that takes the cake

Donna is retiring.  She’s been working on the Hill for over 40 years.  43 to be exact.  13 years longer than I’ve been alive.  I was completely and utterly gobsmacked when I heard that.


Obviously that calls for a celebration of sorts. 

And so we threw her a party.

Yesterday afternoon, everyone took the time to set aside their work, leave their cubicles, and gather around Donna as we all thanked her for her tremendous work and wished her the best for the future.

There were speeches.  There were presents.  Pictures were taken.

And then we ate.

I had been asked if I minded baking the cake.  Of course not!  I even got Emily to help me out with the decorating.   Vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream.  Exactly as Donna had requested (I figured it was best to check and make sure she got the cake she wanted).

*Donna likes going to the casino … and we wanted to make sure she got her royal flush!

I was then asked if I wouldn’t mind baking another little treat … or two (or four).  Done!

I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to make …. cranberry bliss barsBlack & white toffee bars?

That’s when I found this recipe.

To say that I was excited would be an understatement.  You see – when I was 12 years old, I was gifted my first recipe book.  It was an A to Z cookbook – with a recipe assigned to each letter of the alphabet (I remember that X was xylophone cake).  

My personal favourites to bake were the lemon squares and the espresso brownies.  They were … incredible.  I remember the lemon squares were mouth puckering tart, and that the espresso brownies tasted of a rich mocha … they made me feel so grown up.  I’ve since lost that book (if anyone knows which one I’m talking about … send me a quick email … I’d love to get another copy), but the memory of both those recipes sneak up on me from time to time.

These brownies brought me right back to my childhood.  Only this version is a little more grown-up.  I got to use my coffee liqueur – that ingredient wasn’t in my original recipe ;0)

If you’re looking for something to quickly whip up for the holidays – these squares … aren’t really what you are looking for.  Easy – yes.  Quick … well you need to include cooling time … so I’m not classifying these as labour intensive – simply as slightly time-consuming… but only slightly

These babies pack a real punch – full of mocha and chocolate.  Oh my my.  Delish!  Coffee and baked goods all in one bite (plus a little shot of coffee liqueur)

Made in two different stages – the brownie base, and then once cooled the espresso topping – these will make your coffee loving heart sing as they bake. 

triple espresso brownies


1/4 c. water

2 tbsp instant espresso powder

1 c. butter

1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. packed brown sugar

4 eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

2 c. flour, sifted

1/2 c.  chopped toasted pecans

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Line your rectangular baking pan with parchment paper (or foil), grease with nonstick spray and set aside.  Lining the pan with parchment paper or foil simply allows you to easily lift the entire pan of brownies out and cleanly cut them – not necessary if you are fine with just cutting them straight out of the pan :0)

In a medium saucepan, combine the water with espresso powder.  Add the butter and the chocolate chips.  Heat and stir over low heat until the mixture is smooth. 

Remove the saucepan from heat and whisk in the sugars, vanilla and eggs – whisking the entire time so that the eggs don’t curdle.

Grab your wooden spoon and stir in the flour, pecans and salt.  Spread the batter evenly in the pan.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes (middle rack, and until a toothpick comes out clean).  Cool in the pan on a wire rack.  Do not remove the brownies from the pan yet.

Step two: making the frosting.

espresso frosting


3 c. powdered sugar, sifted

1/4 c. butter, softened

2 tbsp boiling water

2 tbsp coffee liqueur or 2 tsp espresso powder

1/2 tsp vanilla

Place the powdered sugar in the bowl of your stand-mixer.  Add the butter, boiling water, coffee liqueur (or espresso powder), and 1/2 tsp vanilla.

Beat on low-speed until combined (use your paddle attachment), then increase the speed – allowing the batter to get fluffy and smooth (if needed, add a little milk to loosen up the batter).

Spread oven the cooled brownies (while still in the pan). 

Sprinkle with some cocoa powder and then some chopped chocolate covered coffee beans. 

Allow these brownies to chill a little – either in the freezer for about 30 minutes or in the fridge (wrapped in plastic wrap).  This will make it much easier to cleanly cut them into pieces.

Lift the brownies out of the pan (the beauty of that parchment paper) and then cut into small cubes – you should be able to get about 60 squares.  Perfect little one-bite treats for any social gathering.  Especially one as memorable as Donna’s farewell.

3 thoughts on “that takes the cake

  1. I made a batch for the xmas office party and I used half a cup of mint choc chips with the rest, but I put it in a 9″ pan for 30 min and didn’t realise they weren’t cooked after I put a layer of mint choc chips on top. so when I got back from the party I scraped the icing and put it back in the oven for another 30 min. now they are cooked! I din’t realise you said a rectangle pan! now I know, but I like them thick so next time I will bake them for 1 hre…(no I didn’t take them but lucky I had some of those crystal ginger cookies instead!)

    • LOL! that’s hilarious Michele! I have had many baking moments where I think I read everything correctly and then wonder why it doesn’t turn out as planned… part of the fun. And crystallized ginger cookies are always a good option! :0)

  2. That cake is so neat! Donna is lucky to have such a talented and giving friend such as yourself. You really rocked that party dessert table.

    Best wishes to Donna on a healthy and happy retirement. So well deserved and….about time! LOL

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