If you have Marsala wine, rum or another type of brandy on hand, any of those can be substituted for the cognac.
Avoiding caffeine? Use decaffeinated coffee in the coffee syrup.
To make cake assembly easier, freeze the cake layers for 30 minutes first. To keep the cake plate clean, place strips of cooking parchment paper or waxed paper on the plate, then slide out the strips when you’re finished.
This cake tastes better the longer it sits. For optimal flavor, make it 8 to 12 hours before serving.