Coffee Cocoa Snack Cake

posted in: Cakes & Cupcakes, Chocolate, Desserts        date:

Coffee-Cocoa Snack Cake

I’m a food nurturer. I always have been. Often times, when I can’t find the right words to say, I bake. Food is the universal language. I find cooking and baking can provide comfort to those that need it, myself included. Lately, I’ve been in need of more kitchen time than usual. See, the past six weeks since Clara’s arrival have been a whirlwind of emotion and not just for the normal reasons. Clara was born with a thumb abnormality called thumb hypoplasia, which basically means that she’s missing the metacarpal bone in her right thumb. This may not seem like a big deal, but it essentially renders her thumb useless. Being told two days after delivery that she will likely need her thumb amputated wasn’t easy to deal with. Beyond that, limb abnormalities can be indicative of underlying internal problems. Though Clara was seemingly healthy, we had to see a few various doctors to confirm that. When she was three weeks old, one of her doctors discovered a heart murmur. A week later, we were at the hospital seeing a pediatric cardiologist for an echocardiogram of Clara’s heart. As it turns out, the murmur is totally harmless, but I can’t tell you how scared I was lying next to her and wondering what we were about to find out. Suddenly, the fact that she’ll probably grow up with only nine fingers seemed trivial. Hello, perspective.

The first three weeks of her life, I was worried about all kinds of things – if kids will make fun of her when she goes to school, if she’ll be able to open a jar, if she’ll be angry with us when she grows up because of what we decide to do with her hand. Eric kept telling me we would do whatever was necessary to ensure that she has the best life possible, and that we would raise her to be strong and confident. There were even a few “her last name is Champion, so she already wins at everything” jokes in there. Because we wanted to enjoy every second with her, without people constantly asking what we were going to do about her thumb and without minimizing how great she was doing otherwise, we only told a couple family members at first. Out of those, my sister and brother-in-law were the only ones who knew about the seriousness of the situation. I also had friends to lean on, and they provided a source of strength that only they could. While Christa, Zack and my wonderful friends helped keep me strong, time in the kitchen helped keep me sane.


That’s where this cake comes in. I’ve found myself doing quite a bit of late night baking the past several weeks. Nighttime, when things start settling down, is the time I most need a distraction. Since 10 pm isn’t really the best time to start something involved, I looked for simple treats that could be made with pantry staples. Eric had to make a late night run to the store the night I made the key lime pie bars, and he did it without hesitation because he knew just how much I needed to bake something. Thankfully, I had everything I needed the night I decided to make this cake. It’s simple in execution and can be eaten fairly soon after baking, a double win when baking late at night. It’s moist and luscious, with a rich chocolate flavor. The coffee acts as a way to intensify the chocolate flavor but can still be tasted in the background. This cake is exactly what the name says – a snack cake. It’s not fancy, but it is delicious and comforting. It doesn’t need frosting or a dusting of powdered sugar. It’s perfect as is and would be fantastic with a hot cup of coffee or a cold glass of milk.

I know I’ve got plenty more late nights of baking ahead of me as Eric and I decide what to do about Clara’s hand. And I know that, in the future, there will be times that I stay up late to bake because I’m worried about her for silly reasons. As she sleeps peacefully in my lap, I realize there will even be times we bake together because she needs a distraction from something upsetting. I can promise, though, that it will never be because she’s upset about her hand. Eric was right – we are going to raise her to be strong and confident, and she’ll grow up knowing she can accomplish whatever she wants to. If she ever forgets that, we’ll be there (with something yummy, of course) to remind her.

Coffee-Cocoa Snack Cake

  • YIELD: 16 squares
  • 10 tablespoons very soft unsalted butter, plus more for the pan

  • 1⅔ cups granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 1½ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan

  • ½ cup plus ⅓ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1½ cups brewed coffee, cooled to warm

  • 1

    Heat oven to 350º. Generously butter a 9-inch square pan. Line the bottom with parchment, butter the parchment, then flour the bottom and sides of the pan, tapping out any excess flour. This cake is incredibly moist, so I recommend not skipping the parchment.

