This wonderful chocolate cake is decorated in the style of Kawaii – Japanese for “cute.” I turned my cake into a fun bubble tea character.
Those of you who have been loyal Eva Bakes readers (thank you!) know that my daughter and I go to the library every week. We’ve had this tradition since she was 2 years old. As a result, we know all the librarians in the children’s section. In fact, several of the librarians hold new releases for us before they are available to the general public.
One evening, as Addie trotted off the children’s area, I walked to the (adult) new release section. One book caught my eye – Kawaii Sweet World. My eyes got bigger with every page, as each dessert looked too adorable to actually eat.
When the three of us sat down to pick out one dessert to try from the book, we immediately settled on the bubble tea concept. I read through the recipe and was a bit disappointed to see that it was for a plain vanilla cake. We brainstormed ideas and ultimately decided to bake a chocolate cake instead.
We brought the cake to Addie’s end-of-season basketball party with her team. Both the parents and kids alike loved the design, and they also enjoyed the cake as well. If you’re not familiar with the cookbook, I’d encourage you to give it a look. The author’s creations are super cute and hopefully will inspire you to play with your own designs.
Bubble tea chocolate cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 and ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 and ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar packed
- ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 5 sticks (2 and ½ cups) unsalted butter room temperature
- 6-8 cups powdered sugar more or less, depending on how thick you like your frosting
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- pinch salt
- 3-6 teaspoons milk of choice more or less, depending on how thick you like your frosting
- food coloring of choice
- melted chocolate
- 2 pink or red M&M candies or any other round or oval candies like after-dinner mints, jelly beans, Mike & Ikes
- round, brown-colored candies like regular M&Ms, peanut M&Ms, Whoppers
- 1 bubble tea straw or a cylinder-shaped cookie
Bake the cake
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Generously grease and line three 8-inch baking pans with parchment paper. If you have 6-inch pans, that works as well (we will be trimming the cake to a 6-inch size in the end).
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then add in the sugars. Mix until well combined.
- Add in the oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla and mix until just combined.
- Add the instant espresso powder to the boiling water and mix well. Pour this into the batter and mix well. The batter will be thin and watery.
- Evenly distribute the batter into your three baking pans. Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If using 6-inch pans, check the cake starting around the 20 minute mark.
- Allow the cakes to cool before allowing them to cool fully on a cooling rack.
Make the frosting
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, whip the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add in the powdered sugar. Then add the vanilla and salt and mix well. The icing will be a bit stiff at this time.
- Add the milk to thin up the icing a bit. If it's still too thick, add more milk. If it's too runny, add more powdered sugar. The frosting should be soft but easily spreadable.
- Add food coloring if using. I used about 3 drops of red food coloring to achieve a light pink.
- Set the frosting aside.
Assemble the cake
- Set one layer of the cake on a cake stand or plate (with the flat side down). If desired, use a serrated knife to cut any dome off the top of the cake. Spread about ½ cup of frosting on top and add another layer of cake. Repeat with remaining layers.
- At this point, the chocolate cake will be very soft and crumbly. I highly recommend you place the cake in the refrigerator to allow it to firm up before moving on.
- After the cake has chilled for about 20 minutes, add a thin layer of frosting on the top and sides of the cake. This is called a crumb coat. Don't worry if chocolate cake crumbs are everywhere and are visible. We'll cover them up later. Place the cake back in the refrigerator for another 20 or so minutes.
- Once the cake has cooled, frost the top and sides of the cake once more. This time, the frosting should go on fairly smoothly and you should be able to cover up the crumb coat easily.
- Using melted chocolate, draw on eyes and a mouth (I used a piping bag and drew on a piece of parchment paper. Then I placed the chocolate in the refrigerator to firm up). Press some chocolate candies around the base of the cake. If desired, add a bubble tea straw or a cylinder-shaped cookie in the top of the cake to resemble a bubble tea drink.
- Serve and enjoy.