Mud Cake 2.0

I realized something recently. Even though I’ve been writing about Rosa’s Mud Cake for over a decade now, it had been a very long time since I actually baked one in my own kitchen. For the longest time the cake was our go-to for many special occasions, specifically my chocolate-loving daughter’s birthday, but since she left for college, most of my mud cake enjoyment has been vicarious, through the steady stream of photos people have texted me (or tagged me on) through the years. That changed last week when I decided to bake it for Rosa’s daughter herself — it was Jeni’s birthday and I thought: What better excuse?

Plus, since the recipe makes two nine-inch rounds, I could drop off one of those rounds with Jeni (above, with a simple perimeter of rainbow sprinkles), then save the second round for a group of Abby’s friends, who were coming over the following night. I also decided it was time to give the recipe a little tune-up — I had been hearing from readers that the cake can sometimes be difficult to remove from the pan, so wanted to work on that — and in the meantime, maybe even give it a little boost in the form of salted chocolate frosting. I did all that below, and I know I am at risk of boring you to tears with this, but I swear I almost cried when I tasted the result, I had forgotten how effing amazing it was, simultaneously rich and chocolatey but with a decidedly springy texture. Abby and her friends had gone up to the roof deck after dinner and before cake, so I was asleep by the time they came back. I’m not kidding when I say that whole night I was dreaming of the cake and waiting to hear her reviews of it in the morning. You’ll be shocked to hear it received very high marks. Here’s your new-and-improved Rosa’s Mud Cake with Salted Chocolate Frosting.

Rosa’s Mud Cake with Salted Chocolate Frosting
Makes one 9-by-13-inch sheet cake or two 9-inch layers.

butter, for greasing pans
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup strong black coffee (brewed, not grinds!)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare baking pans: Trace the bottom of a 9-inch baking pan two times on two pieces of parchment paper. Cut out the rounds and set aside. Grease two 9-inch baking pans with butter, placing a parchment round on each bottom. Lightly grease the parchment paper then sprinkle a little flour into each, shaking the pan gently to distribute the flour on the bottom and sides of the pan. (If you are making a sheet cake, do the same thing, but cut a rectangular piece from the parchment paper.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder. Mix in the eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract just until combined. Divide the batter between the prepared baking pans. (Or pour it into the single sheet pan.) Bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Remove and let cool on a rack. When cool enough to handle, run a knife around the sides of each pan. Cover the baking pan with one dinner plate, then, in one motion, invert the baking pan so the cake falls out onto the plate. Invert the cake back on to a serving platter in the same manner. I usually keep the parchment paper on the bottom, which makes it easy to slide and transport, but feel free to peel it off gently.

Salted Chocolate Frosting
Makes enough for two 9-inch cakes

3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, fully at room temperature (important)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter, powdered sugar and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Pour in chocolate, milk and vanilla, beat until combined and fluffy.

Gently spread the frosting on the completely cooled mud cake.

Mud Cake Through the Years

Shaped into a heart cake for Phoebe’s 5th birthday.
Styled with a perimeter of dum-dum lollipops for my book How to Celebrate Everything
Celebrating a good grade
Surrounded by raspberries and dusted with powdered sugar for my dad’s birthday, ca. 2008

Thank you, Rosa. ❤️

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Does the coffee need to be hot? Or is room temperature ok? My parent’s 50th wedding anniversary is next week and I think would be perfect. Thanks!!


Was going to rush into the kitchen to make a 1/2 recipe, but too difficult without weight measurements. Oh well. I guess I’ll wait for the weekend and make the whole recipe. It looks delicious! Thank you!


I would love weights too, but you could just halve the volume measurement for the cake – it’d be pretty easy!

E E Deere

Oh, yum. I can’t wait to try this.
And on a college-related subject: I happen to know a delightful person who will have her birthday only 5 days after starting college. A freshman. She wonders if there will be anyone around to celebrate. What are some or even one good thing I could make and ship to her?


We’ve pretty much been limited to shipping cookies, although we did send homemade pies from Southern California to Minnesota to our freshman daughter in fall 2020 at college lockdown Thanksgiving. What I definitely recommend as far as random inedible treats is the game Bananagrams. 🙂 It’s simple, it’s fun, it packs into its own banana and takes up very little space, and it’s a good way to get to know people in your dorm. Also, I should add that I have no affiliation with whatever company makes Bananagrams. 🙂


One of my sweetest memories of my amazing Freshman roommate (who is also a delightful person and still one of my very best friends) is that when her mom would send her a care package, there was double of everything. One for her and one for me. Not fancy or extravagant things (bags of chips, or boxes of band-aids, etc.). Obviously, this doesn’t have to be the case for a birthday package. Just to say, if you send something yummy for your delightful person to share, the people invited to share will also feel loved. This recipe is similar to one that the same best friend makes and ships (in an air-tight container) successfully, and they never disappoint. xox


Hoping the 1 c. coffee is not essential, as I am not a coffee drinker and don’t think I even have any in the house. Usually on my first run-through, I try to stick closely to a recipe, but my desire for this cake makes me throw caution to the winds…

Kate Jensen

I baked this cake last weekend and it made me think that I’d never eaten a chocolate cake before! It’s fabulous. My family is already requesting it for their birthdays.
I substituted a bit of the cocoa with a blend I have from Australia — that includes coriander, ginger, clove, nutmeg. That gave it a bit more complex flavor. A keeper for sure. Thank you Jenny & Rosa!


Jeni, can this cake be baked ahead of time and frozen (as is the case with most cakes of this sort)? Want to serve on a day when I won’t have time to bake.


Sorry, I meant to write “Jenny,” not “Jeni” with my baking in advance question!