Make Ahead

Coffee Mascarpone-Filled Fudgy Olive Oil Cake With Almond Praline Mascarpone Topping

April  1, 2022
9 Ratings
Photo by MJ Kroeger. Food stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop stylist: Molly Fitzsimons.
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 12
Author Notes

This dense, almost fudgy cake comes together in about the time it takes to heat your oven - though the time needed to cool the cake and chill the filling will add a few hours overall of hands-off time. All of the components can be made in advance, as noted in the instructions, below, making it well suited for parties. I top the cake with an almond praline mascarpone cream topping inspired by one of our family’s favorite celebration desserts, the classic Paris-Brest. The praline doesn’t take long to make, but if that seems like too much trouble, simply double the vanilla in the topping (adding more sugar to taste, if you like), and sprinkle with toasted nuts, whatever kind you like best. Enjoy! ;o) —AntoniaJames

What You'll Need
  • For the Fudgy Olive Oil Cake
  • 3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks (use 3 egg yolks if baking at 5,000 ft)
  • 3/4 cup water (or 1/2 cup red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon + 1/4 cup water, for a fancier, very-grown up tasting cake)
  • 56 g / 2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 262 grams / 1 1/3 cups white sugar
  • 85 grams / ½ cup + 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s, either plain or “special dark”)
  • 177 ml / 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon / 15 ml vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon / 3 ml almond extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons / 8 ml baking soda (3/4 teaspoon if baking at 5,000 ft)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons / 10 ml espresso powder (you’ll need more for the coffee filling)
  • 240 grams / 2 cups almond flour
  • Neutral oil for greasing the pans
  • For the Almond Praline Crunch & Mascarpone Filling/Topping
  • For the Almond Praline Crunch:
  • 66 grams / 80 ml / ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 80 ml / ⅓ cup water
  • 108 grams / 4 ounces / 1 cup slivered or sliced almonds, toasted
  • ½ teaspoon neutral oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • For the Mascarpone Filling and Topping
  • 2 tablespoons rum (or water), heated until hot to the touch (in my microwave, 20 seconds is about right)
  • 1 tablespoon / 15 ml espresso powder or more to taste (I like Medaglio d’Oro, which seems less bitter than King Arthur Baking’s product)
  • 227 gram / 8 ounces / 1 cup heavy cream
  • 567 grams / 20 ounces / 2 ½ cups mascarpone, at room temperature
  • 75 grams / 2.6 ounces / 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (use the good stuff here)
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease with neutral oil two 9” round cake pans; line the bottom of each with a parchment disk. (NB: To shorten the time overall from start to serving, you should make the praline topping and filling first. Turn the oven on, etc., after you've put the filling into the fridge to chill.)
  2. Beat the eggs and egg yolks using a fork or whisk for about thirty seconds.
  3. Bring just to a simmer (or until too hot to touch) the water (or wine + water). I do this in a microwaveable glass measuring pitcher (Pyrex brand) for about two minutes.
  4. About using a food processor for this: By the very end, this filled to the top my seven-cup food processor work bowl. A tiny bit started to ooze out during the final processing. That said, I’d use the food processor again, as it is so convenient. I’ve included directions for using a hand whisk instead, which works fine if you have a strong shoulder, and also for using an electric hand mixer.
  5. Pulse the sugar with the cocoa in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with its metal blade, until blended, 3 or 4 times. Add the olive oil, vanilla and almond extracts, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and espresso powder. Process for a full minute. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl. (If not using a food processor, use a large mixing bowl and whisk the sugar and cocoa first, add these other ingredients, and whisk vigorously, for about two minutes. You can also use a hand mixer, for about 30 seconds once the ingredients are well blended.)
  6. Pour the hot water over the finely chopped chocolate - or drop the chocolate in the container in which you heated the water, whatever is easiest for you. Give it a stir to help melt the chocolate.
  7. Processing all the while, add the beaten eggs slowly in a light stream through the feed tube of the food processor. When it’s all added, process for another 5 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl. (If not using a food processor, vigorously whisk in, or beat in with an electric mixer, the beaten eggs, adding 2-3 tablespoons at a time.)
  8. Add the almond flour, about a half at a time, pulsing 4 or 5 times after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl. (If not using a food processor, whisk or beat the almond flour in until thoroughly incorporated.)
  9. With the motor running, slowly add the hot water and chocolate. When you’ve added it all, scrape down the sides of the work bowl and process for another 2 or 3 seconds. (If not using a food processor, whisk or beat the hot water and chocolate until thoroughly incorporated.)
  10. Tip the batter into the prepared pans.
  11. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes on a rack in the middle of your oven, rotating each pan 180 degrees, or switching racks, if you need to use two, about halfway through. You’ll know the cake is done when it pulls away from the side of the pan and a cake tested or toothpick comes out clean.
  12. While the cake is baking, make the almond praline and the filling and topping for the cake. (See below.) To shorten the time overall from start to serving, you should make the praline topping and filling first.
  13. Cool the baked layers on racks in the pan for about 10 minutes before inverting onto racks to finish cooling. Chill, tightly wrapped, until ready to assemble with the filling and topping. This can be made up to two days ahead of time.
  14. MAKE THE PRALINE TOPPING (this can be a week or two ahead of time): In a small heavy saucepan, stir the sugar and water together over medium heat for about 10 seconds. Stop stirring but keep the heat on, boiling the sugar and water together - without touching it, or you will ruin it - until it turns a deep gold color. Remove immediately from the heat and stir in the nuts. Turn the sticky nuts out onto a parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet. Pop into the fridge to harden. Meanwhile, make the filling and topping for the cake. (See below.)
  15. When the praline is hard and brittle, break it into 2-3 inch pieces. Put those into the bowl of the food processor and pulse four or five times. Add the salt, oil and almond extract and pulse a few more times, until the largest pieces are no larger than the size of a peanut. Much of it will be sandy. That’s okay.
  16. MAKE THE MASCARPONE FILLING AND TOPPING - which can be made up to 3 days in advance:
  17. Stir the espresso powder into the warm rum or water. Stir to dissolve.
  18. Process the heavy cream in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with its metal blade until the cream becomes somewhat thick - the consistency of a pureed vegetable soup. Add the confectioners sugar and the mascarpone, spooned into the work bowl a few tablespoons at a time, and process until the ingredients are well blended. Stop the motor and pulse as necessary to thicken the filling a bit more. You're whipping the cream here, so pay attention, as you can go from whipped until thick and whipped into butter in the blink of an eye. Remove about a third of that to a medium bowl (I use a metal one, to speed up the chilling). Whisk the vanilla into that.
  19. Put the rest of the mascarpone filling into a larger bowl. Whisk in the coffee rum concoction until thoroughly incorporated. Taste it. If you want a stronger coffee flavor, dissolve a bit more espresso powder in rum or water and whisk that in.
  20. Chill both bowls of mascarpone cream, covered, in the fridge for at least an hour, or longer. You want it to be thick and spreadable, like a conventional frosting. You can make this up to 3 days in advance.
  21. An hour or so before you are ready to assemble the cake, sift the praline to get at least two tablespoons of the largest bits. Reserve those for sprinkling on top of the cake. Stir the rest into the mascarpone cream flavored with vanilla.
  22. ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Put one layer on a cake plate. Spread the coffee filling over it. Put the other layer on top. Spread the praline filled vanilla layer on top. Sprinkle with the large bits of praline.
  23. Enjoy!! ;o)
  24. P.S. I make my own mascarpone for this. A quart of good heavy cream - **not** ultra-pasteurized - produces just the right amount for this recipe. Heat the cream in a heavy saucepan to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Maintain it there for 3 minutes. Add 4 tablespoons of lemon juice. (I realize this is a lot more than many recipes call for, but this amount works best, in my experience.) Stir constantly while continuing to cook at 180 degrees for at least another 3 minutes. It’s okay if the temperature goes as high as 190 degrees. Take the pot off the heat and let it sit, uncovered, in a cool place for about an hour. Pour the cream into a strainer lined with 2 or 3 layers of standard cheesecloth, or one layer of butter muslin. Let it drain lightly covered and refrigerated, stirring occasionally, for at least 18 - 24 hours.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • drbabs
  • sdebrango
  • AntoniaJames
  • luvcookbooks
  • meganvt01

