This White Russian Cake is a perfect way to get through January! A swirled cake of vanilla and rich chocolate are soaked with a Kahlua reduction. To continue the swirl, a marbling of vanilla and chocolate frosting and shiny white chocolate drip finish off this classic cocktail cake!
I am not one for cocktails, or alcohol in general. I’m dry and boring. But I do appreciate what alcohol does in food. Especially in dessert. A swig of bourbon does wonders for a buttery pecan cake, like in my Kentucky Bourbon Bacon Cake. So when I could combine the flavors of chocolate and vanilla with coffee liqueur in the White Russian Cake, I was eager!
White Russians draw me back to watching The Big Lebowski at Z’s house. I think of Lebowski’s cocktail table. Cartons of heavy cream and unwashed cups. The poster of Richard Nixon bowling anchored the cocktail table in the room. Who wouldn’t love that photo in your living room?
This White Russian Cake is a little denser than other cakes. Yet this texture is perfect during the colder winter months—thicker is always better in January!
The cake gets booze-y with a soak of Kahlua. However it is not overly booze-y. The Kahlua is just enough. It balances the sweetness as well as brings out the espresso in the chocolate portion of the cake. In fact, vanilla-chocolate in the cake and frosting bolster the coffee liqueur.
Let the swirl of creamy vanilla, espresso-enriched chocolate, and coffee liqueur warm you through these chilly winter months!
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- For the White Batter:
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon fine salt
- 2 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
- 1/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- For the Chocolate Batter:
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon fine salt
- ¼ cup (4 tablespoons, 2 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup buttermilk, room temperature
- ¼ cup strong brewed coffee, room temperature
- For Kahlua Soak:
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ water
- ¼ cup Kahlua liqueur or coffee liqueur
- For the Marbled Frosting:
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter (3 sticks, 12 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 pounds powdered sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons vanilla bean paste
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- For the Drip Icing:
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 2 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
- Put butter, sugar, vegetable oil, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until smooth and incorporated, about 3 minutes. Add egg whites and egg, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl down as needed.
- With the mixer on low, add the flour in 3 additions alternately with sour cream and milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Transfer batter into another bowl.
- Sift flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. In the now empty bowl of the stand mixer, beat butter, sugar, and vegetable oil at medium speed until smooth and combined, about 2 minutes. Add in eggs one at a time, scrape bowl and paddle as needed. Mix in vanilla.
- With mixer’s speed on low, add dry ingredients in 3 additions and buttermilk and coffee in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 3 8-inch cake pans with baking spray, set aside. Scoop white and chocolate batters randomly into prepared pans. Tap pans to even out batter and use a butter knife to swirl the batter.
- Bake for 24 to 28 minutes, rotating halfway. The cakes will begin to pull away from the pans and a toothpick inserted will come out with a few moist, not wet, crumbs. Let cakes cool in pans for 5 minutes. Invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. If making ahead of time, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready to assemble.
- In a heavy bottom saucepan set over medium heat, combine sugar and water, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, whisk in Kahlua. Let cool to room temperature. It can can be made 2 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed, continually scraping the bowl and paddle to ensure there are no lumps. Lower speed to gradually add powdered sugar, followed by vanilla bean paste, salt, and heavy cream. Beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. Remove half of frosting. Add cocoa powder to remaining frosting and beat again on medium-high for a final 1 minute. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.
- Apply of bit of Chocolate Frosting to a cake board. Secure the first layer onto board brush on Kahlua soak. Apply and even layer of chocolate frosting, secure second cake layer, apply soak, spread on vanilla frosting. Soak the third layer before securing it onto the top of cake. Apply chocolate frosting onto bottom half of cake and apply vanilla frosting on remaining part of cake. Use a bench scraper to smooth on frosting, this will be a dirty layer. Chill for 15 minutes, repeat same frosting application. Don’t worry if the chocolate and vanilla frostings blend together. Refrigerate cake until you’re ready to apply the drippy icing.
- Combine water and corn syrup in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute, add white chocolate, stirring until melted. Whisk in powdered sugar until it’s lump free. Stir in vanilla and salt. Drizzle icing over chilled cake and refrigerate cake for 30 minutes to set icing.