My life has had its fair share of ups and downs to be sure but without question, the area where I feel that I truly am the luckiest is in my friends. I have a sizable number of exceptionally wonderful human beings that I count as some of my very best friends. People I can call anytime if I need something (though you can be sure that if I actually pick up the phone and call you, I am probably dying), people who love to search out and enjoy good food and drinks as much as I do, people who will act silly with me and laugh with me until our cheeks and stomachs hurt.

When one of these people celebrates a birthday, I do what I do best. First, I order them a gift online and have it shipped, likely a day or two late because I needed Facebook to remind me it was their birthday and then I forgot anyway. Then I bake them a cake to make up for the late gift. Also because I love baking. And because we love cake. And it’s all good, because smiling and laughing with friends over cake is pretty much the best, even a week or two late.

My awesome friend Tracy celebrated a birthday last month and she chose this chocolate chip layer cake from the Milk Bar – BEST CHOICE EVER. The flavor combination may sound a little strange – chocolate chip cake, passion fruit puree and passion fruit curd, chocolate crumb and coffee frosting. I get it. Just trust me, it works. I mean, really, has passion fruit curd ever sounded like a bad idea to you? Have you ever even made passion fruit curd? No? Then get your behind into that kitchen and get cooking stat. This cake, just like truly great friends – so worth it!

  • Yield about 8 servings


For the passion fruit curd: 

  • 100 grams (½ cup) passion fruit puree
  • 65 grams (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. water
  • ½ tsp. powdered gelatin
  • 170 grams (12 tbsp.) butter, very cold
  • 2 grams (½ tsp.) kosher salt

For the chocolate crumb: 

  • 52 grams (1/3 cup) flour
  • 2 grams (½ tsp.) cornstarch
  • 50 grams (¼ cup) granulated sugar
  • 33 grams (1/3 cup) cocoa powder
  • 2 grams (½ tsp.) kosher salt
  • 43 grams (3 tbsp.) butter, melted

For the cake: 

  • 115 grams (8 tbsp.) butter, at room temperature
  • 250 grams (1¼ cup) granulated sugar
  • 60 grams (¼ cup tightly packed) light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 110 grams (½ cup) buttermilk
  • 75 grams (½ cup) grapeseed oil
  • 12 grams (1 tbsp.) vanilla extract
  • 185 grams (1½ cups) cake flour
  • 4 grams (1 tsp.) baking powder
  • 4 grams (1 tsp.) kosher salt
  • 150 grams (¾ cup) mini chocolate chips

For the frosting: 

  • 115 grams (8 tbsp.) butter, at room temperature
  • 40 grams (¼ cup) confectioners’ sugar
  • 55 grams (¼ cup) milk
  • 1.5 grams (¾ tsp.) instant coffee powder
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp.) kosher salt

To assemble: 

  • 60 grams passion fruit puree
  • 40 grams mini chocolate chips


  • 01

    To make the passion fruit curd, put the passion fruit puree in a blender with the sugar and blend until the sugar granules have dissolved. Add the eggs and blend on low until the mixture is bright orange-yellow. Transfer the contents of the blender to a medium pot or saucepan, and clean out the blender canister. Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top to bloom the gelatin. In the saucepan, heat the passion fruit mixture over low heat, whisking often. It will begin to thicken as it heats up. Once it boils, remove it from the heat and transfer to the clean blender canister. Add in the bloomed gelatin, butter, and salt, and blend until the mixture is thick, shiny and very smooth. Transfer to a heatproof container, cover and refrigerate until completely cool, at least 1 hour.

  • 02

    To make the chocolate crumb, heat the oven to 300˚ F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Mix on low speed until combined. Add in the butter and mix until the mixture starts to form small clusters. Spread the clusters on the prepared baking sheet. Baking for 20 minutes, breaking them up occasionally. Remove from the oven. The crumbs will dry and harden as they cool. Cool completely before using.

  • 03

    To make the cake, heat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter and flour the edges of a quarter sheet pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugars. Beat on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in the eggs, and mix on medium-high for 2-3 minutes more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.

  • 04

    With the mixer on low speed, stream in the buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix for 4-6 minutes, until the mixture is nearly white and twice the size of the original batter, and completely homogenous (there should be no streaks of fat or liquid.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on very low speed, add in the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix about 45-60 seconds, just until the batter comes together and no dry streaks remain. Spread the batter in the prepared quarter sheet pan. Sprinkle the mini chocolate chips evenly over the batter.

  • 05

    Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through baking, until the cake is puffed and the center is no longer jiggly (the cake should bounce back when lightly poked with your finger.) Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely.

  • 06

    Do not make the coffee frosting until you are ready to fully assemble the cake! To make the frosting, combine the butter and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Cream together on medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the milk, instant coffee and salt and whisk to combine well. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl. With the mixer on low speed, very gradually add the coffee milk to the butter mixture. The butter mixture will clump and separate. Do not add more liquid until the each addition has been fully incorporated. (This may seem like a very small amount of frosting and believe me, you may curse it while assembling the cake but do not be tempted to add more than is called for or it will offset the flavor balance of this cake.) 

  • 07

    To assemble the cake, invert the cake from the sheet pan onto a work surface. Use a 6-inch cake ring to cut out 2 circles from the cake (these will be the top two layers.) Wipe off the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment or a silpat. Use a strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring. Use scraps from the leftover cake to place in the ring and tamp together in a flat, even layer. Use a pastry brush to soak the cake with about half of the passion fruit puree.

  • 08

    Spread half of the passion fruit curd in an even layer over the cake. Sprinkle half of the chocolate crumbs evenly over the curd, using the back of your hand to gently adhere them and anchor them in place. Carefully spread one third of the coffee frosting as evenly as possible over the chocolate crumbs. (Don’t worry if it looks a hot mess – it will still taste fab.) Gently tuck a second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top ¼-inch of the first strip of acetate. Set a cake round on top of the frosting, and repeat the layering process once more (passion fruit puree, curd, crumbles, frosting.) Place the remaining cake layer onto the frosting. Cover the top with the remaining frosting and garnish with mini chocolate chips.

  • 09

    Transfer the assembled cake to the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 12 hours to set the cake and the filling. At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve, remove the pan from the freezer, pop the cake out of the cake ring, and peel away the acetate layers. Transfer to a cake platter and defrost for at least 3 hours before slicing and serving.