All throughout the holiday season, our teams from Brooklyn, Australia, and the UK will be sharing Christmas stories from around the world, created by some of our favorite creatives. Today’s holiday cake recipe comes courtesy of Style Sweet CA’s Tessa Huff! Cheers!

west elm - Chocolate Rosemary Brownie Cake by Tessa Huff

Celebrate the holidays with this decadent Chocolate Rosemary Cake! Topped with dramatic floral elements that have been paired with a “naked” finish, this cake is sure to impress. Rustic elegance at its finest.

The cake itself is rich and decadent – its texture close to that of a brownie. The rosemary buttercream is both familiar and unexpected. The savory undertones offset the sinfully chocolate layers perfectly. Finish the look and round out the flavors with an impressive, spiced caramel drip!

west elm - Chocolate Rosemary Brownie Cake by Tessa Huff

Chocolate Brownie Cake

    1 ⅓ cup unsalted butter
    11 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
    1 rounded teaspoon instant espresso powder
    2 ⅔ cup granulated sugar
    5 large eggs
    1 egg yolk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
    1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line the bottoms of four 7-inch cake pans and set aside. (see Notes)

Place the butter, chocolate, and espresso in a heat-safe bowl. Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Place the bowl with the butter-chocolate mixture on top to create a double-boiler. Heat the mixture until it begins to melt. Stir together until smooth and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the whisk attachment to beat the sugar, eggs, and yolk on medium-high until foamy and pale in color, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

Meanwhile, sift together the dry ingredients. With the mixer on low, gradually add in the dry ingredients in two batches – scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions.

Add in the butter-chocolate mixture and fold until combined.

Evenly distribute the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes or until the tops are slightly cracked and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a couple crumbs. Do not over-bake. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes before carefully removing the cakes from their pans. Peel off the parchment paper and continue to completely cool before assembling.

Alternatively, recipe may be baked in three 8-inch cake pans. Bake time may very. Begin checking at 25 minutes.

Do not over bake. Like with brownies, it is okay to pull the cakes from the oven when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs. It does not have to be completely clean, but the batter should not look raw.

Rosemary Buttercream

    2 cups unsalted butter
    a few sprigs fresh rosemary
    1 ⅓ cup granulated sugar
    4 large egg whites
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the butter in a saucepan and heat over medium-high until completely melted. Add the rosemary and continue to heat over low for5 to 8 minutes, making sure that the butter solids to not burn at the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Strain out the rosemary, and place the butter in a separate container. Place the infused butter in the refrigerator until it reaches the consistency of softened butter, 30 to 60 minutes.

After the butter returns to a soft, creamy consistency, place the sugar and egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. Gently whisk, by hand, until combined. Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Place the mixer bowl on top the create a double-boiler. Occasionally whisking, heat the egg mixture until it reaches 155 to 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Once hot, carefully transfer the mixer bowl back to the stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat the meringue until is reached stiff peaks, about 8 minutes. The meringue is done when the bowl of the mixer returns to room temperature.

With the mixer on low, add in the vanilla and the infused butter – a couple tablespoons at a time. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat until silky smooth.

If the buttercream separates or looks curdled, just keep mixing until it incorporates (this can sometimes take 5 to 10 minutes). It is appears soupy, place the mixer (and its contents) in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes then mix until smooth.

Cinnamon Spiced Caramel Sauce

    1 cup granulated sugar
    ¼ cup water
    2 tablespoon corn syrup
    ⅔ cup heavy cream
    ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
    ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste (optional)
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Place the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a light-coloured saucepan. Place over high heat and stir until the sugar begins to melt. Continue to boil, without stirring, until the mixture reaches a medium amber color and the bubbles begin to subside.

Remove from the heat and very carefully whisk in the cream. The mixture will foam up, but continue to mix. Stir in the cinnamon, cayenne, and salt.

Add the vanilla and butter. Mix until smooth. Transfer to a glass jar and cool until thickened.

west elm - Chocolate Rosemary Brownie Cake by Tessa Huff


Once the cakes have completely cooled, place the bottom layer on a cake board or serving dish. Spread on about ¼ of the buttercream with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat. Use the remaining buttercream to give the cake a rustic, “naked” finish. Chill in the refrigerator until the buttercream sets, about 15 minutes.

Once the caramel has cooled, carefully spoon it onto the top of the cake. To make sure the caramel is the correct temperature, try a “test drip” on the back of the cake. The caramel should not melt the buttercream, but should still be fluid enough to drip partially down the cake. For better control, use a spoon to create the individual drips, then go back and add the caramel to the center of the top of the cakes. Use an offset spatula to smooth, if needed.

All of the elements need time to cool and set-up properly. They may each be made in advanced. Store the caramel and buttercream in separate air-tight containers in the refrigerator up to about 10 days. Bring to room temperature before using. Reheat the caramel in the microwave as needed. The cake layers may be kept in the refrigerator for up to three days wrapped in a double-layer of plastic.

west elm - Chocolate Rosemary Brownie Cake by Tessa Huff

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ms marily

December 5, 2016

I’ve read the recipe , it is very Involved to make ,however it looks delicious to many steps for me, I would love to have a slice..

Joan Jennewein

December 5, 2016

Tessa, what are the names of some edible flowers I can put on this lovely cake of yours?


December 21, 2016

This looks delicious! I have a question for Tessa though.. why did she use all purpose flour instead of cake flour?


April 6, 2018

How many people does this cake serve? Looking to make this recipe or even double it for 50 people!

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