Coffee and walnut cake is a classic British bake, made with deliciously rich and moist sponge, flavoured with rich coffee, and studded with crunchy walnuts. It's filled and topped with silky-smooth coffee-flavoured buttercream frosting, making it an ideal treat for any coffee lover!
Whether you are a seasoned baker or a novice in the kitchen, this cake is a must-try for anyone who loves the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and the satisfying crunch of nuts.
My easy coffee and walnut cake recipe is a popular choice for an afternoon tea, bake sale, or any special occasions. It's a quick and straight forward recipe, where the combination of coffee and walnuts creates a unique flavour profile that is both sweet and savoury.
Unlike the American-style coffee cakes (see my Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake as an example), this cake actually does contains coffee. If you are looking for other traditional and classic British bakes, be sure to check out my Victoria Sponge Cake recipe or my Lemon and Elderflower cake.
Have a look at the ingredients you will need to make this walnut coffee cake:
- Instant Coffee.
- Self-raising flour.
- Baking powder.
Additionally, to make buttercream, you will also need extra butter, icing sugar and double cream.
Scroll to the bottom of this post for the recipe card and the full list of the ingredients.
Cream the butter and sugar, then add eggs, one at a time. In a small jug or a mug, mix the coffee with boiling water until smooth.
Add the coffee mixture to the egg and sugar mixture and mix to combine.
Fold in the dry ingredients and walnuts (save a small handful of walnut halves for decoration, if you'd like).
Divide the batter between baking tins and bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow the sponges to cool completely.
Hint: To make sure the sponges are levelled, use a cake leveller or a large serrated knife, and cut off the domed tops. Alternatively, when assembling the cake, flip the sponges upside down, before adding buttercream.
Once the sponges are cool, it's time to add the coffee buttercream to our cake. The recipe below makes enough buttercream to fill the cake and pipe the decorative swirls on top.
If like me, you would like to go for the semi-naked design, with the crumb coat and more intricate piping decoration, you will need to double the amount of frosting. Any leftover buttercream can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Spread or pipe a layer of buttercream over one of the sponges and top with another sponge. For a simpler look, pipe the remaining buttercream on top.
Optionally, apply a thin crumb-coat of buttercream over the cake for a semi-naked design, before piping the swirls on top.
- Butter - This walnut and coffee cake calls for unsalted butter, but margarine, like Stork, will also produce great results! If you are using margarine, there is no need to bring it to room temperature before using in the recipe.
- Sugar - I typically use golden caster sugar in this recipe, but you can use granulated or white caster sugar. Light soft brown sugar will also work just fine.
- Instant Coffee - Use instant coffee granules or an espresso powder for the sponges and the buttercream. Alternatively, you can prepare the freshly brewed ground coffee, before using it in the same way. You can also use a decaffeinated coffee, if you want to make sure the cake doesn't contain any caffeine.
- Flour - You can swap self-raising flour for plain flour (same amount), but you will need to add 2 teaspoon of baking powder to it.
- Walnuts - As the name states, it is a walnut coffee cake. However, if you do not want to use walnuts, you can opt in for hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, or any other type of your favourite nuts.
- Double cream - I'm adding it to the buttercream to avoid that cloyingly sweet frosting. Double cream (heavy cream) will balance out the sweetness and will also create the smoothest texture in this coffee cake buttercream, but feel free to skip it from the recipe.
- Coffee and walnut cupcakes - This recipe can be used to make cupcakes instead of cake. It should yield 10-12 cupcakes. Bake the cupcakes for 15- 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Decorate with coffee buttercream.
- More coffee flavour - You can add more, or less coffee to the sponges and to the buttercream, to suit your taste. If you would like to intensify the coffee flavour, you can also add a tablespoon of coffee extract to both, the buttercream and the cake.
- Add an extra spice - Adding a pinch of cinnamon or cardamom to the cake batter will intensify and elevate that coffee flavour even more!
- Decaffeinated coffee cake - Use a decaf coffee in cake batter and in buttercream to make sure this recipe does not contain any caffeine.
- Gluten free coffee and walnut cake - Use the gluten-free self-raising flour and gluten free baking powder to turn this cake into gluten free version.
- Electric mixer - Freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand-held electric mixer.
- Mixing bowls.
- Baking tins - To make this moist coffee walnut cake, you will need two 20cm (8") round cake tins. Alternatively, you can also use 7" or 6" round baking tins (for three layered cake), just remember that different size tin will require adjusting baking times.
- Baking paper - To line the bottom of each baking tin.
- Piping bag with nozzle - Optional. If you would like to pipe some decorative rosettes or swirls, you will need a piping bag fitted with piping tip. Alternatively, you can just spread the coffee buttercream over the cake using an offset spatula or a palette knife. I used large closed star nozzle to pipe my design (I was totally inspired by Thida Bevington's Instagram page and her piping designs!).
Store any leftovers of this coffee and walnut cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
The sponges (plain, without any icing) can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap each sponge tightly in a double layer of clingfilm, before transferring to the freezer. Defrost at room temperature for 3-4 hours, or in the fridge overnight.
Buttercream can be also frozen separately in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost it overnight in the fridge, then bring it to room temperature and re-whip it briefly before using.
When making a walnut cake, it's important not to chop the nuts too finely because it can affect the texture and taste of the cake. Here are a few reasons why:
- Texture: Chopping the nuts too finely can result in a cake that has a uniform texture throughout. This can make the cake feel less interesting to eat, as there won't be any crunchy or chewy bits to break up the texture.
