced milk soak:
1/2 cup almond milk
a pinch of ground cinnamon
a pinch of ground clove
a pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix together to form a soak. Keep it refrigerated for assembly.

For the spiced caramel:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove
a pinch of ground nutmeg
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat up sugar with spices and salt until they come to a boil. Once the sugar registers 295 degrees F on a candy thermometer, take off heat and add in the milk. Allow the milk and sugar to dissolve together on low heat and then pass through a sieve to remove any lumps. Stir in the vanilla to finish.

For the almond crunch:
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp canola oil
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup crushed almonds

Mix the ingredients together to form a dough. Crumble into pinkie nail-sized pieces and spread over a lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes. Allow the crunch to cool down before storing in an airtight container.

For the coffee French buttercream:
1/4 cup coffee reduction
1/3 cup granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
3 egg yolks
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a pot, heat up coffee with sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved into the liquid and the coffee is brought up to a simmer. Pour into the egg yolks and whisk together until combined. Mix into the mixture your butter and vanilla and continue to whisk until everything comes together to a smooth buttercream. Keep at room temperature for assembly.

For the meringue sticks:
1 egg white
3 tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
ground cinnamon

Whisk egg white until frothy then whisk in the sugar, salt, and vanilla until they form stiff peaks. Transfer to a piping bag outfitted with a round tip and pipe out sticks onto a parchment-lined sheet tray. Sprinkle over the sticks ground cinnamon. Bake at 285 degrees F for 12 minutes. Allow the meringues to cool down before transferring to an airtight container.

To assemble:
Gold leaf

Line a 6-inch ring mold with acetate. Place down on layer of cake and add on 1/4 of the soak and 1/4 of the caramel. Sprinkle on 1/4 of the crunch and spread on 1/4 of the buttercream. Repeat these steps with all of your remaining layers, soak, caramel, crunch, and buttercream. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before attempting to unmold. Garnish with the meringue sticks and gold leaf right before serving.

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