Ch. 09: Wait, there’s Mocha Toffee Cake

Do you ever find those desserts that seem to have all of the flavors that you like? Maybe some coffee, some chocolate, some caramel and even some toasted nuts? If your mouth’s not watering by now, then we probably couldn’t be friends. I’m kidding of course- as friends. I was browsing through some old Youtube channels I’d subscribed to when I came across this cake. It comes from Pailin’s Kitchen, an accomplished chef who works to introduce Thai cuisine into our households, sharing her tips and tricks to do things the Thai way. She’s personable and does a great job of demystifying Thai food which you don’t often see your average person making in their kitchen. I’ve made a few recipes from her which had good results, and so when I saw this Mocha Toffee Cake in her feed, I was really intrigued. I was still riding off my Pop-Tarts high, so I figured this one would be a piece of cake (ba dum tss). 

If you’re in the market for an easy cake, then this one is right up your alley- or the alleyways of Thai food markets where this cake is sold to the masses. It’s a simple mocha cake that’s flavored with instant coffee and semisweet chocolate. It comes together painlessly and deserves a spot in any recipe book for it’s easy procedure and deep flavor. But I think we all know that it’s the toffee-nut topping that’s the star of the show. It’s made from a toffee sauce consisting of evaporated milk, instant coffee, butter and sugar that are cooked together until dissolved. Like us Guamanians, the Thai tend to favor more shelf-stable milk products like evaporated or condensed milk over their fresh counterparts. The sauce is thickened with flour and mixed together with cashews before being spread on top of the cooled cake. (I honestly couldn’t tell you if cashews are even available on Guam as I’ve never seen them in the stores, so I opted for walnuts which I had on hand which should substitute nicely.) The cake then gets broiled on low for about 5 minutes or until the top has hardened and the nuts are golden brown. 

I really wanted to love this cake, but it just didn’t turn out as Pailin’s did in the video. The toffee-nut mix started to burn halfway through the recommended time, leaving the edges a bit blackened while the center stayed liquid. I even halved the recipe again which may have been a good call because I could just picture it getting scorched on a larger tray more easily. Typically, I tend to only use the broiler for toasting things like meringue, and even those only stay under the heat for a few seconds at a time- not 3-5 minutes. I ended up switching to conventional heat and letting it bake at a low temp in hopes of cooking that top until firm. At the end of it all, the cake wasn’t quite as crisp as described and had a chewiness akin to soft caramel rather than a crunchy toffee. Pailin’s cake was so crunchy in fact, that she advised it had to be cut upside down to really crack through that candy. It was delicious nonetheless with the bitter coffee flavors being complimented by the sweet topping. Still I’m not quite sure where the issue lies- perhaps the nuts weren’t chopped fine enough, or maybe my broiler runs hotter than normal. I’d definitely like to spend some time experimenting on how I could best make this again- not necessarily the Thai way, but my way.

Full Recipe | Method from Pailin’s Kitchen

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