- Flavour: The flavour of walnuts can be lost if they are chopped too finely. By leaving them in larger pieces, you can experience the full flavour of the nut in every bite.
- Moisture: Nuts release oil when they are chopped, which can make the cake denser and more moist. If the nuts are chopped too finely, the excess oil can cause the cake to become greasy and heavy.
- Appearance: Chopped walnuts add a nice visual appeal to a cake. By chopping them too finely, you lose the contrast of the nuts against the cake.
It's important to chop the walnuts just enough to add some texture and flavour to the cake, but not so much that they lose their unique characteristics. Aim for a variety of sizes, with some larger pieces mixed in with the smaller ones, to create a more interesting and flavourful cake.
I recommend chopping the nuts with a knife, rather than in the food processor.
Yes, you can use fresh coffee instead of instant coffee. Instant coffee dissolves in water, so it doesn't add any extra liquid to the batter. If you use fresh coffee, be sure to stick to no more than 50 ml for the sponges, and same amount for the buttercream.
This can happen if the cake wasn't baked long enough. The raw batter in the middle of the cake will 'pull' towards the centre, causing the cake to sink. The sponges typically take 25-28 minutes to bake in my fan-assisted oven, but oven temperatures and times vary, so be sure to keep checking the cake from 25 minutes onwards. Use a skewer or a toothpick to always check if the cake is ready.
As this cake is made with coffee, it naturally will contain some caffeine. The good news is that the amount of caffeine is rather negligible, so eating a slice of this coffee cake shouldn't keep you awake all night. I recommend using your own judgement in whether or not to serve this cake for children. Alternatively, if you want to make sure it doesn't contain any caffeine, use a decaffeinated coffee.
To pin this recipe and save it for later, use the button on the recipe card or on the photos above.
If you try this recipe, or any other recipe on Anna Banana, please take a moment to rate the recipe and/ or leave me a comment. I love hearing from you, but it also helps other readers who are thinking of making the recipe.
Coffee and Walnut Cake
- 2 x 20 cm ( 8") round cake tins
- baking paper
- hand-held electric mixer or freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment
- mixing bowls
For the sponges:
- 15 g instant coffee (granules or powder) *see notes for an alternative
- 250 g unsalted butter softened
- 250 g golden caster sugar or white caster or granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs beaten
- 250 g self- raising flour *see notes for an alternative
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 100 g walnuts
For the buttercream:
- 250 g unsalted butter softened
- 320 g icing sugar
- 15 g instant coffee (granules or powder)
- 85 ml double cream (heavy cream) optional
To make sponges:
- Preheat the oven to 170°C (160°C fan). Lightly grease the cake tins with butter. Line the bottom of the cake tins with baking paper and set aside.
- Bring the kettle to boil. Place the instant coffee granules/ powder in a small cup or a jug, and mix with 1 tablespoon of boiling water, until you have smooth, thick mixture. Set aside.15 g instant coffee (granules or powder)
- In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a bowl of a hand-held electric mixer, beat together the butter and the sugar, until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the coffee mixture and mix again until well combined. Don't worry if the mixture curdles a bit, it will all come together at the end.250 g unsalted butter, 250 g golden caster sugar, 4 large eggs
- Sift in the flour and the baking powder and mix on low speed for a minute, or until well incorporated. Reserve a handful of walnut halves for the decoration, then roughly chop the rest. Add the chopped walnuts into the cake batter and fold until well distributed.250 g self- raising flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 100 g walnuts
- Divide the batter between the cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
To make buttercream:
- Place the softened butter and icing sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer and beat on low speed until well combined. It is easier to add the icing sugar in two or three separate additions, this way you will avoid the sugar eruption.250 g unsalted butter, 320 g icing sugar
- Mix the instant coffee with 1 tablespoon of boiling water, until smooth and thick. Add the double cream into the coffee mixture, and whisk to combine. Pour the coffee and cream mixture into the sugar and butter mixture and mix until you have smooth and thick buttercream. Scrape the bottom and the sides of the bowl as and when needed. Briefly mix the buttercream with spatula, to get rid of any air bubbles. Transfer into a piping bag fitted with decorative nozzle, or use a spoon or spatula to apply directly onto the cake.15 g instant coffee (granules or powder), 85 ml double cream (heavy cream)
To assemble the cake:
- Level the sponges using a large serrated knife or a cake leveller (optional). Alternatively, turn the sponges upside down, and spread the buttercream frosting on the flat bottom part of the cake.
- Place one of the cooled sponges on the serving plate or a cake board. Pipe or spread a layer of buttercream on top of one of the sponges, then place another one on top. Use the remaining buttercream to cover the top of the cake and decorate with the reserved walnuts pieces. Slice & enjoy!
Please note that all my recipes are developed and tested in metric grams. I recommend that you use digital scales for a more accurate results. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.
- Self-raising flour - If no self-raising flour is available, then use plain flour (same amount) but add an extra 2 teaspoon of baking powder to it (so you will use total of 3 teaspoon of baking powder in this recipe).
- Instant coffee - You can use instant coffee granules or finely ground instant coffee powder. Alternatively, to make sponge, use an espresso powder, or 50 ml of strong espresso coffee.
- Coffee buttercream - This recipe makes enough buttercream to fill the cake and to pipe few simple decorative swirls on top. If you want to go for semi-naked look of the cake, with crumb coating and more intricate piping on top, you need to double the recipe.
This recipe was originally posted in November 2020. It has been updated with the new photos, revised recipe and tips in March 2023.