Coffee and walnut cake is a gorgeous dessert from England, where it's popular for birthdays and celebrations. I love this dessert because it has an amazing flavor from the coffee essence and the walnuts. With our recipe, you'll be able to whip this up easily and have a beautiful treat to share with family and friends!
Fortunately, coffee walnut cake takes mostly pantry staples and few fancy ingredients. Let's talk about the most important ingredients in this traditional British cake.
- Camp Essence: This old fashioned flavoring is made from chicory root, which tastes like coffee and has a very distinctive flavor. You can purchase Camp essence (affiliate) online, as it's hard to find in shops in the States.
- Walnuts: Use English walnuts, not black walnuts. Chopped walnuts are folded into the cake batter, while walnut halves are used to decorate the top.
- Flour: Use all-purpose flour (plain flour in the UK) for this cake.
- Baking Powder: Be sure your baking powder hasn't expired! If it's more than three months old, throw it out and use a fresh package instead.
See recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
- Espresso Powder: Dissolve 4 teaspoons (or up to 3 tablespoons) of espresso powder in 1-2 tablespoons of hot water. Use in place of the Camp essence in the cake. Add more dissolved espresso powder to taste for the buttercream.
- Vegan: Use softened vegan butter and vegan milk and coconut cream to replace the dairy products. Use a vegan egg replacer or 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce for the eggs. (If using applesauce, add an extra ½ teaspoon baking powder.)
- Gluten Free: Use your favorite measure-for-measure gluten free flour instead of the plain flour. Bob's Red Mill and King Arthur are good brands here in the States.
How to Make
Measure out all the batter ingredients, making sure the butter and eggs are at room temperature.
- Put all the batter ingredients in a bowl (except for the milk).
- Beat on medium-low speed with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer until well blended. If the batter is too stiff, add the milk a little at a time.
3. Then, divide the batter between two pans and bake at 350°F for 18-20 minutes. I used cake strips around each pan to help keep a flat top. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
Let the cakes cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then take it out of the pan and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
4. Make the buttercream by beating the butter until smooth, then sift in the icing sugar. Add the Camp essence and cream to give it a spreadable consistency, then beat until fluffy.
5. Once the cakes have cooled, peel off the parchment and sandwich them with half of the icing. Spread the rest of the icing on top.
Decorate with the walnut halves (and a cocoa powder stencil if you're feeling fancy). Try to have one walnut per slice: 10 to 12.
6. Enjoy this delicious coffee and walnut cake! Hopefully, you're as much in love with this recipe as my family is. It's one of my favorite cakes of all time with it's simple yet delightful flavors and elegant decoration. You'll be glad you made it!
It's a two-layer sponge cake flavored with coffee essence and walnuts. The sponge is spread with buttercream icing and decorated with walnut halves on top. This treat is very popular throughout the UK in grocery stores and as a birthday dessert.
Yes, you can. Dissolve 4 teaspoons of instant coffee in 1 tablespoon of hot water, then use in the batter and icing. Don't use brewed coffee or espresso, as they don't have a concentrated flavor.
However, if you want to be old fashioned, use Camp chicory and coffee essence to add flavor. It adds a beautiful hint of bitterness to cut the sweet icing, and has a rich flavor that pairs nicely with the walnut. This is what Mary Berry and other British bakers use in their recipes.
Chicory and coffee essence is a dark, coffee-flavored syrup commonly mixed with warm milk to make a quick drink in the U.K. Since it has such a strong flavor, this essence is perfect for adding to batters and icings to give them a rich, bittersweet flavor. It supposedly was introduced as a fast way of making coffee for the British military.
One two-layer slice contains 551 calories. It has 31g of fat and 67g of carbs per slice as well. If you are trying to count your calories, I'd definitely cut a smaller slice or save this dessert for special occasions. Another option is to make this recipe into a traybake; then the calories would be cut in half.
Mix 1 tablespoon Camp essence with 1 cup of hot or cold milk to create a delicious coffee drink. Mix into porridge for a unique flavor. Add a tablespoon or two to plain buttercream to create coffee buttercream.
Want to serve this coffee and walnut cake with other British teatime favorites? If you're looking for savory tea sandwiches, make sure to try our recipes for cucumber sandwiches and egg salad sandwiches. You'll also love our Cornish saffron buns, lemon scones, and strawberry macarons.
Leftovers: As with most homemade cakes, it does taste best when eaten the same day it's made, but it will stay fresh at room temperature for up to 3 days after baking. Be sure to keep it sealed inside of an airtight container or tin to prevent it from drying out.
Freezing: It's easier to pre-slice the cake first, then seal the pieces in a plastic zip-top freezer bag or an airtight container. Freeze for up to 1 month.
Defrost: Defrost each slice individually in the microwave or defrost the all leftovers at room temperature on the counter in a sealed container so it doesn't dry out.
- Use chicory and coffee essence to get the best flavor. If you must substitute, dissolve 4 teaspoons of instant coffee in 1 tablespoon of hot water.
- Be careful not to overbake the cakes, or they will be dry.
- Sheet cake version: bake in a 9x13-inch pan. The calories will be less per slice than the two layer version.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- Freeze leftovers sliced and sealed in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag for up to 1 month.
Other Cakes You'll Enjoy
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Easy Coffee and Walnut Cake Recipe
For the Cake
Making the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly butter two 9-inch (22 cm) springform tins and line their bases with baking paper. If using cake strips, soak them in cold water for 10 minutes and fasten them around the tins.
- Crack the eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer, then add the flour, butter, sugar, baking powder, walnuts, and Camp essence.
- Blend on medium-low speed until well combined. The batter should hesitantly fall from a spoon when shaken. If it doesn't, gradually add the tablespoon of milk until it reaches the right consistency.
- Evenly divide the batter between the two pans and spread it to the edges.
- Bake at 350°F for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes, then take them out of the tins and let them cool completely on wire racks, about 1 hour.
Making the Buttercream
- Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth. Sift the icing sugar into the butter and beat on medium speed until combined.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the coffee essence and 2 teaspoons of heavy cream. Add additional cream as needed to give the icing a spreadable consistency. Taste and adjust the amount of essence as you desire.
- For an extra fluffy icing, turn the mixer onto medium high speed and beat for 1-2 minutes until the buttercream is fluffy and smooth.
Decorating the Cake
- Peel the baking paper off the cakes, then set aside the one with the nicest top.
- Place the other layer top side up on the serving plate and spread half of the icing on top. Put the other layer on top to create a sandwich, then spread the remaining icing on top.
- If desired, place a clean stencil on top and dust with cocoa powder to create a letter, picture, or pattern.
- Place the walnut halves around the edges. Slice and serve.
- Use Camp essence to get the best flavor. However, you can substitute by dissolving 4 teaspoons of instant coffee in 1 tablespoon of hot water.
- Be careful not to overbake the cakes to prevent them from drying out.
- Sheet cake version: bake the batter in a 9x13-inch pan. Give the cake a few extra minutes to bake.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- Freeze leftovers sealed in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag for up to 1 month.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.