Resolution breakers unite. One trip Café Latte singlehandedly destroys any and all willpower and personal restraint.
The vast array of flaky, gorgeous tortes and tarts will make your head spin, the exhaustive variety of cheesecakes will make you go weak at the knees, and the dense fudge cakes are so utterly orgasmic that discussions of their virtues should probably be kept in the bedroom.
The true dessert nirvana, however, is Café Latte's famous Turtle Cake - three layers of caffeinated chocolate cake smothered in fudgy frosting, dripping with caramel and topped with toasted pecans.
Linda Quinn, who owns Café Latte with her husband Peter, shares the recipe for this devilish delight that she created in 1985 by adding her turtle-izing favorites to the chocolate cake recipe of her mother's neighbor, Mable Foote.
Café Latte's Turtle Cake
What you'll need:
Cake: 1 Egg 2/3 cup vegetable oil 1 cup buttermilk 2 cups flour 1-¾ cups sugar ½ cup high quality cocoa 1 tsp. salt 1 tbsp. baking soda 1 cup hot coffee - any kind
Frosting: ½ cup milk 1 cup sugar 6 tbsp. butter 2 cups high-quality semisweet chocolate chips ¾ cup caramel 1-½ cups toasted pecans
What you'll do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 9-inch cake pans and line each with a disk of parchment paper. "We used to cut our own out of wax paper when we were little," Quinn says of helping her mother bake.
In a bowl, combine egg, oil and buttermilk and whisk together. In a larger separate bowl, mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing well. Pour in the hot coffee gradually, and mix until even.
"The hot coffee makes it a lot richer, and really brings out the flavor of the chocolate," Quinn says.
Scrape the cake batter into the prepared pans, dividing it evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Then, let cake rest in pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks.
To make the frosting, mix sugar and milk together in a saucepan over low heat. Add butter, bring the mixture to a boil, and then remove from heat.
Add chocolate chips to the saucepan and whisk until smooth. The mixture should be a creamy fudge: shiny and not separated at all. If its too thick or grainy, add one to two teaspoons of hot coffee.
"It really depends on the quality of the chocolate you're using," Quinn says, recommending Guittard chocolate or Belgian chocolates from Trader Joe's that are more reasonable.
Assembling the cake can be tricky. Quinn says you can see the technique at Café Latte where cakes are made fresh two to three times daily.
Place one cooled cake layer, top-side down, on a cake plate. Dollop one-third of the frosting in the center of the cake, pushing it out gently to the edges in a scalloped motion to make a petal effect. Quinn explains to pull the frosting out just far enough so the frosting shows between layers, but not so far it falls over the edge. Sprinkle with ½ cup pecans, crushed and drizzle with ¼ cup caramel.
Place the next layer top-side down on top of the first and repeat.
Add the final layer top-side up, frost with the petal effect and finish with the remaining pecans and caramel. Quinn says to leave the pecans on the top layer more whole and to use extra. She suggests drizzling the caramel over the edges of the cake as well.
Dish up your masterpiece and serve by the slice. Any cake that isn't immediately devoured can be stored and enjoyed later.
"It's one of those old-fashioned recipes that bakes up really well and stays moist," Quinn says.
Can't fight your chocolate cravings long enough to play Betty Crocker? Call up your equally indulgent friends and head to Café Latte to enjoy a slice of the original Turtle Cake, baked fresh daily, for $4.95 or a take home a whole one for $32.
You can even snag day-old desserts for half-price, but Quinn says to get there in the morning because they tend to go pretty quickly.
Café Latte is a bakery, gourmet cafeteria and pizza wine bar in one. It opens at 9 a.m. daily and closes at 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, at 11 p.m. on Thursday and at midnight on Friday and Saturday. It is located at 850 Grand Ave. in St. Paul and can be reached by phone at 651.224.5687.