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Coffee and Walnut Layer Cake

by . Featured in KITCHEN
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Introduction

Neither of my grandmothers, nor indeed my mother, was a baker but this cake is nonetheless the cake of my childhood. When I was little, I used to make it for my younger sister's birthday every year, beating away vigorously with my bowl and wooden spoon. This, however, is a simplified version: everything just goes into the processor. the cake I made and ate when young was more milky coffee than espresso, but here I've bolstered it without consideration to my children. If that's your constituency or concern here, or if you yourself have a nostalgic longing for muted sweet comfort, replace the 4 teaspoons of instant espresso powder with 2 teaspoons of instant coffee granules dissolved in a tablespoonful of boiling water.

Neither of my grandmothers, nor indeed my mother, was a baker but this cake is nonetheless the cake of my childhood. When I was little, I used to make it for my younger sister's birthday every year, beating away vigorously with my bowl and wooden spoon. This, however, is a simplified version: everything just goes into the processor. the cake I made and ate when young was more milky coffee than espresso, but here I've bolstered it without consideration to my children. If that's your constituency or concern here, or if you yourself have a nostalgic longing for muted sweet comfort, replace the 4 teaspoons of instant espresso powder with 2 teaspoons of instant coffee granules dissolved in a tablespoonful of boiling water.

Coffee and Walnut Layer Cake
Photo by Lis Parsons

Ingredients

Serves: 8

Metric Cups

For the Sponge

  • 50 grams walnut pieces
  • 225 grams caster sugar
  • 225 grams soft unsalted butter (plus some for greasing)
  • 200 grams plain flour
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons milk

For the Buttercream Frosting

  • 350 grams icing sugar
  • 175 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 2½ teaspoons instant espresso powder (dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water)
  • approx. 10 walnut halves (to decorate)

For the Sponge

  • ½ cup walnut pieces
  • 8 ounces superfine sugar
  • 2 sticks soft unsalted butter (plus some for greasing)
  • 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons milk

For the Buttercream Frosting

  • 3¼ cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1½ sticks soft unsalted butter
  • 2½ teaspoons instant espresso powder (dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water)
  • approx. 10 walnut halves (to decorate)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350°F.
  2. Butter two 20cm / 8inch sandwich tins and line the base of each with baking parchment.
  3. Put the walnut pieces and sugar into a food processor and blitz to a fine nutty powder.
  4. Add the 225g/2 sticks butter, flour, 4 teaspoons espresso powder, baking powder, bicarb and eggs and process to a smooth batter.
  5. Add the milk, pouring it down the funnel with the motor still running, or just pulsing, to loosen the cake mixture: it should be a soft, dropping consistency, so add more milk if you need to. (If you are making this by hand, bash the nuts to a rubbly powder with a rolling pin and mix with the dry ingredients; then cream the butter and sugar together, and beat in some dry ingredients and eggs alternately and, finally, the milk.)
  6. Divide the mixture between the 2 lined tins and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the sponge has risen and feels springy to the touch.
  7. Cool the cakes in their tins on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, before turning them out onto the rack and peeling off the baking parchment.
  8. When the sponges are cool, you can make the buttercream.
  9. Pulse the icing sugar in the food processor until it is lump free, then add the butter and process to make a smooth icing.
  10. Dissolve the instant espresso powder in 1 tablespoon boiling water and add it while still hot to the processor, pulsing to blend into the buttercream.
  11. If you are doing this by hand, sieve the icing sugar and beat it into the butter with a wooden spoon.
  12. Then beat in the hot coffee liquid.
  13. Place 1 sponge upside down on your cake stand or serving plate.
  14. Spread with about half the icing; then place on it the second sponge, right side up (i.e. so the 2 flat sides of the sponges meet in the middle) and cover the top with the remaining icing in a ramshackle swirly pattern.
  15. This cake is all about old-fashioned, rustic charm, so don’t worry unduly: however the frosting goes on is fine. similarly, don’t fret about some buttercream oozing out around the middle: that’s what makes it look so inviting.
  16. Gently press the walnut halves into the top of the icing all around the edge of the circle about 1cm apart.
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350°F.
  2. Butter two 20cm / 8inch sandwich tins and line the base of each with baking parchment.
  3. Put the walnut pieces and sugar into a food processor and blitz to a fine nutty powder.
  4. Add the 225g/2 sticks butter, flour, 4 teaspoons espresso powder, baking powder, bicarb and eggs and process to a smooth batter.
  5. Add the milk, pouring it down the funnel with the motor still running, or just pulsing, to loosen the cake mixture: it should be a soft, dropping consistency, so add more milk if you need to. (If you are making this by hand, bash the nuts to a rubbly powder with a rolling pin and mix with the dry ingredients; then cream the butter and sugar together, and beat in some dry ingredients and eggs alternately and, finally, the milk.)
  6. Divide the mixture between the 2 lined tins and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the sponge has risen and feels springy to the touch.
  7. Cool the cakes in their tins on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, before turning them out onto the rack and peeling off the baking parchment.
  8. When the sponges are cool, you can make the buttercream.
  9. Pulse the confectioners' sugar in the food processor until it is lump free, then add the butter and process to make a smooth icing.
  10. Dissolve the instant espresso powder in 1 tablespoon boiling water and add it while still hot to the processor, pulsing to blend into the buttercream.
  11. If you are doing this by hand, sieve the confectioners' sugar and beat it into the butter with a wooden spoon.
  12. Then beat in the hot coffee liquid.
  13. Place 1 sponge upside down on your cake stand or serving plate.
  14. Spread with about half the icing; then place on it the second sponge, right side up (i.e. so the 2 flat sides of the sponges meet in the middle) and cover the top with the remaining icing in a ramshackle swirly pattern.
  15. This cake is all about old-fashioned, rustic charm, so don’t worry unduly: however the frosting goes on is fine. similarly, don’t fret about some buttercream oozing out around the middle: that’s what makes it look so inviting.
  16. Gently press the walnut halves into the top of the icing all around the edge of the circle about 1cm apart.

