Main content

Coffee and Walnut Layer Cake

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. Demonstrated at the 2011 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.


  • Sponge

  • 50g walnut pieces

  • 225g caster sugar

  • 225g soft unsalted butter, plus some for greasing

  • 200g plain flour

  • 4 tsp instant espresso powder

  • 2½ tsp baking powder

  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • 4 eggs

  • 1–2 x 15ml tbsp milk

  • Buttercream Frosting

  • 350g icing sugar

  • 175g soft unsalted butter

  • 2½ tsp instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 x 15ml tbsp boiling water

  • 25g walnut halves, to decorate

  • 2 x 20cm sandwich tins


  • 1.

    Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Butter the 2 sandwich tins and line the base of each with baking parchment.

  • 2.

    Put the walnut pieces and sugar into a food processor and blitz to a fine nutty powder.

  • 3.

    Add the 225g butter, flour, 4 teaspoons espresso powder, baking powder, bicarb and eggs and process to a smooth batter. 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.

  • 4.

    (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.)

  • 5.

    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.

  • 6.

    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.

  • 7.

    When the sponges are cool, you can make the buttercream.

  • 8.

    Pulse the icing sugar in the food processor until it is lump free, then add the butter and process to make a smooth icing.

  • 9.

    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.

  • 10.

    If you are doing this by hand, sieve the icing sugar and beat it into the butter with a wooden spoon. Then beat in the hot coffee liquid.

  • 11.

    Place 1 sponge upside down on your cake stand or serving plate. 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.

  • 12.

    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.

  • 13.

    Gently press the walnut halves into the top of the icing all around the edge of the circle about 1cm apart.

  • Make Ahead Note:

  • 1.

    The cake can be baked 1 day ahead and assembled before serving. Wrap cake layers tightly in clingfilm and store in airtight container.

  • 2.

    The buttercream can be made 1 day ahead: cover with clingfilm and refrigerate; remove from fridge 1 – 2 hours before needed to allow to come to room temperature then beat briefly before use. The iced cake will keep for 2 – 3 days in airtight container in a cool place.

  • Freeze Note:

  • 1.

    The un-iced cake layers can be frozen on day of baking, each wrapped in double layer of clingfilm and a layer of foil, for up to 3 months. Defrost for 3 – 4 hours on wire rack at room temperature. Icing can be frozen separately in airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in fridge then bring to room temperature and beat briefly before use.

  • 2.

    Cuts into 8 generous slices

» Metric Converter


Sign Out

Click to Rate

Join the Conversation

Please note, LifeStyle cannot respond to all comments posted in our comments feed. If you have a comment or query you would like LifeStyle to respond to, please use our feedback form.

5 5 5 5 5
Average Rating
1 comment • 1 rating
Please login to comment
Posted by Paula123Report
this sounds yummy, looking forward to making it.