Guest Recipe: Violet’s Mocha Cake with Clair Ptak

Needless to say there was a bit of fierce competition when it came to which member of our team would trot down Wilton Way to deliver coffee for this Violet's recipe. Lucky for you lot, we’re willing to share – no inter-roastery wrestling match required.  

Fresh off the plane from San Fran in 2005, Claire Ptak started a little stall on Broadway Market as a creative outlet. Fifteen years later, she’s one of the most revered women on London’s food scene, and as her coffee partner from the get go we’ve been lucky enough to join in on the ride.  

Claire’s little stand-alone building on Wilton Way is the home of some of East London’s delicious early morning smells (we should know, it’s on our commute). Watching the bakery come alive with devoted regulars every morning is something quite special, however if you’ve tasted the treats they line up for you wouldn’t be surprised.

If heading up Violet as an industry-leading food stylist, creating cook books and baking for Royals wasn’t enough, Claire also hosts a podcast that she feels would have inspired and directed her during her formative years in London’s Hospitality world. The podcast plays host to a network of incredible women working at the forefront of their respective industries.

For the Chocolate Sponge
220g plain flour
100g cocoa powder
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
450g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g buttermilk or plain yoghurt
100g vegetable oil
225g hot water

For the Marscapone Filling
500g marscapone cheese
300g double cream
75g icing sugar, sifted

For the Soak
100ml water
100g caster sugar
30ml Allpress Espresso Blend

For the Mocha Buttercream
75ml Allpress Espresso Blend
25ml double cream
185g unsalted butter
1000g icing sugar
1 tsp brandy
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt


Preheat the oven to 160C/335F/gas mark 3½ and grease and line a 23cm cake tin. 

First make the sugar syrup. Combine the sugar and water in a pan or bowl and leave it dissolve. This can be done the day before or it can be left for an hour or so. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the Allpress Espresso Blend.

Measure the dry ingredients, including the caster sugar, into a large mixing bowl and use a balloon whisk to distribute the salt, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder evenly through the other dry ingredients 

In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (except the hot water). Once combined, slowly whisk in the hot water. 

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in half of the wet mixture. Starting in the middle of the bowl, whisk in a clockwise, circular motion. Resist the temptation to switch direction or you’ll end up with lumps of dry ingredients. Gradually add the remaining wet ingredients until you have a smooth, liquid batter. 

Pour the batter into your tin right away and bake for 40 – 50 minutes until the top is springy to the touch and an inserted skewer comes out clean. 

While the cake is baking, make the mascarpone filling. Whisk all the ingredients together until fluffy, being careful not to overmix. Put in a piping bag and keep in the fridge until ready to use.  

On to the buttercream. Add all of the ingredients except 500g of the icing sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer and use the paddle attachment to cream the ingredients together on a low speed for at least 3 minutes. Gradually add the rest of the icing sugar until you get a smooth and light consistency. 

Allow the cake to cool completely before filling. Wash and dry the cake tin, and line with clingfilm with plenty lapping over the sides and set aside. Using a serrated bread knife (the longest one you have), score a horizontal line half way up the side of the cake and then slowly cut the cake in half. Slide a tart tin base or cardboard disc between the bottom and top layer of the cake and lift off the top layer on to a large plate. Slide the bottom layer of sponge into the lined cake tin and drizzle the soak over the sponge.

Pipe a border of icing around the edge. Don’t worry if the icing touches the sides of the tin, as you are essentially creating a dam for the filling. Now spread the mascarpone filling in the centre. Repeat the process with the second and third layers and then top with the fourth and pull up the sides of the clingfilm and wrap up the cake. Chill for at least two hours, or overnight before removing from the tin to ice the top and sides with the mocha buttercream. 

Ice the top and sides with the mocha icing.

Serve immediately or keep at a cool room temperature until ready to serve.