Vietnamese iced coffee, one of my all time favorite coffee drinks, inspired this beautiful Vietnamese iced coffee cake. The recipe starts with two layers of a VERY strong coffee-flavored cake. These layers are then combined together and covered with a toasted, sweetened condensed milk frosting. To make it an “iced” Vietnamese coffee cake, I also finished the cake with mocha fudge swirls. These swirls mimic a freshly swirled iced coffee drink!
Vietnamese coffee starts with strong, coarsely ground, medium to dark roasted Vietnamese-grown coffee beans. Vietnamese coffee beans come pre-ground, or whole—check out the Ingredients section below for what brands I recommend! Place these grounds in a small metal drip filter (called “phin cà phê“) over a small cup, and then pour hot water over the grounds. The filter then slowly releases the water into the beans, filtering strong coffee into the cup. Because Vietnamese coffee is so strong, folks usually serve the coffee with a few tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. The sweetened condensed milk sits at the bottom of the glass as the hot coffee slowly drips on top of it.
However, many people also serve the Vietnamese coffee over ice to make Vietnamese iced coffee. To make Vietnamese iced coffee, pour the filtered coffee into a glass filled with ice. Similar to the hot version, you can use sweetened condensed milk to sweeten and flavor the iced coffee. Personally, I like this iced, sweetened preparation of Vietnamese coffee the best—that’s why I made this cake! But we’ll get to that shortly, I promise.
Now that you’ve learned all about Vietnamese coffee, let’s talk about this Vietnamese iced coffee cake! I wanted this cake to taste like all the best parts of Vietnamese coffee. For me, that means lots of strong coffee and toasty sweetened condensed milk flavors. As a result, this recipe starts with a VERY strongly flavored coffee cake. The cake has two types of coffee in it: coffee granules (from instant coffee OR ground coffee beans—I’ll explain more in a hot second), and strong-brewed coffee. The cake is then layered and covered with an unapologetically sweet and creamy sweetened condensed milk frosting, and completed with mocha swirls to mimic a freshly swirled iced coffee!
I’m not going to lie—most layer cake recipes take all day to make. First, you make the cakes and wait for them to cool completely before assembling and decorating. Next, you make the frosting and assemble the cake. If you’re using a complicated frosting like Swiss meringue buttercream, it can take up to a full half hour to make the frosting! Decorating the cake can be time-consuming, too.
- 4 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3 large eggs
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 cups milk
- 1 coffee shot (40ml)
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 3/4 cups brown sugar
- 3/4 tsp fine salt
- 3 tbsp greek yogurt or sour cream
- 1 tsp instant coffee powder
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 3/4 cups dark chocolate
Sweetened Condensed Milk Frosting
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 large egg whites
- 3/4 cup chocolate sauce
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 20 coffee beans
- 1 coffee shot (40ml)
- Preheat a conventional oven to 160°C / 320°F or a fan-forced oven to 140°C / 275°F. Spray two 20 cm (8 inch) cake tins with oil spray and then line the bottoms with baking paper. Set aside.
- Add the flour, baking powder and salt to a large mixing bowl. Mix to combine. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the butter, vanilla bean paste, and brown sugar and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until creamy and pale, about 3 minutes.
- Add one egg at a time, mix after each time and scraping down the bowl before adding another. Once fully mixed in, add the coffee shot and sour cream, half the dry ingredients and wet ingredients. Mix on low speed until well combined. Then add the remaining dry and wet ingredients and mix until well combined.
- Split the mixture evenly into 2 cake tins. Bake for 45 minutes. Once baked, let it cool for 5 minutes. And then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Trim the tops off the cakes using a cake leveler or a serrated knife.
- Add the chocolate, cream and instant coffee powder to a large heat proof bowl and microwave for 20 seconds at a time, stirring each time until smooth. Set aside to set completely at room temperature.
Sweetened Condensed Milk Frosting
- Fill a large pot one-quarter of the pot with water. Let it come to a gentle boil over a medium–high heat. Place a large heatproof bowl on top of the pot, make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.
- Add the egg whites and sugar to the bowl. Gently whisk your egg white and sugar mixture for about 3–4 minutes, or until the sugar is completely dissolved and you reach 72°C / 160°F.
- It’s best to check that it’s dissolved is by running it through two fingers. When you can’t feel the sugar granules, then it’s time to take it off the heat. If you can still feel the granules, continue whisking for another 2–3 minutes and keep testing until you can no longer any granules.
- Take off the heat and add the salt and vanilla extract. Use an electric hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment to whip for 4–5 minutes until thick and glossy.
- Gradually add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, while the mixer is on high speed.
- At first, your egg whites will deflate and look like the butter is causing them to split, but don’t panic! It will come back together. It takes a couple of minutes.
- Once you have added all the butter, add the vanilla extract and sweetened condensed milk and mix first on low speed to combine, then on high speed for 5 minutes.
- You’ll know it’s done when the frosting has come together, has turned pale in color (if you’re making vanilla)and is nice and fluffy.
- If you find your frosting is too aerated, then mix at the lowest speed for about 10 minutes and it will become perfectly smooth again.
- Alternatively, you can microwave it for 5-10 seconds and use a spatula to gently mix together.
- Split the frosting into three bowls. Add a coffee shot one bowl and mix until well combined.
- Add the chocolate sauce to another bowl and repeat. Leave the third bowl as white frosting.
It’s Time To Decorate!
- Add a little bit of chocolate ganache to a serving plate or cake board and spread using a spatula.
- And then add the first layer of cake and gently press down to stick to the plate or board.
- Add 1/2 of the ganache on top of the first layer and spread around using a spatula.
- Add the next layer of cake and then cover the cake in the remaining ganache.
- Spread around as evenly as you can.Place in the fridge to chill for 20 minutes.
- Use 3/4 of the vanilla frosting to cover the cake.
- Spread around as smoothly as you can. A bench scraper may help with this.
- Especially with getting sharp edges.
- The next part is about having fun with layering! Use a spatula to spread the coffee frosting on the top and bottom sides of the cake.
- Then go over that with the chocolate frosting. Finish by spreading swirls of chocolate sauce on top.
- Fit the end of a piping bag with a 6B piping top and add the remaining 1/4 white frosting. Pipe swirls on top of the cake. Sprinkle with coffee beans.