This very chocolatey loaf cake will reveal a surprise when it's sliced! The middle of the cake contains the most sweet and romantic hidden heart center, perfect to show off to your loved ones. The cake is also covered in a generous layer of the most delicious chocolate buttercream that's so simple to make as well. You can decorate and serve it however you like! If you choose to make any cake this Valentine's Day, make sure that it's this one!
Things You'll Need
11.8 ounces (335 grams flour), sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
15.9 ounces (450 grams) granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
8.1 ounces (230 millilitres) whole milk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla bean extract
6.3 ounces (180 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon finely ground espresso powder
4.9 ounces (140 millilitres) boiling water
1.7 ounces (50 grams) dutch processed cocoa powder
7 ounces (200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6.7 ounces (190 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
1.4 ounces (40 grams) dutch processed cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon finely ground espresso powder, optional
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract
Step 1: Prepare
Pre-heat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit (180 Celsius). Grease and line a 9-inch x 5-inch (23-cm x 12-cm) loaf tin with parchment paper. Let the paper hang over the edges. Set aside.
Step 2: Combine the dry ingredients
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar.
Step 3: Add in the eggs, milk and butter
Add in the eggs, milk and vanilla bean extract. Pour in the melted butter and stir until just combined.
Step 4: Pour in the boiling water
Add the finely ground espresso powder in with the boiling water. Stir to combine until dissolved.
Pour the brewed espresso into the batter and whisk until smooth. The batter will be fairly liquid and runny.
Step 5: Divide and bake the vanilla mixture
Pour half the mixture into one of the loaf tins then set aside the mixing bowl with the remaining batter. Bake this loaf, until it rises and the top springs back when lightly pressed, about 30 to 35 minutes. If you insert a toothpick into the middle, it should come out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes.
Step 6: Make the chocolate mixture
Meanwhile, sift the 1.7 ounces (50 grams) of the dutch processed cocoa powder into the remaining batter set aside in the large mixing bowl. Stir it in until the mixture is evenly combined. Cover the bowl with a layer of plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set the batter aside until the vanilla cake has finished baking and cooling.
Step 7: Cut out the cake hearts
When the vanilla cake has cooled for about 15 minutes, turn it out of the pan. Cut the cake into even slices about 1.5 inches (4 cm thick). You should get about 6-7 slices.
Then, using a heart shaped cookie cutter (o_r whatever cookie cutter you desire_), cut out evenly sized hearts out of the cake.
Set the hearts aside until needed and discard the remaining cake scraps (or save them for something else, like cake pops!)
Step 8: Divide and bake the chocolate mixture
Pour half of the chocolate mixture set aside above into the loaf tin. Push the vanilla cake hearts into the batter so that they stand upright in a tightly packed row. Carefully pour over the remainder of the chocolate mixture over the vanilla cake hearts to cover.
Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until the cake rises and the top springs back when lightly pressed. Let the cake cool in its pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Step 9: Make the chocolate buttercream
While the cake is cooling, begin the chocolate buttercream frosting. Place the remaining 7 ounces (200 grams) of unsalted butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a beater attachment (you can also use hand held electric beaters). Beat on medium-low speed, for 1 minute, or until the butter is soft and malleable. Pause mixing and add in the powdered sugar, 1.4 ounces (40 grams) of dutch processed cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon of the finely ground espresso powder (if using). Continue to beat, on medium speed, until evenly incorporated and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in the heavy cream and vanilla bean extract and continue to beat for a further 2 minutes. Stop mixing and set aside for decorating.
Step 10: Frost the cake
Once the cake has cooled completely, use a rubber spatula to generously frost the top and sides of the cake with swoops and swirls of the chocolate buttercream. At this point, you can also decorate the cake however you would like! With fresh raspberries or strawberries, sprinkles, edible glitter or gold, heart decorations or even a drizzle or shavings of white chocolate. Once decorated, chill the cake to set the frosting for 30 minutes before serving.
Step 11: Slice and serve.
Let the cake stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before slicing and serving! The cake will keep for 3 days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or up to 1 month stored in the freezer. Make sure to defrost completely before eating.
It's easier to see the heart center if you cut thin slices too!