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

See problem, solve problem. Ask questions; question answers. Disrupt, with kindness, courtesy and respect. ;o)

36 Reviews

C D. February 3, 2024
This recipe is unfortunately written in a very confusing manner.
I work with recipes as a job and I found this hard to understand the method if
not using a food processor. I think the author of the recipe has made this so many times
it makes sense but from a making the recipe for the first time, it felt more complicated and confusing than it needed to be. I didn't follow the instructions and read the reviews prior to making. Cake itself worked out, didn't collapse as some reviews mentioned. I made it in a stand mixer. Not trying to be rude but do want to give a heads up to anyone trying to make this to definitely go through the reviews for pointers/tips.
Sally A. January 27, 2024
My cakes also rose a lot in the oven and then sank like craters. Wasn't pretty, but was delicious. Didn't bother with a food processor for the cream. Not sure why you would.
AddictedToDessert August 10, 2023
Where would you suggest the ganache filling? On the first layer before the coffee mascarpone filling is added or would you do it on Both layers of cake before the filling/topping is added?
I made mine in an 8 x 11 dish and then cut in I have two 4x11 layers and a rectangular cake. With rectangular cakes you can always cut one piece off and it wont be noticeable. Allows me to taste the end product as well as see what it will look like once cut. In addition what is left of the rectangular cake is a smaller rectangular cake than can be served again!
AddictedToDessert August 10, 2023
Also what do you think of using Kahlua instead of rum??
AntoniaJames August 11, 2023
Dear AddictedToDessert (love your name, by the way),
I would use a layer of ganache on its own as a middle layer, not making it too thick given how rich and fudgy the cake is. I'd let the ganache firm up a bit (by cooling it) so it's somewhat stiff but still spreadable. Of course, for over-the-top decadence, you could layer some ganache on each of the cake layers, putting that down first and then chilling it well, so it doesn't disrupt the mascarpone middle layer and mascarpone topping. This cake is super rich though, as written, so adding ganache rather than substituting it might be a bit much.