  • 2

    In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla and salt. If mixing by hand, use a wooden spoon to cream the butter and sugar, then switch to a whisk to mix in the eggs. Mix until the batter is smooth and the sugar starts to dissolve.

  • 3

    Sift the dry ingredients directly into the batter, then pour the coffee over. Gently whisk until the dry ingredients are incorporated and the batter is smooth and mostly free of lumps.

    Pour batter into prepared pan and tap on the counter to smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, 40-43 minutes.

  • 4

    Place pan on a cooling rack to cool for 20 minutes. Run a knife along the edges of the pan and invert the cake to remove from pan. Turn right side up and cool until just warm.

    This cake can be stored, well wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for up to 5 days.

SOURCE: Fine Cooking
COMMENTS: ( 27 )
  • MMm looks fabulous!! Yum!

  • Thinking of you guys. Isn’t it crazy how in an instant, you can be totally consumed by a little person? I can’t imagine what you guys are going through. Cake always helps though! And, this one looks great. I love adding coffee to chocolate cakes, really makes it!

  • It’s all about perspective! Like you said a thumb is nothing in comparison to a heart. Hang in there!

  • Erin

    You are wonderful.

  • Amanda Thomas

    You are a brave, wonderful mother. You guys will absolutely do what’s best for sweet baby girl. Much love to the Champions!

  • Wendi

    It is amazing how you can love someone so much! You will be worrying for the rest of your life about her. Part of being a parent. She is so precious. Love the picture of her. 🙂

  • Hang in there! She’s a beautiful girl, and you guys seem like great parents who will be able to handle anything. The cake looks great, too!

  • Hey, I’m not sure if you remember me, but we met a couple times at nest GTGs in Richmond. I wanted to let you know that I have a friend whose son has a limb difference (he’s about 2 years old now) and knows of a lot of good resources in the Ric area. If you want, I can put you in touch with her!

  • I love you (all three of you) and I’m glad you are ready to share this news. I’m so happy that you’re embracing what we already know – that everything will be fine, you will make the right decision, and Clara will be awesome because she has the best parents possible.

    Also, this cake sounds lovely 🙂

  • First off, this cake looks amazing. I can relate to being in the kitchen helping with stress. I’m the same way. Mostly though, I wanted to say what a stressful time you must be going through. But you’re right, it will be fine. I’m sorry for your stress but know that many people are praying for you and your little girl is going to be fine. She is too beautiful, by the way!

  • What a beautifully written post. I can only imagine how difficult this is on you all, but with what you have written, it is clear that she is a very lucky girl, with an amazing future and amazing parents.

    This cake also sound divine.

  • Thank you so much for sharing such a personal story– I can’t imagine how scary that was! And for the record, your baby girl is perfect, just the way she is. Thank goodness the heart murmur turned out to be harmless, and she’s proven to be one tough little lady already– I have a feeling her thumb won’t slow her down. I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with so much lately and hope all the news is happy and good from now on.

  • What a beautifully written heartfelt post–Clara has such a wonderful mommy and daddy. 🙂 While I can only imagine how difficult of a decision it will be, either way it will be the right one because you two only have Clara’s best interest in mind.

  • Your caption under Clara’s (I love her name) is perfect. What a beautiful baby and a beautiful post. I can only imagine how hard this decision is for you and your husband to make but I do know that when you make it, you will know it is the right one as your heart will be at peace. God bless you and your little girl.

  • Clara is beautiful and blessed to have such great parents! I’m sure you all will make the best decisions for her care in the days and years to come.

    This cake sounds fantastic!

  • Courtney, you and Eric are the perfect parents for Clara and will make the right decision. No matter what’s in store for her future, I am suspecting Clara will be right there matching the strength I see her mama possesses. 🙂 Last week, during storytime at the library, a sweet toddler girl was there with one arm amputated from the elbow down and she was not missing a beat! In fact, I think her attitude was the brightest of all the kids there, and she definitely could do everything the others were doing. A thumb will not slow Clara down, I’m sure of it! Praying for you and the decisions to come! xoxo!

  • That is a lot for a new parent to deal with. I have no doubt that every decision you make in regards to this will be in her best interest. And I’m also a comfort baker, so I completely understand how it can help you collect your thoughts and relax you. This cake looks especially delicious!