Tell us what you think

What 39 Others have said

  • Great recipe! Thank you, Nigella. I modified it a bit as my son has an allergy to certain nuts and used almonds instead and it worked very well!

    Posted by Jolantah on 9th August 2016
  • I made this cake today it is so moist and fluffy . Very easy to make . I love it and it will be my five star recipes

    Posted by Totinabati on 13th December 2015
  • Love this recipe! Have used it loads and is always a favourite. My husband loves the buttercream so I now add a 3rd more to cover the whole cake and use small walnut pieces to cover the sides.

    Posted by LorraineJames on 26th September 2015
  • Such a favourite with friends and family - this recipe has never failed. Fab flavour and consistently bakes to perfection.

    Posted by loopylin on 11th September 2015
  • I made the sponge cake as per recipe but made a chocolate and coffee ganache for the topping and filling it looked stunning and tasted divine. Thank you for this delicious recipe.

    Posted by Cazzy7 on 16th August 2015
  • Scrumdelicious! This cake is fragrant, light & just simply delicious! This is the second time I have made this recipe & I must admit I did tweet it just a little by adding a couple of dessert spoons of natural Greek yogurt in place of the milk - worked a treat!

    Posted by Lizzie4Allan on 3rd August 2015
  • This cake is absolutely fantastically one of the best cakes to come out of my oven.This works a dream: For the filling/topping I used 200 g of icing sugar as this is all I had and 100 g of butter and 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of coffee in just under a tablespoon of hot water. It was still very well proportioned. You will not be disappointed.

    Posted by The Moaning Herbert on 12th July 2015
  • Made this cake today, easy and great tasting, I had one problem I did the exact amounts for the icing and only used one teaspoon of water for the coffee and it was still very soft and it run out of the cake ???? so had the remake the icing again but still delicious

    Posted by Hellennn on 23rd May 2015
  • I just made this cake yesterday... I followed the process described... The end result did look beautiful... but somehow the cake on first try tasted really heavy and fatty... May be because the butter frosting didn't set properly.... I just wanted to ask, if I can replace the butter frosting with Cream??

    Posted by raphael_volts on 22nd February 2012
  • hello, i am from india, and i was wondering if there are any desserts that i can make that does not contain egg? by the way, i love this site ... and a huge fan of nigella :) :-)

    Posted by navyak on 4th October 2011
  • i love coffee cake and made this today. the frosting is beautiful, but the cake its self is bitter tasting. i've googled to see why this might be and a possible answer is the baking powder. i feel its such a waste as it looks so pretty. i cut myself a slice and ended up throwing most of it in the bin. shame.

    Posted by zoso on 15th May 2011
  • I substituted the walnuts for hazelnuts and the flavour is divine! Reminds me of a Bouchee chocolate, and is almost easy to forget that there isn't any chocolate in this recipe! The cake rose beautifully, very impressive cake :)

    Posted by Sweetchef on 1st March 2015
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