I like your idea of using the 8" x 11", then cutting it.. How clever! For this cake, I might recommend chilling the layers very well - or even freezing them -- before spreading on the middle layer of filling and the topping, to keep the cut end edge tidy. Having that smaller rectangular cake would be wonderful if you were hosting a birthday party for a friend, who could then take the smaller cake with them. Wow. Such a fun idea! Thanks for sharing that tip. ;o)
Kbakes May 1, 2022
I have baked a cake a week for about 20 years. I baked my own wedding cake. This cake made me cry. I baked these cakes without ever opening the door and they both collapsed in their pans leaving about a 1/2” center. I “over-whipped” the cream for the first time in my life and had to trash it. $16 worth of mascarpone, cream, and sugar. My husband went to the store for a new set of cream ingredients with less than an hour until our guests arrived and to avoid the cream disaster a second time, I used a hand mixer instead of the food processor. Unbelievably, it turned to a lumpy curdled mess a second time that I had to trash. That’s over $30 in groceries TRASHED. Who can afford that?! My sister picked up cream on her way to my house and I beat 3 cups cream with 1/2 c powder sugar, 1 tsp of the recommended espresso powder, and 1/3 c cocoa powder. The cake was misshapen but decent. The brittle was easy and tasty. I would never make again.
sdebrango May 1, 2022
Hi Kbakes; I am going to chime in, first I am sorry you had problems. The cake is a flourless chocolate cake and as most flourless cakes behave they do tend to sink, mine did but that did not affect the flavor and I thought this cake was delicious. I am also sorry you had issues with the cream, I’m a bit perplexed why that behaved as it did, I have had issues with mascarpone before but in this particular recipe it turned out creamy and smooth. I know how frustrating it is when a recipe does not meet expectations and I am sorry this happened to you, from time to time this occurs even with an experienced baker such as yourself. The combination of flavors and textures in this cake are wonderful and I wish you had been able to experience that.
Lou T. August 20, 2023
I had the exact same issue as Kbakes with the sinking and I consider myself a very experienced baker. I’ve never had the much sinking with any other flourless chocolate cake I’ve make before. I may try it again but avoid the food processor.
Sharon January 24, 2024
Not sure if you did this but I always lighten up the mascarpone a bit before whipping it with the cream. Also, I’ve only done it with a stand mixer and it’s never failed. It helps if you decide to try again!
AntoniaJames January 24, 2024
Sharon, thank you for weighing in with these tips. ;o)
Ctgal April 30, 2022
All I can say is bless you! I am bringing a dessert to a Kentucky Derby party next week, and it has to be gluten free so I can eat it. It sounds divine, and I will be sure not to overmix the mascarpone. Do you think a stand mixer would be easier? I'm sure that everyone will like it. Thank you for the recipe!
NatalieAnn April 18, 2022
Everything about this cake is absolutely fantastic! I made it for Easter and my family LOVED it! We’re a gluten free household and also tend to dislike overly sweet desserts and this hit the sweet spot (pun intended)! I love that no weird ingredients are required (often the downfall of many gluten free recipes) and the filling/icing is amazing! I did ruin my first batch over whipping the cream in the food processor so I started over on the mascarpone cream part using an electric hand whisk and closely following all the steps to make sure it wasn’t over or under mixed. Everyone loved it and it will certainly make an appearance at future dinners and celebrations.
AntoniaJames April 19, 2022
Thank you so much for your kind words, and also for the heads up on over-processing the cream. That got really close to happening to me. The cream can go from fluffy to hard in an instant, it seems. ;o)
Candice April 18, 2022
I made this cake and I think the key is to make it in advance. I made it with extra almond brittle because it is the star of this dessert. I will def make again - maybe with a thin chocolate ganache layer in between.
Amy April 18, 2022
I agree that it definitely improved on day 2 and 3! (then it was gone :) )
AntoniaJames April 18, 2022
Candice, thank you for making this! I agree that a ganache as a middle layer would be great . . . . all that mascarpone is admittedly quite over the top. I always make extra almond brittle bits to sprinkle over vanilla yogurt, long after the cake has been devoured. I agree, it is the star of this dessert! ;o)
Candice April 19, 2022
The pleasure was allll mine!
Amy April 8, 2022
Cake overall was very good! I do think the instructions could be clearer - separate instructions for food processor and hand whisking instead of infusing both throughout. And as I mentioned separate the entire sections instead of all ingredients so far away from their corresponding instructions. Also - clarify timing. My praline and frosting were ready to go then had to wait for the cake to cool... Could have made cake first.

