Baking Chocolate Food General Recipes

In Praise of Spontaneity and Vanilla and Espresso Buttercream Frosting

One of the things that often irks me about living in North America is how much people seem to plan and organize their social lives. Speaking broadly of course, based on anecdotal evidence from my life, I find that people in India are far more spontaneous. I think there is something nice about being able to phone a friend and make an impromptu plan for the same day once in a while. But, here, more often than not, people plan dinner parties and drinks weeks in advance.

Unfortunately, having to pencil appointments with my friends into my calendar really doesn’t work for my personality. I often find myself feeling tired, or un-social, and want nothing more than to sit on the couch with a book, but end up having to go out because I accepted an invitation weeks ago. People may have gone to considerable trouble to cook for me, or a the very least they’ve set aside time to see me, so I feel compelled to go. At other times, I have a spontaneous urge to go out and see people, but end up staying in, because I haven’t made any plans with anyone.

I realize that part of life is having to do things one doesn’t feel like doing, but when it comes to how we interact with one another, I don’t think it has to be this way, and it isn’t this way in India. Of course, the ‘impromptu system’ I am advocating has its own drawbacks. In spite of its flaws however, I prefer this system to what I see as an overly organized North American model.

Luckily, that’s all it is, a model; which means not everyone follows it and I’ve managed to find a few people here who like spontaneity once in a while too 🙂 All of this has meant that last evening, I was able to indulge in one of the small, simple joys of life, namely throwing an impromptu soiree. The plan was made frantically, over multiple text messages, sometime last afternoon. After which, I could be seen running about trying to throw some snacks together. Since spontaneity was the theme, I even decided to bake a cake! It turned out pretty well, but what I really liked about it was the icing, so I thought I would share the recipe here with you 🙂


1 Chocolate Cake

4 Eggs

1 Cup Sugar

2 Pinches of Salt

3 Sticks of Butter

1 tsp Vanilla Essence

1 tbsp Instant Espresso


Place the sugar, salt and eggs in a double boiler (just place them in a heat proof bowl and then place the bowl over another bowl of simmer water, make sure not to let the bottom of the first bowl touch the water). Gently and continuously, whisk the mixture while it heats up. Using a thermometer check the temperature of the mixture periodically. When the temperature reaches 160 F, take the mixture of the heat. Now beat the mixture at high-speed until it becomes fluffy and airy and reaches room temperature. Then add the butter in, half a stick at a time, beating continuously at medium speed. Once the butter is whipped in, separate the mixture into two equal parts in two bowls.

In the first bowl beat in the espresso at high-speed until you have a really light fluffy frosting.

Next, cut the cake in half. (Ideally, when you bake the cake, bake it in two separate bowls so that you have two layers without having to slice the cake in half later). Using a spatula spread a thick layer of espresso frosting over the top of the bottom layer. You don’t have to worry about doing this neatly. Make sure to leave aside about 3-4 tablespoons of frosting to decorate the top of the cake with. Then place the top layer of the cake on top of the frosting.

In the second bowl, beat in the vanilla essence, until you have a smooth, fluffy texture.

Using a separate spatula, spread this over the top and sides of the cake. Once you have a somewhat smooth (it does not have to be flawless) surface, use a basting brush to draw fine decorative lines along the sides and top of the cake. Finally, fill some of the left over frosting into a frosting bag and squeeze little bits of it on the top the cake in whatever pattern you like.

And there you have it, a white vanilla butter-cream frosted cake with a creamy espresso layer in the middle. Mmmm.

Mine turned out a little lopsided 😦 clearly I have to work some more on my decorative skills. However, it tasted pretty darned good and got rave reviews at my party 🙂


By Megha Jandhyala

Megha Jandhyala has a Doctorate in law, with her academic work focusing on the intersections between law, culture, and development. She now spends her time tasting and writing about food and wine. She is passionate about wines from all over the world, but she is especially interested in emerging wine regions like Valle de Guadalupe and Coahuila in Mexico and Nashik in India. She explores the relationship between wine and food in her writing, with a focus on cuisine from the Indian subcontinent. She hopes to highlight the ways in which wine and different expressions of South Asian regional cuisine can enhance one another, sparking new conversations in the process.

5 replies on “In Praise of Spontaneity and Vanilla and Espresso Buttercream Frosting”

Hi Megha . . . I tried to post a comment but this system requires log-in, password, etc., all enemies of spontaneity. So let me just burst out spontaneously that I am enjoying your posts and think your plea for more impulsive and last-minute socializing is super. isobel.

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