  • Kris

    Who cares about cake when we can look at that little beauty? I have a one and three yr old, and I remember while I was pregnant with my first, I kept thinking, “Well, if I get through the first trimester, I will not worry.”. Then it was the whole pregnancy. Then the birth, then we thought she may have congenital hypothyroidism. I worry about lots of things, sometimes because I am a nut, and mostly because I am a mom. It hit me soon after my eldest was born that this just comes with territory. Not to minimize what you are going through…welcome to motherhood. She is already off to a great start with wonderful parents. Hang in there!

  • Kiki

    Courtney and Eric,
    Congratulations on your new bundle of joy! She is beautiful! One of your regular readers sent me a link to this post thinking that I might be able to offer a little encouragement. (and what a great site, I’ll be back!) While I can’t imagine what you are going thru right now, my mom and dad sure might be able to relate. Thirty-three years ago my parents welcomed their first daughter and it was not until my birth day that they learned that I did not have a left hand. I can’t say life was always easy, but I’ve always found a way to do the things I want to do. I type with two “hands,” play tennis, represent clients as an attorney, sew, cook, hold my babies and take pictures. Figuring out how to do things when the “normal” instruction book didn’t apply has helped me become the creative person I am today. Sounds like you are doing exactly the right things: loving her and seeing her future as a strong, confident woman. How you see her will have the biggest impact on how she sees herself.

    If you would like to connect with some other folks in this great online world, check out my friend Ryan’s blog at He’s been doing a great video series and has a bunch of links to other helpful sites. Let me know if you have any questions!

    Congrats again!

  • Cara

    Cake looks wonderful! Just wanted to let you know that I have a good friend who was a Division I Varsity Athlete, with one thumb. Didn’t slow her down a bit. Clara is beautiful!

  • Jen


    I’m so sorry you have to go through this, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to realize your perfect little girl has an issue. When my daughter Aubrey was born, we spent the first night thinking everything was perfect only to be shattered the next morning when she was taken for test after test to determine what was wrong with her leg. After 4 days of the NICU and tests, an MRI, an EKG, and countless doctors, we were told “we just don’t know.” I was terrified and still worry about my little girl but she’s tough and doing great. She’s now 14 months old and walking just fine, jabbering away and is very happy. She just has one leg that is bigger than the other – no one knows why or exactly what we are going to do about it and I worry about making the right decision when the time comes or if she’ll get made fun of at school as she gets older, if it will affect her self-confidence, etc. It’s hard.

    It sounds like you are making the best of it but I would like to pass on the advice my pediatrician (my husband’s aunt) gave us… and that is to look at the big picture, Clara is a beautiful little girl who is still your perfect little girl, enjoy her in the moment and don’t let the worry cloud out the happiness. I’m glad you have something to help keep you sane and at least it looks delicious as well 🙂

    – Jen

  • Clara is beautiful and you two are wonderful parents so she’s in great hands and I’m sure everything will be okay in the end. I hope you and your family continue to power through <3 xo

  • Clara is so precious! I’m so sorry you all are having to go through this difficult time with your baby girl but I know you all will make the best decision for her. Praying for you all to have wisdom in this situation. And your cake looks delicious!:)

  • Clara is such a beautiful little lady…and how lucky is she to have such wonderful parents that care so much about her!

  • Katie

    One of the best actresses I know was born without any thumbs- and I didn’t even notice until after I had seen her in 3 plays! And then one of my friends had to point it out to me! (Her name is Claire 🙂 She does struggle with some things, but all in all, it really no longer affects her daily life and isn’t at all noticeable (as my first experiences can attest!).

    Clara is beautiful and lucky to have you two as parents. I am sure that everything will work out in the end. 🙂

  • Sara Dankert

    Your daughter is so beautiful – I’m sorry you have to go through this agony in addition to all of your joy. Our 9 month old son is having eye surgery in a couple of weeks – it’s scary, but we risk him losing sight in one or even both eyes if we wait. I have to keep telling myself it will be worse for me than him. I’m glad you have a lot of support and love for your family.

  • This looks like something that would be perfect with tea. I would take my tea with no sugar if I’m going to have a sweet treat like this one. P.S. cute baby girl.