I did overmix my cream/mascarpone, but saved it early enough with the addition of a bit more heavy cream when adding the flavorings. I'm surprised that there was 2/3 of the filling and just 1/3 of the topping. My family and I loved the topping with the salty praline! Would have loved more of that instead of more filling. The cake itself was tasty, but not nearly as moist as our fave chocolate cake (Fine cooking's chocolate beet cake). I may make this again someday - and definitely watch my food processor more closely when mixing cream and mascarpone - and I'll switch the ratio of fillings so we get more of the crunchy/salty/sweet praline. Yum yum! Thank you, Antonia!
AntoniaJames April 8, 2022
Amy, thank you so much for trying my recipe and for sharing these detailed notes. This is wonderfully helpful. I will revise the recipe as you suggest!

I'm glad you liked the cake.

Incidentally, we found that this cake freezes remarkably well. I made several while testing the recipe, so we filled the freezer with large shareable slice portions. We were delighted to discover that they held up beautifully, with no noticeable reduction in flavor, even after a month in the freezer. ;o)
Amy April 8, 2022
Making now. Just a note ---- would be much easier to follow if there were broken up by section: cake ingredients and instructions, praline ingredients and instructions, filling/topping ingredients and instructions.
Looking forward to tasting it!
Bkgrl April 3, 2022
This looks amazing! Unfortunately I can’t have almond flour. Any possible subs??
drbabs April 3, 2022
I imagine you could use regular all purpose flour or a gluten free blend like Cup4Cup. The cake will have a different texture, but it will still be good.
AntoniaJames April 3, 2022
You can use regular flour or a GF substitute, but don't substitute 1 to 1. Use 1 and a half cups + 1 tablespoon / 200 grams cups of flour. ;o)
drbabs March 24, 2022
Wow! I can’t wait to try this!
AntoniaJames March 31, 2022
Thank you, drbabs! You see it's gluten free . . . . I'm going to add details for this to be a GF dairy-free alternative in the next month or so, using an adapted version of Alice Medrich's fantastic pastry cream (made with rice flour and oat milk) for the topping and filling - not nearly as rich as the mascarpone, of course, but delightful nonetheless. I've also made this with a strawberry filling . . . . blitzing dried strawberries with sugar which are mixed with the mascarpone and cream. Also delicious, if I may say so. ;o)
drbabs April 2, 2022
Congratulations on being a finalist!
sdebrango March 13, 2022
Hi AJ! I don't see the amount of salt you add to the cake. I am in the middle of making it. Can you help?
AntoniaJames March 13, 2022
Ooops. 1/2 teaspoon. ;o)
sdebrango March 13, 2022
Thank you!!!
jarmstrong April 5, 2022
Hi there Antonia. Where does that 1/2 teaspoon of salt go? I see 1/4 teaspoon for the almond praline crunch. Does the other 1/2 teaspoon go into the cake batter? Thanks!
AntoniaJames April 5, 2022
jarmstrong, i just corrected the recipe, both in the ingredient list and in the instructions. You'll need 3/4 teaspoon all told - 1/2 teaspoon for the cake batter, and 1/4 teaspoon for the praline. ;o)
AntoniaJames March 2, 2022
Oh dear! As I was just about to toss my handwritten notes on this recipe, which I tested several times, I saw that the water quantity is incorrect - it should be 3/4 cup, total, of hot liquid to melt the chocolate. I'll correct that when the recipe is released for editing.
Thanks. ;o)
meganvt01 March 7, 2022
Hello - can you also add the quantity of cocoa please?
AntoniaJames March 7, 2022
Done. So sorry for any inconvenience. ;o)
luvcookbooks March 2, 2022
OMG this looks amazing!!!! Can’t wait to try!
AntoniaJames March 2, 2022
Thank you, LCB! That's so kind of you. I hope you do try it, and love it. I'm not much of a fan of buttercream cake fillings / frostings (never have been, even as a kid) as they are always just too sweet and, frankly, kind of uninteresting. The tangy mascarpone + slight bitterness of the coffee in this filling takes care of that nicely. Thanks again. ;o)