The word "mocha" can refer to a specific kind of coffee, but it also means a combination of coffee and chocolate.
Usually when we describe two foods or flavors that complement one another, we simply stick their names together -- rum-raisin, butter-pecan -- and let that stand as their descriptive. But chocolate and coffee together make an entirely new animal, as it were. Neither budges an inch, and the result is as strong as it is unique.
The most vigorous chocolate-coffee experience is, of course, chocolate-covered coffee beans. You can buy these at some chocolate shops or high-end grocery stores.
You can also make your own by melting four ounces of bittersweet chocolate, stirring in two teaspoons of peanut, walnut, or almond oil, and dipping whole coffee beans in the mixture. Stirring them in and fishing them out with a fork is probably easiest. Put the beans on a sheet of wax paper to let the chocolate set -- you may need to refrigerate them for a few minutes if the weather is hot.
Or you can make mocha cake. Brew a little extra coffee one morning, and make it good and strong. Flavored coffee is wonderful for this cake; instant is not. It doesn't matter what method you use to brew your coffee, but it must be brewed.
The coffee isn't the only part to plan in advance. Cut a bar of butter in half, and put it, along with two whole bars, on the counter to soften. And put two eggs out to reach room temperature, too. That's always best for cakes.
When you're ready to make your cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two round cake pans or one 14 x 9 inch one.
Cream one and a half of the bars of butter (3/4 cups) together with a cup of granulated sugar in a large bowl until they're light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In another bowl, combine two and three-fourth cups of cake flour, half a cup of unsweetened cocoa (not hot chocolate or flavored cocoa mix), 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, one and a half teaspoons baking soda, and half a teaspoon salt. Stir and toss this together with a fork or whisk until thoroughly mixed.
In a large measuring cup, combine one cup buttermilk, one cup strong brewed coffee and two teaspoons real vanilla.
Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to the butter-sugar. Don't worry if the mixture looks a little curdled at first.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans (or pan). Bake for about twenty-five minutes (start checking at twenty), until the top of the cake springs back completely from a gentle press of the fingers. Cool thoroughly on a rack.
While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. Cream one bar (half a cup) of butter, then add about a cup of powdered sugar. When these are stiff and blended, add a teaspoon of vanilla and a few tablespoons of brewed coffee.
How much coffee you add depends on how strong you want the frosting to be. You can use coffee for all the thinning you need for this frosting, or you can just use two or three tablespoons and add a little milk if the frosting is too thick.
After adding the coffee, add three tablespoons unsweetened cocoa. You will use three or four cups of powdered sugar -- I always use the entire contents of a one-pound box. Add it gradually, thinning the frosting when necessary.
When cake is completely cooled, ice with mocha frosting. Enjoy a slice with a glass of cold milk -- or a cup of coffee.